This is an important church, and it is famed mostly for the quite magnificent chancel arch, which took my breath away when I first saw it. I first attended this church in the early days of shooting for this site. Lighting conditions on the day were not good. The long overdue return came in the summer of 2014.
It is calm and peaceful here, despite the main road not being more than a couple of hundred yards away. The church is surrounded by some delightful stone cottages and entry to the church grounds is through a lychgate, which was surrounded by flowers and the only noise was the gentle buzzing of bees. It was a delight to be here.
The church of St Peter was built in or around the period 1130 - 1150. The chancel arch consists of six orders, with each of the orders having a different design. The third order is of particular interest as it consists of grotesque heads, alternating with foliage designs.Several photographs included below. Amongst the designs are two crowned heads looking away from each other and it it suggested that these might represent King Stephen and Queen Maud, the rival claimants for the English throne at the time. It has been said that in those early days, the church here was just a single cell and the chancel arch was the main doorway in to the building.
Close by stands an intricately carved font, which dates from seventy years or so later than the chancel arch. The font itself dates from the 13th century, but the four pillared stone block on which it rests appears to be nineteenth century.
The large amount of stained glass here leaves the interior of the church a tad on the dark side. However, the visitor is well catered for here with the church lighting spotlighting the chancel superbly. The vaulting in the chancel leads up to a Norman ceiling boss depicting a monks head and two muzzled bears. It is thought that the vaulting and the ceiling boss and amongst the earliest surviving examples in the country.
Stained glass here include windows depicting Jesus carrying his cross on the way to crucifiction, a glorious window showing the crucifiction itself and another showing the Ascension. The latter window is not of as high a quality as others in the church. One large window contains several smaller panels, including depictions of John The Baptist about to be beheaded and the Angel Gabriel, with long blue wings, appearing to the Virgin Mary. As is often the case, the Angel Gabriel is depicted with Lillies. Normally he is carrying the lillies, here though the Lillies are planted in a tub at the side of him!
Elsewhere, St Andrew is pictured with the saltire cross on which he was later to be martyred and Jesus is depicted comforting a small child.
A wooden effigy of a knight rests against the inside south wall of the chancel. Dating from the time of Henry III, this is believed to be a representation of Sir Roland De Daneys, who fought in the French wars. It is thought that this figure would once have been covered in brass and placed on top of a tomb.
This church was restored in 1792, with much work being undertaken at that time. An inscription over the south porch records that the benefactor Eliza Wingfield "with that true sense of religion and reverence for her Maker which ever distinguished her life, repaired this church in the year 1792". The church was rebuilt using, in part, maetrials from the old church, and the chancel arch was the only part of the original structure which was not altered in any way. The rest of the church does not appear to have followed the design of its predecessor.
Before the bell cote was taken down during the restoration, two bells hung there. One of these, thought to date from before the Reformation period, was cracked and unable to be used. The UK Church Bell Database has this bell dated at circa 1500, with the founder possibly coming from London. This bell still stands in the nave. The other bell was made locally in 1630 by Thomas Norris of the Stamford Bellfoundry. This bell was re-cast in 1934 by Taylors of Loughborough, with the same founder making a new bell to replace the cracked one.
Church grounds are well maintained, and there are some glorious late 17th century graves, sinking in to the ground and leaning over at all sorts of angles. Several of these are unreadable but still legible is a grave to one William Ousbourne who passed away in 1659. A grave featuring two winged cherubs holding a crown over an effigy of the deceased is a super piece of work. No date readable but I would think that this is from the time of George III.
The church here is kept open for visitors and probably attracts more visitors than any other church in Rutland, with the exception of Oakham itself, such is the importance of the church here. Why this magnificent chancel arch is here in the first place, I have no idea, but it is a joy to be able to see it.