January 2011, and a return trip to Alconbury, to visit the church of St Peter and St Paul. On my previous visit here the church locked, but I was really pleased to see the "Church Open" sign. The interior of this church, with the ceiling in particular, turned out to be the highlight of the day for me in this mini tour of churches in this area.
There was no mention of a church here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. However, there is evidence that a stone church stood here in the 12th century. This would have consisted of a nave with aisles and a chancel, to which a west tower was added in the 13th century. The belfry was added to the tower at the end of the 13th century, with a broache spire being added to that shortly after. The tall and elegant chancel arch dates from around 1250. Early in the 14th century, the nave was rebuilt, with clerestory being added. The north aisle was re-built around the year 1330, with the south porch also being added at that time. There have been six bells hanging here since 1876, with five being present before that date. In 1876 Taylor Of Loughborough re-cast three bells and added an extra one. Of the three that Taylor re-cast, it is thought that they were from a St Neots founder but no founders name, date or inscriptions have been recorded, One bell is from Thomas Norris of the Stamford Bellfoundry and has the inscription "Thomas Norris Made Me 1673". The final bell is from Robert Taylor of St Neots, and dates from 1812. This has inscribed on it the name of Revd D Williams and churchwardens J Pattison Holmes and J Garrott. This church made the headlines in 1876 for a remarkable feat of Victorian engineering. At that time the top two levels of the tower were re-built, whilst the belfry and the spire were help upright with scaffolding. As mentioned earlier, the church was open. The sun was blazing in through the south windows and through the south porch. A red carpet was laid down and the sun shining on to this carpet bathed the font in the most glorious red glow. This church is highly impressive and it was a delight to see inside it. A lady was there to keep and eye on the place and welcome visitors and it was good to chat to her. This lady was keen to point me in the direction of the chancel, so that I could see the wooden ceiling, of which she was justifiably proud. This ceiling is late 15th century, and features angels with outspeard wings. This does not have the wow factor of the angel ceiling at the church of St Wendredas at March, but this is very beautiful. Wooden ceiling bosses are to be seen here as well, with some of these taking the form of grotesquely carved faces. Bizarrely grinning mouths on some and tongues stuck out on others, in a traditional medieval gesture of insult. Plenty of gargoyles and grotesques to be seen here. Two bizarre and grotesquely carved faces can be seen on the south of the church. One of these is in better condition that the other, and is pictured third from the bottom on the left. The other is worn and cracked, and I fear will not be with us much longer. The left side from top to bottom is already flaked away. Really sad to think that a carvind made hundreds of years ago is in such a fragile state. Gargoyles include and eagle like creature with massive talons and creatures with pig like noses and styalised hair, mouths shrieking as they keep an eye out over the large and well maintained church grounds. The church here, as with every other church in this area, is set in some beautiful countryside. Just a short distance away from the church a stream winds its way through the village, with people feeding a multitude of ducks as I went past this on the bus. Again, as with every other church in this area, there is a charming white thatched cottage next to the church. Sadly though, this one did not make for a good photo opportunity with the exquisite white cottage being partially hidden by a less than exquisite modern garage. Church grounds are large and well cared for. The grounds are particularly spacious to the south, and the spire of St Peter and St Paul peers out from between the many trees and bushes that grow here. A stone coffin, without lid, can be seen here, which looks as if it is medieval in date. Elsewhere in the church grounds a finely carved slate gravestone, to the east of the porch, features a small carving of a human skull which symbolises Man's Mortality. This also has an image of an anchor on it, this being a symbol frequently used to represent hope and eternal life. A book is also present, with faded script, part of which reads "In Christ Shall All Be Made Alive" and the initials I.H.S are carved on to a cloud which rests above the book. I.H.S is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase meaning "Jesus Saviour Of Men". I enjoyed my time here enormously. A lovely church in a beautiful setting, good company, and the sun blazing down. It doesn't get a lot better than this. Made my way back to the bus stop and headed off in the direction of neighbouring Little Stukeley, my next point of call.