May 2015, and a return trip to the church of St John The Baptist, Stanground. Stanground is one of the villages which has been all but been swallowed up by the growth of Peterborough. The population was 500 in 1801, several thousands these days!
Church grounds are large, and remarkably peaceful, and anyone looking at the photos above would not realise that this is a built up area with the church surrounded by housing estates and shops. In amongst the usual finely carved Georgian cherubs a large stone cross catches the eye. When the Revd Sweeting was taking a mid Victorian look at the parish churches in and around Peterborough this stood in the vicarage gardens. Now it stands on a modern base, in the south of the church grounds. This cross is thought to date from the 11th or 12th century upright and is known as the Lampass Cross. This cross is said to have stood by the road leading to Farcet, and was found lying across a ditch at the junction of the Farcet and Whittlesea roads in 1865, where is was being used as a walkway. It was removed to the vicarage gardens in 1868, and has been in the church grounds since 1927.
To the south of the church is a stone coffin, dating from the 13th century, which was found under the floor in the south aisle during restoration work in 1907.
There was a church here at Stanground (or Standy Ground as it was once know as) at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. Nothing remains of that structure and it is thought that most of the existing structure was completed between the years 1300 and 1310.
There has been quite a lot of restoration here over the years. The roof was totally rebuilt in 1872 and the porch was rebuilt four years after that. The tip of the spire was rebuilt in 1895 and the tower and spire were restored further in 1907.
Today, there are a ring of six bells hanging at St John The Baptist. Two of these are modern, one being cast by Gillett and Johnston in 1948, with the other courtesy of Mears and Stainbank in 1935. The remianing four, though, are of considerable historic interest. One is dated 1832, cast by William Dobson of Downham Market, and is inscribed with the name HENRY YEATES SMYTHIES, the Rector of the day and JOSH WARWICK, the Churchwarden.
The next bell is dated 1617 and was cast by William Hausley of St Ives. There is a Latin inscription on this bell which is translated as "Sadly to the sad, to the joyous joyful, will I sound". Thanks to my friend David for the translation on this when I was struggling with it.
The Norris family, working from their premesis at Stamford, provided a bell here in 1622. This was cast by Tobias Norris I and it bears the inscription TOBIAS + NORRIS + ME + FECIT (Tobias Norris Made Me).
The final bell is dated 1588 and was made by Francis Watts at Leicester. This bears a charming olde English inscription which reads..."SERVE GOD AND OBE (obay) THI PRINCES". 1588 was the year of the Spanish Armada and I am assuming that the "princes(s)" in Watts inscription refers to Elizabeth I, monarch at the time.
The church here, as with others in this built up area, is kept closed to visitors. I did take in a service here though in December 2011 and saw inside again in May 2015, when I arrived at the same time as a group of visiting bellringers.
The focal point of the interior is the impressive stained glass window at the east end of the chancel. This features Christ in majesty at the top, holding globs with hand raised in blessing. To either side he is flanked by his disciples, eleven of them depicted, along with Mary Magdalene. Below, we have scenes from the life of Christ. From left to right the infant Jesus lying in a manger, Jesus baptised by John The Baptist,the crucifiction, the last supper and the acsension. The depiction of the last supper features and unkept and shifty looking Judas. with bag of money, looking away from Jesus as evryone else looks adoringly towards him. A beautiful piece of work, dedicated to Susanna Apthorp who died in 1864
A further window in the south aisle depicts Mary The Virgin with the infant Jesus. Panels to the left and right show St John The Baptist and St Ethelreda. The latter was a daughter of the King of East Anglia. She founded a monastery on the site of what is now Ely Cathederal in 673.
A carved green man is hidden away to the north east of the nave and there are some very finely carved bench end which date back to the 15th century. Some of these feature human faces with others others having a decorative foliage pattern. The font dates from 1300 and is octagonal with a curious repeated interlocking pattern which only comes half way up the bowl.
It was good to be here and good to see inside this church again. Well worth a look if you are in the area but expect it to be locked unless you sort something out prior or attend a service. Lovely friendly people here who I am sure would be pleased to see you.