COATES : CHURCH OF HOLY TRINITY
Church Post Code PE7 2EB
Please check for church opening.
Coates is a small village which can be found alongside the A605, some two miles east of Whittlesey, with Peterborough some ten miles off to the west. This makes the church here the furthest east to be covered in the catchment area of this site.
The church is set back from the main road, in front of a large village green, one of two in the village. Close by is a Wesleyan/Methodist chapel, which opened for worship in 1840, at the same time roughly that the church was built, but this closed in 2012.
This is a quiet, peaceful area; despite the close proximity of the busy main road. I first visited here on a bitterly cold winter afternoon in the winter of 2014. The church was closed that afternoon, but was open on a subsequent visit some three years later. I can confirm that Coates is a 40 minute walk from Whittlesey; this being the amount of time it took to walk back to Whittlesey after missing my bus.
The structure that we see today consists of nave with north and south aisles, south porch, tower and chancel. The church is surrounded by trees and is difficult to shoot as a result, but looking at the exterior, nave runs seamlessly in to chancel; both east and west ends are large and impressive and the tower is offset to the north east of the structure. This reminded me of St Mark in Peterborough itself, where the church, also Victorian, has the tower in the same position.
The church itself dates from 1840, with the church consecrated and dedicated to the Holy Trinity in July of that year.
The tower and spire are slender, with a single small bell hanging here, which was cast by Thomas Mears II in 1840. There was restoration here in 1874, at which point the seating was increased so that 500 could be accommodated, and again in 1890 with the tower was partially restored in 1902. At the time of the 1870’s restoration the population of the village was around 1200 and it does bring home how good church attendance was back in those days.
The church here was built for £1,178. According to an online currency converter this equates to £127,868 in today’s money.
As mentioned earlier the church was closed on my initial visit but was open on a subsequent visit; interior shots therefore are from that return visit.
Moving inside, it was bright and welcoming, with whitewashed walls and sunlight streaming in through the west window as the sun headed to the west and started to dip. The immediate reaction on seeing the interior for the first time was of height!
There are four bays to east and west, each tall and elegant with the chancel arch similar. Carving of human heads peer out across the nave from the capitals; which are cut in an angular almost art deco style.
Obviously, this is a Victorian interior, but the decoration in the small chancel looks Georgian, with the three light east window edged in light blue, with the chancel ceiling the same. The altar is plain and simple with just a couple of candlesticks and a cross. The setting sun was casting the shadow of a cross on to the east wall to the right of the reredos, which takes the form of three blind arcades.
There is little in the way of stained glass here, with just a couple of depictions. The east window is of clear glass for the most part, but with just the central panel edged with colour with a trinity shield on that panel.
This was a diagram which was often used to explain the concept of the trinity. It consists of four nodes. The three outer nodes would have been labelled with the elements of the trinity “Father” “Son” and “Holy Spirit”. The inner node would have been labelled “God”. Six lines connect the nodes and these lines would have been marked either “is” or “is not” Twelve statements can be made as follows…
The Father is God" "The Son is God" "The Holy Spirit is God" "God is the Father" "God is the Son" "God is the Holy Spirit" "The Father is not the Son" "The Father is not the Holy Spirit" "The Son is not the Father" "The Son is not the Holy Spirit" "The Holy Spirit is not the Father" "The Holy Spirit is not the Son"
Of the other two, one depicts Jesus holding a baby with young children at his feet. The other shows St Francis of Assisi ; as usual he is shown surrounded by animals. In this case birds and a squirrel and wears a brown habit which is the robe of the Franciscan order. However, this depiction does not show the stigmata, the wounds of Christ’s crucifixion which appeared on St Francis’ body.
Moving back outside, the light quality was lovely as the sun was starting to set and I played the usual game of looking for an arty shot of a gravestone cross. This kept me occupied for a few minutes and, in hindsight, was responsible for me missing the bus and having to walk back to Whittlesey.
To the south of the church grounds stands a large cross with an inscription on it which reads..."Let the little Children come to me, do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs" which is from the Gospel of Mark Chapter 10 verse 14. This is a verse that has been used on the gravestones of children for many years.
There is nothing of any great interest or rarity here but I will briefly note an angel, crouched in mourning, head bowed and partially covered in lichen, against the epitaph of the deceased.
As was mentioned earlier, there was no church on this site prior to 1840, and therefore it is reasonable to assume that you would find nothing in the church grounds earlier than that date. I was most surprised to find a stone Roman coffin at the back of the church though. This is a very good example as well, with there being a cut out at the top to support the head. There are a few Roman coffins scattered around the churches within the catchment area of this site with further examples to be found at Chesterton, Castor (with the gravestone of Edmond Artis the antiquary who excavated the area alongside), Water Newton, Barnack and Greatford.
I had thought that the area of Eastrea and Coates had been under water until the Fens were drained here in the 17th century. Therefore, the sight of a Roman coffin here surprised me. A little research though showed that a Roman skeleton was dug up at nearby Eastrea in 2010, so the Romans inhabited the area. I tried to get some information from the church on when and where this coffin was found. They were unsure but did suggest that it might have been possible for a previous Rector to have obtained it and brought it back to church grounds from elsewhere.
I enjoyed my two brief visits here. I am not sure what the current situation is with regards the church here being open to visitors. It was when I last visited but that was pre covid and I daresay things could have changed since then. The church of Holy Trinity is a nice church in a pleasant village and is well worth a look if you get the chance.