July 2010, and I never thought that I would ever get to say this within the pages of this site, but the heatwave was continuing! I took the bus to Thrapston, and photographed the church there, before walking to neighbouring Tichmarsh. It was hot and sunny, with conditions bone dry underfoot. News reports spoke of grass fires starting up, and plans for hosepipe bans were being drawn up after the second successive sunny day back in April!
The walk was very pleasant, even more so as the high ground afforded some great long distance shots of both churches at Aldwinckle and nearby Wadenhoe, with all three nestling in some exquisite Northamptonshire countryside. This really was a delight to be out.
Tichmarch is about a mile to the south east of Thrapston, with the church of St Mary The Virgin standing proud in its perpundicular glory on high ground. This is a lovely village, with thatched cottages standing opposite the church. A large, boisterous, and very wet dog called Nelly provided the entertainment as its "owners" tried unsuccessfully to keep her out of the church after she had managed to open the church gate herself with her nose!
A small village, but with one or two famous inhabitants over the years. John Dryden, who was Poet Laureate from 1670 until 1688 was born in the village in 1613. Also in 1613 Sir Gilbert Pickering was born, who was to become Lord Chamberlain to Oliver Cromwell.
Samuel Pepys came to the village in 1668 to be present at the marriage of his friend John Creed to Elizabeth Pickering; and Robert Keys, who married Margaret Pickering, was a principal agent in the Gun Powder plot in 1605
There has been a church here since at least the 12th cnetury, as a doorway dating from that time can be seen in the chancel. The present structure as can be seen today was built in the late 15th century, with the tower, clerastory and south porch all being added at that time. The porch started out life as a single story, but a second story was added in 1583, this being a private pew for the Pickering family, and just to make sure that they kept warm whilst worshiping they even had a fireplace built in it. The north arcade dates from the 13th century, whilst the south arcade is mid 14th century.
There are some very lovely wall paintings to be seen all over the chancel. Nothing medieval though sadly. These are the work of one Agnes Saunders who took 12 years to complete the paintings, with her work ending in 1895, at which point she went off to do missionary work in Africa.
The beautiful tower is a four stage affair, and is one of the finest in the area, if not the finest! The figures in the niches on the west side of the tower are modern, with money being raised by the Rector's wife in the very early 1900's to pay for them to be put in.
There is an impressive ring of eight bells here, with all eight being re-cast by Gillett and Johnstone in 1913. Henry Bagley cast four of the bells in 1688. One of these states "God Save The King" whilst another commemorates R Greene and John Wells, the church wardens at the time. The famous Peterborough founder Henry Penn cast another of the bells in 1708 and Edward Arnold of Leiceter casting a sixth in 1781. North's study of Northamptonshire church bells in the 1860's stated that there were six bells here at that time. Two more were added in 1885, as a memorial to a Rector's late wife.
Church grounds are very large, and kept in good order. Nothing of any remarkable age to be seen here, and I suspect that there has been a clearance of ancient graves at one point in the past.
There were some interestingly carved stones to be seen though, with one row of four graves catching the eye in particular. These are in the east end of the church, Georgian, and in good condition as they have been protected from the worst of the weather over the years. They all depict Old Father Time and he is depicted with the usual scythe and hourglass.
In these instances Old Father Time is used as a symbol to denote the passing of tine and the mortality of Man. On one of the four graves there is also a human skull depicted. Another symbol of mortality, cheerful people the Georgians weren't they?
There are not many instances of Old Father Time being found on surviving headstones from this era in churches within the catchment area of this site. The only one that immediately springs to mind is at Stilton near to Peterborough, and a truly super piece of work that one is.
The large church grounds are surrounded by a ditch called a "Ha ha". These are sunken walls whereby the top of the wall is level with the ground. This gives an uninterrupted view out over the churchyard and also stopped cattle straying in to the church grounds. There are one or two of these around with Ha ha's also to be found at Marholm and Orton Longueville.
The church was open, and an informative booklet was available detailing some of the church history. A lovely afternoon, and an absolute pleasure to visit this charming church and village. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.