I arrived fairly early on a gloriously sunny Saturday morning, opting to take the bus this time rather than the cycle. Just as I arrived a lady was opening up, and it is always good to see the church open sign being out out. The church of St James is in the centre of the town, with a supermarket, fish and chip shop and the bus stop all being on the doorstep.
There appears to have been a church in existence here since the mid 12th century. The present church was built in the 13th century, although only the chancel remains today from that structure.
The tower dates from the later years of the 14th century. Those eagle eyed amongst you might notice that the top of the spire is more modern, having been repaired in 1897. Gargoyles sit on each side of the square tower, just under the battlements.
These days there is a ring of eight bells at St James, these all being cast by Taylors of Loughborough. These also date from 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. They replaced a peal of five bells that previously hung there. Of the old peal, one was made by Henry Bagley of Chacomb Northants in 1686. Two were made more locally at the Stamford bellfoundry, with Thomas Norris casting one in 1634, with the other coming from Tobie Norris in 1677.
Of the other two, one was inscribed with the names Henry Lenton, and James Robinson, who were the churchwardens in 1765, when the bell was cast. No bellfounder is attributed to this bell, nor the other which just had an inscription in Latin which translates as "St Anne Pray For Us".
Inscriptions of the new rings of eight bells are as follows.... (i) Ring In The Christ That Is To Be (ii) Ring Out The Darkness Of The Land (iii)Ring In The Thousand Years Of Peace (iv) Ring Out The Thousand Wars Of Old (v) Ring In Redress To All Mankind (vi) Ring Out The Feud Of Rich And Poor (vii) Ring Out The False Ring In The True (viii) This Peal Of Eight Bells Was Erected On June 20th To Commemorate The Sixtieth Anniversary Of The Reign Of Queen Victoria. Septimus Kingford Rector William Hilyard John Pashler Churchwardens George Smith Chairman Of Parish Council.
In 1963 it was decided to move all of the gravestones to the outside of the church grounds, so that it made it easier to cut the grass. A couple of tombs still remain in situ though. One of these dates from the 17th century, with the surname Holditch still perfectly legible. The other is older. Though very worn, it is thought to date from the 15th century, and was for a member of the De Vere family, who held a Manor in Thrapston from the late 12th century.
Lots of gravestones can therefore be see leaning against the perimiter walls of the church, but in truth nothing of any particular interest or quality. This I found slightly surprising given the high quality work that is in evidence a few miles down the A605 at similar sized Oundle.
By the 1840's the nave at St James was in a very dilapidated condition. Building work had to be done and work started in 1841. There was already a gallery at the west end of the church prior to the 1840's but south and north galleries were added during this re-building. Victorian congregations were very large, and these upstairs galleries were well used. However, the bahaviour of the people up there left a lot to be desired and in 1844 it was resolved that a "fit and proper person" be paid 30 shillings a year to maintain order during the worship! In 1897 things were so bad that six sidesmen were appointed to help the3 churchwardens to keep order.
I went up in to the galleries and found them useful as I could get some decent close range shots of the stone heads high up on the walls. Was also a little surprised to see a reredos "in storage" in the north gallery!
The coat of arms pictured second from the bottom on the left is interesting. This is the Washington coat of arms. Sir John Washington, is said to have held one of the Thrapston Manors in the 17th century, and he was the great, great, great uncle of George Washington, the first President of the United States of America.
The pulpit dates from 1911 and is finely carved. It is certainly in better order than in 1603, when a survey found that "the pulpit is very unfit and wanteth a dore".The font is from the 1880's. The previous font here dated from the 14th century and its whereabouts in unknown.
Good to see the church open and nice friendly helpful people on duty. A pleasure to visit here.