The approach to St Martin from the west is very picturesque, with the pinacled tower just visible inbetween trees and bushes. As with other churches in this area, beautiful thatched cottages sit close by. A war memorial stands in the southern corner of the church grounds, which were neatly cut and looked very attractive with the sun shining down brightly from a cloudless sky on what was turning in to a glorious January afternoon.
There was a church here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. That original structure would have been very basic, and made of wood. No part of this original structure remains. It was re-built by Henry of Huntingdon in the 12th century as a chancel and aisleless nave, and parts of the latter still remain today. The west tower was built in the 13th century, but built largely using 12th century stone, as was the south aisle. The north arcade and aisle were added later. In the early 14th century the chancel was re-built and a north chapel was added.
A large amount of rebuilding was done here in 1500, including the tower being buttressed. The south porch was re-built in 1652 and the belfry seven years later. The north aisle was re-built in 1673. There was Victorian restoration here in the late 1880's.
Four bells hang in the tower. Two of these were cast by Newcombe of Leicester. One of these is inscribe SANCTE THOMA and the other S MARTINA. The Revd TM Owen in his book "The Church Bells Of Huntingdonshire", which was published in 1899 described the latter as being "a good bell but roughly cast" and it was subsequently re-cast by Taylor of Loughborough that same year. The third bell is dated 1759, and was cast by Joseph Eayre of St Neots. This has the names Joseph White and Edward Cocks, the churchcardens of the day , inscribed on to it. The fourth bell is the oldest, Richard Oldfield, also of Leicester, cast this in 1607.
Interested to see four columns enclosed in to the exterior south wall of the nave. Inbetween the second and the third column is a small and crude representation of an animals head. All across this structure there is evidence of building materials being re-used in later walls. Some nice carvings can be seen inside the porch, including an upside down head peering down in to a water stoup.
It was good to see inside this church on English Heritage Open Day in September 2014. A very pleasant interior with the eye immediately being caught by some finely carved heads, one of which has had the facial features partially rubbed out, possibly the victim of Puritan purging of idolotrous images.Two others remain undamaged, including one which appears to be a choirboy holding a prayer book or hymn book.
Was very pleased to see a memorial brass, though to date from the late 16th century, with a man hands raised in prayer. Accirding to a little internet research this was found under the floor of the north chapel.
Some very well carved gargoyles and grotesques are to be seen on the exterior. A dog like creature with one head and two bodies sits alongside a ancient looking bearded figure, who is crawling out of a wall. Very sadly, this latter figure is made of soft stone and has noticably weathered in the three years since I was last here. A great pity that these carvings will soon be lost to us. Elsewhere, a cheerful looking grotesque, with tongue stuck out, sits on the south wall, whilst on the south wall of the tower an impressively carved gargoyle pulls his mouth wide open, both of these being medieval gestures of insult.
In the church grounds a very faded skull is just discernible on a gravestone. Again, as with the grotesque figure of the man just mentioned, this will sadly soon be lost to us. The church grounds appeared to be popular with the local chickens, with getting on for fifteen of them roaming around.
It is always good to visit here. As mentioned earlier this is a glorious piece of village life, even with the main road and airbase so close. Great Stukeley is only a mile or so away, and both are well worth visiting.
Little Stukeley is a quiet, charming, village and the church of St Martin is exquisite. If someone from overseas came up and asked to be taken to a traditional English village church, then you could do a lot worse than take them to Little Stukeley. Perhaps not though, as this church is kept locked...but more of that later. It is remarkably quiet here, I say remarkably as the village is situated just off a busy main road, and is very close to USAF Alconbury.