BULWICK : CHURCH OF ST NICHOLAS.
Church Post Code NN17 3ET
Church normally open to visitors
Those reading through the pages of this site will hopefully pick up on my love for the Northamptonshire villages to be found within the catchment area of this site. One of my favourite of these is Bulwick.
I first visited the church of St Nicholas, Bulwick, on Easter weekend 2008; staying at neighbouring Laxton on a four day cycling tour of the area. I have fond memories of a Good Friday walk of witness, which started at Blatherwycke and ended with a service at Bulwick. Unless my memory is playing tricks there was a donkey leading the procession; what is beyond doubt is a clear memory of sensing movement to my left and looking over, seeing an alpaca peering over the hedge as our small party walked past. Also fond memories of sharing an Easter Saturday evening meal of Mongolian Lamb with a one eyed border collie at my digs!
I photographed the church of St Nicholas on Easter Sunday, with a magnificent peal of six bells living long in the memory. This visit was with an early and basic digital camera; I always wanted to return with a better camera and this came about on a dull January day in 2016. All of the photographs included on this page are from that later visit.
Bulwick is a small, attractive village, which is the furthest church to the west of Peterborough which is covered by this site. The population, along with neighbouring Blatherwycke, was 171 at the time of the 2011 census. Bulwick is six miles north east of Corby, with Oundle seven miles off to the south east. The village has an award winning public house, the Queens Head, directly opposite the church which had closed down for a time but was due to reopen literally as this page was being revised in February 2022.
The church is imposing, and sits at the centre of the village. It consists of west tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel. The structure that we see today was built during the 13th century and extended during the 14th century, with restoration in the 1860’s.
The west tower is of four stages and is perpendicular. It is heavily buttressed with tall elegant two light lancet windows on all four sides at the belfry stage. Gargoyles look out from each corner. The church clock in the traditional colours of blue and gold is set in to the south face. A tall, recessed octagonal spire rises up from the tower.
Some good shots are to be had at distance from the north. The tower and spire can be seen in the midst of trees, with just a chimney or two from the cottages close to the church. At some point, I intend to return to the church here and reshoot the exterior. Each tome that I have visited here, conditions have been dull and photographs have suffered as a result.
There are six bells in the ring here. When Thomas North compiled his study of Northamptonshire church bells in 1878, there were five bells hanging here; a sixth being added by Taylor of Loughborough in the early 2000’s, this being the new first of the ring.
The current situation with regards the other five is the same as North found it. The second and third of the present ring were cast locally, by Thomas Norris of the Stamford bellfoundry, in 1629. The second is inscribed ‘Omnia Fiant Ad Gloriam Dei’ which translates as ‘Let all things be done for them glory of God’.
The third is inscribed ‘Non Clamor Sed Amor Cantat In Avre Dei’ ‘Love’s voice not noise sings in the ear of God’. As is normal with bells from this founder, the ‘N’s are reversed.
The fourth of the ring is another from Norris, this one from 1630, with this one again having the ‘Omnia Fiant…’ inscription. These three bells came from early on in Thomas Norris’ very long career. He was active for 52 years, from 1626 until 1678.
The fifth is from Taylor of Loughborough, dated 1859. North remarks that this is a recasting of an existing bell; it is probably reasonable to think that this would originally have been another from the Stamford bellfoundry.
The sixth of the ring is another from Thomas Norris’ this one is dated 1648 and is engraved with the names John Mason and W Bellamie, the church wardens of the day.
The church was open to visitors.. There are four bay arcades to north and south, with the most eastern bay on the north arcade housing the church organ. Most of the fittings internally look to be from the Victorian restoration.
There is a lovely piscina with attached triple sedilia on the south wall of the chancel. This dates from the late 13th century. The marble reredos on the east wall more recent by about 500 years!
The fine east window is of five lights, with the central three lights over two levels featuring depictions of the Crucifixion and the Last Supper. On the upper level, Christ is shown with long flowing blonde hair, crucified wearing the crown of thorns. Night had fallen early, with Jerusalem still visible in the background.
Jesus’ face is turned towards the women supported Him at the cross. To the right as we look at it, John is accompanied by two other male figures, including one figure on his knees at prayer dressed in armour. Over the top of this scene, angels look down, some wielding censers.
Below this scene is a depiction of the Last Supper. Jesus is central, hand raised in blessing, in the process of giving communion. Jesus looks straight ahead, directly in to the eyes of those looking on. John leans in against his Lord; with five disciples to either side. Eleven disciples are portrayed; Judas has already left to betray Jesus in to the hands of the Pharisees.
There is a large amount of stained glass here, with the vast majority being Victorian. There is a small amount of medieval fragments in the tracery of two windows in the south aisle. One panel features a depiction of St Nicholas, after whom the church is dedicated. He holds a ship; he is the patron saint of sailors.
As I was taking in the stained glass, one panel immediately appealed to me. Mary of Bethany, anoints Jesus' feet with nard; Mary gazes upwards intently at Jesus, who in turn gazes back at her. There is a real intensity to this one. This one does it for me. Beautiful!
There is an interesting set of carved pew ends here, which date from the period of Victorian restoration, being carved by the incumbent of the day, John Hildich. Included in the set are St Peter, who along with several other of the figures, is depicted with tiny hands, with the keys to the kingdom of Heaven dangling from his belt. St Andrew is depicted carrying a saltire cross, denoting the manner of his martyrdom.
St John the Baptist carries a cross and points upwards towards Heaven, whilst the apostle John is portrayed with an eagle; the symbol to which he is associated. St Thomas holds a set square, symbolising the fact that he is reputed to have built a church by hand.
Judas carries a bag of money in tiny hands’ whilst Jesus appears as the Good Shepherd, cradling a lamb in His arms. My favourite though is a seated crowned figure who appears to be whistling, whilst playing a peal of five bells, which are mounted on to a frame. Rustically carved and an absolute delight! A lasting legacy of the vicar of the day 150 odd years ago!
A wall monument can be seen on the south wall of the nave. This is to Henry Fowkes, who died in 1612 and his wife, whose name I have not been able to find out, who died in 1609. The carved alabaster figures face each other across a prayer desk, each with hands raised in prayer. A coat of arms appears to have been chiselled off the prayer desk and this monument appears incomplete. The bottom part appears to be missing, which would normally have had the couple’s children lined up below their parents.
A beautiful church in a lovely village! It is always good to visit here. One day I will return when the sun is shining and load up some better photos of the exterior. The church of St Nicholas is well worth a look if you are in the area.