The History of St Lawrence Church, Sedgebrook

In his book ‘Lincolnshire Churches Revisited’ (1989) Henry Thorold describes the church of St Lawrence as ‘a church of great distinction’.

The oldest part of is the Norman North arcade, which dates back to the Twelfth Century, with building work continuing in the Perpendicular style through to the end of the Fifteenth Century up to 1468 when Sir John Markham built the south chapel and chancel where he lived above in the rood loft at the end of his days at the Upright Judge.  Since then the church has remained much as it is today.

The south chapel stands out by being higher than the aisle and is separated from it by a stair turret which still contains the Sanctus bell.  You can still see the blocked off doorway off the spiral staircase that gave access to the Rood loft as well as to the roof.

The north chapel now contains the 1863 Bryceson organ.  This chapel was apparently designed as a burial place for the use of Newbo Abbey. 

The Markham Chantry

The south chapel was built by Sir John Markham, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench (1462-1469) who went to the Bar in 1490 and obtained the King’s licence in May 1468 to found a perpetual Chantry of one chaplain to celebrate the Divine Service daily at the altar of St Mary, Michael the Archangel, John the Baptist and John the Evangelist ‘for the good estate of the King, his consort, Sir John himself and for their souls after death’.

The site of Judge Markham’s marble altar tomb (since destroyed) can still be seen in outline on the south side of the eastern arch of the chapel.  Its slab, stripped of its brasses, can be seen in the pavement of the chapel. 

Sir John, by this time known as the Upright Judge, lived over this chapel in a chamber in the rood loft spending his last days in prayer and meditation after he lost the favour of  King Edward IV through the summing up he gave to the jury in the case of Sir Thomas Coke, Mayor of London.  Sir John was removed om office and retired into private life.  His story is celebrated in the Ballad of Sedgebrook.  Sir John died in 1479.

The Ballad of Sedgebrook

There has come to me a story far down from the days of old

Which, though it is nigh forgotten now, should be written on leaves of gold,

And amid the glorious record of noble names since them

The name of the Upright Judge should stir the hearts of Englishmen.

Twas in the old Plantagenet days, when still the iron reign

Of Norman King and feudal lord held England like a chain

When Keep and Castle crowned the height of many a pleasant hill,

And the people’s right bowed ‘neath the might of the king’s imperious will.

What wonder that the smouldering fires broke out o’er wold and fen

And the English banner was unfurled in the hands of Englishmen.

One such there stood with treason charged, one such foredoomed to die,

For the King upon his fair estates had set his envious eye.

But Markham, England’s noblest judge, was cast in finer mould,

And would not barter justice for the King’s favour or for gold.

He braved the vengeance of the King, because he feared alone

The King of Kings who reigns supreme o’er every earthly throne.

His righteous judgement saved the lands for that fair English name

From royal greed which swept the realm, like some devouring flame.

Deposed, he passed, disgraced?  Ah no, he gained a higher crown,

‘The Upright Judge’, the people cried in countryside and town

As from the City Markham rode to Sedgebrook’s quite vale,

The hero of ten thousand hearts in England’s royal pale.

Where grey Saint Lawrence rears its tower he built his chamber-home,

Above the Ladye Chapel there, no more ‘mid men to roam;

Content amid these peaceful scenes his simple life to spend,

The poor man’s aid, the sick man’s nurse, the children’s guide and friend.

Until the Lord of loyal souls His servant home should bring.

Who dared to set the Law before the mandate of a King.

Far has the English name and fame spread since those ancient days,

To many a land, through many a clime, along the world’s highways;

For woven in the warp and woof of our imperial race

Respect for justice and the Law ever held its place.


(E. S. Smithurst, Sydney N>S>W> 25.12.1910)