Early May 2010 and the sun was shining again! Amazingly, it seemed as if we were going to have a decent Spring. I had taken out the cycle with the intention of cycling to Harringworth and photographing the church and viaduct there. That done I set off for home, taking a very long and circuitous route via Laxton, Blatherwycke, Kings Cliffe, Apethorpe and then Woodnewton. As always it was a delight to be out.
Woodnewton is a charming East Northamptonshire village, with its main claim to fame probably being that Nikolai Polakvos, Coco The Clown, retired to Woodnewton in 1973, and died there shortly afterwards. The village hosts a "Clownfest" festival, a fund raising event which was inspired by Coco.
The church here stands on the route of the Rockingham Villages 40 mile cycle ride, which is organised by the British Heart Foundation, that I take part in each year. By the time that we reach Woodnewton we have cycled more than 30 miles and by that time I am pleased to see this church, not for any finer points of church architecture, but becuase it means that we are only about eight miles from home!
The church of St Mary dates back to the 11th century, but very little of that early structure remains. Much of the building dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. The priests door pictured below right with its rounded head and dog dooth ornamentation dates from the 12th century. The tower was rebuilt in the 17th century. In fact, much work was undertaken at this church at the time, with the porch having a date marker of 1662 above it. In the 17th century the north aisle and transept were demolished.
The church was restored in 1910, with a plaque inside recording that this restoration was courtesy of the Brassey family from nearby Apethorpe.
It is good to see that the church here is always open and welcoming. Lots to see here as well, starting in the south porch where some large fragments of medieval coffin lids stand. Inside, and my eye was caught by some rather "rustic" heads carved in to a pillar. A figure of a cherub sits above the heads. Close by stands a bier.
There are a few biers still to be seen in our village churches. A bier was a wheeled vehicle which the coffin would be placed on before it went in procession to the burial site. The one here is a very nice example. I have seen several biers in churches and they are normally pretty much hidden out of the way. Not so here; the bier stands at the side of the seats in the nave...and quite rightly so, it is a lovely thing! St Mary inside is light and welcoming, and looked glorious when I was there with sun flooding in through the south windows.
There is Victorian stained glass in the chancel and a little internet research indicates that there are a few fragments of medieval stained glass here as well. This I certainly missed when I was here. Will try and get some photographs next time I am in the area.
There is a ring of two bells at St Mary. When North was doing his study of church bells in the 1860's he noted two bells here. The first was dated 1640, and was cast by Thomas Norris of the Stamford bellfoundry. This bears the inscription "Thomas Norris made mee 1640". The second is from Peterborough founder Henry Penn, probably the most famous bellfounder in this area. This one is dated 1720 and has the names Charles Hall and William Exton, who were the church warderns at the time, inscribed in to it. A look at the National Church Bell Databse today shows that the bell from Thomas Norris was re-cast by Taylors of Loughborough in 1910.
There are plenty of gargoyles on the south wall of St Mary. These are pretty badly weathered and are not of the highest quality to be truthful.
The church grounds here are very spacious and over to the north side the church boundry is a gorgeous old cottage with slightly sagging roofline and greenery around all of the windows.
In amongst the usual Georgian cherubs there are a few very old graves. My eye was caught by a simple marker with the initials A.G and the date 1661. As always, some of the Georgian headstones here are of superb quality.
Those who know me will know of my love for East Northamptonshire. I am at my happiest in this area and have a real liking for the villages here. As far as I am concerned Woodnewton is an exquisite village with a delightful church. It is always a pleasure to visit here, and would recommend having a look if you are in the area.
Had a nourishing lunch of a bar of chocolate and a can of drink, then it was back on the cycle and off to Nassington.