COTTERSTOCK.  CHURCH  ST.ANDREW

My first ever visit to Cotterstock was on the first day of shooting for this site, back in September 2006. Armed with a new cycle and camera, I had taken in a few churches in the area and final call of the day was to be Cotterstock. The moment that I saw the church of St Andrew nestling by the banks of the river Nene, with friendly white horse grazing in a field in front of the church, I fell in love with the church and the area, subsequently sopending many pleasant afternoons here sitting on the bench in the church grounds and gazing out over the fields leading to the river.

   Cotterstock has history going back to Roman times with a Roman Villa being discovered in the mid 18th Century. In the early Thirteenth Century Cotterstock was home to a privately run religious college. This was founded by John Gifford, who at one time had been Rector of Cotterstock. This college was home to a Provost, 12 Chaplains and two clerks. Daily Mass was said, praying for the King and Queen and their children, and to pray for their souls after death.Prayers were also said for John Gifford and his family and for the benefactors of the college.  John Gifford was to fall victim of the Black Death in 1349, and the college was to be dissolved in February 1536.

    The church is reached by going down a tree lined avenue. An effigy of St Andrew sits  in a niche half way up the West tower, with a grotesque figure underneath the niche. The  doorway on the west tower is re-set and dates from the 12th Century, making this the earliest surviving part of the church. Both tower and porch are castellated with three animal figures over the top of the porch. The figure at the apex of the porch is leashed with all three baying at the sky. These figures are by no means uncommon with similar seen on the porch at Yaxley and on the tower at Glatton.

    Some finely carved gargoyles are to be seen on the south wall of the nave, their eyes being upturned towards heaven The church was extended in 1876, and I would think that these gargoyles might have been added at that time.

   The four bells in the west tower were all made by prolific local bell founder Henry Penn, and are all dated 1708. A lovely inscription on the fourth bell reads..."I to the church the living call and to the grave do svme and all" H.H 1708.

    I first gained entrance to this church on "Ride and Stride" Saturday 2013. It was lovely to see inside St Peter, and spend some time with the folk there on duty, welcoming cyclists in various stages of distress!

   The chancel here is quite stunning, bright spacious and welcoming and, according to one of the people on duty, the chancel is large enough that most of the services are held in the chancel itself. Three fragments of medieval glass are re-set in to a window on the north aisle and evidence of the history to the church here can be seen by  sections of Saxon coffin lid being re-used on either side of the south porch. Like the grotesque firure of a man, apparantly with toothache, on the north wall of the nave. To the west under the tower there is a carving of a man, hands raised in prayer. This is thought to be a canon from the 13th century and has either been deliberately deface at some point or has stood outside and been weathered.

  The area around Cotterstock is not be overlooked with regards the past importance of religious worship. It is easy to look at the areas to the east of Peterborough with Thorney Abbey and Crowland Abbey as being the most important places historically within the catchment area of this site. However, here we have Cotterstock with its private college, two miles away the village of Fotheringhay with its magnificent church, and the castle mound where Mary Queen Of Scots was imprisoned and executed. Whilst just over the fields we have Nassington, an important place of worship in days long gone, with its Prebandol Manor attracting many tourists.

   Well worth a look if you are in the area, and if you are able to see inside you are in for a very enjoyable time. One of my favourite churches in the catchment area of this site.

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