The church of St Helen at Folksworth was one of the first churches that I visited when setting this site up back in the Autumn of 2006. I made a return trip on a, for the most part, sunny late April Saturday afternoon in 2010. I spent a long time here, partly as I was quite tired after covering a lot of miles on the cycle that day, and secondly a large cloud covered the sun for half an hour or so, and I took food and water whilst waiting for the light to improve.
Folksworth is a fairly small village, a few miles south west of Peterborough, very quiet and peaceful given the close proximity of the A1(M). At the start of the nineteenth century the population was 119. At that time the village would have been overshadowed by a massive prisoner of war camp a mile down the road at Norman Cross, with several thousand French and Dutch prisoners being kept there.
There was no church mentioned here at the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086. The present building is thought to have been a basic structure of chancel and aisleless nave, which was built in or about 1150.
The chancel was standing in 1537, but it had been totally destroyed by the end of the 17th century. The chancel was rebuilt by Robert Pupplett, who was the Rector of Folksworth during the period 1702 and 1706.
The church was restored in 1850, when the chancel and the north wall of the nave were rebuilt. At that time a bell cote was put up on the west gable. A single bell hangs here, made by Thomas Norris of the Stamford Bell foundry in 1660. This bell is inscribed T Harris 1660
The church is heavily buttressed in places, particularly on the west end, where the bellcote is. Without being disrespectful the area around the south porch isn't going to win any architecture awards. I do like the gargoyle though that has been moved from its original position and repositioned at the side of the porch. The north doorway with rounded arch at the top, pictured below right, dates from around 1150
St Helen is usually kept locked but it was open on Ride And Stride Historic churches day in September 2013. There was no one on duty when I arrived but drinks had been left out for the walkers/cyclists who were planning on visiting St Helen that day, this was appreciated, as was the cereal bars also left out! Thanks to whoever was responsible for doing this.
The interior of the church is small and attractive. With the exception of the stained glass window in the chancel, all of the glass here is plain. The stained glass in the chancel features scenes from the life of Christ, including the ascension and what seems to be the raising of Lazarus from the dead. I would think that this stained glass dates from 1850 when the restoration work was carried out. Some of the capitals are finely carved with human faces and the font is octagonal and dates from the 15th century. The mid 12th century chancel arch is slim and elegant.
There are some interesting headstones in the church grounds here. One or two very nicely carved slate graves, as fresh today as when they were carved in Georgian times. A particularly nice piece depicts a trumpet blowing angel placing a laurel wreath on an effigy of the deceased. Laurel wreaths were often used to symbolise victory (over death) on gravestones.
Another stone, close to the porch, has a very interesting inscription, and also has a very early date on it. This is dated 1641, which makes it one of the oldest stones in any church within the catchment area of this site, that has a date that is still legible. The stone is to one Willian Cockrill and the inscription reads as follows.... "Here lieth the body of William Cockrill, wo waites for a gloriovs resvrrection who decd the 24th day of Febrvary" The "N" is carved the wrong way round on resurrection.
The church here sits at the side of the main road leading out of the village towards neighbouring Morborne a mile or so away. Not a great deal of transport uses this road and the result is that the church grounds are quiet and peaceful. Worth a visit if you are in the area. As mentioned earlier, this church is normally to be found locked to visitors but it is worthwhile seeing inside if you get the chance.