Spaldwick.  church : st james

When this site was first planned it was going to be very straightforward. Draw a circle, radius of 10 miles around Peterborough, then photograph the churches within that circle. Soon after that, the circle went out to a twenty mile radius, and the circle turning in to an octagon. Eventually, enough was enough and I couldn't extend the site any further. I decided that the catchment area of this site to the south would end where the A14 met the A1, with Spaldwick, Easton and Ellington being the last three churches to be photographed during a long weekend in the area in October 2011.

    Approaching the church from the north the church of St James was partially shrounded in mist, with the neighbouring church at Leighton Bromswold also visible to the left. The tower and spire of St James really does dominate the landscape in all directions.

    Spaldwick is just to the side of the A14, but the church of St James is set in a rural setting, and is quiet and peaceful despite the close proximity of that major road. The church is kept open to visitors, which was appreciated very much. There was no church mentioned here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, but there seems to have been a basic church of nave and chancel here by the end of the 12th century, of which small parts of that still remain. A south aisle was added around 1250 and the chancel and chancel arch were each rebuilt early in the 14th century.

    The west tower is particularly fine and dominates the landscape. This beautiful piece of work was started around the middle of the 14th century and was finished before the end of that century. There apepars to have been a time when the work on the tower was halted and it is thought that this may have been due to the effects of the Black Death that decimated England at that time

    A clerastory was added in 1370, at which time the south porch was built. The south chapel was added around 1500, with the south aisle and porch being rebuilt at that time. The church was butressed in the 17th century.

    There has been much restoration here over the years, with work being done in 1810, 1815 and 1863. The chancel was restored in 1908 and the tower in 1914. The spire has been restored in 1850, 1873 and 1905.

    The west tower is a four stage affair, heavily butressed, with a clock on the east wall and a lozenge shaped window on each of the other three sides. Four grotesques can be seen on the tall, elegant, octagonal spire, with one man with flowing beard catching my eye.

    Six bells hang here with five of these being cast by Hugh Watts II of Leicester in 1635. One of these bells was re-cast by Alfred Bowell of Ipswich in 1921, with a sixth bell being allded by the same founder at that time. One of Watts' bells is inscribed simply "God Save The King 1635" with another being inscribed with the names Robert Flibrigge and Richard Edwardes, who were the church wardens of the day. One more reads "Mi soundinge is each one to call to serve the Lord. 1635 (and on a line above) boeth great and small".

    As mentioned earlier, the church here was open to visitors, and a friendly local told me that this is normally the case. The church is limewashed and it was bright and welcoming inside with the sun shining in through the south windows. The sun shining in through the stained glass windows led to some very pleasing multi coloured shadows on the wall and the floor. Inside it was quiet and peaceful, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the A14 just a few hundred yards away.

    The early 14th century chancel arch is tall and elegant and a glance upwards whilst in the chancel shows a beautiful wooden ceiling. The octagonal font dates from the 13th century, and rests on an octagonal central shafy, surrounded by four more modern smaller shafts. Dotted around the nave there are elegant carved female heads.

    The stained glass at St James is unremarkable, to be fair. High up in the nave there is memorial glass to Daniels Cooper (died 1896)  and his wife Susan Jellis (died 1900) and their children James and Elizabeth. Cooper was a local farmer and the registrar for births, deaths and marriages in the Spaldwick area. Nice stained glass, featuring four different coats of arms, and until I saw the date on them, I thought that this glass was of considerable age.

    In the nave there is some undistinguised Victorian repeated patern glass which, as mentioned earlier, flooded the nave with multi coloured paterns of light as the sun shone in. The glass in the nave is plain.

   Moving outside and the church grounds were quite busy with locals walking their dogs. The church grounds are well maintained and the fact that I am a self employed gardener leads me to comment on the roses planted to the south of the nave, which looked lovely.

    To be truthful, there was not a great deal on interest for me in the church grounds and I suspect that there had been a quite substantial graveyard clearence at some point. Some of the Georgian stones present were of very high quality but were quite badly weathered. One stone caught my eye. Tilted over at a gravity defying angle and sunken in to the ground, this stone features a serene looking cherbb with closed eyes and oversized, styalised wings. A lovely peice of work.

   I spent an enjoyable time here. The church of St James is an imposing, striking building, and it was good to see it open and welcoming. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

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