Rockingham. church : st leonard

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When this site was first set up, back in 2006 the idea was simple. Draw a circle around Peterborough, ten miles radius, and photograph all the churches within that area. Easy. Will take a few weeks. The ten mile radius became twenty and then a little more still as the interest took hold. The circle became a dodecahedron, and the bug had bitten. Church photography tours to Lincolnshire, Bedforshire and Derbyshire took me out of the area. Thousands of miles travelled in eight years but I had never made it to Rockingham.
August 2014 and ex Hurricane Bertha was grumbling its way across the country frightening all in its path. The day after these photos were taken my own house, along with others in my village, was struck by lightning. I finally made it to Rockingham, making use of a gap in the weather when the sun came out.
The church here stands on a hill inbetween the castle and the village. It is thought that there may have been a chapel within the grounds of the castle as far back as 1095, nothing definite is known about this church though until 1217. By 1249 it was derelict.
The church on this present site is thought to date back to the thirteenth century. It consisrted of a nave and chancel, with north and south aisles. This church suffered badly during the English Civil War at the hands of Cromwell's troops, who occupied the nearby castle. This church was demolished, and replaced by a small chapel around 1650.
This church consisted of nave, chancel and a north chapel. A wooden tower was added on the north side in 1776, but was taken down in 1838, being replaced by a small bell tower. One bells hangs here, which was cast by Pack and Chapman from their foundry in Whitechapel London. This is dated 1776 and inscribed 'YE PEOPLE ALL WHO HEAR US RING BE FAITHFUL TO OUR GOD AND KING'. This bell was re-cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1996.
In the 1860's a new roof was added to the nave, with a north aisle being added as well. The chancel roof was also raised at the same time. A mortuary chapel was added to the south side of the chancel. Further restoration came about in 1902 following a fire.
The church was open and there was more to see here than in some churches three times the size. Starting off with the stained glass. Lots to see starting off in the south chapel, the Watson Chapel. A beautifully coloured window in memory of Richard Watson who died in 1853 depicts the Ascension. No wounds visible on Jesus' body at all, which I find a little strange.
A delightful three panel window has the Crucifiction at the centre a panel with the disciples asleep as Jesus prepares to accept the cup that God has given him to the left, Mary Magdalene washing Jesus feet on another panel to the right. Another window depicts Peter, with the keys to the Kingdom Of Heaven, holding a book open to a page which reads 'We believe and are sure that thou art the Christ'. Close by is a beautiful representation of the Virgin Mary with Jesus as an infant.
A depiction of St Luke is exquisite. He faces to the front Bible flat in his hand. A bull, a symbol associated with Luke, rests on the Bible, with both Luke and the bull haloed. The same window featues Barnabas from Acts 'the son of encouragement'.
It is also worth noting a window to St Leonards, to whom the church is dedicated. St Leonard was a sixth century hermit who is the patron saint of prisoners. He is often depicted with chains, as is the case here.
The south chapel has several monuments to the Watson family. An alabaster monument sits in the middle of the chapel. Male and female figures lay side by side, with panel depicting children on the side. Nothing unusual in this, you see it in churches throughout the country. However the costume of the male and female figures are from different ages and it is thought that this monuments has been assembled from parts of other monuments, which may have been damaged during the Civil War. It is suspected that the female figure is that of Dorothy Montagu, who was born in 1520. but with no date of death and the male figure that of Sir Edward Watson, with the panel depicting the children not corresponding to either of the families. The monument is placed so that both figures face the stained glass window showing the ascension, mentioned above.
A monument to the First Earl Of Rockingham is dated 1724. Male and female figures stand either side of a sarcophogus, he wearing a Roman tunic, she wearing an ermine mantle. Inbetween the two, a dancing putto, a partially clothed male infant, hyolds a wreath and a trumpet.
A small monument on the wall of the chapel to Grace, wife of 1st Lord Soames reads 'The best of mives, the nest of mothers, the best of women'.
Nothing remarkable in the church grounds but the view from the high ground over the rolling Northamptonshire and Rutland countryside is a delight, the village and church of neighbouring Caldecott being clearly visible a few miles away over the fields. A delightful church in a picturesque setting.

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