A 600-year-old English church where
Abraham Lincoln's ancestors once worshipped is hoping
for some help from friends of Lincoln in the United
Built between 1345 and 1390, All Saints Parish
Church, in the small town of Swanton Morley in the
county of Norfolk, England, is in need of major repairs,
according to Iain Bone, churchwarden and fabric officer
at the church.
"The roof leaks, and the stonework needs repairs,"
Bone said in a recent telephone interview. "The walls
are all covered with lichens and algae, and there are a
lot of structural repairs needed."
More than six centuries of rain and wind have taken
their toll on the building, which is constructed of
native flint rubble bound together with lime mortar,
Built in the "Later Perpendicular Style," the church
has a still-impressive bell tower that looks out over
what once was the center of medieval Swanton Morley.
The roof drainage system is of a primitive,
14th-century design that allows water to seep in all
through the building, Bone said, and walls and
plastering are crumbling throughout the structure.
Most of the church's leaded windows are in a highly
fragile state, he said, and two recently blew in,
requiring expensive repairs. Extensive rewiring needs to
be done not only because the current system is outdated
but also to reduce the risk of fire.
Like many Church of England parishes, All Saints
suffers from a declining and aging congregation, so that
the volunteer work parties who would have helped tend
the building years ago are no longer available.
In addition, Bone said, "Norfolk is full of medieval
churches, and they're all in a similar state of decay,"
and there is not a lot of money available to go around.
The cost of the needed repairs is estimated at 200,000
to 250,000 pounds sterling, or about $300,000 to
It was the church's Lincoln connections that set Bone
to thinking that, along with the local fund-raising
effort that is under way, outsiders who admire America's
16th president might chip in to help out All Saints.
Lincoln's English ancestry is most often associated
with the nearby Norfolk village of Hingham, from where
Lincoln's great-great-great-great-grandfather, Samuel
Lincoln, a 15-year-old weaver's apprentice, departed for
the New World on the ship John & Dorothy in 1637.
But the Lincoln connection with Swanton Morley -
perhaps best known in the United States as the site of a
U.S. Army Air Force airfield during World War II - goes
back two generations further, to Samuel Lincoln's
grandfather, Richard Lincoln.
Richard probably was born in Hingham, but he lived
out at least the last 20-some years of his life in
Swanton Morley. A mansion he built for himself there is
still in use as the Angel Public House.
It was in that building that Richard wrote a will in
1615, disinheriting his eldest son, Edward Lincoln, in
order to leave his fortune to his fourth wife and her
children (Edward was the son of his first wife).
Edward was forced to leave Swanton Morley and move to
Hingham, where he eked out a meager existence on two
acres of farmland his father had given him several years
earlier. Growing up in considerable poverty, three of
Edward's four sons, including Samuel, sought their
fortunes in the promising lands of the New World.
Interestingly, Bone said, church records at All
Saints show that Richard Lincoln held the job Bone
himself now holds, churchwarden, from 1599 until his
death in 1620.
Moreover, he said, "The bungalow I live in is on the
site of the old Lincoln family farm."
All Saints also has a Lincoln family Bible dating
from 1686, Bone said.
With the ample Lincoln connections, he said, it's not
too much to hope that American admirers of Lincoln might
want to help out the Swanton Morley residents in keeping
the church around for a few more centuries.
"Any donations for church repairs would be gratefully
received," he said.
The best way to make a donation, he said, is through
a direct wire transfer of funds from an American bank to
the church's account at Barclay's Bank, 34 Market Place,
Dereham, Norfolk, NR19 2AS, England. The account name is
the Swanton Morley Parochial Church Council, the account
number is 90853623, and the sort code is 20-28-20.
Doug Pokorski can be reached at 788-1539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.