On a perfect summer's evening, a score or so SKEALS members and several friends gathered at the Church for a guided tour led by Mr. Geoff Bell.
Those of us who had attended similar local history lecture visits organised by him knew that we could expect an informative and entertaining talk and had eagerly looked forward to visiting this intriguing little Church, with its unusual dedication to St. Germain, off the beaten track behind the trees. We were not disappointed.
We gathered first in the beautifully-maintained churchyard for a preliminary reconnoitre. The fabric is made up of a variety of building materials, ranging from sea-cobbles and brick to ashlar expensive dressed stone. Mr. Bell pointed out the remains of the moat and drew attention to the imposing tomb of Mr. William Bailey, a Hull ship owner, who had lived at the White Hall in the 19th century.
No church at Winestead is mentioned in the Domesday survey but the fabric suggests that it was in aisle and north porch, its very pleasing interior seemingly little altered over the centuries. In fact, the Church underwent a thorough restoration in 1889/90 by the noted Victorian architect, Temple Moore. By that time St. Germain's had become so badly decayed that pretty drastic measures were required but so skilfully and sympathetically was the remedial work carried out that the fabric has the appearance of having evolved naturally and gracefully. The 18th century Hildyard mausoleum was knocked down and the bricks used to re-build the south aisle and construct the Hildyard chapel (now used as a vestry). The Church was re-roofed, the north wall partially rebuilt, the east window repaired, and the mediaeval chancel screen renovated. In the nave, panelling from the box pews was used to form a dado round the walls and new pews in the Jacobean style were installed. The north porch was added shortly afterwards.
Winestead's long and important association with the Hildyard’s is inevitably reflected in the numerous memorials to the family. Mr. Bell explained at some length details of the Hildyard hatchments displayed on the walls of the nave. In previous times, it was the custom also to fasten these large diamond-shaped tablets, decorated with the deceased person's armorial bearings to the front of a house in mourning. There is a fine chest tomb of Sir Christopher Hildyard, the effigy being clad in full armour and lying on a mat rolled into a pillow to support the head. His feet rest on a cockerel, the family crest, which, as Mr. Bell observed, provides a rather more stylish finial than the soles of his footwear. The splendid eagle lectern is made of brass, as are the elegant chandeliers, and the Royal Arms of 1792 are displayed on the wall near the north door. A striking effigy of an unknown priest provides an imposing presence. Mr. Bell remarked in passing that not all incumbents were over zealous in carrying out their duties, preferring to leave the work to a curate employed at a fraction of their income.
We then crowded into the choir stalls while Mr. Bell explained some of the chancel's fascinating contents. One of the two ancient brasses affixed to the floor is said to be a memorial to Sir Christopher Hildyard and his wife, portrayed with seven kneeling sons and six kneeling daughters. Intriguingly, this brass has had a previous existence and has been re-cut for this purpose.
The stained glass memorial windows were shown to their best advantage in the warm light of the setting sun as we had a final look round before thanking Mr. Bell for a memorable and enjoyable evening.