The church of St Peter at Lowick is normally kept locked. I contacted one of the keyholders, who lived in the village, and arranged to borrow the key for a while. Let myself in and even though I had had a look on the internet prior to visiting, I was still taken aback by how much there was to see inside.
This church is probably most famous for the large amount of medieval stained glass that there is along the north wall. It is thought that the glass here came from the earlier church that stood on this site, and was moved when the present church was built in the 15th century.
Many of the images originally came from a Jesse window, which is a window which depicts the lineage of Jesus right back to Jesse, who was the father of King David. It says in Isaiah Chapter 11 verse 1 that "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a branch will bear fruit". The glass depicts several of those who were in Jesus' family line, including King David and King Solomon.
There is also a depiction of a kneeling Knight. This is thought to be Sir Simon De Drayton, who it is thought gave the glass to the church sometime after 1317. Not all the panels have survived, with the depiction of Jesus being one of those that is lost. The churchwardens accounts for 1644 state that "the crucifiction and scandelous images were taken down" and this is possibly when the rest were destroyed. Several images of this medieval glass are included below.
A memorial in the South Chapel to one Ralph Greene and his wife Katherine Malley certainly catches the eye. This is a magnificent alabaster carving, which was carved by Thomas Prentys and Robert Button of Challaston near to Derby, which was the centre of the alabaster trade at that time. The original contract for this work is still preserved and the total cost was £40, a lot of money in 1417. Alabaster, also known as gypsum, was a material that was often used for memorials as it was soft and easily carved. The men who worked on these memorials were called "Kervers", "Alabastermen", "Marblers" or "Image Makers".
On this memorial, Ralph Greene, in full armour, lays at the side of his wife, who is wearing an elaborate head dress. He has one of his gauntlets off and they are holding hands, unusual that, as figures such as this were usually depicted with hands raised in prayer. Ralph rests his feet on a chained bear whilst a dog lays at the feet of Lady Katherine. Dogs were often used as a symbol of faithfulness in memorials such as this.
The tomb is surrounded by figures of angels holding shields on which, at one point, there would have been inscriptions. At one point the memorial had a canopy over it, such as the Mildmay monument at Apethorpe, but this was destroyed in 1760. A truly stunning piece of work.
In front of the east window is a memorial to one Mary Mordaunt, Duchess of Norfolk, who died in 1705. The Duchess wears a Queen Anne headdress and is depicted reclining with a human skull under her pillow, the skull being a symbol of the mortality of Man.
Against the north wall is the tomb of Sir John Germain who died in 1718, he is shown reclining on a cushion but dressed in armour. In front of him are the three children of his second marriage, all of whom died in infancy. Behind this monument is late Victorian stained glass windows. But look closely and you will see some small stained glass coat of arms, dating from the 15th century.
Over to the south chapel and a low tomb, with brasses, to one Henry Green and his wife Margaret, both depicted with hands raised in prayer. Sir Henry died in 1467, with his wife outliving him. There was a space left for the date of Margaret's death to be engraved in it, but this was left blank. The slab is worthy of note as it is made from Alwalton Marble, quarried at Alwalton near to Peterborough.
Still in the south chapel and another alabaster monument, this one being to Edward Stafford, 2nd Earl Of Wiltshire. He died in 1499 and the quality of the carving on this monument is exceptional in its detail. This monument was made some 80 years later than that to Ralph Greene, and the overall quality of the craftsmenship is that much higher.
As mentioned earlier, alabaster is a soft material and is easily carved as a result. It is sad to see that this fact has been tempting to those visiting this church over the years. Lots of instances of visitors initials being carved in to both memorials. To those who think that vandalism is a modern day occurrence I should point out that some of the initials are dated in the 18th century.
A delightful church, full of interest and history. St Peter is reckoned to be one of the top 100 churches in England, and is definitely one of my favourite churches visited. Please make the effort to see this if you are in the area.