DUDDINGTON : CHURCH OF ST MARY
Church Post Code PE9 3QF
Usually open to visitors
I first visited the church of St Mary, Duddington, back in 2007, in the early months of shooting for the original website. This was the second church visited, on what was to be a week long churchcrawl of the area by cycle. It was an early start from my home to the west of Peterborough, in an attempt to avoid the worst of the heat; this turning out to be the hottest day of the summer. To be fair, it was also partly so that I could through the local villages as early as possible so that no one saw me in my lycra!
There was a lot more energy in the tank back in those days. I was stopping in digs to the north of Bourne, and cycled a very circuitous route there; turning a 25 miles journey in to one that just topped 60 miles! I definitely can state that those days are gone and I will not be repeating that journey again!
I had started off with a visit to the church of St Luke, at neighbouring Tixover. I arrived there before 9am and already a heat haze was forming over the oilseed rape fields adjacent to the church. By the time that I arrived at Duddington, it was evident that it was going to be a scorcher!
Duddington is a small village in Northamptonshire; in that confusing area where Northamptonshire, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire all seem to merge in to each other. The village here is on the east bank of the river Welland, right on the Rutland border. Tixover, a very short distance away is in Rutland. Stamford is six miles or so off to the south west. The village here has some history, and was mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086; the population was 281 at the time of the 2011 census.
This is a very attractive village, set in some picturesque countryside. There are fond memories of cycling along the A43, keeping an eye out at the spire of the church, partly hidden by trees, with a field of sheep in the foreground.
That first visit saw me armed with a basic digital camera and I always wanted to return one day, once I got a better camera. That return came on another hot and sunny late summer day in 2013.
David and I made our way towards the church down a tranquil lane; the octagonal broach spire rising up above tree and bushes which seemed to surround the church. It was shirtsleeve weather, and there was a pleasant background buzz of bees attracted to the buddleia, in full flower, close to the church gate.
We saw the spire at a little distance and were quite surprised on entering the grounds that the layout was different than I had expected. The tower here is not at the west but offset to the south east.
The structure that we today dates back to the mid 12th century, with additions during the following two centuries. The church here was restored in 1844. The church consists of nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch, north vestry, south east tower and chancel.
The tower is of three stages, and is buttressed up to the top of the second stage. The lower stage dates from the late 12th century, with a doorway on the south face, with rounded arch dating from that time. The tower is separated from the octagonal broach spire by a carved parapet, which looks to have been restored in recent times.
There are six bells in the ring here, with each of the six being cast by Gillett and Johnston in 1920, this being a founder who operated out of Croydon. When Thomas North compiled his list of the church bells of Northamptonshire, which was published in 1878, there was just a single bell here, this being attributed to the Newcombe foundry at Leicester, with no date being given.
North noted that there had been three bells hanging here in 1700, with two bells being melted down, according to what he was told at the time, to help pay for new millstones.
The nave and chancel are each battlemented. The clerestory windows are very small and are framed within a trefoil design. The chancel is heavily buttressed.
We walked up to the 14th century south porch, passing by a very old chest tomb, which is carved with the initials ‘TP’ and dated 1666. Obviously, because of the date, the though immediately struck as to whether this might be a memorial to a plague victim. At the side of this is a gravestone, lettering very faded, but the date of 1684 still discernible. Each of these has a Grade II listing in their own right.
We were delighted to find the church open; a sign hanging from a hook on the porch reading ‘St Marys Church Duddington Warmly Welcomes You’, which leads to an inner door which dates to the 12th century.
The visitor entering this church will be struck by the three bay north aisle. The central and eastern arches are on semi circular design; and are beautifully carved with a zig zag pattern, with this dating from the mid 12th century. The western bay is of a plain design and dates from either the late 12th or early 13th century. The south arcade also dates from the late `12th or early 13th centuries.
The east window is of three lights and has stained glass, the only stained glass to be seen here. Central is Christ, with one hand raised in blessing and carrying a globe. He is depicted with golden hair and piercing brown eyes. Flanking Christ we have Peter, on the left as we look at it, who carries the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. To the right is Paul, who as usual is depicted carrying a sword. As is always the case, both Peter and Paul are depicted with receding hairlines. Peter here is also depicted with white hair and a white beard, which may be a little unflattering to be fair!
Underneath these images we have three small panels, which are partly obscured by a Victorian reredos. Two of these panels show a cross and an anchor, the latter being an often used symbol of Christian faith. The central panel is of more interest though and depicts a Pelican in her piety. A close look here shows a Pelican plucking at her own breast, drawing blood, in order to feed her own young; a direct comparison between her actions and that of Christ, who went to the cross and shed His blood for us; the two being closely connected for that reason.
An interesting slab has the following inscription ‘Heare lyeth the body of Willim Jackson who departed this life Janu ye 12 day 1667’. The Jackson family have lived in Duddington Manor House since it was built, with a date stamp on the building reading 1633.
The church grounds were a delight, on this warm summer afternoon; what a lovely way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, enjoying the sun on our backs. A skull and crossed bones, a reminder to those looking on that Man is mortal and will die. Close by is a torch, which is pointing downwards but which is still lit. As it is still alight, this is a symbol for eternal life. If the flame had gone out it would have symbolised death and mourning.
A crudely carved gravestones rests against the back of another, a memorial to Chrestofer (surname illegible) who ‘Dyed’ in February 1684. Close by an angel, with wings unfurled, peers out through a covering of ivy.
We enjoyed our time here very much. This is a lovely church, open to visitors, on a gloriously sunny and warm Sunday afternoon. We headed off towards neighbouring Barrowden, Paul O Grady’s gentle show on Radio 2 adding to the relaxed feel of the afternoon. The church of St Mary, and the whole area to be honest, is worth a look if you are in the area.
If you have enjoyed this look at Duddington church, you might care to click on the photograph immediately above right, to be directed to the page covering the church of St Luke, Tixover, the neighbouring village. This page will open in another window.