A beautiful winter afternoon early in 2015, and a return visit to the church of St Mary at Morcott. I had previously been here a few years previously and it was good to visit again, this time armed with a better camera. Had started off the day in Tinwell before moving on to Ketton, Edith Weston and North Luffenham. Weather had been lovely throughout, but the sun was just starting to drop as I reached Morcott, my final destination of the day.
The setting here is lovely, the church standing in the centre of the village, surrounded by old stone cottages, with the church grounds filled with some very old, and for the most part very worn, gravestones. The oldest parts of the church date back to the first part of the tewlth century. The tower, or at least the lower two stages of it, date from that time. This early structure would have been quite basic, with the north aisle being added in 1150, with the south aisle being added 40 or 50 years after that.
The chancel was lengthened in the first half of the 13th century, with a chapel being added to the north side. Extensive alterations were made during the 14th century, during whuch time the south porch was added, along with the clerestory, with the third stage of the tower being re-built at the same time. Much restoration was undertaken here in the 1870's.
Four bells hang here. North, in his Victorian study of church bells in Rutland, looking in to them in some depth. The first in the ring was made by Thomas Norris of the Stamford bellfoundry in 1637. The Norris family had operated from their premesis in Stamford since the early years of the 17th century, and they were prolific in the area.
The second bell is from Francis Watts of Leicester and is undated, but just noted as 16th century. Watts died in 1600 and was active from 1564 until that time. It is an alphabet bell, which this founder cast on a regular basis. This bell contains all the letters of the alphabet from A up to O. The third bell also is dated as 16th century, this one coming from Newcombe at Leicester and having the simple inscription S MARIA,
The fourth bell is from Thomas Eayre I of Kettering. The inscription on this one reads IHS NAZARENE REX JUDAEORUM FILI DEI MISERERE MEI GLORIA PARTI FILIO ET SPIRITUI SANCTO 1726. I have translated this as 'Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews Son of God in glory Father Son and Holy Spirit.
Moving inside and it was good to see that the church was open to visitors. Rutland has a very good attitude to open churches and it was sad earlier on in the day to see that Ketton was keeping its church closed now due to recent theft and vandalism. Despite there being no stained glass here, it was a little on the dark side, even with the sun blazing down outside. The church here is notable mostly for its fabulous Romanesque carvings, carvings dating from the period 1000 until 1200. Rutland may well be a small county in terms of mileage, and numbers of churches, but it is significant with regards the numbers and importance of such carvings. Probably the most famous of these is the chancel arch at Tickencote whilst the carvings on the arcades at Oakham and Stoke Dry are also well known. Others can be seen at Egleton. The carvings at Morcott can be seen as some of the best in the county and in style, they reminded me of those found at nearby South Luffenham.
In among the delicate interweaving patterns found throughout, there are human heads. One of these heads has bulging eyes and large ears, almost cartoonlike in appearance, with another having mouth open in expression of surprise. Elsewhere, a beautifully carved figure of a ram has one horn much bigger than the other. Important work. The carvings on the north arcade look to be older than those to the south. A lady connected to the church told me on a previous visit that many people visit this church purely to see the carvings, and I can understand why.
The church grounds are packed with elaboratelty carved gravestones, but like so many in Rutland, many of them are very badly weathered.
Not much to mention in the church grounds apart from a Victorian box tomb which had a torch on the side pointing downwards, symbolising death and mourning. If the torch had been pointing upwards it would have symbolised eternal life.
Considering that the church here is quite close to the main road leading in to Uppingham, it was remarkably peaceful and quiet here. The church really is centre of the village, and it was good to see several people in and around the church as I was there.
Enjoyed my time here. The sun had started to dip as I left and started to head back towards Peterborough. Five churches shot, a good day.