Thurlby is not a church that appears in the “important” church books. At first glance, it appears large (with two transepts and two side chapels) but a little undistinguished. The first time I visited it was locked (see the footnote) and I knew nothing about it but it provoked me to ask a few questions: “doesn’t that tower look as it might have some Saxon work?”; “aren’t those chancel lancet windows Early English?”
Well, the answer to both question proved to be “yes”. Less obvious were the fine Norman nave arcades within.
Thurlby is dedicated to St Firmin - a unique dedication in England. There were dedications at monasteries in North Crawley in Bucks and Thorney in Cambs, but these establishments have been lost. The Church Guide claims that St Firmin (or “Fermin”) was the first Bishop of Amiens but my understanding is that although he was martyred there - by beheading - he was in fact the first Bishop of Pamplona in (Basque) Spain, being the son of a Spanish Senator of Rome.
Alongside the church is Car Dyke, a transport and drainage canal built by the Romans to connect Peterborough and Lincoln. Given the choice of a dedication to a Roman bishop and the proximity to the Dyke it is not difficult to agree with speculation that there was a Romano-British church here dating as far back as AD 400 - but it is speculation.