History

 

Introduction

There are thousands of churches in this country, no two identical. They are remarkably different from other buildings, but so familiar they can be taken for granted. Many are very old, carrying signs of alteration and repair over the centuries. St Peter’s is indeed old, and has certainly changed, sometimes quite radically. Yet entries in the current visitors’ book constantly remark on its beauty and peacefulness and their happy memories. It seems as if past and present lose their boundaries and merge, and the prayers and faith over the centuries of countless villagers with cares and joys like our own, can resonate with us now.

Our own method for trying to discover how Barrowden’s memory bank, sanctuary and standing sermon came to be as it is today, was to look very carefully at the fabric and contents of St Peter’s and consult as much relevant literature, documents and records as we could. There are some written records of work carried out or needed, but they are far from complete. Nevertheless, there are different styles of architecture which have been found to correspond with certain dates, and national and local events, people and ideas can influence the way churches change. We were fortunate to be able to attend Workers’ Educational Association courses run from Leicester University on church archaeology of the non-invasive, upwardly vertical variety. These notes are based on what we could access and deduce; there is much that is unknown, and we hope it may befound.

Before Domesday

“Barrowden” is the modern version of an Old English name ending with “dun”, indicating that between 400-700ADan Anglo-Saxonsettlement was established here,under a hill which had ancient burial mounds. On the banks of the River Welland, with numerous springs, the situation would have been attractive for agriculture and dwellings. There already had been Roman activity nearby, and there were two Roman roads, one goingnorth to south crossing the Welland where Turtle Bridge now stands, perhaps with a wooden bridge similar to one knownat Tixover, and the other running East-Westbelow the current windmill. Barrowden became a major place within the dower lands of Mercian and English queens and there was an agreement with the Danish invaders whereby these lands would remain untouched by them. In 1086, Domesday Book records that “Berchedone” was an important manor belonging to the King, and there was a priest who looked after 25 freemen, 42 villagers and 26 smallholders who lived not only in Barrowden but also in parts of Seaton, Thorpe, Morcott, Bisbrook, Glaston and Luffenham. It seems, therefore that there had been a long-establishedchurch here, acting as a sub‐minsterwith care for the local area.

The Saxon church would probably have developed over several centuries on the same site, built with local stone and wood with thatch or stone tiles, to become nearly as long as the church here today. It would probably have had a steeply pitched roof, small round-headedwindows, and a rounded arch between the nave and the chancel, which may have had a curved apsidal end. There would not be aisles, but there could have been a tower or bellcote. The church may have been dedicated to a native saint, although asBarrowden was a major holding of queens, St Peter could have been appropriate. Along with all others throughout the land, the church would have been newly whitened with limewash ready for the millennium in 1000AD.

It is a great loss that, although it may since have been re-used, no identifiable Anglo-Saxon stonework has yet been confirmed. There is still hope: a keen eye recently discovered Saxon work at the church of St Peter and St Paul at Great Casterton, where the earliest stones could previously be dated back only to the 13thcentury. The very site of St Peter’s, however, bears witness to Barrowden’s Saxon Christians.

 

11th and 12th Centuries

After 1066 the assertive new Norman rule would probably have wanted to alter the church building and if there had been a different Saxon dedication, change it to St Peter. A partial or total rebuild could have happened, probably reusing stone from the Saxon church, though any characteristic decoration would have been hidden or removed.

However, the earliest parts of St Peter’s that can be identified by style are the large iron C-­‐ scroll strap hinges on the originally single large entrance door. They date to around 1180 but were cut in half in the 19th century and, with repairs, refitted to a pair of narrower doors. The hinges are so similar to those at Duddington and Brooke it is possible they were made by the same blacksmith. The type of pattern was copied in the 19th century at St John the Baptist, Wakerley.

The round-headedinner doorway of the current south porch also dates from the late 12th century. As neither the south aisle nor the porch was built until well into the 13th century, it looks as if the Norman doorway was later relocated.

 

13th Century

Inside St Peter’s, the earliest stones which can be dated from their design are the round arches in the north chancel wall, installed 800 years ago, around 1210. A chapel was thus added to the existing church, and it may be that the chancel waslengthened at the same time. The chapel’s altar has been lost, probably since the Reformation, but the round-headed piscina, used for rinsing communion vessels, remains. The east window in the chapel was not inserted until the next century; an earlier window would have been have been smaller. The chapel was dedicated to Our Lady.

Through the south wall of the chapel by the chancel arch runs a squint, pointing to where the doorway in the south wall of the nave would have been at that time; the priest in the Lady Chapel would have been able to see who was coming into the church.

