Huntingdon. church : All Saints

Huntingdon All Saints a

Early February 2014 and a day out in Huntingdon. The church of All Saints, along with the church of St Mary a short distance away, are at the very southernmost edge of the catchment area of this site. All Saints can be found on a busy market square, with the small red bricked tower almost being hidden by a very high clerastory, as the visitor comes in from the south.
There used to be four churches at one time in Huntingdon. The tower of St Benedict was partially destroyed during the Engliah Civil War and only the tower reamined standing, which was later pulled down in the 19th century. The church of St John The Baptist was also destroyed at that time. This was a very historic church as eight of Oliver Cromwell's children were baptised there. There is evidence to suggest that some building work on the tower here at All Saints was undertaken during the 17th century, and it is possible that this was to repair damage suffered during that conflict.
It is thought that there was a church here as far back as the 10th century but the earliest survinhg part of the present structure is the south arch of the tower which dates back to the 13th century. The tower dates from the end of the 14th century and general rebuilding work took place in the 15th century with south porch, south aisle, arcades and north aisles all being rebuilt at that time. Around 1500 the chancel was rebuilt.
Owen, in his study of the church bells of Huntingdonshire, complied in Victorian times noted that there were four bells hanging here. Evidently, these were not the most tuneful of rings and Carruthers in his history of Huntingdon, produced in 1823, said that "they were certainly not remarkable for their melody". Strange this as they were cast by well established founders, whose work can still be seen today in several churches in the area.
Of the four bells, three were cast by Newcombe of Leicester and all are inscribed 'Newcombe of Leicester made mee 1606'. The fourth was cast in Stamford by Tobias Norris III and is inscribed 'Tobias Norris Cast Me 1678'. As is the case with much of Norris' work, the letters 'N' and 'S' in Norris' name are reversed. This also has the name S Hampshire inscribed in to it.
This was my fourth church of the day, starting off with St Mary across town before moving on to Godmanchester, Hartford and then back to All Saints. I arrived here two minutes before a communion service was due to start and it was lovely to be able to take communion and to be able to see inside the church.
Most notable inside the church for me was the stained glass windows, particularly those in the chancel. One vividly coloured window depicts the Virgin Mary, hands raised in prayer with the baby Jesus on her knee. They are surrounded by wise men and shepherds, poetic licence here as the wise man wouldn't have arrived for another few days! The scene is overlooked by angels, hands raised in prayer. Quite gorgeous, and as a lady said to me 'wouldn't that make a nice Christmas card?' Yes it would.
Close by is a lovely window depicting the last supper. In this, Jesus holds out the bread, surrounded by His disciples. Twelve figures are present but only eleven have halos. The twelth is without and is depicted slightly separated from the rest, eyes looking down and not at Jesus. A nice depiction of Judas Iscariot.
The sun was blazing in through the south windows, which is worth noting in itself during the dismal winter of 2014, and the images cast by the sun through the stained glass was lovely.
To the south there is a delightful little lady chapel, with gorgeous stained glass depicting scenes from the life Of jesus. This includes Doubting Thomas feeling the crucifiction wounds with the legend underneath reading 'Be not faithless but believe'. The font is thought to be that from the destroyed church of St John.
Regular visitors to this site will probably know of my love for stone carvings. Well, there are several on the exterior, of varying ages. Some angelic musicians on the north side look as if they might be from Victorian times, with some very worn and strange creatures looking to be far older. One carving on the south wall seems to show a man fighting with an animal.
Gravestones here are not in situ and are leaning against the walls of the church grounds. In truth, nothing of any great interest here and what there is all seems to be very weathered.
This is a lovely church and I enjoyed my time spent here very much. It was good to get away from work for a day and see somewhere where I had not been for several years. The people here are also very friendly and welcoming. Time well spent.

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