It was late September 2020, Ride and Stride day and amazingly, it was dry and sunny and pleasantly warm, far removed from the storms of two years previously and the drab cloudy days that had affected this event in previous years.
2020 was proving to be a tough year. Covid 19 had hit the UK hard, but infection rates had dropped for the time being and it was good to be able to travel. The cycle came out of storage and it was good to be peddling around East Northants again.
Barnwell is a very pleasant village, two miles south of Oundle and 14 miles south west of Peterborough. The pub stands central, the Montagu arms, named after the Lords of the Manor here for many years. A stream runs through the village. There is a great wealth of history here with Barnwell Castle being built around 1266 and Barnwell Manor being gifted to the Montagu family in 1540 by Henry VIII.
This was once two villages, Barnwell All Saints and Barnwell St Andrew, with each village having its own church. The church of St Andrew now minister to the joined up village and just the chancel remains of All Saints, across the village.
All Saints dated from the 13th and 14th centuries, and consisted of a nave with north and south aisles, chancel, porch and west tower with broach spire. In 1821, owing to its advanced state of decay, the then patron, Elizabeth, Dowager Duchess of Buccleuch petitioned for its demolition. An Act of Parliament authorising this was passed in 1821 at which point the parishes of Barnwell All Saints and Barnwell St Andrew were joined together. The main part of All Saints was pulled down, leaving only the chancel, which was left up as it was the family vault of the Montagues.
North, in his Victorian study of the church bells of Northamptonshire, notes that four bells hung here but these were sold by auction in 1821, and there is no record kept as to who these were cast by or indeed, where they ended up. Some of the fixtures and fittings, such as the pulpit and lectern, which dated from the 16th century, ended up at nearby Thurning.
Some of external features of All Saints were removed, and incorporated in to the wall that divides the church and the rectory at nearby Barnwell St Andrew.
I had visited All Saints a couple of times before, and on each occasion it was closed to visitors. This time though it was open. It was good to see any church open during this time of pandemic, with most churches closed to visitors due to the risk of infection. But open it was though, with two very pleasant ladies on duty, with a table set outside, enjoying the late season warmth.
As mentioned earlier, just the chancel remains from the original church and entry is through the door set in to the west end. This would have been through the chancel arch should the building still have remained intact and the remains of the chancel arch can still be seen, bricked up and with a door cut through.
It was good to see inside. There are a few fine monuments here, including one to Letice Montagu who was described as “Faithfully ending hir life the 29th day of August 1611”
An interesting monument close by is to one Henry Montagu, the infant son of Sir Sidney Montagu, who was drowned in the moat of Barnwell Castle in April 1625 . He was described as being 'a wittie and hopeful child tender and deare in ye sight of his parents and much lamented by his friends.'
An interesting aspect to this monument is the inclusion of an orange. Why an orange? When in Norwich a few years ago, I heard a guide in one of the city centre churches put forward an explanation to a visitor, who had seen fruit included on a monument. His answer seemed plausible. The guide stated that he thought that it was a symbol of the mortality of Man. Fruit would spoil, it would rot and decay, just as a human body would. Perhaps this is correct, perhaps not. Lots of symbols used in the past are open to modern interpretation and perhaps we are not always right in our assumptions!
The church grounds here are spacious and well kept. A volunteer was mowing the paths while I was there. A wonderful deal tree, which looks to have been struck by lightning a time or two, can be seen in the field to the south of the church. Apart from the mower, there was just the sound of birds and a few bees along with the distant good natured chatter from the ladies on duty. This was a pleasant place to be, in a time of national and global tragedy.
CHANCEL ONLY REMAINS. REST OF CHURCH PULLED DOWN IN 1825