A list of the Rectors of Barrowden was put up in the 19thcentury, with historical notes concerning the Mauduit family who held the Manor of Barrowden from King Henry III and presented Walter de Rochomage to the Rectory of Barrowden in 1232. The panel also states that the first recorded institution to the Parish was by Hugh Wells, Bishop of Lincoln; this Bishop and the Mauduits had been in conflict with King John. De Rochomage was not, of course, the first priest to be at the church.

Around the middle of the 13th century, say 1250, the present pointed chancel arch was inserted and the south aisle added, also using pointed arches. The usual method of making aisles was to build the new outer walls, continue the main roof to meet them, then, in the old wall, carefully to open holes in the shape of the arch, insert wooden beams and jack them up to take the weight, take out the stones and insert a timber framework. Then the stone pillars and arches were inserted. This meant that the church could remain in use during the extension work. The south facing window in the new aisle belongs to this time, but the piscina below and the window at the west end date from the 15th century.

The font was probably moved from the centre of the nave and placed in the new aisle near the door, to symbolise entry into the Faith. The plain panels of the font would have been plastered and painted with appropriate bible scenes. Carved on the capital at the top of a pillar in the south aisle there are sparse stiff leaves, and there is a notch on the aisle side which would have anchored a wooden screen to form an enclosed side chapel, possibly dedicated to St Peter or St John.

The south porch was built in the mid- 13thcentury, as its pointed outer arch shows, but the stonework of the inner doorway with its rounded arch dates from at least 50 years earlier. It therefore looks as if it was moved from the old south wall, from the place to which the squint points, and retained as part of the new build.

Towards the end of the same century the north aisle was built. There used to be a pointed doorway in the north wall, opposite the south entrance; traces of it can be seen on the outside of the church.

14th and 15th Centuries

In 1333 land was given to “maintain a chaplain at the altar of the Blessed Virgin to sing mass there forever” for souls, probably specifically for Richard Smith and Thomas Nichols, who along with Edward II, founded the chantry. The east window of the chapel was inserted at this time. Chantry chapels such as this were forbidden after the 16th century Reformation, but the gift of land has remained, with monies from its rent helping church upkeep to the present day, and rushes or hay from the fields or their successors are still brought to the church and laid on the floors of nave and porch for the Feast of St Peter at the end ofJune.

Only thirty years later in the middle of the 14th century, after the ravages of the Black Death, a different picture emerges -­‐ the church was “ruinous”. A building fund was started in 1364 using Indulgences: people gave money on the understanding that their sacrifice would be like following Christ’s example and help them at the Day of Judgement. The response was extremely good.

Not only was the chancel repaired but probably the piscina was added, and also the double sedilia, with seats for two priests or Rector and Deacon. It now seems that these seats appear too low for comfort, indicating that the chancel floor was then on the same level as the nave. The window at the west end of the north aisle was erect

About the same time, work took place on the tower and its arch in the nave, and building continued with a lofty bell chamber with tall windows on each face, accessed internally by a narrow spiral staircase of 45 steps. Not until the 15th century was the tall slender spire completed; it rises directly from a cornice with low broaches so there is no parapet. Building stone was probably quarried from “Steeple Pits” in the lordship, as 19thcentury churchwardens note, and a Burghley Estate map of 1844 shows Steeple Pit Furlong just above the village on the east side of the road to Morcott, in the Stone Field, one of three large pre-enclosure Barrowden fields.

Around 1390 the roof of the nave was removed, the clerestory built and a new flatter timber roof put in. The old high roofline can be seen inside the nave, in the pointed drip moulding on the west wall. Light must have flooded in. The stone corbels to support the roof beams were carved: those in the corners represent the creatures round the Throne in the Book of Revelation and the Four Evangelists: the man playing the flute in the northeast corner stands for St Matthew, the lion in the southeast St Mark, the Eagle on the south side of the tower St John and the calf on the north St Luke. The other two corbels on the nave side of the south aisle represent a medieval man who seems to be in some pain and a plain shield, but opposite are two angels, one holding a shield and the other seems to be singing and radiantly happy -­‐ perhaps signifying man’s earthly and heavenly states.

Development continued. The window at the west end of the south aisle was added. In the chancel, the east and south walls, with their windows and small doorway, were rebuilt. A new chancel roof was made, and six carved wooden figures from the roof of this time were reset after 19th century renewal was carried out. They represent St Peter with a key to the Kingdom of Heaven, a winged St Michael with hands outstretched as at the time when souls are weighed at theDay of Judgement, and Our Lady with hands crossed in acceptance, but

with one foot firmly placed on the neck of a huge curled snake, seeming to suggest, through Mary as “the new Eve”, the conquest of the enemy from the Garden of Eden. There are also three musicians – an angel holding a lute- like instrumentacross the body and two figureswith long robes and flowing hair: one holds a long-­‐neckedrebec,heldunder the chin and played with a bow (apparently the sound was rather “nasal”), the other is blowing a sackbut, the forerunner of thetrombone.

