COLLYWESTON : CHURCH OF ST ANDREW

Church Post Code PE9 3PW

Church open to visitors.

Collyweston is a small pleasant village in North Northamptonshire, in that confusing area where four county boundaries can be found within a few miles of each other. Ketton in Rutland is a mile or two off to the north west. Stamford in Lincolnshire is three miles off to the north east. Wittering in Cambridgeshire is four miles or so, as the crow flies, or possibly that should read as the Harrier Jump Jet flies, off to the east. The population of the parish was a tad over 500 at the time of the 2011 census.

The river Welland runs past the village to the west, as it winds its way from Stamford. The church of St Andrew sits in the centre of the village, hemmed in a little in tight church grounds; difficult to shoot the exterior as a result.

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   This is a village with a great deal of history.  There was once a Royal Palace at Collyweston, which was built between 1412 and 1441. All that remains these days are some earthworks, garden terraces, two fishponds and park boundary banks. The palace was demolished and cleared in 1720.  It was a favourite place to stay for Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII and grandmother of King Henry VIII. It was the principal residence of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond; the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, from 1531 until 1536. Nothing remains of the building itself, but it is thought that the clock mechanism at the church came from the palace. With regards Margaret Beaufort, it is thought that she was responsible for the late 15th century south chapel and other restoration of the church at that time.

One of my fondest memories of churchcrawling was at Collyweston, on a gloriously warm and sunny Sunday afternoon in 2013. David and I were to the north of the church when I heard the unmistakable sound of a camper van coming from the east. It came in to view and I snapped a couple of shots as it barrelled past the church. We waved to each other as it sped past and the thought came in to my mind; I hope that someone sees this photograph in a hundred years’ time and realises how much we were enjoying ourselves on a sunny day in our own respective ways.

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The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north aisle and clerestories, south porch, south chapel and chancel. The tower is tall and perpendicular, buttressed and battlemented with crocketed pinnacles.  The church grounds are quite tight as mentioned earlier but the tower is tall and there are good views of the top of the tower to be seen, rising above some glorious old buildings, throughout the village.

It is thought that the church here dates back to the 11th century, with much work being completed here during the 13th to 15th centuries.  The chancel was extended during the 13th century, with the chancel arch being widened the century after.

There was much work completed here in the 15th century, possibly after Margaret Beaufort acquired the manor. It is suggested that the work here dates to 1490.  At this time the tower was added, as was the south chapel and porch. The nave was heightened with clerestory added and the south wall rebuilt. There was much Victorian restoration here in the 1850’s.

It is unusual to see a south chapel where there is no south aisle. There is an entrance to this south chapel from the chancel, but there is also an external entrance at the west end of the chapel itself.

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Two bells hang in the tower here. At the time of Norths Victorian study of the church bells of Northamptonshire, there were two bells hanging here, with each being cast locally in 1636, by Thomas Norris of the Stamford bellfoundry.

   North notes that there were originally four bells hanging here and in the late 1540's two....."bellys (were) takyne doune owt of the steple and sold to Rychard Harryson of Owndyll" who was a shopkeeper in Oundle at that time. Perhaps, Norris re-cast the two remaining bells in 1636. Still on the subject of North's look at Collyweston, it seemed as if he was less than happy about the safety of the tower.... "the ascent to these bells is not a pleasant one. A perfectly perpendicular, and very tall ladder leads to the first floor from whence a second ladder, with wide intervals between the "rounds" leads to the bell chamber, where the floor is "crazy" and unsafe"

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The church here always used to be closed to visitors, keyholder details being listed for anyone who wished to visit. I revisited in August 2022 and was delighted to find the ‘Church Open’ sign out’. A friendly local was around and he told me that they had started to open a few years before covid and had resumed opening after the restrictions had been lifted.

Entrance was through the south porch, with a sign asking the visitor to keep the door closed to keep the squirrels out! Moving inside, it was bright and welcoming; with whitewashed walls and the sun streaming in through the south clerestory windows.

There was a real sense of peace and calm inside. There are Victorian pews in the nave and north aisle, with a blue carpet running the length of the nave and on in to the chancel. The north aisle is of two bays, with a small altar at the east end. There is a cross mounted to the east wall, with a three light east window of stained glass.

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There is a decent amount of stained glass here, with none of being of any great age; dating from Victorian times or early 20th century. At the west end of the nave, a three light window includes scenes from the life if St Andrew, after who the church is dedicated. This includes a central panel depicting his crucifixion on a saltire cross. Sadly, either myself or my camera (it was probably myself) misfired and my photograph of this window was out of focus and unusable!

As with the nave, the chancel shows the hand of the Victorian restorers. Two candles stand on either side of the small altar. Oak panelling runs across the width of the chancel with a curtain acting as a reredos. Two gilded angles stand on either side of the reredos, wings unfurled, with each holding out a cross. A two light window on the south wall of the chancel is now blocked. On the ledge is a bottle of hand sanitiser. Eagle eyed visitors would probably be able to spot this and date the photograph to the covid years!

The east window is of three lights, with the central light depicting the crucifixion; Mary and John standing at the cross with the crucified Christ. This is flanked by the letters Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

 There are two windows, each of three lights, on the south wall of the nave, which detail parts of the events of Holy Week.  In one Jesus prays at the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His arrest. This is followed by the crucifixion and the resurrection; with the latter seeing the risen Christ emerging from the tomb in front of sleeping Roman soldiers. In the other, Christ is taken up in to Heaven in front of the remaining eleven disciples and Mary, who is at prayer with her head veiled.

There are steps from the chancel up in to the south chapel, which has a raised floor tom accommodate a burial vault below. Margaret Beaufort herself is not buried here herself; she rests in the south aisle of Henry VIII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey. The chapel was housing a display from the local historic society when I visited.

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  The church grounds are of interest, with some finely carved stones from the 18th century. One depicts a human skull, the deaths head, which was a symbol to remind the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die. You will go the way of the deceased so live a good Christian life as you did not know when your own time would come; and in days of low life expectancy it could be later than you think! The skull here is shown with wings which symbolises the same passage of the soul to Heaven.

I really enjoyed looking around this church. This was my first look inside; leaving Wittering as the only church that I had failed to gain access to in churches within the catchment area of this site. Well worth a look if you are in the area. Exterior photographs are from my visit in the summer of 2013, with interior shots from my August 2022 revisit.

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