BLATHERWYCKE : CHURCH OF HOLY TRINITY

Church Post Code PE8 6YW

Usually open to visitors

REDUNDANT : CARED FOR BY THE CHURCHES CONSERVATION TRUST.

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It was a gloriously sunny mid April morning in 2022, on what was to turn out to be the warmest day of the year thus far, and it was a return visit to Blatherwycke. The village here can be found some six miles north east of Corby; with the church and village set at the side of Blatherwycke Lake, a 58 acre lake which was dug out by hand during the 19th century. The village here is one of the furthest to the North West to be covered by this site.

I spent the four day Easter holiday locally back in 2010 and joined a walk of witness on Good Friday which went from Blatherwycke to Bulwick. I am fairly certain that the procession of a dozen or so was led by a donkey; what I do recall clearly though is looking over to my left part way through the walk and seeing an alpaca peering over a hedge as we walked past.

Fond memories also of being inside the church of Holy Trinity on the Easter bank holiday Monday, watching beautiful multi coloured reflections cast by the sun through the stained glass, fall across the chancel.

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The church here is set back from the main road which runs through the village; and there is no vehicle access to the church itself. Walking up the track which leads to the church, the Norman tower of Holy Trinity comes in to view from between the trees. There was a delightfully rural feel here as I walked up the track to the church; with the sounds of bird calls coming from the lake close by. No traffic noise, just the sounds of birds! I remembered my first trip here, standing in the north west of the church grounds looking at a pair of swans on their nest.

Tranquil and beautiful; with this being backed up by the village sign, which depicts the church along with Red Kite, Pheasant and Deer!

The church here is redundant, having closed for worship in 1976, and from 1978 has been looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust. At one point there were two settlements here, with each having its own church. The church of St Mary Magdalene off to the west is long since gone, having closed in 1448. The structure that we see today consists of west tower, nave with impressive north aisle and north chapel, south porch and chancel.

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The church was open to visitors, but I spent a little time taking a look at the exterior before entering. The Norman tower was substantially rebuilt during the 17th century; and is of three stages with plain parapet across the top. The church clock, which originally stood in the nearby stable block of the manor house, is set to the west face. At the foot of the west face of the tower is a re-set, bricked up, 12th century doorway with rounded arch. What strikes the visitor on looking at the exterior is the size of the north aisle and chapel, which is of great size and which runs virtually the entire length of the structure! The initial impression here is that there was great wealth here back through the ages.

There was an Elizabethan hall here, which was rebuilt in the 1720’s and which was demolished in 1948. Over the centuries the Engaines, the Staffords and the Stafford O’Brians were all wealthy landowners who would have supported the church here, helping to make it what we see today.

A single bell hangs in the tower here, this dating back to 1480 but being re cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1917. This bell was inscribed ‘Nomen Magdalene Campane Geret Mallode’ which translates as ‘In the name of Magdalene make a joyful ring’

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Moving inside, through a beautiful 11th century inner doorway, my eye was immediately caught by the tower arch, which is also 12th century, the same date and style as the doorway in the outer west wall of the tower. The north aisle is of two bays, but to indicate the size of the chancel and chapel, there are three bays separating chancel from north chapel! So, we can certainly see that there is plenty of age here, but there has been considerable building work here over the years.

As mentioned earlier, the tower was for the most part rebuilt during the17th century; the chancel was rebuilt in 1819 and the north aisle and chapel were rebuilt during the mid to late 19th century. The rebuilding of the latter does not mean that the size was increased by this rebuilding; in fact the length of the chancel was reduced a little at that time.

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There is plenty of stained glass here. The east window is coloured patterned glass, which looks to be Victorian and which was casting some nice reflections throughout the interior. However, the rest of the glass is of more interest. The east wall of the north chapel has a series of roundels, which refers to Matthew Chapter 25 verses 35 and 36.

‘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.’

There are six instructions from Jesus here as to how we are to treat people, but there are seven roundels. Why the extra one? This extra one is central, with the other six circling around it. This one depicts people mourning over a coffin and was added to the six mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel in the middle ages, these forming the "Corporal works of mercy" proposed by the Catholic church; in which we are to treat everyone, however lowly they might appear, as if they were Jesus.

Jesus in majesty is at the top of this window, hand raised in blessing and carrying a globe in the other hand, with more text from Matthew Chapter 25 which reads’ Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’

There is a three light Easter window here, which is appropriate as I am compiling this page on Easter Sunday 2022. The first panel shows the scene early on Easter Sunday morning; the angel points upwards ‘He is not here He has risen’; with a look of shock on what I think is Mary the mother of Jesus. The second panel shows Jesus sitting with the two disciples He encountered on the road to Emmaus; their eyes being opened as he broke bread with them.

The third panel is another to demonstrate a person’s eyes being opened, ‘Rabboni’ Mary Magdalene says as she finally realises who she is talking to.

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My favourite stained glass window at this church, and probably within my favourites to be found within the catchment area of this site, can be seen to the west end of the north aisle. Dating from the mid 19th century, it shows three figures are at prayer as the sun rises up, with a cross in front of the sun. The cross should be in shadow but it isn’t! I have never been inside this church as the sun has gone around to the west at the end of the day, but I would imagine that the multi coloured reflections cast through this window are wonderful!

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Against the north wall of the north chapel is a memorial to John Stafford and his wife Bridget Clopton. The figures here do not face each other, as you would normally find, but all face east, kneeling on cushions with hands raised in prayer. Under John and Bridget are three daughters and five sons. One of the daughters is wrapped up in a chrisom robe; this being a white robe that was put on a child after birth and which was used as a shroud if the child died within the first month.

Also on the north wall here is a memorial brass to Sir Humphrey Stafford, who died in 1548. Her is depicted dressed in armour, with hands at prayer. The brass to his wife Margaret, is badly damaged. Below left is a plate which shows six male children, with an indent to the left which at one point would have held a plate showing female children.

Close by is a ledger slab recording the death of one of John’s children, William. This reads Here under lieth buried the body of Sir William Stafford, Knight, whose soule the Lord hath taken to his mercy the 16 daie of November, 1606" My spell checker did not care for this inscription!

Throughout the church are grotesquely carved human faces, with the almost obligatory mouth puller among them, along with a female figure wearing an ornate headscarf, which I am assuming could be dated by the style of the scarf by those who know their medieval fashion!

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This is a glorious church; isolated and beautiful and one of my favourites to be found within the catchment area of this site. Okay, it is no longer used for worship, and hasn’t been for getting on for 50 years as this is being typed but it is still loved and visited. A testimony to the work of the Churches Conservation Trust and other similar charities who are helping to preserve our heritage.

Holy Trinity has been open on each occasion that I have visited but there is a note up in the porch detailing how to access the key if the visitors finds it locked.

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To visit the page for Steeple Gidding, please click on the photograph immediately above left. To visit the page for Tickencote please click on the photograph above central. To visit the page for my visit to Ufford please click on the photograph above right. All of these are churches which are also cared for bt the Churches Conservation Trust. Each page will open up in another window.