Our major church buildings have rarely been financed by their regular congregations. An indication of this is the way a majority of Lincolnshire’s ancient Parish Churches (including two of the three in this parish) stand next to the ancient manor site. A further indication is the number of guidebooks which indicate which wealthy person put the building back into order in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (who contributed the largest amount to reroofing St Michael’s, Little Coates) and a waste recycling charity (who contributed to the adaption of the building with disabled access) are the direct successors of men like the timber merchant Joseph Chapman of Cleethorpes (whose ‘munificent’ legacies both supported a range of hospitals and funded the building of most of the present church).
The local authority’s gardeners have been engaged in a huge amount of clearing in St Michael’s churchyard in the last couple of weeks, and Chapman’s grave has emerged out of what was a small copse of self seeded ash in time for the centenary of his death which falls in May. The huge angel next to it commemorates his wife; it is a replica (the inscription wonderfully uses the word ‘facsimile’) of one he erected over her grave in Zurich which is where she died.