UPTON. CHURCH : ST JOHN THE BAPTIST

upton exterior 2
upton exterior from west

Mid May 2010 and a return visit to the church of St John The Baptist at Upton, near to Castor. I had visited this church on a few occasions before, just to sit and enjoy the isolation. The church here is set well away from the rest of the village. There is evidence nearby of former occupation, which led me to think that at some point possibly, much of the village had relocated away from the church. Possibly, an outbreak of plague at some point might have meant that part of the village had been destroyed, with the villagers moving to a "clean" area.
  We are deep in farming country here, with my only company on this occasion being a herd of very curious cows. As with most other areas there was field after field of oilseed rape. Much of the area covered by this website is covered by a yellow carpet at this time of the year, with misery caused to hay fever sufferers in the process.
  Sadly, there are not all that many services held here nowadays. I was concerned to see a small piece of modern graffiti around the porch, which I don't recall being there on my last visit about six months previously. To those who think that this is purely a modern day occurrence, I refere you to the carved initials "W.C" a little way away that was carved in 1767!
  This church is kept locked, with two keyholders listed who live in the village. I borrowed the key and let myself in and my eye was immediately drawn to the Dove monument in the north aisle. This is a stunning piece of work, and I make no excuses for including so many photographs of it on this page. This would be one of the finest monuments in any church within the catchment area of this site, with the possible exception of the Mildmay Monument at Apethorpe. On this monument, Sir William Dove lays in between his two wives. To his right is Dame Francis his first wife, who died in 1622. To William's left hand side is Dame Dorothy, his second wife who died in 1665. Sir William himself died in 1633.
  All three lay side by side, hands raised in prayer. Sadly, there is damage to the hands in places, with the odd finger missing. They are at rest under a canopy, and on top of this are Doves. Some very good symbolism denoting Man's mortality can be seen on the west side of the monument. Those who know me will probably know of my interest in this subject. We have two cherubs, both sitting on top of a human skull. The cherub on the left hand side holds an hourglass, whilst the one on the right holds a shovel. The skull and the hourglass are both pretty standard symbols denoting the man is mortal and that we will all pass on. I am more interested in the cherub holding the shovel though!
  The shovel is one of the gravediggers tools, again denoting the Mortality of man. There are normally three tools depicted, the others being a pick and a torch, as burials were undertaken at night. It is unusual to see one of the gravediggers tools used without the others! In between the cherubs are the coat of arms of the Dove family, with a cross and four Doves.
  A lovely and important piece of work, which is reputed to have been the work of Nicholas Stone, master stone mason to James I and Charles I.
  The north aisle was rebuilt in 1627 by William Dove as a family burial place. William had connections with the church as his father had been the Bishop of Peterborough fromt 1601 until his death in 1630.
   The church itself was built in 1120, and was previously dedicated it appears to St Helen. A north aisle was added towards the end of the 12th century. As just mentioned, work was undertaken on the north aisle in 1627 so that it could be used to mark the final resting place of the Dove family. The original north aisle was taken down, and was replaced by a wider aisle at a higher level, which was reached by stone steps.
  A lot of the fittings inside are early 17th century, with the pulpit being early Jacobean. North's Victorian study of the church bells of Northamptonshire suggests that the single bell here is uninscribed. Around 150 years or so later and the UK church bell database is no nearer to being able to confirm the founder. It would be tempting to suggest that with Stamford just a few miles away, and with work being undertaken on the church in the 17th century, the bell might have been cast by the Stamford bellfoundry, but they did not cast uninscribed bells.
  Something unique amongst the churches covered by this site is to be found at Upton. Just outside the church grounds can be seen gravestones for the local farm working dogs. These are leaning against the wall on the north side of the church. Photograph included bottom right of page.
  To my mind, this church proves that small can be beautiful. This is a lovely church in a quaint setting, and inside it is a delight.
  Back on the cycle and a trip to neighbouring Sutton on the way home. Back the way I had come earlier, through the fields of oilseed rape. Stopped to take some photographs of these and whilst there I noticed some very ancient looking stone barns in a farmyard a few hundred yards from the church. I wasn't the only one enjoying the view as a Dutch tourist was photographing the same scene as myself....as to how a Dutch tourist found herself in Upton, no idea!!!
  Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

upton interiopr carving
upton exterior from distance
upton dove memorial 6
upton dove memorial 5
upton dove memorial 2
upton dove memorial 3
upton dove memorial 4
Upton dove memorial 1
upton side view and dog graves
upton dove memorial 7

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