This was a re-visit to the church of St Peter & St Paul, Exton, my first visit having been completed some eight years previously. Always wanted to return with a better camera and finally did this in the Autumn of 2014. I feel that the church here would go down as one of the most important within the catchment area of this site.
It is suggested that there has been a church here since the mid 12th century, and there was first mention of a vicar here in 1225. Most of the present building dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. However, the west tower was re-built as recently as 1843. In April 1843 a massive hailstorm hit the area, with thunder and lightning. Lightning struck the spire, which collapsed, with rubble falling through the roof and in to the nave. Much restoration came about in the early 1850's as well.
There is a ring of six bells here, with five of them being made locally. The founder was Tobias Norris III of the Stamford Bellfoundry. All five bells are dated 1675, with the first having the Latin inscription 'Donvm De Domina Cambden', which translates as 'The gift of Lady Campdem'. All of the other bells are inscribed 'God Save The King Tobieas Norris Cast Me 1675'.
As with most in Rutland, the church here is open for visitors and it was good to see other people looking around when I arrived. Moving inside, it immediately strikes the visitor how bright it is inside, particularly on a gloriously sunny day such as this. In part, this is due to the lack of stained glass windows. There are some stained glass windows, but not a great deal.
Something else that strikes the onlooker immediately are the banners, which run down the length of the nave.These are replicas of the funery banners of the Noel family. The originals dated from the mid 18th century, but were removed in 1991 as their condition had deteriorated so much. The replicas were installed in 1996.
The church here is most notable for its monuments, with nine in total. A monument to John Harington and his wife Alice dates from 1524. The couple rest side by side, hands raised in prayer. A bedesman sits at John's feet, along with a lion, whilst two small dogs sit at Alice's feet. Incidentally, a bedesman was a man, usually a pensioner or almsman, whose duty it was to pray for his benefactor. This monument looked glorious as the sun streamed in, highlighting the figures at prayer.
Over at the west end of the north aisle, there is a very beautiful monument to Anne, wife of Lord Bruce of Kinlosse. She died in 1627, and lies in a shroud with two cherubs head on her pillow. Quite exquisite.
A monument to Lietenant General Bennett Noel, who died in 1771, has an effigy of the deceased on an urn, with a female figure leaning against the urn holding a downturned torch. A torch pointing downwards usually symbolises mourning.
On the north side of the chancel is a monument to James Harington and his wife Lucy. They are depicted facing each other across a prayer desk, hands raised in prayer, bathed in glorious colour as the sun shone in through one of the stained glass windows. James died in 1592, his wife a year earlier. They had no fewer than 18 children.
Some very large families here and a memorial to Viscount Campden, his four wives and 19 children stands at the east end of the north transept. This was carved by Grinling Gibbons, a famous Dutch sculpture who has work standing in Kensington Palace today. So many wonderful monuments and impossible to do then justice here.
The font dates from the late 14th century and features finely carved heads. As mentioned earlier, there is not a great deal of stained glass here, and what there is is not great to be truthful. However, it was good to see a section of one window depicting Moses and the Serpants (Numbers Chapter 21) and a representation of Jesus raising Lazarus on another window.
Moving outside and the church grounds are watched over by some high quality gargoyles. I don't think that there is any great age to these and suspect that these may date from the time that the spire was restored following the lightning strike.
Some very nicely carved Georgian gravestones can be seen, with some very fine ones just to the west of the porch. One grave in particular is worth noting. This features Father Time, holding an hourglass. The hourglass is being tipped up, with an image of the deceased being poured out of the glass. Lovely stuff.
A truly fabulous church. An absolute must if you are anywhere near the area. If you are not in the area, divert and take a look. One of my most favourite churches visited.