Early June 2019, and the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust tour afternoon was to visit Orton Longueville. As with the cast majority of churches around Peterborough, the church of Holy Trinity is generally closed to visitors, so this was an ideal opportunity to have a proper look around.
Orton Longueville is a couple of miles to the west of Peterborough, the busy A605 heading towards Northamptonshire running close by. The church is set in picturesque surroundings in the old part of the village. More modern housing estates stretch off towards Peterborough to the east. A large Hall stands to the rear of the church. Thatched cottages surround the church. A very pleasant village.
There was a church mentioned here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. Nothing remains of that early structure, and a general re-building seems to have been started towards the end of the 13th century. The chancel, chancel arch and north chapel date from around 1280, with the nave, aisles and west tower dating from 1300.
There was a church at nearby Botolph Bridge, closer to Peterborough, and this had fallen in to disrepair by the 17th century. The south aisle of Holy Trinity was doubled in size, and the porch was rebuilt using stone from this disused church. The porch has a date marker of 1675 on it. Two very ancient looking stone heads are positioned on either side of the porch. Possibly, these pre date 1675 and would have stood as part of the church at Botolph Bridge. The Reverend Sweeting, in his mid Victorian look at the churches in an around Peterborough, mentioned that at the time of his study, just a single gravestone marked where the church was. Today nothing remains at all although a depiction of what it may have looked like can be seen in a mosaic in a modern housing estate a few hundred yards away.
I sat in the church grounds and had lunch, as the people started to arrive for the tour. A glance at the church shows west tower, north and south aisles (with the south aisle as already mentioned being particularly wide), clerestory, long chancel with very large 14th century five light window.
The tower is buttressed and battlemented with stair turret to the south east corner. A small, but very lovely circular window frame, with quatre foil design inside can be seen mid-way up on the south face. A similar window is incorporated in to the porch. The chancel is also battlemented. Empty image niches stand on the south wall of the chancel.
Just a single bell hangs here, but this is of considerable age and interest. It was cast in London by John Walgrave as far back as 1440. Bells from Walgrave are scarce, not surprisingly given their age, but there is another three miles or so away to the west, at Chesterton.
It was lovely to see the remains of a St Christopher in its traditional place on the north wall of the nave, opposite the south doorway. Just the top half survives, this being protected by a wooden screen, which had been opened for the day. The infant Jesus rides on the shoulders of St Christopher, who holds a staff. Jesus has arms help wide, with one hand holding a globe which signifies the world. Superstition of the day would have it that a glance at this before the traveller left on a journey would protect them whilst travelling.
Partially hidden to the north side of the chancel is a recumbent effigy of a cross legged knight, hands at prayer and shield at his side. There is a lot of conflicting information about cross legged knights on the internet. Some suggest that it signifies that they fought and died in the crusades, others suggest that it signifies that they died in the Christian faith. The tomb here is said to commemorate John De Longueville, the founder of the church here, who is said to have died whilst fighting the Danes.
A legend exists concerning his death but it is so graphic that I will not mention it here, suffice to say that he is said to have killed the Danish King, before succumbing to his wound.
There is lots of clear glass here, including the fine five light east windows, and the windows of the enlarged south aisle. There is stained glass though with the ascension depicted on the south wall of the chancel, the risen Christ surrounded by rays of light and displaying crucifixion wounds, quite appropriate given that the visit took place on Pentecost Sunday.
There are lots of clear glass here, including the fine five light east windows, and the windows of the enlarged south aisle. There is stained glass though with the ascension depicted on the south wall of the chancel, the risen Christ surrounded by rays of light and displaying crucifixion wounds, quite appropriate given that the visit took place on Pentecost Sunday.
Elsewhere, a nativity scene depicts Mary and the baby Jesus surrounded by angels, shepherds and wise men, poetic license with the latter not even having started their journey at that time. What I found unusual about this representation is the depiction of Joseph. Sometimes he is left out entirely but here he is at the top of the scene, resting his head in his hand and looking extremely bored. Small fragments of medieval glass include a figure with halo wielding a shield and sword.
This is a very lovely church which is full of interest. This church is normally kept closed to visitors. It was good to be able to see inside and meet some of the friendly locals. Our time here done, the tour party, which numbered 30 or so, headed off to Stanground, our next point of call.