Late April 2015, and a re-visit to the church of St Michael and All Angels, Wadenhoe, Northants. It had been an afternoon of brilliant sunshine, the bleating of sheep and the scent of oilseed rape everywhere we went. We had began at Pilton, before moving on to Achurch and then Aldwincle before taking in an evening prayer service at Wadenhoe.
The setting here is just idyllic. A small church unimposing church, set on top of high ground, surrounded by trees, nestling by the side of the river Nene. On this particular Sunday, afternoon was just turning in to evening and the shadows were just starting to lengthen, the sun was starting to dip and the colours were golden and beautiful. Sheep and lambs were grazing on the side of the hill. A narrowboat was passing through, to the annoyance of the local ducks. Overhead a Red Kite circled looking for food. From the high ground, the view out over the Northamptonshire countryside was lovely. A delight to be here
For me though, the one thing that stood out in the interior of this church was a stone tablet in memory of Thomas and Caroline Welch Hunt, who were murdered by bandits whilst on honeymoon in 1824...the inscription reads as follows... "Sacred to the memory of Thomas Welch Hunt Esq, late proprietor of the estate and manor of Wadenhoe, and of Caroline his wife, eldest daughter of the Revd Charles Eusby Isham, Rector of Polebrooke in this county, who were both cruelly shot by banditt, near Poestum in Italy. On 3rd December 1824. He died on the same day, having nearly completed his 28th year. She died on the morning of the following Sunday, in the 23rd year of her age. After a union of scarcely ten months, affording an impressive and mournful instance of the instability of human happiness. Their remains are interred in one grave at Naples. They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided" Both Thomas and Caroline had portraits commissioned in 1824, and these now hang in Peterborough Museum.
The churchyard contains a few very ancient graves and tombs. A tomb on the west side of the church grounds states "Here lyeth the dead corps of William Sanderson and Ihone his wife". Also of interest is a grave which, although badly weathered and unreadable, would date from the late 17th century by the looks of it. This grave has on it three images of skulls, and it appears as if the grave marks the final resting place of three members of the same family. The skull was to remind the onlooker that man was mortal and would die at a time when life expectencey was low, the message being put across in symbol form as most could not read or write. Over to the south west of the church grounds, a carpet of bluebells were in full flower.
A small figure to the west of the porch, apparantly asleep, seemed cat like in appearance and a mouth puller gargoyle is to be seen to the south of the church.
A delight to be here. Service finished and photos taken we made the short trip to Stoke Doyle where, if anything, the lighting conditions were even better.
Walking up the path to the church from the east, the visitor is greeted by a sundial, which was put up to celebrate the turn of the Milenium. It is possible to see five church towers and spires from the high ground where Wadenhoe church is situated. This sundial points the interested visitor in the direction of the five that can be seen.
The church here has been a place of worship for more than 800 years. It is thought that part of the tower dates from the end of the 12th century.The nave is thirteenth century, with the north arcade dating from mid way through that century, the south arcade being built a little later. A couple of nicely carved faces can be seen in the entrance to the chancel. Sadly, one of these is damaged, but both are pulling their mouths open in a typical medieval gesture. This gesture is also replicated in a gargoyle, minus downspout, on the north wall.
The ground that this church is built on slopes away alarmingly, and the church is very heavily buttressed. In 1901 the tower was underpinned to a solid foundation. The pillars of the nave arcades were also underpinned as it was found that they stood immediately over faults in the rock.
The tower is three stage in construction and the bells include one of the earliest examples produced by Tobias Norris I, dated 1603. When this bell was cast, Tobias would have been about 17 years old. The inscription on this bell, which was re-cast in 1937, reads "MVLTI : VOCATI : PAVCI : ELECTI Robertvs : Ashle : Thomas : Cibble 1603 Gardiani IA IH". Another bell from the Stamford bell foundry, this one dated 1607 proclaims "God Save His Chvrch"
Some decent stained glass windows to be seen here. A small panel as one enters the chancel shows Jesus appearing to Saul on the road to Damascas. Another depicts Jesus being presented to Simeon in the temple by Mary and Joseph. Another window shows Christ holding a globe in the act of benediction, with the panel alongside showing the infant Jesus being carried by the Virgin Mary.