Church history

Getting to know your Parish!

The following is an advert which appeared in the Sleaford Gazette and South Lincolnshire Advertiser dated Saturday 27th May 1882.













The choir of St.Mary’s Catholic Church Boston will attend at Morning and Evening Service.

TICKETS (for the benefit of the Building Fund) to admit for one service only 1s each may be had at the Sleaford Gazette Office of Mr. J. Turner and

Mr.S.E. Blackbourn Sout’s Street.—A number of Free Seats are provided.


Presided over by His Lordship the Bishop will be provided at ONE o’clock



Also presided over by His Lordship the Bishop will be held in the Upper Room, Corn Exchange at 5 o’ clock.

TICKETS FOR LUNCHEON 3s EACH; for the TEA PARTY 1s each (for which an early application is requested) may be had at the Hotel and the above-named places.




Service to Commence in the Morning at 11 and in the Evening at 6.30




The Day of the Solemn Opening.

Sleaford Gazette and South Lincolnshire Advertiser 03/06/1882.

‘His Lordship (Bishop Bagshawe) arrived by the ten o’ clock train and was received at the Station by a number of Catholics at Sleaford. High Mass commenced at eleven o’clock the celebrant being His Lordship the Bishop who was assisted by the following clergy; The Very Reverend Canons Douglas and Monaghan of Nottingham and Croft of Lincoln, the Revs Father Rowley of Louth, Moses of Peterborough, Baron of Corby, Yates of Boston, Hoeben of Carlton and P.J. Sabela of Boston. His Lordship in a most eloquent sermon explained the Divine institution of the Catholic Church, the Blessings of which were by means of their new school –chapel within their reach again after the lapse of many centuries.

After Mass the Luncheon took place at the Bristol Arms Hotel and was most bountifully provided and ably superintended by Mr. Sharpe the excellent purveyor. There were about fifty guests, the Bishop presiding.

A nice tea party was held at five o’ clock in the Upper Room of the Corn Exchange when the bountiful spread of good things which Mrs. Turner had provided and so tastefully arranged was admired and praised by all. After tea Mr. Coates, the Choir Master of the Catholic Church of Boston with his wife sang a few duets which were most beautifully rendered and much appreciated.

At 7 o’clock there were Vespers sung alternately by His Lordship, the clergy and the Choir. The Bishop in a very lucid and eloquent Sermon and citing numerous Scriptural texts showed the unity of the Church of Christ and that it was essential to belong to her and that to reject knowingly and willingly the One true Church of Christ would involve the grievous sin of unbelief which Our Dear Lord Himself had condemned. Then followed the Benediction of the Sacrament, which solemn Service was much enhanced by the very devout and beautiful singing.

After the Evening Service the Bishop was entertained at Supper with a few friends at Mr. Turner’s. We understand His Lordship left this morning for Nottingham, highly pleased with the proceedings.

To-day, (Friday) we hear, Father Sabela (first parish priest and founder of the mission) is entertaining children in the School Room (now the current church hall) with tea and entertainment.




Our longest serving parish priest.


Fr. Lieber was a much respected and loved man. He had great charm and a wonderful personality. He was a magnificent preacher, a genial, kindly friendly man. He appreciated a good cigar, and a glass of wine. A marble statue has been erected in Sleaford cemetery by the many Belgium refugees he sheltered during the war (1914-1918).

This was his obituary in the local newspaper.

N.B. The statue can still be seen today of the Sacred Heart and it is the focal point of the annual Mass in November offered for those Catholics buried in the cemetery.

Taken from the Centenary of the School written in 1982 by

Maureen Tupholme who was Head teacher at the time.


‘The following is a description of the new building. The body of it is 50 feet long and 21 feet wide inside. The sanctuary is 15 feet by 15 feet. Proper sacristy and out offices are attached. The buildings are thoroughly well lighted and ventilated; there are 26 lights which can be easily opened by a very simple arrangement. The interior has a lofty appearance. The roof is open timbered and varnished. The trusses are formed with collar beams and foliated ribs, resting on moulded stone corbles. The design and construction of the roof call for special praise when we consider how few modern Gothic roofs are constructed on sound principles. The south west end of the roof is not according to the original plan. An alteration was necessary to overcome a legal difficulty, the outcome of an easement of the adjoining property.

The body of the building and the sanctuary are divided by a large Gothic arch. Through this archway is a splendid carved stone altar and reredos shown to great advantage.

The exterior of the building has an imposing and substantial appearance which is much enhanced by a lofty bell turret, surmounted by a fine gilt Cross. Placed in the turret is a sweet toned bell of a good size from the renowned foundry of Messrs Barwell and Co of Birmingham.’


A description of our church hall, as it appeared in the Sleaford Gazette, June 1882 when it was officially blessed and opened for public services. Remember the hall was built before the main church (1889) and was used as a church and school. The bell turret is no longer visible on the hall roof.


Getting to know your Parish!

The Foundation Stones.

