August 2011, and a journey out to photograph several of the further flung churches to the south that are covered by this site. Having previously photographed Abbot's Ripton and King's Ripton churches, the church of St John The Baptist at Wistow was the third church of the day.
Wistow has a good deal of history attached to it and there is evidence that the Romans lived here. Wistow used to be called Wicstowe with the first part of that name being derived from the Latin word Vicus, which means a civillian settlement close to a military garrison. Given the fact that there was Roman occupation here, I was interested to see what I thought was some Roman brickwork incorporated in to the exterior walls of the church, as pictured second from the bottom on the right of the page.
There was mention of a church here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. That original building fell in to ruins and was rebuilt between the years 1180 and 1200. It was rebuilt again during the first half of the 14th century, with some fragments of the earlier structure being present in the walls today. The rebuilt chancel was consecrated in 1347, with the rest of the church being dedicated in 1351. At that time the church here was given the right of burial, so that parishoners could be interred in the church grounds for the first time.
At this point in history the church of St John The Baptist consisted of a chancel, nave, south aisle and possibly a north aisle. More rebuilding was undertaken in 1500 with a west tower being added in 1560. The south porch was added later.
At the time of Revd Owen's late Victorian study of the church bells of Huntingdonshire there were four bells hanging here, and that is still the case now. One bell was courtesy of Joseph Earye of St Neots. Dated 1756, this has the inscription "Let Every Thing That Hath Breath Praise The Lord 1756 Jos Eayre Fecit" The word Fecit, by the way, is Latin and means "He made it". It was often used on works of art, being inserted after the name of the artist.
The second bell was cast at the Stamford Bellfoundry by Thomas Norris in 1642. Both this bell, and the one from Eayre previously mentioned, were re-cast by James Barwell of Birmingham in 1905.
Another bell from the Norris family hangs here, with this one being dated 1678. I believe that this one was cast by Tobias Norris III and has the initial M.G and I.M on it, who may have been the churchwardens of the day. The fourth bell was cast by Richard Haulsey of St Ives in 1628.
There are some very well carved gargoyles and grotesques to be seen here. Was prtticularly taken with a bulbous nosed winged creature on the north wall. Elsewhere, a beast sticks in tongue out in medieval gesture of insult, whilst close by a morose human like figure with heart shaped face pulls its mouth open. Another gesture of insult in days gone by. The quality of some of the carvings is very high indeed and I suspect that some of them are relatively modern, possibly Victorian.
This was the 143rd church that I had photographed for this website. Add to that another 150 or so out of the area and it comes out to nearly 300 churches visited during the last five years. This was the first time, however, that I had found so much of interest in the wall of the church grounds This wall is a grade II listed building in its own right and it was restored as a community project in 2005. Just take a look at the photograph at the bottom of the page on the left. This seems to break every building code and health and safety guideline ever written down. At times it appears to be held together by the power of prayer! Several different types of brickwork are contained within the structure and, at one point, a finial has been inset in to the wall. A fascinating piece of work.
The whole church is heavily butressed and on my visit there was scaffolding up against the west tower. Gravestones rest at precarious angles and it was good to see one very old grave, which I would think would date from the late 17th century, with very rustic lettering with the letter "P" in the word departed being back to front!. This is sinking in to the ground and vistually illegible.
The church was locked to visitors, as are so many in this area. A lovely village though and spent an enjoyable time here.