Mid April 2010 and another gloriously sunny Saturday morning. This was just a delight to be out on the cycle! I had started off the day by visiting Polebrook, before heading on to Barnwell. I had visited the church of St Andrew two years previously and it was locked, as most are in this part of Northamptonshire. However, I fell lucky this time and the church was open as preparations were underway for the following days service.
Two very pleasant ladies were pleased to have a visitor and made me feel welcome, which was appreciated. Starting off with the exterior and the church grounds are well kept, and there is a conservation area on the north side of the churchyard. Some interesting and well carved gravestones can be seen here. The whole place looked beautiful with the sun beating down and the Spring flowers in full bloom. Always nice to just sit for a while and listen to the hum of the bees.
Just to the right of the south porch is a table tomb from 1711, denoting the final resting place of George Pare, his wife and three children, who all fell foul of smallpox in that year. Nearby, is a stone for Barnwell poet and writer Thomas Bell who died in 1863
The tower dates from around 1290, with the spire being added some 40 or 50 years later. There is a clock on the south face of the tower and it is interesting to see a very grotesquely carved face to the side of the clock, pictured below left, with huge ears and tongue stuck out in typical medieval gesture.
The priests door in the chancel is thought to have come from nearby All Saints church, when much of that was pulled down in 1825. In the wall of the north aisle there are three windows dating from the early 14th century. The north door is also 14th century. A face carved in to a coulmn at the side of that north door, pictured above right, is a "Green Man". The Green Man, with its head surrounded by foiliage, or having foiliage sprouting out of its mouth and ears is thought of as a pagan symbol denoting rebirth at Spring. So why are so many of them to be found inside and outside our ancient anglican churches? One theory that is put forward is that in medieval times, when the populace was in the transition between Paganisn and Christianity, these carvings were put in as a familiar feature to help "ease" the people in to the new religion.
Green Men are quite common in churches all over the UK. Much rarer are the female equivialent, the "Sheela Na Gig" which are fertility symbols are a very vulgar in design. These are very rare in the churches within the catchment area of this site, but examples can be seen at Etton and Empingham
Lots to make mention of in the interior of St Andrew. Starting off in the tower, where two ancient bells hang. One is pre 1600 and was cast by an early Nottingham founder. The other was cast by Thomas Norris, of the Stamford bellfoundry, in 1678. This bears the inscription "Thomas Norris Made Mee 1678"
The chancel was restored in 1851 and in 1873. High up on the south wall of the chancel is a memorial to Nicholas Latham, who became the rector of Barnwell in 1569, holding the post for 51 years, passing away in 1620. This fine painted effigy shows Latham sitting with bible open. Lower down on his monument is a depiction of a human skull, denoting that all Men are mortal.
The pulpit is Jacobean, and was a gift from Latham.
Plenty of Victorian stained glass is on show here. The east wall of the chancel is pretty much taken up by one huge stained glass window that dates from the 1850's. I am not a fan generally of Victorian stained glass, but this is pretty high quality work, and I was particularly taken with one small section of that window which shows the crucifiction of Christ.
Barnwell is a lovely village and is well worth a visit if you are in the area. It was a particular delight to be there with the sun beating down and the Sping flowers on show. The welcome that I received was warm and friendly. It is a shame that the church is not open to the interested traveller more often but such is the way of it.
There are two churches in Barnwell, and after I had finished at the church of St Andrew it was a very short journey to the church of All Saints.