The one thing that is unusual about the church building’s foundation stones is that there is more than one. In fact there are three and the inscriptions on each, though short, give an insight into the founding of the Catholic Mission, here in Sleaford.

Two are to be found in the main frontage of what is now the church hall. Please remember when the parish was opened by Fr. Sabela in 1882, this was not only the church but also the school.



This stone is perhaps one you would expect to see. It’s inscription says,

‘ This stone was blessed and laid by the Right Rev Edward G. Bagshawe Third Bishop of Nottingham on November 24 1881.’

Land had been acquired in December 1880 by Fr. Hermann Sabela from a J.T. Marston and the new building was opened as a church and school in 1882. The land cost £610 and the building £780.Fr.Sabela had first appeared in Sleaford in August 1879. He had come from Boston where his brother Fr. Peter was parish priest. With the permission of Robert Sharpe Fr. Hermann celebrated several Masses  in the open air on Sleaford Cricket club fields, in particular, for the Irish harvest men who had sought work on the neighbouring farms.



This can be found in the wall of the present church just to the top left of the porch. When Fr. Sabela blessed the stone he had already left Sleaford as parish priest and had moved to Hadfield nr Glossop, Derbyshire. The cost of building the church was £1500 and this came from an anonymous benefactor. This time though probably not Captain Boycott. and  its dedication was changed from The Immaculate Conception to Our Lady of Good Counsel. It was actually opened for services in June 1889.

A consequence of the blessing and laying of this third foundation stone was a document written anonymously in Latin which tells of the significance of this action. It is still in the parish’s possession and a translation follows.


It reads:

‘This stone was laid by Capt E. Digby Boycott

On Nov 24 1881.’

It is known that the money for the building of the church came from an anonymous benefactor and there is no known record of  who that was.

I would like to suggest that Captain Boycott must be very high on the list of ‘suspects.’ It was known he was a good friend of Fr. Sabela and having his name carved on his own foundation stone is as good as any proof. If it were needed. Captain Boycott came from a family of converts which included his mother, wife and sisters but not his more famous brother, Charles, who infamously gave his surname to the English language

because of his unfriendly actions in his capacity as a land agent in  Ireland. Captain Essex Digby Boycott along with his mother, wife and two other female relatives, who became nuns, were received in the Catholic Church in 1878.

I wonder if Fr. Sabela instructed them in the Faith  and in gratitude Captain Boycott became a benefactor of the new chapel-school in Sleaford?

The third Foundation Stone.

Which reads: ‘This stone was blessed and laid by the Rev Father Hermann Joseph Sabela.The Founder of this Mission On Sept 14th 1888.’




Our own reredos dates from 1882 when the church was first opened; and remember the original chapel /school was in what is now the church hall.

When the present church was opened for worship in 1889 it was moved to the back wall of the sanctuary with the current altar placed in front of it. The painting of

Mary, the Immaculate Conception was hung over the main door in those days.

Renovation work took place in our church during the 1960s and 70s. Two reasons made renovation a priority in those days; firstly the church was in need of it because it had remained largely untouched for decades and secondly impetus for new ideas and change was given by the Second Vatican Council. The parish was now ministered by the Franciscans of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual who came to Sleaford in 1964. The parish priest at the time, Fr. Joachim Dolan OFM conv, set the ball in motion and work began on redecoration and renovation. It was also at this time that  the presbytery was also brought up to date. Building contactors ( Taskers) were appointed but a great deal of work was done by parishioners and in particular Bill Tupholme. Bill has been a member of our parish all his life. He went to our school and for years attended the 8.30 Sunday morning Mass. He was also a master builder and a craftsman of repute. Not surprisingly the Franciscans recognised his talents and Bill was more than happy to offer voluntary help. Later on he would lead other volunteers to rebuild, extend and refurbish the sacristy, flower room and toilets. At this time, the reredos was moved to the wall on the right as you walk into the church, though it was restored to its original position in 2015.



Under Fr. Joachim and his successor Fr. Maurice Gough OFM conv, a church restoration committee was formed and its  members set about raising money and doing jobs to get the work finished and consequently Mass was said in what is now the parish hall whilst the main church under went its transformation.

It was Fr. Maurice who came up with the idea to move the reredos. He had spent the war in Rome and he knew  of Vatican  experts in church design and decoration. Consequently an Italian priest, who was a consultant in these matters, came over and advised Fr. Maurice on how the church should look. Bishop McGuinness gave permission for the reredos to be moved to the right of the entrance door, and the large crucifix, which had hung on a side wall, was suspended over the  main altar where it remains today. The organ was also moved from its previous home on the right of the church as you walked in and placed by the side of the main altar. ( the site of the original confessional).



Next look at the statues which make up the centre of the piece.

In the middle is Our Lady and at each end is St. Peter with the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and St. Paul holding a sword, by which he was martyred.