Across the chancel arch a Rood Loft was erected, probably containing wooden statues of Christ on the Cross with Mary on one side and St John on the other. As part of the scheme, the wall at the north side of the chancel arch was reconstructed to house a very narrow spiral staircase while leaving the 13th century squint intact. This staircase rose to a door, now walled up, just above the Rood. There would also have been a carved wooden screen across the chancel floor beneath the arch, with an opening through to the chancel and the altar, putting them in an extremely special, if remote, setting.

The church at that time, and all through the middle ages, would have been ablaze with colour,allthefiguresintheroofwouldhavebeenpainted,aswouldtheroodscreen.Walls would also have had paintings on them, and the chamfers around arches decorated with stenciled patterns in reds and greens. The windows probably glowed with coloured glass representing Old and New Testament scenes. One tiny fragment remains high in the east window of the chancel. When parishioners did not read, such glass and painted scenes could act as a teaching aid and a guide to living a Christianlife.

16th Century and The Reformation

Until this time people usually stood and knelt on the floor of packed earth covered with rushes, though there was probably some seating provision for the infirm. However, in 1504 the Rector of the time, the last before the Reformation, had an oak bench made, and it is likely that the congregation also had some seating. One deeply carved end of the Rector’s bench has been reused as the side of one of the reading desks now in the chancel; it has his name in Latin, “Rolandus Digbi”, and below on a shield, “Rector DE BA” (Rector of Barrowden) and his family emblem, the fleur-­‐de-­‐lys. His dark marble tomb in the chancel had a flat brass figure on top, and a brass plate, which, translated from the Latin, records: “Here lies Roland Digby Clerk formerly Rector of Baradon who died on the 18th day of April

in the year of our Lord 1546 on whose soul may God have mercy”. The memorial plate was placed in the north wall of the Sanctuary in the 19th century and the tomb moved to the churchyard. His successor was Sir Everard Digby, who in his will of 1562 wished to be buried on the south side of the chancel next to “my brother Thomas and a stone to be laid or set with a scripture making mension of the dayes of our burialls”, but nothing is now evident.

The Digby family had been granted the Manor of Barrowden from the King for most of the time since 1479. In his will, Henry VIII gave it to Elizabeth “until she be provided with a suitable marriage”, but in 1551, shortly after his death, Elizabeth gave Barrowden to Sir William Cecil, later Baron Burghley. Family members have continued to own it, later holding the title of Earl or Marquess of Exeter.

A total change in interior arrangement took place during the Reformation around the middle of the 16th century. In order to make clear the break with the Pope in Rome, anything which was connected with the old ways of worship had to be destroyed or at least covered up. The Lady Chapel would have had to be dismantled. The rood loft and screen were taken down, coloured glass removed from the windows and all carvings, paintings and decoration covered with whitewash. Edward VI was adamant that stone altars be demolished and a wooden one made, with balustrades round it. A set of Communion vessels was made in 1569, including a covered chalice, which, in its decorated leather case, is currently held in the Treasury of Peterborough Cathedral.

In 1577 at one of his regular inspections, the Archdeacon noted that glass windows must be repaired.

In 1588, Armada year, a sumptuous monument to Roland Durant, whose house still exists near St Peter’s, was placed in the chapel at the east end of the north aisle. The inscription is in Latin, which translated says “Whilst he lived he lived uprightly, now he is dead; both dead therefore and living he is and was to God”. The Renaissance design is very similar to a 1551 monument at Launde Abbey to Gregory Cromwell, who married Jane Seymour’s sister.

Two of the books recommended for reading to parishioners, Erasmus’s Paraphrase of the Gospels, dated 1522, and the Newes out of Heaven of 1561, survive to the present day.

There had been five bells before the Reformation; any dedicated to a saint would have had to be removed, hidden, sold, or recast. Four were noted as present at the end of the century, though only three can be traced: a bell by Newcome of Leicester, with the letters A to I cast round it, dates from around 1570 and two were made in 1595 by Francis Watts of Leicester, one inscribed “god save the queene” (Elizabeth I), the other “cum cum and pray”. The bells dedicated to the queen and the one with lettering have not been recast since and are regularly rung.

