BARNWELL : CHURCH OF ST ANDREW

Church Post Code PE8 5QH

This church is normally open to visitors.

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It was late February 2022 and a revisit to the church of St Andrew, Barnwell. I had visited here with a basic digital camera in 2007 and it took a mere 15 years to return to reshoot the interior! There was a visit made here though in 2020, on Ride and Stride day, when the church was closed for covid related reasons.

Barnwell was formerly two villages, All Saints and St Andrew, with each having its own church. The church of All Saints was pulled down in 1825, with the exception of the chancel which still stands today.  The villages joined up and became one, with the church of St Andrew caring for the whole. At the time of the 2011 census, the village population was 369.

Barnwell is around two miles south of Oundle, with the river Nene separating the two villages. This is a delightful village. A stream runs through the centre, with public house and village green close by. A red phone box, dated 1935, stands on the green and has a Grade II listing in its own right. A 12th century castle stands to the west of the village.

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This was the sixth and final church visited on what had turned in to a glorious Friday afternoon. With the exception of All Saints at Barnwell, I had visited all six remaining churches in the Brooksfield Benefice. All six had been open, with three of these by arrangement. The church at Barnwell though, along with Lutton and Polebrook would have been open anyway.

The village was quiet that afternoon but I have fond memories of the September visit in 2020. We were in between covid lulls at that point and there were plenty of people about, making the most of a beautiful warm and sunny afternoon. The pub was heaving and a man with a classic car, which probably cost the same as I would earn in around 15 years, had gathered an admiring crowd around him. If someone from another country asked to see a beautiful English village, you could do a lot worse than point them in the direction of Barnwell!

On this clear, sunny February day I had cycled in from neighbouring Thurning, cycling in over an ancient bridge in the village centre, the church stood off to the west.

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The church that we see today dates from the late 13th century, to the 14th century, with the chancel being restored by George Gilbert Scott in 1851. It consists of west tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel.

The west tower is of three stages and is without buttressing, a stair turret can be seen at the south east corner. The church clock is set to the south face, partially blocking an ancient window which had dogtooth carvings in the tracery. A very weathered face can just be seen peering over the top of the clock. Just below this is a circular window of real age, which again has dogtooth ornamentation.

The octagonal broach spire has three tiers of lucarne windows, which are set at the main compass points. Some very weathered gargoyles can be seen on the south wall of the nave, with other grotesque faces to be seen on a corbel string which runs across the top of the nave.

There are two bells hanging here, with one of these of real antiquity. The first of the ring is thought to have been cast by Robert Mellours of Nottingham, circa 1510. In the past, some bellfounders were itinerant, travelling from place to place, setting up temporary furnaces at the church they were casting for. Perhaps this may have been the case here, given the distance!

The second of the ring was cast fairly locally, by Thomas Norris of the Stamford bellfoundry. This bell is dated 1678, which was the final year of what was a 52 year career. This bell is inscribed ‘Thomas Norris Made Mee 1678’.

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Moving inside, I was made welcome by a lady doing some work in the church in readiness for the service that Sunday. She showed me some of the memorials and imparted some of the facts connected with these; also showing me the seat that Princess Alice, the Duchess of Gloucester used to sit in. Alice was aunt by marriage to Queen Elisabeth II, spending much of her life in the village. Alice retired from public duties at the age of 98, before passing away in October 2004 at the age of 102.

It was bright and welcoming inside. The sun had started to move across to the west and the chancel was beautifully lit. This is a large church inside, with three very wide bays to north and south, leading up to a tall elegant, pointed chancel arch.

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As mentioned earlier the chancel was restored in 1851. The altar is plain and tasteful, with candlesticks and two vases of white tulips.

A restored monument to Revd Nicholas Latham, who died in 1620, is set fairly high up on the south wall of the chancel; looking distinguished with white beard and moustache. His prayer book is open but he looks up, out across the chancel. A carving of a human skull can be seen lower down on this monument, reminding the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die. This is accompanied by the Latin ‘Mors te omni loco expectat tu ergo illiam omni expecta’ which translates as ‘Death waits for you in every place therefore you wait for her in every place’.

Close by this is a memorial brass to Nicholas Freeman who died in 1610. Freeman and his wife kneel with hands raised in prayer, facing each other across a prayer desk. Their eight children, four sons and four daughters, line up behind their parents, each with hands also raised in prayer.

The east window is glorious, and I think I would have this one in my list of favourite stained glass windows to be found within the catchment area of this site. There are two tiers of five lights, with the central light on the upper tier illustrating the ascension. Central at the bottom is the crucifixion, with Jesus cradling a lamb to the left of that as we look at it.

The other panels depict scenes from Matthew Chapter 25 verses 35 and 36 which read, in the NIV ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

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Other stained glass includes a depiction of St Peter, with key to the Kingdom of Heaven, St Andrew with saltire cross and St Paul with downturned sword, the point of which is really close to his bare foot. St Peter and St Paul are easily identifiable by their symbols, but can also be identified by their receding hairlines!

Above this, up in the tracery, is some medieval glass, with four small depictions of Bishops and a King. On either side are angels at prayer, with the latter appearing to be more recent.

It doesn’t have to be big to be beautiful! An exquisite small depiction of an angel with golden wings and carrying a lantern can be seen in the quatre foil tracery of a window in the nave.

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The church grounds are of interest, with some finely carved gravestones from the 18th century. There is nothing of any great rarity but a crown is carved in to several of the stones; the crown being a symbol of victory, the victory here being over death; a statement as to the faith of the deceased.

Walking up to the south porch it was interesting to see some parts of the demolished church of All Saints forming the west churchyard wall.

This is a lovely church and I enjoyed my time here very much. In fact the whole day was highly enjoyable; with six open churches, roughly 30 miles cycled in lovely conditions in an area that I love! I was also still pleasingly full of lemon drizzle and flapjack from a previous church.  A lady at Polebrook pointed out with a laugh, at the start of the day, where the defibrillators were in the villages that I was going to visit! Fortunately they were not needed and I headed off home in good spirits and hopeful that my legs would hold out in the ten miles journey home.

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To visit the page for Barnwell All Saints, the other church in the village, please click on the photograph immediately above left to be taken there. To visit the page for neighbouring Hemington, click on the photograph above right to be directed there.