However, it is the two inner statues that are relevant to our parish history, but the conclusions are based on  hypothesis and not hard  fact. Firstly look at the statue of Our Lady and the Child Jesus receiving a gift from a saintly  boy.     ( notice the halo)

Researching the statue’s meaning; it is probably a depiction of the German medieval  saint and mystic, St. Hermann Joseph who had a deep love for Our Lady. He is said to have had several miraculous visions of her and on one occasion handed the child Jesus, held by His Mother, an apple as a gift. What has it to do with our parish church? Well the first parish priest and founder of the Catholic mission in Sleaford was German, Fr. Hermann Joseph Sabela.Was he named after his holy countryman and therefore could this particular sculpture be an acknowledgement to his achievements here in Sleaford?

Secondly, the other inner statue depicts St. Anne with her daughter, the child Mary. This is not too surprising an addition to the reredos you might say but it does point  to the name of the anonymous benefactor who paid for the altar and reredos and quite possibly the building of the church. All will be revealed in the next edition of the magazine.

Another mystery lies in the naming of the parish. Originally Fr. Sabela named it in honour of the Immaculate Conception (re:  altar inscription and his own painting) but when the present church was opened in 1889 its name had changed to Our Lady of Good Counsel.



Look to the reredos for a clue.

The painting of the Virgin and Child at the very top of it is a depiction of Our Lady of Good Counsel and along with the fact that the Catholic churches in Grantham and Spalding  were  already named after the Immaculate Conception  then perhaps these reasons gave rise to a change in name here in Sleaford.



Our Church:


Did you know?

The painting to the right of the entrance .

The painting depicts the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Lady. It was painted by our first parish priest, Fr. Hermann Sabela, a German, who came to England to escape Bismark’s Kulturkampf and its persecution of the Catholic Church, especially in Prussia. When our school-chapel (now the Parish Hall) was opened by Bishop Bagshawe on 1st June 1882 its title was ‘Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.’ However, when the church, we know, was opened in June 1889 its name had been changed to ‘Our Lady of Good Counsel.’.

The inspiration for Fr Sabela’s painting must come from Bartolme Esteban Murrillo’s  masterpiece, now to be seen in Madrid.

The popularity of this particular representation (Murrillo is one example) of The Immaculate Conception spread across the rest of Europe, and has since remained the best known artistic depiction of the concept: in a heavenly realm, moments after her creation, the spirit of Mary (in the form of a young woman) looks up in awe at (or bows her head to) God. The moon is under her feet and a halo of twelve stars surround her head, possibly a reference to “a woman clothed with the sun” from Revelation 12:1-2. Additional imagery may include clouds, a golden light, and cherubs. In some paintings the cherubim are holding lilies and roses flowers often associated with Mary.

Our painting has everything ,but the twelve stars.





Did you know, we were once a Franciscan parish?


The Franciscan order of Conventual priests and brothers (Grey Friars) came to our parish in 1964 when they answered the call of Bishop Ellis of Nottingham to run it on his behalf. There were Franciscans already at Woodhall Spa and it was some of that community that came to Sleaford.

The first Franciscan parish priest was Fr. Joachim Dolan who was followed by Fr. Jarleth Mc Donagh , Fr. Maurice Gough, Fr. Aidan Walsh Fr. Aloysius Blundell and finally Fr. David Young. Other priests and brothers who were much loved during their stay in Sleaford included Fr. Paul, Fr. Andrew, Fr. Wifrid, Fr. Alban, Fr. Anthony, Brother Brendan (later Fr. Brendan) and Brother Francis.

The Franciscans certainly made their presence felt in the parish and did lots of good work both pastorally and liturgically. It was Fr. Jarleth who began the work to build a new Catholic school in Sleaford and this was opened for lessons in October 1974 under the headship of Maureen Tupholme who loyally served the school as head for a record 32 years.

Fr. Maurice instigated the renovation of the church and the building of the sacristy during the late 1970s and Fr. Aidan had the church porch rebuilt, and the old school converted into the parish hall which was opened by Bishop McGuinness in 1984.

Brother Francis is long remembered for training the many altar servers of the parish and running the school football teams. Fr. Paul was a very eloquent speaker, Fr. Andrew could be relied upon for his wit and repartee, and Fr. Alban who ran a youth group.




In 1990 the Franciscans left Sleaford for good because their own manpower was dropping and they had to reorganise the Franciscan

Province of England and Wales and Our Lady of Good Counsel parish was passed back to the safekeeping of Nottingham Diocesan priests.


However, the legacy of the Franciscans still remains in our parish. Look for the statue of St. Francis dressed in the habit of a Grey Friar on your left as you walk into the church and the monthly Crusader magazine is published by the Franciscans in Manchester and is available free of charge. Copies are always made available in the church porch.

One of the school teams, the Blue Team, is named after St. Francis and is a reminder of the days when the Franciscans were often to be seen in the school and the annual sports day trophy is named in honour of Fr. Aidan who presented it to the school when he left the parish to take up duties in Salford in the late 1980s.

Finally our Third Order of Franciscans who continue to thrive and serve our parish through prayer and liturgy. They meet every month in the presbytery. Why not come along, you won’t be disappointed?