17th Century

A large pulpit was made in 1605, its tall decorated back panel carrying the date and initials of the Rector, Richard Johnson, showing the emphasis now placed on the value of reading the bible and preaching. Such pulpits usually consisted of three “decks” – the top one for the Rector to preach from, with a sounding board above, the one below for readings from the bible and recommended books which were chained to it, and the bottom one was a seat for the Clerk, who led the people in their responses duringservices.

Also in 1605 an Archdeacon recorded that the chancel was “decayed”, windows needed glazing, the north aisle chapel and west end needed paving, and the north door and steps were also “decayed”.

In 1646, during the Civil War, the Rector, Robert Ward, was “forced to fly in the midst of Divine Service for fear of some (Parliamentary) soldiers that pursued him”. Another Rector, Edward Wells, was appointed, but Robert Ward returned at the Restoration in 1660.

The church continued in a somewhat run-­‐down condition, the Inspection of 1681 revealing that two windows in the south side of the chancel had been removed for reglazing, for which the Rector was “admonished”, and that repairs were required to the vestry, to seating, the south aisle floor, the sounding board above the pulpit, and that walls should be whitened. The chancel buttress also needed to be underpinned, and the Inspectors wanted battlements added outside (none were). Chancels generally were found to be particularly neglected in this century.

18th Century

During the 18th century parishioners would have had their own high-sided box pews for which they paid a regular sum; the poor may have sat on benches. Walls at this time usually carried boards or paintwork of the Creed, the Commandments, a table of prohibited degrees of marriage and a Royal Coat of Arms, but there seems no record of these at St Peter’s. The tall pulpit would still have been a most prominent feature, maybe partly across the chancel arch.

A large western gallery, probably wooden, was erected across the tower arch for singers and instrumentalists or extra seating.

Two bells were made at Stamford in 1706, inscribed “Alexander Rigby made me”, though one is believed to be a recasting of an old bell. The ring thus returned to five, as before the Reformation. A small Saint’s or Sanctus bell was made by Edward Arnold in 1786 when the Rev Joseph Digby, Rector for 32 years, died. The bell became broken during the 19th century but was kept in the belfry.

On the stone benches in the porch there are imprints of hobnail boots and some graffiti dated 1771.

Outside, 20 feet above ground on the south west corner of the tower, a two foot square limestone sundial, with iron gnomon, worn roman numerals and traces of gilding and red paint, is currently in place. It is not possible to date it, but authorities suggest it may belong to the 18th century.

There is nothing to suggest any repairs were carried out in this century, though it is noted that in 1797, two years after becoming Rector, the Rev Richard Carey was allowed to remove barns, including that known as the “great tithe barn”, to improve his view from his Rectory, known currently as Carey’s House.

19th  Century and Victorian Restoration

At the beginning of the 19th century, in 1833, Mr John Brown from Barrowden set up a charity to help the poor of the village from rental of a property in Hammersmith, which a tablet by the font commemorates and which charity continues usefully to the present day.

The changes to St Peter’s, which the 19th century brought, in common with many churches, were very considerable. It was felt by the influential Anglican Cambridge Camden Society that that the 13th and 14th centuries were in many ways an ideal time in the history of church worship; the “Middle-Pointed” style of architecture and interior layout of that time ought therefore to be recreated, chancels should be restored and seating provided in the body of the church for all to use in the following of services. It has been found that in Rutland churches almost every change recorded in the 19th century appears to be the result of the Society’s teaching.

In 1842, two years after the Rev Charles Atlay became Rector, changes appear to have begun when a bread holder was made to add to the communion vessels. In 1843 new low pews were installed, free for all; those at present in the aisles had their doors removed at some point, as places where hinges hung can still be seen. All windows were re-­‐glazed with Hardman’s thick patent “Cathedral” glass. The five bells were rehung in 1857 by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, as recorded in the belfry along with the names “Revd. C Atlay Rector, I Johnson, Clerk, H Mason, and T Taylor, Churchwardens” and “T Swann”, a notable village stonemason. This bell work cost £102.8s, “raised by subscription”. Rev Atlay was Rector for 30 years and died in 1870; his tomb is in the churchyard.

The pointed medieval arches of St Peter’s must have been noticed by the Rev Charles James Dyer when, having been for 10 years in charge at St Martin’s Stamford and Chaplain to the Marquess of Exeter, he became Rector at St Peter’s in 1870. He would recognise that in order to restore the importance of the altar and balance this with an equal focus on the Bible and preaching, more repairs and changes were needed, and that the pointed arches should be incorporated and emphasised.

