Longthorpe is a small village just to the west of Peterborough, having been all but swallowed up by the growth of the latter over the years. The word "Thorpe" is often used as part of the name of a village close to a large town. This is a very historic area with a Roman Fort built here possibly as far back as 44AD. A large contingent of Roman soldiers from the fort here were massacred by the local Iceni tribe, who were later to be led by the famous Boudicca.
Close to the church in Longthorpe Tower, which houses the finest collection of medieval wall paintings to be seen in northern europe.
The church of St Botolph sits on slightly raised ground to the west of the village. Beautiful thatched cottages stand opposite. Back in the 1860's, the Reverend Sweeting compiled a study of churches in the Peterborough area. His book was first published in 1868, and I would image that the exterior of the church here has changed more than any of the other churches visited by Sweeting. I have an original copy of his book, and there are original photographs of the exterior of each church glued inside the book.
The bell tower has been replaced, and the whole of the south side of the church has been re-developed in more recent years. There is now a south porch and vestry added. Reminds me of Stilton in a way! As with Stilton, this church gives every impression of thriving, and being a real focal point of the community.
Originally the church here stood in a different position. This was taken down at re-built in this present position in or around 1260. There were no burials here until the late 17th century, when the church was consecrated to allow the right of burial for the inhabitants. In 1683 much work was done here, including the laying of a new floor. The first stone was laid by six years old William Leafield, the eldest son of George. Sadly, two years later, William was the first to be buried in the newly consecrated building!
A single bell hangs here. The western bell tower was replaced in late Victorian times. North, in his Victorian study looking at the church bells of Northamptonshire, notes that the bell was taken down when the new bell cote was built. It was then found that the bell cote was too small to accomodate the bell, so a smaller one had to be found. I have no information as to who the founder was for that original bell and the National Church Bell Database has no information at all on the replacement bell which prersently hangs there.
It is spacious inside, with no chancel arch. Much stained glass makes the interior of the church seem very dark. Glass is of high quality. I was interested in a small section of one Victorian stained glass window which showed the Angel Gabriel walking through a field of lillies, picking some of them Another window depicts the anunciation, with Gabriel, depicted with Lily, giving God's message to the Virgin Mary. I went on to the internet to do a little research on the symbolism of this flower and came up with the following... "Christians hold the lily as a symbol of chastity, innocence, purity and piety. The stem of the lily symbolizes The Virgin Mary's religiously faithful mind
Lily petals represent her Mary's purity and virginity . The scent of the flower represents Mary's divinity and the leaves leaves signify her humility" Further reaearch showed that the Angel Gabriel is also often depicted holding lilys, as is the case here. Gabriel is also sometimes shown with ink and quill, symbolising his job as messenger for God.
The church grounds are well maintained and with the roses in full bloom is was a lovely sight on this glorious mid Summer Sunday afternoon. Was interested to see a carving of a large shell on one of the stones. In medieval Christianity, the shell was the emblem of St James, the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. At one point it appears as if there has been a pretty substantial graveyard clearance, with dozens of stones resting against the walls of the church grounds.
As far as I can tell the oldest stone in the church grounds that is dated comes from 1759. This is a finely crafted piece of work but, interestingly, only has the initials J.C to commemorate the deceased. This stone appears to have been re-set at some point and is not in situ. Another stone has a grieving widow sitting on what appears to be a coffin, weeping willow, a symbol of sadness and mourning, behind her.
A nice church in a picturesque village, right on the edge of bustling Peterborough. It was remarkably peaceful here. A beautiful place to spend some time.