TANSOR.   CHURCH : ST MARY

 

   

 

A revisit to the church of St Mary, Tansor, Northamptonshire. A gloriously sunny late September afternoon in 2019. It was 13 years to the day since I completed my first churchcrawlm and to mark that ovvasion I replicated that first crawl. Tansor was second church of the day. Back in 2006 St Mary was closed and there was chicken wandering around the church grounds.

There was no chickens this time but the church was oepn to visitors which was lovely to see. Five churches visited that day and all were open, albeit Cotterstock was open only due to preparations for the following days harvest festival. I have great fondness for this part of East Northants and the church at Tansor, in my opinion, is vastly under rated.

    This is a lovely setting for a village church. St Mary sits on a junction, in the centre of the village with Fotheringhay off to the north, and Cotterstock and the market town of Oundle off to the south.

    There was no church noted in Tansor at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. The church of St Mary itself dates from the 12th century. The tower is a squat affair dating from Norman times. There are three bells in the tower. The earliest of these comes from London and was cast in the 15th century. One is from Newcombe at Leicester and is dated from the 16th century.  The third was cast local by the Norris family at Stamford, Tobias Norris casting this bell in 1611.

  Moving inside, the style of the arches indicate that the church has extended to the east over the years. Thes older, semi circular arches date from the 12th century, and these have  painting on the under side. My gut reaction on first seeing them was that the painting was medieval. However, it was far too crisp and the painting dates from the time of some Victorian restoration. The towwerarch is also very ancient, dating from the same time.

    Highlight of the interior for me though was to be found in the chancel. On either side of the chancel are two very old choir stalls. These came long ago from the nearby church at Fotheringhay, which was drastically reduced in size. The choir stalls are identical to those found in the churches at Hemington and Lower Benefield, a few miles distant. They are thought to date from 1415. A couple of these show wonderful carvings of musicians, with another depicting a lady with horned headdress.

   Tucked away in the north aisle is a grotesque. A glorious example with mouth pulled open wide in a medieval gesture of insult. A complete lack of teeth and long thin tongue sticking out. It is always good to see one of these carvings at eye level, and not up high on a church tower. It does bring home to the onlooker how skillful the medieval stonemasons were.

   Stained glass is Victorian and includes a depiction of Jesus, surrounded by tongues of fire, rising from the tomb, as well as a nativity scene.

 The church grounds here are well maintained, and lead down to the River Nene at the south west corner. There are some fabulously carved Georgian gravestones here, with a delightful patina of lichen covering them.

   Visitors to the church making their way up the path leading to the south porch are greeting by a sneering stone head with interesting dental work. High up on the tower, a gargoyle pulls its mouth open in medieval gesture of insult, exposing a row of small but sharp looking teeth.

   A lovely church in a picturersque part of East Northamptonshire. The church of St Mary was open to visitors when I visited which was great to see. A church to be seen and enjoyed, well worth taking a look at if you can. Back on the cycle, with the next point of call nearby Cotterstock.

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