When Rutland Water, the largest made made resevoir in Europe, was being planned, several buildings, and one entire village, were lost to the water. The church of St Matthew at Normanton was below the water level of the proposed resevoir and was nearly lost itself. However, a trust was formed to save it, and today it sits right at the very edge of the resevoir, and houses a museum, which includes an enxhbitiion of how the resevoir was made.
The church was saved by filling the bottom half with limestone and rubble, with a topping of concrete. The church itself is surrounded by a bank of rocks, and this keeps the water out. Access to the church is gained by a man made causeway
The original church here was medieval, and in 1579 this structure was described as being in "a very ruinous state"
This medieval church was pulled down by Sir Gilbert Heathcote, 3rd Baronet, in 1764.
North's Victorian study of church bells in Rutland states that the single bell that hung here was cast by Thomas Hedderly, who was based in Nottingham, cast a bell for the church at Normanton in 1749. This was inscribed with the founder's name, and the inscription "GOD BE OVR SPEED". Very little information remains as to this medieval church, but it is thought that it dated from the 14th century. The tower remained standing until 1826, with further sections being pulled down during restoration work in 1911.
The present structure here was a private chapel to the Normanton estate. It was built in between the years 1826 and 1829 by Thomas Cundy, who was the architect to the Grovesnor Estate at Westminster. Cundy was responsible for the design of several churches in London, with the work at Normanton coming very early in his career. The tower here appears to have been copied from the tower of St John's at Westminster, with a being circular in form with four columns supprting a curved roof with a pineapple finial on top. More work here was undertaken in 1911 by JB Gridley of London, with the Nave and apse both being rebuilt at that time.
I made two visits here. The first was way back in the earliest days of shooting for this site, with the two pictures at the bottom of the page coming from that visit. It was late morning in mid week and there were not a great number of people about. The sun was glistening off the water and the gentle lapping of the water against the shore was the only real noise. A mother duck with ten ducklings swam in front of the church. This is just the most beautiful place. Quite exquisite.
My second trip here was a couple of years later, when attending a wedding reception at nearby Normanton Park Hotel. A friend of mine had married a Polish girl and I took the opportunity to get away from the celebrations for a while, walking down to Normanton church to watch the sun set (passing on the way an incredibly drunk Polish lad who was amazingly curled up and asleep on the top of a picnic table!). The view here as I approached the church was stunning with dozens of yachts and boats moored up on the far shore, with a few motor boats still out on the lake.
Spent a very peaceful time here just enjoying the setting sun reflecting off the water, the calm being a little affected by the muffled sound of partying at the wedding reception. After a while I rejoined my friends, passing again the Polish lad, still asleep on the picnic table, but now joined by half a dozen friends who were taking it in turns being photographed with him!
So, what have we learned here? Firstly, it was only the hard work of a few people more than forty years ago which saved this church from the water.....and secondly, if attending a Polish wedding you will leave the reception very late, possibly drunk and with a headache!