The church is of early English architecture. The tower dates from around 1500.
Efforts have been made to preserve fragments of ancient stained glass in the existing windows. The church was restored in 1847.
The church seats 190.
St. Helen's contains a vault belonging to the ANDERSON family and a tomb with the recumbent crusader effigy of John de BRAOSE. Another tomb bears the likeness of Sir Radulf TREHAMPTON. There is also a tomb of Sir Thomas BURGH and his lady, damaged when Gainsborough old church was torn down.
The church also contains a tablet memorial to the Rev. Richard Thomas LOWE and his wife Katherine Maria, who died when the SS Liberia sank after a collision while enroute to Madeira in April 1874.
To the east of the church is the site of Hevenynge, or Heynings Nunnery, which was founded by Reynerus EVERMUE before the year 1180 for Gilbertine nuns. At the dissolution of the monestaries, it was granted to Sir Thomas HENEAGE. In the mid 1800s, fish ponds dotted this site, now called Hermit Dams. Some contend that the Nunnery was never here and that the site is the former location of the Manor House.
Lea is both a village and a parish about 2 miles south-south-east of Gainsborough and about 146 miles north of London. The Trent River forms the western parish border, Upton cum Kexby parish lies to the east and Knaith parish to the south. The parish covered about 2,050 acres in 1842. At that time, the parish included the hamlets of Lea Wood and Lea Marsh, as well as two small spots on the Nottinghamshire side of the river, the Bole and Burton Ferries, created when the Trent forged a new path through the parish. Those have since (circa 1900) been transferred to Nottinghamshire, reducing the size of the parish to about 1,950 acres.
In 1842, the village of Lea still contained many thatched dwellings, "finely shaded with trees". The village lies astride the Torksey Road. If you are planning a visit:
Take the A156 (Torksey Road) south out of Gainsborough for about two miles. The village center is where the B1247 starts on its eastward leg toward Kexby.
Thurlby is a wooded area just northeast of the village.
The railway station opened in 1849 as part of the Great Northern Railway. Rail service for passengers ended in 1957 and goods in 1963.
The manor of Lea passed from Sir Radulf TREHAMPTON to the BRAOSE and NUTHILL families, then to the BURGHs of Gainsborough, and from the latter the the DALYSONs (or DALLISON), who sold it to Sir Edmund ANDERSON in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
In 1842, the chief landowner was the Rev. Sir Charles John ANDERSON, baronet and lord of the manor.
In 1872 and 1882, the chief landowner was Sir Charles Henry John ANDERSON, Lea Hall, baronet and lord of the manor.
In 1900, the chief landowner was Miss ANDERSON, Lea Hall, lady of the manor.
In 1913, the chief landowner was Mrs. DUNCOMBE-ANDERSON, lady of the manor.
The name is from the Old English leah, meaning "woodland clearing". It appeared in the 1086 Domesday Book as Lea. Some sources use the spelling "Lee". [A. D. Mills, "A Dictionary of English Place-Names," Oxford University Press, 1991].