A lovely, sunny, Saturday afternoon in September 2006. The first day of shooting for this site. Armed with a tiny and very basic digital camera and a new bike, which I had just picked up from the cycle shop, I headed out in to East Northamptosnire. At that point I didn't really know if I was serious about this site or not.
It looked like a lot of time, effort and cycling and I just didn't know if anyone would be interested in following an eccentric Englishman's trips to see village churches that, with no disrespect meant, were of little or no interest to some of the people who actually lived in those villages! Any doubts about whether I wanted to make a go of this site or not were dispelled that first afternoon. After visiting Nassington to start with, I visited Fotheringhay, Tansor and then Cotterstock. I fell in love with this part of East Northants that afternoon. And have spent many pleasant days out in the same area since. 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. I got inside Tansor church during the 2013 Ride and Stride, spending the morning visiting ten churches in the area by cycle. The church was open with some stewards ensuring that the cyclists were fed and watered. What was immediately striking was the 12th century arches, which had a pettern still painted on the underside. 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. 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. Some high quality stained glass here with a window in the chancel depicting Christ rising from the tomb being particularly impressive. The church grounds here are well kept, and to the west the grounds lead down to a lake. On my first visit here several chickens were wandering around between the headstones. There are some very finely carved Georgian headstones here, made more attractive still by various coours of lichen. Visitors to the church coming up the path to the south porch will be greeted by a sneering stone head, with the man in question in need of some serious dental work. A lovely church in a picturersque part of East Northamptonshire. The church of St Mary is normally kept closed but if you are able to get inside it is well worth a look.