I first visited Brigstock over the Easter period 2009 and the weather was so dark and dismal that just about everything that I shot that day went in to the recycle bin. I always promised myself a trip back there one day and I based myself in the village during August 2011, as I re-visited several churches to the extreme south west of the catchment area of this site. Those with a equine bent will doubtless know the name of the village from the famous horse trials held here.
Plenty of history here, with a skeleton found locally being dated back to 1500 BC and a Roman Road, which ran from Godmanchester to Leicester, running through the parish. Brigstock became the largest village in the Rockingham Forest. It was mentioned in the Domesday Survey, with there being evidence of a church here at that time. In fact, there was a church here as far back as the ninth century, with Viking raiders destroying the original church built here. Queen Elizabeth I once passed through the village, with the village cross being put up to mark the occasion. With 49 listed buildings in the village, this is a beautiful place to stay.
The church of St Andrew sits in the centre of the village and it is probably most famous for the Anglo Saxon stair turret, pictured above right. A little internet research shows that this is one of just four of these type of Saxon stair turrets remaining, with another to be found at Brixworth, just over 20 miles away.
The present sdtructure dates back to the late 10th or early 11th century. This building would have been a fairly basic affair with a chancel, an aisleless nave, a west tower and stair turret. Much of the building from that time still exists, but the chancel was enlarged in the 13th century. The two storey porch was added around 1500.
The broache spire, with its three windows, dates from the 14th century. A ring of eight bells hang here with three of these being relatively new additions. When Thomas North was compiling his mid Victorian study on the church bells of Northamptonshire there were five bells hanging here, with details as follows. One bell is from Kettering bellfounder Thomas Eayre, and dating from 1758. It is inscribed "THOM'S EAYRE CAMPARINUS FECIT Wm BOWN + Wm VICCARS HIEROPHYLACEBUS 1758" I have no idea what the word "Hierophylacebus" means. I tried to Google it but had nothing back at all except being pointed back to North's original study. Can anyone help?
Four of the bells come from the Norris family, who ran the Stamford bellfoundry. All four are courtesy of Thomas Norris and are all dated 1647. Two of the bells are inscribed "THOMAS NORRIS MADE ME 1647". A third is inscribed "JOHN BARTON GAVE ME WORSHIP TO GOD IN TRINITIE 1647". The fourth reads "S SHAW CH WA ROBERT + R HARRIS GACE X POUND TOWARDS THIS BELL 1647".
The three recent additions were brought in from a church at Partington near to Manchester, with all three having been re-cast, two by Taylor & Co of Loughborough in 1881, and the third by the Whitechapel bellfoundry in 1991.
The church is kept open and is very welcming. The stained glass in mostly Victorian, with the depiction of the nativity scene in the chancel catching my eye. A few fragments of glass mounted in to the top of otherwise clear windows, appeared to come from an earlier date though. A marble monument against the south wall, pictured below, is to politician Robert Vernon Smith, Lord Lyveden, who died in 1873. The monument, a fine piece of work, is dated 1876 and was sculpted by Matthew Noble, being completed in the year of his death.
Near to the monument to Lord Lyveden is a funeral bier, this being the cart that a coffin would be loaded on to as it was taken for burial. Plenty of these remain, but still very nice to see one here.
The church grounds are well maintained and there are some finely carved gravestones to be seen. One carving in particular caught my eye. Leaning over and partially sunken in to the ground, a skull, with bat-like wings, peers out, the carving still very crisp. These are called "deaths head stones" and the skull was often used as a symbol to denote the Mortality of Man, and done so in a way that the ordinary man of the day, who would probably be illiterate, could understand.The wings would symbolise the passing of time and sometimes the images are accompanied by an hourglass. It was not possible to see a date on this stone but I would estimate that it probably dates from the early to mid 18th century.
One headstone in the church grounds is a listed monument in its own right. This is against the south aisle and is dated 1670. I have to admit that I didn't notice anything with a date that old in the church grounds.
It was listed back in 1988 and I either missed it or, sadly, in the 23 years since it was listed, the date might have becomd illegible. Some of the carvings are of very high quality.
I enjoyed my time here very much. It was good to sit on the grass to the south of the church at the end of each of my days photographing, hoping, unsuccessfully, for some decent sunset shots to round off the day.
If you are in the area, the church at Lowick, about three miles from Brigstock, is also well worthy of a visit, its magnificent octagonal lantern spire and medieval stained glass gaining it entry to Simon Jenkins book "England's Thousand Best Churches" A visit to both would keep the church enthusiast occupied and very happy, for quite a while!