Thornhaugh is a small village, with the busy A1 a quarter of a mile off to the east. Despite this though, the only noise to be heard when sitting in the church grounds is birdsong. A lovely place to be. If someone came up to me and asked to be shown a beautiful English village church, I could do a lot worse than to take them to Thornhaugh.
Parts of the present church date back as far as the end of the 12th century. The chancel is mid 13th century, with the clerestory and tower also dating from the 13th century. The original spire collapsed circa 1500 and destroyed the south aisle and south porch.
Much restoration work was undertaken here in 1889. Amongst other things the tower was taken down and rebuilt brick by brick following a further collapse. Five bells hang here. Several of these have been re-cast over the years but three generations of the Norris family cast bells for St Andrew from their bellfoundry in Stamford. Tobias Norris I, who set up the foundry, cast a bell here in 1619. This bell is now on permament loan to Stamford museum. Thomas Norris added another in 1634, with a third coming from Tobias Norris III in 1684.
Moving inside, and there is a fine monument to William, Lord Russell of Thornhaugh, in the south chapel. He was Lord Deputy of Ireland under Elizabeth I, and passed away in 1613. He lays, hands raised in prayer, with his son Francis kneeling at his feet. His brothers and sisters are depicted on the north and south sides of the monument, with three brothers on the south side and three sisters on the north side. Looking up and Lord Russell's helmet hangs from the ceiling above the monument, with curiously a model of a goat standing above the helmet.
It is sometimes noticable that hands raised in prayer on such monuments as these are oversized. Large hands were used to symbolise how pious the person was. Large hands equates to someone who lived a good Christian life.
An interesting, and very sad, floor slab in the chancel commemorates the passing of the wife of the rector, John Wing, and their 19 years old daughter Ellen, who both died on the same day in April 1838. I looked this up in the obituries recorded in the Gentleman's Magazine of that day. This records that both were in a boat on the Nene (or Nen as they called it then) with a Mr Girdlestone of Stibbington House, who Ellen was soon to marry. A gust of wind capsised the boat and both mother and daughter were lost.
Elsewhere, two other memorials demonstrate the fragility of life. One to George Gaskell tells that he was shot dead aged 10 whem out rabbiting in 1810. Elsewhere, a memorial to Major Owen Cambridge tells that he was accidently shot dead by his servant in mistake for a deer in 1672.
Elsewhere inside and traces of wall painting remain in places. It is thought that the wall painting on the wall leading to the south transept might be the coat of arms of the Medard family. Traces of decoration can also be seen on the arches in the north arcade.
The lack of stained glass windows here mean that the interior is bright, especially on a glorious day like this with sunlight blazing in through the south windows. However, there are three small stained glass windows up high on the north wall. These date from 1889 and illustrate the coats of arms of the Duke Of Bedford, the Bishop of Peterborough and St Andrew.
There is a very small and unassuming headstone in the west of the church grounds here which is worth mentioning. This grave is sinking, undatable and with no legible text. What can be seen though are two large coffins carved in to the grave. I estimate this at late (ish) 17th century. This is a symbol used at the time to bring home to those looking on that Man is mortal and will die. Other symbols used at that time were human skull, hour glasses, which were sometimes depicted with wings, and the gravediggers tools of pick shovel and torch. This message was put forward in pictorial form as most of the population could not read or write. It was an important thing as life expectency was low and death was an ever present part of everyday life. The reading behind this symbolism is 'live your life in a good Christian manner as you do not know when your time will come'. In the same way certain New Testement parables, such as that of the wise and the foolish virgins say the same thing.
Elshere in the church grounds there can be sone very finely carved Georgian gravestones. Some lovely work still to be seen here. The grounds themselves are a delight, and I was here once in the spring and it was glorious. The church itself is kept closed to visitors which is a shame, I did manage to gain access though with a very helpful keyholder. I also took in a morning prayer service a little later, which was taken by the late Revd Thomas Christie, a lovely man and a big supporter of this site.
This church is a delight and I have a great fondness for it.
I was able to see inside this churvch again in the Summer of 2016, with St Andrew being one of three churches on the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches tour afternoon. The tour started at Thornhaugh before moving on to nearby Wansford and then on to Barnack. The afternoon was well supported and the promised rain held off. All of the interior photographs included here were shot on that day.