Water Newton is a very small village set on the South bank of the river Nene. Small in size, but big in history with the whole area (as with neighbouring Castor and Chesterton) rich in Roman history. Water Newton is close to the old Roman town of Durobrivae, well known for its pottery, Nene Valley Ware, and also a Roman military garrison was stationed here. It is no surprise really to see a stone Roman coffin situated in the church grounds. Water Newton is not alone in having a Roman coffin in its grounds. with neighbouring Chesterton and Castor each having similar. This is a super example.
Sadly, this church has seen better days and is a little neglected, with just a limited number of services during the year. The church was open though, and it was good to see quite a few names in the visitors book from the last couple of months.
It is thought that there has been a church on this site since the 12th Century, with many of the original stones being built in to later walls. The tower is early 14th Century, with the exception of the top six feet which is modern. Interestingly, the original apex, complete with cross, still stands close to the churchyard wall.
On the West wall of the church is a niche, containing the figure of a man in a long robe, with hands in prayer. It is thought that this commemorates the builder of the tower. Three bells hang here and two of them are of great age. A check on the National Church Bell Database shows that one is dated at 14th century, with another given an approximate date of 1400. Neither has any marks on it which could attricute it to a particular founder. The third is dated 1902, and was cast by Charles Carr. When Revd Sweeting was compiling his notes for his study of church bells in the Peterborough area in the 1860's, he went in to a little more detail. Of the two ancient bells, one has the inscription AUE GRA PLENA DNS TECUM. My Latin is very poor, but with considerable help from the internet I think that this translates as 'Hail (Mary) full of grace, the Lord be with you'.
The inscription on the second bell is SANCTA MARIA ORA PRO NOBIS which translates as 'Holy Mary pray for us'. Sweeting suggests that the third bell simply has the date 1665 on it and I am assuming that this bell was re-cast by Carr in 1902.
Inside, the church has some good quality stained glass with Jesus in the act of benediction in two of these. In one, He is holding a baby, and in another he is blessing a young woman. I am assuming that is Mary Magdalene due to her blue robe. The amount of stained glass means that it is a little dull inside, even on a beautiful day with the sun blazing down.
My eye was caught by a very ancient stone effigy, against the south wall. This is of a man praying in a long gown which is said to date from the time of Edward III. One floor slab is for the gloriously named Original Jackson Esq, who departed this life in 1771, aged 74 years. Another floor slab in the chancel commemorates Admiral Edward Edwards. A visitor to this site tells me that Edwards was on board HMS Pandora, when it was lost on the Great Barrier Reef in 1791, whilst carrying prisoners from the Bounty back to the UK for trial.
Some carvings on the end of wooden benches feature grotesquely contorted faces, one or two almost devilish in appearance, some with tonges stuck out and mouths pulled open in a medieval gesture of insult.
Given that it it very close to the busy A1, the church at Water Newton is surprisingly calm and peaceful. Some very beautiful views to be had from the other side of the Nene and lovers of wildlife will be well catared for here as well. Water Newton is where I saw my first ever King Fisher some 35 years ago, and when I visited to photograph the church a family of Swans were preening themselves on the bank of the river close to the church. Full sized dragonflies were buzzing about, and a couple of electric blue butterflies darted about doing whatever butterflies do all day. A young couple sat by the side of the river, dangling their feet in the water. What looked like buzzards circled high overhead. Two narrow boats, one named "bossy boots" headed west on the Nene towards Wansford. It was hot, and it was beautiful!
The church grounds are in pretty good order and there are a few things of interest here. At one point, a hole in the wall of the church grounds has been plugged with some old gravestones. Two of these are worthy of note, One features a winged human skull, a symbol of mans mortality. Text virtually all gone now but the date of 1750 is still very faintly discernible. The second is a beautiful carving of a pair of cherubs, eyes closed and with delicate wings.
A headstone to one Ann Hovltom is propped up against the south wall of the church grounds. Dated 1681 and still perfectly readable. A remarkable stone still stands proudly to the south east of the church. This featured a depiction of Old Father Time, scythe in one hand and an upturned hourglass in the other. An effigy of the deceased, now very worn, is underneath the hourglass and this in turn rests on two human skulls. Rich in symbolism, this headstone is similar to several found at Tichmarsh near to Thrapston and also similar to an impressive box tomb at Stilton.
Plane spotters will no dount appreciate the regular appearance of the parachute plane, which turns up every so often as it drops parachutists off at nearby Sibson airfield. The church here is usually open to visitors and a Friend Of St Remegius group has been formed to help with funds to maintain the building. A lovely church in idyllic surroundings.