A HISTORICAL GUIDE
Let us have a look at the church as it is today before delving more deeply into its history. The building is entered through a late 19th century porch with modern gates made by a local blacksmith. The porch covers a much restored 14th century doorway. The door itself is fairly modern, but its ironwork dates from the late 15th or early 16th century. Just inside to the left is an early 16th century holy water stoup. To the right is the 19th century font.
The nave was built around the year 1170. To this period belong the blocked south doorway and the chancel arch. In 1884 the nave was lengthened westwards and the west tower built. The bell in the west tower is said to be by Richard Phelps, and to date from 1711. He had a famous foundry from which came bells for St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey and at which Bow Bell was re-cast.
You can still see quite clearly on the outside of the south wall the point at which the original building ended. On the south doorway is a scratch dial, and there is another on a stone to the west of it which was obviously re-used in the building operations of 1884. The west and north-west windows of the nave are, of course, part of the extension. The north-east and south-east windows have been much restored, but show traces of 14th century workmanship.
The recess in the south wall, by the chancel arch is an interesting enigma. It dates from the early 13th century and it has been suggested that it had once been a pilgrims' shrine to St. Thomas of Canterbury. The reason for this theory is that during the restoration of 1879 a curious mural painting was discovered behind the brickwork and plaster of the recess. The painting was sketched by Mrs Williams, the wife of the Churchwarden, before it crumbled away. It showed four knights in armour of the period of Henry II, two of them pointing their swords at a kneeling figure. The drawing is reproduced above.
The pulpit has an inscription ‘R 1700 C’. We do not know what the initials stand for, but the pulpit is of this period.
The chancel was rebuilt in the 14th century and, although it has since been restored, it retains its essential character. The piscina (stone basin) and triple sedilia (seats for priests) are original, and there is 14th century workmanship in the windows and priests doorway. The south vestry was added in l858 using this doorway and the organ chamber was added in 1909.
On the south wall of the chancel is the 1914-19 war memorial. The village war memorial stands on a slope at the cross-roads known as Turp's Corner.
In 1985 the chancel was re-ordered, the floor was raised and carpeted, the communion table brought forward and new benches placed on either side. The choir stalls were removed and the reredos moved to the west wall of the tower. This reredos came originally from Kempston, Beds. and has some 15th century tracery.
The stained glass in the east window was inserted in 1966, and is the work of Messrs. Goddard & Gibbs. The central figure is that of the Virgin and Child. The Virgin stands within a circle of stars to represent the heavens. Behind her head is the sun and above a six-pointed star, recalling the six days of creation. At her feet are the world and the serpent, representing Adam's fall. Her foot is upon the serpent to symbolise the overcoming of the sins of the world. She wears a crown as ‘Queen of Heaven’.
The central emblem in the left hand light is the unicorn, emblem of the Incarnation. This is a familiar symbol of our Lord, early accepted as a symbol of purity and, therefore, especially related to the Virgin and the birth of Jesus. On the right-hand, side is the ‘Lamb of God’
(Ecce Agnus Dei) holding the banner of the resurrection. This is the emblem of the Redeemer.
At the top of the left-hand light is the winged man, representing St. Matthew. His gospel narrative traces Jesus’ human genealogy. At the bottom of the light is the winged ox of
St. Luke, the animal of sacrifice, since Luke stresses the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
The winged lion of St. Mark is shown at the top of the right-hand light. This is the symbol of St. Mark because his gospel narrative begins with the voice of one crying in the wilderness and this suggests the roar of a lion. At the base of this light is the eagle of St. John, his narrative rises to loftiest heights in dealing with the mind of Christ.
In the large traceries are the IHS (the first three letters of the Greek spelling of Jesus) and the Alpha and Omega, (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet) which signify that Jesus is the beginning and end of all things. All these emblems are linked together by oak branches, the emblem of virtue, force and strength.
The colourful banners around the walls have been made recently as part of a scheme which in 2007 is ongoing. The themes are based on the Bible and reflect the seasons.
JBW Sep 2007
Copies of a more in depth guide and history leaflet are available from within the church.