The large “three-decker” pulpit was dismantled and mostly sold to Harringworth church. However, the tall back panel of 1605 with the then Rector’s initials was kept, and along with other woodwork formed into a bookcase which houses two 16th century previously chained books, Erasmus’s Paraphrase of the Gospels and The Newes out of Heaven; the bookcase was placed in the nave to the north of the chancel arch. The present low pulpit by the south chancel arch was made and installed.

With access to the chancel now improved, it was “modernised”. It is likely that steps were put under the chancel arch and also before the altar and the levels of the chancel and the old chapel raised. The spiral stairs, which had led to the rood loft, were blocked and a square stone quatrefoil placed over the nave side of the squint.

The 16th century oak balustrade around the altar was replaced by rails to make the Sanctuary and Maw’s majolica tiles were placed on the east wall, behind the retained wooden altar. The chancel floor was paved with Maw’s encaustic tiles. One of the round-headed archesin the chancel, which   had been blocked, was cleared. The tomb of the last Rector before the Reformation, Roland Digby, had the brass memorial plaque removed and set into the north wall of thesanctuary

and his carved bench end incorporated into one of the two new reading desks. The tomb itself was relegated to the wall on the north side of the churchyard, where it has now become broken with bushes and the outline of the brass figure is just visible. The memorial stone to the Rev Richard Carey, the previous Rector before Charles Atlay, was set above the brass plaque to Roland Digby.

Alterations involved the whole church. Apart from the north doorway, which was blocked up, the whole of the north wall was rebuilt with new windows, and there was some repair to the clerestory. The Renaissance monument to Roland Durant was moved from the chapel to the site of the blocked north door, a prominent place directly opposite the southdoor.

The east window of the former chapel then had to be straightened and reinstalled, which was paid for personally by the Dowager Marchioness of Exeter. While at least one old memorial stone to a Barrowdonian, “Everard Fawkner, Gent. who departed this life ye 10th of Jan’ry 1696 in the 68th year of his age” was re-laid in the north aisle floor, others, by a Faculty, were relocated to the belfry. Some may have remained under the floor of the current vestry in the chapel and, as in the case of members of the 16th century Digby family, beneath the chancel. A large railed tomb for members of the Munton family was removed from the chapel and put back into the churchyard.

The western gallery, now considered “ugly”, was demolished, opening up the tower arch. In the 1880s a new organ by Hill, costing £300 including fittings, was put in the old chapel to be near the choir, which was given new seating in the chancel. Organ blowers, choir boys and girls and young bell ringers have scratched or written their names on the back of organ case and back pipes through to the latter part of the 20th century, and a brass plate records that the pedal board was renovated in May 1986 in memory of Maurice Osborne Clarke 1899-1985.

The large single wooden entrance door became two smaller ones; the 12th century strap hinges were cut in half and, with some repair, reused. Wrought iron “carriage” and “single pedestrian” gates were set between stone piers and placed at the entrance to the churchyard. Churchwardens noted this caused difficulties for cows which had formerly passed through to fields and provision had not been made for them.

The roof was entirely remodelled. Outside, the lead was removed and replaced with blue Welsh slates, doubtless brought by the busy railway across Eight Arches bridge to Barrowden and Wakerley station, opened in 1859. The Chuchwardens deplored the “sense of newness being imported altogether out of keeping with the gravity of the ancient structure”. Crosses were placed at the east end and over the junction of the chancel and the nave.

Inside, roofs were renewed. The medieval stone corbels including the Four Evangelists were reset, though it was some years before the old wooden carvings in the chancel were positioned at the juncture of walls and roof; they are bare wood now, yet still in certain light conditions specks of paint can just be sensed. The Churchwardens state that in 1862 they were “still in colour”. A visiting architect noted in 1896 that they were being stored in the former Lady Chapel and were in good repair, and wondered if other sound woodwork had been lost.

All whitewash was scraped off, and it is recorded that old painted wall decoration was found beneath, most notably under the round arches in the chancel where a scroll pattern appeared. That too was removed, despite considerable concerns and objections. The painted shields on the pointed arches were added: those on the tower show the crossed keys of St Peter and the cross of his brother St Andrew, then on the north side the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega, symbolising God who is the beginning and end of all things, and opposite the first three letters of Jesus’s name in Greek letters, I, H, S. The next pair, with more elaborate shields, represent the Trinity, which had special emphasis at that time -­‐ triangles and trefoils, with a cross and unifying circle. The last two pairs contain the date of all these Victorian works, 1875, and the Rector’s initials, CJD. He died aged 57 in 1888, and is buried in the churchyard.

