Holy Trinity Church, Messingham
Holy Trinity Messingham

Rev H V Bayley & E J Willson

Rev Dr Henry Vincent Bayley (1777-1844)

Edward James Willson


One of Lincolnshire’s most interesting early nineteenth-century clergyman/architect collaborations.

An early expression of Gothic Revival and Antiquarian principles

This page outlines key features of the lives of Rev Henry Vincent Bayley and Edward James Willson and their work together at Holy Trinity Messingham in 1818-1820.

Our related leaflet can be downloaded by clicking on inner and outer.

It would seem that they met through their involvement in the life of Lincoln Cathedral. By 1817 Willson had established himself as an architect and was employed by Bayley to oversee an extensive programme of structural restoration and internal enhancement at Messingham.

A key feature of the restoration was the installation of an extensive collection of medieval stained glass acquired from various local churches and others much further afield. Various views have been expressed on the ways in which this glass was ‘acquired’.

Other key aspects of their work included rebuilding the chancel and south aisle, structural high level work on the nave and construction of a new Westmorland slate covered roof. Interior work included the construction of a west end gallery, new seating and the introduction of ornate internal joinery, the focal point being an elaborately decorated pulpit situated in the centre of the chancel. More detail is available through our website.


Rev Henry Vincent Bayley (1777 – 1844)

Born in Hope Hall Lancashire, the 7th son of Thomas Bayley.  

Educated at Winwick Grammar School, Eton College and Trinity College Cambridge where he became a highly respected classical scholar.

Married Hannah Touchet in 1807. Look inside the pulpit and discover the family shields.

Ordained deacon at Chester in 1803 and became chaplain to the Bishop of Chester.

Shortly afterwards arrived in Lincoln following appointment as preceptor to William Edward Tomline, son of the Bishop of Lincoln.

Became sub-dean of Lincoln 1805 – 1826, devoting much time and money to beautifying and renovating the cathedral, promoting the establishment of a public library in Lincoln and becoming one of its chief benefactors.

Held numerous ecclesiastical positions, many of them concurrently.

Vicar of Messingham and Bottesford (1810 – 1826).

Archdeacon of Stow 1823 – 1844.

Became Prebendary of Westminster in 1828.

Throughout his ministry he instigated restorations and rebuilding schemes, including the extensive restoration of Holy Trinity Messingham.

Finally, despite suffering ill health and becoming blind he initiated the building of a new church at West Meon, Hampshire, the place of his final incumbency.  Unfortunately he died shortly before its completion. He was buried at West Meon.

Edward James Willson (1787 – 1854)

Born in Lincoln, the eldest son of William Willson, a cabinet maker and ‘master builder’.  Brought up as a Catholic.

After attending the grammar school in Greyfriars, Lincoln, joined his father’s company, which involved working at  Lincoln Cathedral. Through  study of the cathedral and other buildings in the city, developed a considerable knowledge of Gothic architecture.

Around 1805, whilst at the Cathedral, a chance meeting with John Britton led to a longstanding friendship and the development of his interest in architectural writing.

Architectural knowledge and skills said to have been enhanced by spending time with William Lumby, a local architect and Cathedral surveyor.

Married Mary Mould in 1821. One of his sons, Thomas John Willson (1824-1903), became a successful architect in London, mainly building Roman Catholic churches.

Alongside his engagement as architect on many projects around Lincolnshire and neighbouring counties, made significant contributions to the local community.

Member of Lincoln City Council for many years, serving as Mayor of Lincoln 1851-52 and becoming a city magistrate in 1834. Appointed surveyor to Lincolnshire County Council in 1833, he was responsible for the restoration of the keep and walls of Lincoln Castle.

Became a knowledgeable and influential member of the Architects and Antiquaries Club in 1819.

Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of his work was his professional contributions to architectural texts by his friend John Britton and the highly regarded Gothic Revival publications of the ‘Pugins’.

He was buried at Hainton, Lincolnshire, a village containing various examples of his work.


Edward James Wilson



©2024 Holy Trinity Church, Messingham.
All Rights Reserved