Put simply, the church of St John The Baptist at Barnack is one of the most important churches to be found within the catchment area of this site. A beautiful example of a Saxon church which very easily made its way in to Simon Jenkins' 1000 Best English Churches. I suspect that this number could have been reduced considerably and it would still have been included! Exquisite! Whichever way you look at this church it is beautiful. So much to look at inside and out so there will be two pages devoted to this page on here. This page will feature exterior shots, with the other page being devoted to interior sjots.
I first visited Barnack back in 2006, armed with a very basic digital camera. I made the return trip on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in late Summer 2013. As we wandered around the large church grounds the sun was starting to set and it really was a glorious sight.The light quality was lovely and there was a real sense of Autumn in the air. Even though it was late afternoon, the church was still open to visitors
It is thought that there may well have been a church here since the seventh century, but the oldest survivng part of the present structure is the lower two sections of the west tower, which date from arounf 1000. The belfry and the spire date from around 200 years later. On the south side of the tower, just underneath the clock, there is a vertical band of Saxon carvings, with a depiction of a bird sitting on top.
Just about the whole of the church was built using local Barnack stone, or "Barnack Rag" as it was called, which was dug up from a quarry on the edge of the village. This had been used since Roman times. Barnack Rag was used in many churches throughout the area, as well as private dewllings, but most of the better quality stone had been taken out by 1460. Today the quarry is still there, and is a protected area, known as the Hills and Hollows.
Today, six bells hang in the belfry, but there was only five here at the time of North's mid Victorian study of Northamptonshire church bells. A quick listing shows that the oldest of these was cast in or around 1540 by Richard Seliok, from his foundry at Nottingham.
Ywo were cast locally in Stamford by Tobias Norris I. The first of his two is dated 1608 and has the name Robarte Wilkinson, the Rector of the day, inscribed on it. The second Norris bell is dated the following year. The only other bell of any real age here is dated 1715 and was cast by the well known Peterborough founder Henry Penn. This has inscribed on it the name John Sissons, churchwarden. Penn is an interesting character and a few years before casting the bell at Barnack, he provided ten bells for Peterborough cathedral. In 1987, one of Penn's bells was exported to the United States and became Pittsburgh's city bell. Today, there is a Henry Penn walk, near to the river Nene,
The other two bells are of no real age of historical interest. Both are from Taylor of Loughborough, one being dated 1897, the other being cast in 1998.
The church grounds here are of great interest. On entering from the south, the visitor is immediately greeted by some medieval stone coffins, with head cut outs. Fragments of several coffins can be seen to the north of the church as well. There are some very well crafted gravestones here and one table tomb, with the initials WT is dated 1629. Very early for its kind. Fascinating to think that this has stood through English Civil War and plague.
As well as being of great beauty and historical interest, Barnack will always be remembered by me as the place where I was "photo bombed" by a horse. For those of you who do not know that term, a defonition is as follows "An otherwise normal photo that has been ruined or spoiled by someone who was not supposed to be in the photograph" I was with my friend David taking some long distance shots of the church from the west when a horse appeared right in front of the camera. He then posed for a number of shots before getting fed up and wandering off after having his nose patted for a while. A delight! Photo included below!