The Rev Charles Dyer’s “through restoration” cost £750. The Churchwardens record that this was met mainly by the beneficence of Miss Mary Carey, daughter of the Rev Richard Carey, Rector from1795-1840by her legacy of £260, that the Noble Patron’s family gave £250 and liberal contributions came from the Rector and numerous parishioners and friends.

In 1896 the vestry in the old chapel had fittings made and the choir seating was altered. A brass lectern was given, in their lifetime, by Thomas and Mary Ann Kirby. A wooden panel was hung by the tower arch with a list of Rectors as known from 1232 and some historical details. The churchwardens wrote about the history of the village and church and the recent alterations they had witnessed; dated St Peter’s Day 1862 by Henry Mason and William Shelton, and Easter 1888 by John Thomas Swann, Rector’s Churchwarden and George Henry Mason, Parish Churchwarden. Printed and framed together, these accounts hang near the tower arch.

20th  Century and into the 21st

Photographs from just before and after the beginning of the 20th century show painted decoration and elaborate hangings and banners around the chancel arch and pillars and there have been different types of reredos behind the altar; although they have disappeared again, nails and hooks they used can still be seen.

Four oil lamps used to hang on long chains from the chancel roof and others from the nave and aisle roofs -­‐ the hooks are still there; brackets for candles used to be on either side of the altar and for lamps on the chancel arch. Candles must have provided light down the centuries and a chandelier shaped light fitting is currently in the chancel. The lantern in the porch seems to date from the turn of the 20th century. Electricity came in 1934. Oil fired heating was installed in 1967; there do not appear to be records of any heating before then, though there may have been braziers; stoves, perhaps using coal or coke brought on the railway after 1859, may have been set up.

The most noticeable addition to the church in the 20thcentury has been the creation of the First World War memorial in the south aisle. A glazed, wooden framed, written hanging states, “This War Shrine was erected by the Parishioners of Barrowden in memory of the brave men of this village who fought and died in the Great War 1914-1918. Arthur Hutchings – Rector. Samuel Dexter, William White – Churchwardens. October 1919”.

Fourteen men are named, three from one family. The village Roll of Honor hung nearby shows 56 names of those who served, including those who died. A wooden plaque commemorates the four villagers who died in the 1939-1945war. A bookcase containing the names of they, whose ashes are interred outside the south porch, was added in 1986 near the War Memorial.

In 1955 St Peter’s was listed Grade II*by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. The late 19th century wrought iron gates and their stone piers at the entrance to the churchyard were included for group value and listed Grade II.

A chest and cupboards in the vestry have been moved around, and a new cupboard made. The doorway to the blocked rood loft staircase was where confessions were made in the late 20th century; a statue of Our Lady, which used to be there, is currently on the sill of a north aisle window.

In 1981, as a memorial to his first wife, Dr Ransome-Wallisput a small coloured glass memorial by Caroline Swash in the south window of the chancel. Clear glass was put in that and the east window. The sanctuary and its steps have been carpeted. In the 1980s and 1990s villagers stitched sets of dark red tapestry covers with Christian symbols and flowers and made them into hassocks, pew seats received carpet runners and spotlights were installed in the chancel.

The design and slates of the 19th century roof appear to have caused leaks ever since. The spire must have been struck by lightning many times, including 1811 and 1889, and a plaque on the tower wall commemorates repairs in 1915. Lightning conductors have been put in place. However, an iron spike inserted in 1915 to hold the weather vane later expanded and caused the spire to crack – “the Year of the Spire” organised by the Parochial Church Council in 1985 raised money from villagers for the expensive repairs.

In 1915, three of the bells were recast by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough and the five were rehung in new metal bell frame for six bells. In May 1990 the Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Bill Westwood, dedicated a new Treble Bell, making a ring of six. This bell was cast by Taylor’s with a number of the congregation watching and carries the inscription “Saint Peter” in pre-Reformation,15th century style lettering. The Bishop also re-dedicatedthe small Priest’s Bell from the 18th century which had been repaired by Taylor’s; it was then re-hungin the belfry and daily chimed three times at noon by the Rector, Fr Brian Scott,until he left in 1998. The church’s “Bell Appeal” was well supported byvillagers.

St Peter’s has given sanctuary to items from local Chapels after they closed, including furniture from Wing Methodist and Morcott Baptist and also memorial tablets from Barrowden Baptist after its closure in 2003. One of these tablets, for Private Harry Hopkins, who attended Sunday School at Barrowden Baptist Chapel and shortly afterwards lost his life in the Great War, has been set in the south nave wall next to the War Memorial.

