NORTH LUFFENHAM.  CHURCH : ST JOHN THE BAPTIST

I started off 2015 with a re-visit to the church of St John The Baptist at North Luffenham. Was originally here in January 2007, armed with a basic digital camera, and always wanted to come back to re-shoot with the Nikon. I attended an evening prayer service at this church in the late summer of 2014, but lighting conditions were poor at that time. No poor lighting here though with the sun blazing down for much of the day. This was the fourth church visited that day, with Tinwell, Ketton and Edith Weston already having been shot. From North Luffenham it was Morcott then home. A good day out in a

 

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beautiful county.

It was good to see the church open sign up. Rutland has a refreshing outlook on open churches, with the majority being open. Sad to see earlier though that Ketton was now closed during the day due to recent theft and vandalism. A nice man opened up for me and was genuinely sorry that the church was closed. Good to see North Luffenham open and it was worth making the trip. A beautiful church.

  The earliest part of the present structure dates back to the 12th century, with the original structure being an aisleless nave with chancel. This was enlarged with the addition of a north aisle later that century, with a south aisle being added in the 13th century. The three stage tower, with broache spire dates from the 13th century. The chancel was re-built around 1300 - 1325 and the clerestiry was added in the 15th century. There was much Victorian restoration here during the 1870's.

  When North was compiling his Victorian study of the church bells of Rutland, there were five bells hanging here. The first was courtesy of a local founder, Thomas Norris, working from his premesis in Stamford. This bell is inscribed with the names of the church wardens of the day, Jo Exton, Ed Hunt, Ro Munton and He Law. It is dated 1630.

   The second bell was undated and was attricuted to Newcombe of Leicester. The third is another from the Stamford Bellfoundry, but a different generation of the Norris family. This one is dated 1618, and was cast by Tobias Norris I. This is inscribed OMNIA FIANT AD GLORIAM DEI 'let all things be made for the glory of God'. It is also inscribed with the names of the church wardens of tthe day, E Hunt and H Stafforde.

   The fourth in the ring is from Thomas Eayre, and was cast in 1742. This is inscribed GLORIA DEO SOLI 'Glory To God Alone'. Thomas Eayre was an interesting character. He was a surveyor, bellfounder and clockmaker of Kettering. He did the surveying work for the first ever large scale map of Northamptonshire, but died before it could be published.

   The fifth here was cast in 1619 by Henry Oldfield from Nottingham. North described this bell as being cracked and not used. Again, the names of the church wardens of the day are inscribed, Ja Digby, Jo Bassett, Iz Johnson, Ed Hunt, He Stafford and Da Gibson.

  Today, the situation is a little different with there being a ring of six bells. One extra was added by Taylor of Loughborough in 1989, with the bell from Oldfield that North found cracked, finally being re-cast by Taylor in 1998.

  Moving inside and this church is huge, with the tall, elegant chancel arch leading to a very long chancel. When attending an evening prayer service here, the whole of the congregation was easily seated in the stalls of the  chancel.

  Interested to see evidence of medieval painting on the arches of the south arcade. Lots of stone heads here in the nave, with various grotesque creatures pulling their mouths open, or sticking out their tonhues in medieval gestures of insult. One carving, pictured below left, appears to be a nun wearing a wimple. On first appearence, it appears as if she has hands raised in prayer. Closer examination though shows that she is holding something in her hands. I have seen coffin slabs carved with people holding a human heart and this could well be the case here.

  Stained glass here includes a wonderful piece with Jesus addressing a crowd. Various disciples are present but the eye is caught by those who are worshiping. Several among the worshipers are in distress with one young female figure overcome, with head in hands. A further window, ornately designed and with many panels, features the crucifiction of Jesus at the centre.

  Jewel among the windows though is to be seen in the north wall of the chancel. Two windows date from the 14th century. One is ptretty much fragments but the other depicts images of Mary Magdalene, holding a jar of pure nard, St Barbara a Christian matryr, who is holding a small tower in her hands, and Edward The Confessor. In 1060, Edward bequeathed Rutland to his wife Edith, who is still commemorated in neighbouring Edith Weston.

  Just space to mention carved wooden musicians up in the ceiling, with evidence of paintwork still on them, along with serene looking female figures holding a crown. A simple glorious church and an absolute must visit if you are in Rutland.