The church of St John The Baptist was the 38th, and final, church photographed during a four day cycling tour of the Kettering, Corby and Thrapston area in August 2011. The weather had been fine up to the final morning, but rain was sweeping down by the time that I arrived at Achurch.
The village, sometimes known at Thorpe Achurch, is close to the busy A605, inbetween Oundle and Thrapston. Despite the close proximity of the main road, the village itself is peaceful and quiet. The church of St John The Baptist serves as the parish church of Achurch and also Lilford. The church at Lilford had fallen in to decay and was demolished in 1778, with the church here covering both villages since that time.
For the most part, the church dates from the 13th century, the exception being the aisles and porch which were built in 1862. The church was founded by Sir Ascelin De Waterville, a crusader knight, who built the church to give thanks for his safe return from the Holy Land. It is said that the coffin shaped stone on the south side of the church is the grave of Sir Ascelin. It is also claimed that the tomb immediately to the side of this stone is the tomb of another crusader knight, Sir Reginald De Waterville. Interesting to see that these tombs each have a grade II listing and English heriatage date them at 15th - 16th century, considerably later than the local legend would suggest!
Entry to the church grounds is gained through an elaborately carved lychgate, which commemorates the memory of the 4th Lord Lilford who died in 1896. When entering the church grounds it is notable how many graves have subsided. Stones lean over at gravity defying angles and there appears to be a real problem here with rabbits. Holes are dug all over the place and care has to be taken when walking here.
Four bells hang here, with the first coming courtesy of Taylor of Loughborough and being dated 1861. The next two are both also by Taylor's and are 1898 re-castings of earlier bells. The first was dated 1675 and was originally inscribed "GOD SAVE THE KING". The second was from Peterborough bellfounder Henry Penn, originally cast in 1711. The fourth bell was cast in 1735 by Thomas Eayre of Kettering and was inscribed "OMNIA FIANT AD GLORIAM DEI" which translates to "Let all things be done for the glory of God".
There are a couple of very faded stone heads on the exterior of the church here. One in particular caught my eye and appeared to be a woman wearing a wimple. This is very weathered and looks to be of great age. More recent, possibly dating back to the Victorian restoration here, is a impish looking face looking out from one of the downspouts.
With the exceptions of the tombs to the De Watervilles mentioned earlier, the oldest graves to be found in the churchyard are a block of eight just to the east of the south porch. There is an information board in the church grounds giving a brief history of the church, and this board mentions these graves. It says that they date back to the sixteenth century but I take great issue with this. I didn't think that individual grave markers such as these came about until the mid 17th century. One of the dates on the graves appears to be 1728, another reads (possibly!!) 1730. Two more have the dates completely erased but these look like the oldest of the lot, with the style of them suggesting very late 17th century.
There are plenty of stone tombs in this area that predate the earliest of the graestones and there is one to be found here that is older than the gravestones just mentioned. This reads as follows...."HEARE LYETH THE BODIE OF MABLE WOODRVF THE WIFE OF ROBERT ROODRVF WHOSE SOVLE DEPARTED IN THE TRVE FAITH OF JESVS CHRIS JANY 2 1636". A little internet research on this name showed that Mable was the daughter of Thomas Roodrvf, who was a carpenter, and his name appears on the side of the tomb, having passed away himself in September 1639.
Sadly, the church here was locked to visitors and I didn't see any keyholder listed which is a shame. There are some monuments in the church here that were moved from the church at Lilford before it was demolished in 1778. Several of these monuments are to the Powys family who lived at nearby Lilford Hall.
A public right of way goes through the church grounds. This is the Nene Way and whilst I was photographing the church a steady stream of people went through, some of cycles, and some walking their dogs. Good to see so many people out and about.....even on a day that was far from pleasant weather wise. Back on the cycle, photographing completed and headed back for home. An enjoyable four day trip was at an end.
Postscript I gained entry to the church here when attending an evening prayer service. As mentioned above there are monuments here from the old church at Lilford. One in particular, to Thomas Powys who died in 1719, in the south chapel is fabulous. Interesting to see that the Powys family pews sits directly opposite this monument so that the family faced the monument rather than the minister. I was also told by the friendly and helpful locals that the pews were situated so that they could keep an eye out on the congregation and ensure that all of their estate workers were at church.
A stained glass window in the nave features a lovely depiction of the raising of Lazarus, with more stained glass to be found in the chancel. A skull looks down from a monument at the west end, reminding the onlooker that Man in mortal and must die.
An enjoyable time spent here with some nice people. As we left the church the sun was starting to go down. Little to be heard except the sounds of birds as they got ready to roost for the night.
A quick trip out into the countryside to the north, just a little way away from the church, brought us to the ruins of the old church at Lilford. A photograph is included at the foot of the page for those interested.
It was good to be here, well worth a look if you are passing.