The Churchyard

Sheep have grazed. Cows used to pass through on their way to farm or fields, but 19th century wrought iron gates and their stone piers made this difficult. At the end of the 20th century a noticeboard was erected by the gates. Stonewalls have been repaired. In the 21st century there are tended roses, flower beds and mown grass; standard roses border the path to the small bridge over the spring and the 20th century extension at the western end. There are Yews and a large Cedar.

At the start of the 21st century the churchyard contained some 450 memorials from the last 450 years, including the tombs of several Rectors, some fine 19th century monuments and three remarkable 17th  century low triangular grave markers. Family names in the village over the centuries are represented. In the late 20th century a garden for cremated ashes was made opposite the south porch. Stone memorials in churchyards were very uncommon before the end of the 16th century and not all people have had gravestones since. There are therefore probably thousands of unmarked burials, which will date from the time the church was first here some fourteen hundred years ago, to thepresent.

In Conclusion

The overriding impression is one of thankfulness that, despite lack of documentary evidence and physical remains, so many links in the long historical chain at St Peter’s have managed to survive. The past can be touched, and the ambience is intangible but real.

Visitors asked for their quick first impressions of the church often comment on how light it is; some are first taken aback by rushes being on the floor at Petertide, then return years later to try to recall the smell they found they loved. Visitors’ Books carry comments by ex-­‐ villagers who return and write of happy memories and tell of relatives and friends buried here. People arrive from all over the world and write their thanks that the church was open when they came, of the care given to the building and their enjoyment of its setting. There In 1915, three of the bells were recast by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough and the five were rehung in new metal bell frame for six bells. In May 1990 the Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Bill Westwood, dedicated a new Treble Bell, making a ring of six. This bell was cast by Taylor’s with a number of the congregation watching and carries the inscription “Saint Peter” in pre-Reformation,15th century style lettering. The Bishop also re-dedicatedthe small Priest’s Bell from the 18th century which had been repaired by Taylor’s; it was then re-hungin the belfry and daily chimed three times at noon by the Rector, Fr Brian Scott,until he left in 1998. The church’s “Bell Appeal” was well supported byvillagers.

St Peter’s has given sanctuary to items from local Chapels after they closed, including furniture from Wing Methodist and Morcott Baptist and also memorial tablets from Barrowden Baptist after its closure in 2003. One of these tablets, for Private Harry Hopkins, who attended Sunday School at Barrowden Baptist Chapel and shortly afterwards lost his life in the Great War, has been set in the south nave wall next to the War Memorial.

The Churchyard

Sheep have grazed. Cows used to pass through on their way to farm or fields, but 19th century wrought iron gates and their stone piers made this difficult. At the end of the 20th century a noticeboard was erected by the gates. Stonewalls have been repaired. In the 21st century there are tended roses, flower beds and mown grass; standard roses border the path to the small bridge over the spring and the 20th century extension at the western end. There are Yews and a large Cedar.

At the start of the 21st century the churchyard contained some 450 memorials from the last 450 years, including the tombs of several Rectors, some fine 19th century monuments and three remarkable 17th  century low triangular grave markers. Family names in the village over the centuries are represented. In the late 20th century a garden for cremated ashes was made opposite the south porch. Stone memorials in churchyards were very uncommon before the end of the 16th century and not all people have had gravestones since. There are therefore probably thousands of unmarked burials, which will date from the time the church was first here some fourteen hundred years ago, to thepresent.

 

In Conclusion

The overriding impression is one of thankfulness that, despite lack of documentary evidence and physical remains, so many links in the long historical chain at St Peter’s have managed to survive. The past can be touched, and the ambience is intangible but real.

Visitors asked for their quick first impressions of the church often comment on how light it is; some are first taken aback by rushes being on the floor at Petertide, then return years later to try to recall the smell they found they loved. Visitors’ Books carry comments by ex-­‐ villagers who return and write of happy memories and tell of relatives and friends buried here. People arrive from all over the world and write their thanks that the church was open when they came, of the care given to the building and their enjoyment of its setting. There are 500 entries in the current Book from 2005-11, for example: “A peaceful retreat – preserve at all costs! (Australia)”; “Return visit again and again (Winchcombe, Glos.)”; “I was able to rekindle my childhood – thank you (Swansea)”; “Lovely, peaceful, calm and full of happiness”; “Interesting old church with better Victorian restoration than most!”; “Happy times in 1954-58(daughter of Rev Stanley Woods)”.Descriptions in books note the lofty spire and unusual width of the church compared with its length, roughly 75 feet long and 45 feet wide across theaisles.

