The church of St Andrew is very isolated, set completely on its own at the top of high ground mid way between Peterborough and Huntingdon, not far from the busy A1 (M). It is thought that the village of Woodwalton once might have been clustered around the church but something happened over the years to make the rest of the village re-locate. The popular view locally is that an outbreak of plague at some point might have seen the houses in the village destroyed and burned, with the village re-locating to a safe "clean" area fairly nearby.
Woodwalton church can be seen for miles around, and the picture at the foot of the page on the right shows the church, with the photograph being taken from high ground as we aimed for Abbots Ripton. Amazingly, miles away in the distance, Peterborough cathederal and the floodlights from Peterborough United football club can clearly be seen. The photograph to the left of that shows how close the railway line is to the church.
The solitude of this church has caused many problems over the years and, sad to say, that this church is in a poor state. Only the very occasional service is held here, and the church is normally open on Heriatage Weekends. Apart from that it locked and it is cared for by the Friends Of Woodwalton church and the Friends Of Friendless Churches. The church has sadly suffered theft and vandalism given its isolated location, and was finally declared redundant in 1972.
We were here on an afternoon of extremes of weather. The sun was shining brightly when we arrived, with a massive bank of threatening black clouds overhead. Shortly after it was throwing it down.
There was a church mentioned here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. The present church is known to have been at this site from 1250, with the original structure probably being an aisleless nave with chancel. A south aisle was added and around 1330 the chancel was rebuilt and clerastory being added. The north aisle was added in the early 16th century.
the tower dates from the 14th century, and was strengthened during the late 1850's. A ring of four bells consist of two from Thomas Mears II dating from 1841 and two from St Neots founder Joseph Eayre. One of these bells is undated with the other dated 1764. There was once stained glass here, but over the years vandalism has seen many of the windows broken. One stained glass window from here is on load to the Stained Glass Museum at Ely.
The porch is thought to have been built with some stones from nearby Sawtry Abbey, which stood just over a mile away, and which was demolished on the orders of Henry VIII after 1536. An empty niche can be seen over the porch doorway, this would originally have had an effigy of St Andrew in it.
A small history booklet is available at this church detailing some of the features and historical facts. This booklet tells of a 17th century custom which involved the curious sitting in the church porch all night on Midsummer's Eve. It was thought that those sitting there would see an apparition of all those who would die in the parish in the coming year.
In the 1980's the church of St Andrew was used as a film set, an episode of Hammer House of Mystery and Suspence entitled "And The Walls Came Tumbling Down" being filmed here. The male lead here was played by Gareth Hunt.
Church grounds are well maintained, with I believe the Friend Of Woodwalton Church keeping things neat and tidy. Little of any major interest here but there are graves in the churchyard for labourers who were killed whilst working on the nearby railroad, which opened in 1850. One grave is worth noting though. Looking to date from the early to mid 18th century, this grave has two shrouded human figures carved on to it, one of which, if you look very carefully, is standing on a human skull. This symbolises victory over death with the deceased moving on to eternal life in heaven. A lovely grave, with a similar example to be found at Maxey.
A return visit was made in the summer of 2014, a cloudy and drab afternoon, when the church was open to the public. A service was on, which was well attended. This was the first time that I was able to see inside and it was evident from talking to a few people how much work had been put in to the improvements and also the affection that people had for this church. Yes, it has been bruised and battered over the years but people still care for it and that bodes well for the future hopefully.
Photographs of the interior are a little darker than I had hoped. I don't think that there is electricity at the church and the dull afternoon outside made for it being very dark inside.
It was good to be here, good to see inside and good to know that our ancient parish churches are being cared for, both by those members of congregations throughout the country, as well as those who care for them as buildings of historical importance.