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The Summer of 2011, and the first day of what was to be a four day churchcrawl. I started off with a few villages to the west of Huntingdon, one of which was Bythorn, before heading towards Thrapston. Bythorn is a small picturesque village with, as with other villages in the area, the church beong surrounded by some very beautiful and ancient thatched cottages.
The church of St Lawrence is, from distance, a curious affair, with the 14th century perpundicular tower and spire being topped by a curious little dome. I am not sure what really happened here but I have seen a photo on the internet dating from around 1940 which still has the full spire, the top of the spire being taken down and the dome being added at some point around 1960.
There was no church here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, but re-used 12th century stone built in to the present walls indicate a structure being here at that date. This early structure would probably have been a basic, aisleless nave, with chancel.
The nave was rebuilt towards the end of the 13th century, at which point it is likely that the north aisle was built. The south aisle was added early in the 14th century with the chancel being rebuilt and the west tower and south porch being added around 1345.
The tower and spire were restored in the early 1850's and the church as a whole underwent considerable restoration in the 1870's. Early in 2002 much work was undertaken on the bells and they were rung properly for the first time in more than 100 years.
The first church bell to be hung here was cast around the year 1360 by William Rufford. It is thought that the bell would have been cast nearby, either in the church grounds or in a nearby field, although William and his father John each worked out of their foundry at Toddington, Bedfordshire. Between 1385 and 1400 two more bells were added by William Dawe, a founder from London.
Two of these early bells were re-cast by the Stamford Bellfoundry, with Tobias Norris I re-casting one in 1620, which bears the Latin inscription "OMNIA FIANT AD GLORIAM DEI 1620", which translates as “Let all things be done for the glory of God. Thomas Norris re-cast the other bell in 1674. The third of the ancient bells was re-cast by well known Peterborough based founder Henry Penn in 1711, which bears the inscription "GOD SAVE OVR QUEEN AND PRESARVE PECE"
In 1682, the ring of three bells was taken to a ring of four with Henry Bagley, another well known founder who worked from premesis in Ecton, Northamptonshire.
This was my thrd church visited that Saturday morning, and the first one that I had found locked to visitors. The churches at nearby Brington and Molesworth were both open and it was a shame to see St Lawrence shut. I spent quite a long time in the church grounds, having my lunch and waiting for the clouds to clear so that I could get some better shots. Had plenty of time to study the exterior and also to grow increasingly concerned about the alarmingly loud roar of traffic from the nearby A14, which I was to cycle down after leaving....more of that later!
Some very finely carved gargoyles can be seen here. A mixture of designs, one of these resembles a dog like creature with large ears and eyes upturned. Another is altogether more sinister, with talons and what appear to be scales. More dragon like than anything else. To my mind, these have no great age to them and I would suspect that they might date from the time of the one of the periods of Victorian restoration. Fine quality work though. Of considerably more age is a very badly weathered carving of a bearded man, sightless eyes staring out.
A very fine and elaborately carved scratch dial can also be seen. Again, this is very badly weathered but a lovely piece of work none the less. Strangely, later on that day, and I can't remember where it was, I saw another scratch dial....this time on the north side of a church! Surely that must have been re-set at some point in the past.
A corbel table separates the top of the tower from the spire, and this features a series of wierd and wonderful carvings, with the stonemasons of the day really enjpying themselves! A series of grotesque faces, some with wide eyes and flared hair, with their tongues stuck out in medieval gesture of insult. At each corner there sits a figure with huge ears and a bulbous nose. In some churches, the gargoyles and grotesques represent actual people, the local dignatories of the day....but I am assuming that this is not the case here!
Church grounds are well maintained and the thatched cottage to the south side of the church grounds is just exquisite! A beautiful English village at its best!
As I mentioned earlier, this is a lovely little village, but I did find the noise from the nearby A14 a bit offputting. The plan was to head from Bythorn to Thrapston using the A14. After leaving St Lawrence though it turned out that this was a horrible piece of dual carriageway, completely unsutiable to the cycle. This turned a journey of about three miles to one of nine miles or so, and just taking the edge off what was previously a very good day. Still, the countryside was nice!