Over the years some terrible things have happened to our ancient parish churches. Many have been struck by lightning, with the ruins of one still standing in Norfolk still showing how lightning split it from top to bottom. The church at Deeping St James had it's tower collapse after flooding, and Crowland Abbey was shot at by cannon during the English Civil War, as well as being damaged by a medieval earthquake. Several were destroyed by Viking raiders. Stibbington's claim to "fame" in this respect is that it had its tower destroyed by dynamite.....but more of that later!
Stibbington is a small village just off the A1, near to Wansford. The church of St John The Baptist is set well back from the A1 with a cemetry on the other side of the road opposite the church. There was a church here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, but nothing of that structure remains. A large manor house stands close by. Peace and quiet, not a sound except the birds singing, and a visit here was a very pleasant way of spending a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon.
The church was rebuilt as a chancel and aisleless nave towards the middle of the 12th century. The north aisle was added around 1180, with the chancel being rebuilt around 1240. Twenty years or so later the south aisle was added.
A west tower was added in the 15th century. In 1847, this was reported as being unsafe. The tower was deemed too insecure to pull down safely, and this is where the dynamite comes in! The tower was amazingly demolished by being blown up with dynamite!
At one time there were three bells hanging hereTwo were sold in 1849, these being replaced by two bells cast by Mears of London. A third bell, dated 1767, and cast by Joseph Eayre of St Neots stood in the rectory for many years.
The church was locked but a notice pointed the visitor to a keyholder living close by at the old rectory. The church was bathed in sunlight with the west of the interior of the church looking particularly lovely as the sun streamed in through some rose tinted Victorian stained glass.
Surrounding the mid 12th century chancel arch are a series of boards highlighting Exodus Chapter 20, when Moses received the 10 Commandments. The north arcade dates from 1180. The font is octagonal, and dates from the early 13th century.
There are quite a few nemorials on the walls here, and there is definitely a naval tradition to this small part of north Cambridgeshire. The neighbouring village of Water Newton has a floor slab in the chancel that commemorates Admiral Edward Edwards, who was on board HMS Pandora, when it was lost on the Great Barrier Reef in 1791, whilst carrying prisoners from the Bounty back to the UK for trial. A mile away at Stibbington, the naval tradition is maintained with a memorial to John Wright, who was a captain in the Royal Navy.
The full text of the memorial reads as follows...."Near this place lie interr'd the remains of John Wright Esq a Post Captian in the Royal Navy who (after having sig'nalized himself for his courage and conduct in several severe engagements, particularly in that memorable action with PAUL JONES when first Lieutenant of the Serapis) terminated a life gloriously and honourably spent in the service of the state. On the 23rd September 1785 in the 40th year of his age. A loss to his Country and Friends"
Out in the church grounds and there are some very nicely carved Georgian gravestones to be seen. Some of the better examples were found leaning against the walls of the church ground. One very ancient stone tomb had the following inscription
"Heare lyes the bodyes of Thomas Trve and Lenard Trve the tow sonnes of Thomas Trve bueryed the 08 day of Janvary 1667". Very sad to see two children laid to rest on the same day. The Bubonic Plague visited Peterborough in 1667, and there is every chance that both perished in an outbreak of the plague.
Church grounds are well maintained on the south side, but left to grow more wild on the north side. Some late Spring flowers were still in bloom, the sun was shining brightly and the birds were in good voice. Always good to hear the gentle droning of the bees as they go about their business. A delight to be here.
This is not the most architecturally pleasing church to be found within the catchment area of this site. There is no wow factor attached to it. The church of John The Baptist at Stibbington is an honest, unpretentious, small village church...and there is nothing wrong with that!