St Peter’s is a product of hundreds of years of involvement by many people. It would have been interesting to have been able more closely to link building initiatives and repairs, and lack of them, with particular Kings, Lords of the Manor, Bishops and Clergy. No doubt there have been ideas or plans for alterations which did not take place for various reasons. Work has to be funded: apart from nobility and clergy, donations of time and money have come from rich and poor, including income from Indulgences, tithes, pew-­‐rents, 20th and 21st century Parochial Church Council stewardship schemes and special appeals. At present English Heritage and Rutland Historic Churches Preservation Trust give help where they can.

Connections between architecture and religious practices over the centuries are visible. It is impressive that, for example, a 13th century squint, medieval angels, pieces of a three-decker pulpit and Victorian pews and chancel tiles are still with us, bells have been cared for and rush-bearingcontinues. There is also a consonance between alterations, as between Rectors’ initials boldly displayed at Reformation on pulpit and at Restoration on pointed arches; between the retention in the sanctuary by memorials to the Rector before the Reformation and the Rector before the Restoration, and especially between the War Memorial and the Chantry Chapel.

The length and breadth of the church has long been constant. The  medieval arrangement was for an important long chancel with the main altar at the east end, together with smaller side chapels for special purposes and until the 16th century no seating for the congregation; after the Reformation, services centred on the pulpit in the nave with seating across the width, and with the chancel in poor repair the sacraments may have been brought to the congregation; the Victorian restoration attempted to balance altar and pulpit; however,

while everyone is able to access the sanctuary, it is physically not possible to see the altar from pews in the aisles. Nevertheless, the Camden Society had felt that chancel arches should be “small”, and it could be suggested that the walk from aisle to altar during a service offers a particularly special experience.

 

It is most unlikely that alterations were embraced by everyone at the time, or that all clergy or parishioners adjusted easily and rapidly to change; some must have been dismayed, particularly if change was imposed suddenly and arbitrarily. This may be inferred, for example, by a tardiness to conform with all Tudor requirements, by the Civil War causing the Rector to vacate St Peter’s in a hurry and return at the Restoration of Charles II, and repairs seemingly urgently needed by the end of the 18thcentury. However, it is not until the 19th and 20th centuries that some lay people’s attitudes to change were recorded, as in the Victorian Churchwardens’ printed notes concerning the inappropriate newness of blue Welsh roof slates and the awkwardness of iron churchyard gates in relation to cows.

 

It is hoped that respect and understanding for past, present and future Barrowdonians and their unique church will be acknowledged in whatever further change may occur, and that repairs and alterations can be sympathetically carried out, that the layered links of centuries may continue.

Sources and Books

The writers of these notes are extremely indebted to Dr David Parsons for tutoring WEA classes on church archaeology so that we were more able to “read” the building, and to his colleagues at Leicester University for help with documents in local Record Offices; also to Fr Brian Scott in 1987 for his encouragement to start the notes and to Barrowden PCC for instigating their revision in 2011. Our particular and grateful thanks go to the Victorian Churchwardens and those who have since kept their record of restorations in view on the tower wall.

Of books, journals and articles consulted as below, those with an asterisk (*) have been found especially useful.

Across the Welland (Barrowden and Wakerley Parish Magazine, 1988) Barrowden and Wakerley Parish Magazines, 1982-­‐

Cox,B, The Place-­‐names of Rutland(English Place-­‐Name Society, 1994)

*Dickinson, Adams, Brandwood and Brereton, Rutland Churches Before Restoration

(Barrowden Books 1983)

Directories for Rutland (Kelly’s, White’s, Slater’s, 19th century)

*Domesday Book, Rutland (Phillimore, 1980)

*Dornier, Ann (Ed), Mercian Studies (Leicester University Press 1977)

In Rutland Series (Rutland Local History Society, 1976-­‐) National Monuments Record for Barrowden (as at 1995)

*Northamptonshire Family History Society, Memorial Inscriptions at the Church of St Peter and the Baptist Chapel, Barrowden (2005)

*Ovens, R and Sleath, S, Time in Rutland (Rutland Local History and Record Society, 2002)

Oxford History of England, The (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 15 vols,1959)

Pevsner, N and Williamson, E, The Buildings of England, Leicestershire and Rutland (Penguin Books, 1984)

*Rhodes, P, Barrowden, A Village in Rutland (Speigl Press, 1995)

*Rutland Record(Journals 1 & 7 in particular) (Rutland Record Society, 1980-­‐)

Stevens and Hunt (Eds),A History of the English Church(Macmillan & Co, 8 vols, 1903-­‐1910)

*Victoria County History (Rutland) (Vol I, 1908, Vol 2, 1935, Reprinted Dawson, 1975) Wright, James The History and Antiquities of Rutland (1788, republished EP Publishing in co-­‐ operation with Rutland County Council, 1973)