ELTON : CHURCH OF ALL SAINTS
Church Post Code PE8 6RU
open to visitors
Elton is a picturesque village, which is to be found some seven miles to the west of Peterborough. The village is quiet and peaceful, despite the close proximity of the busy A605 The village boasts an Elizabethan Stately home, Elton Hall, two public houses, two village greens, a few shops, a chapel and All Saints church.
I first visited All Saints church back in September 2006, on what was to be the first days proper shooting for this site. Have visited a few times since then, with Elton being just a couple of miles away from my home village, but decided to re-shoot the church on the most glorious late September day that you could wish for!
There was mention of a church at Elton in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel. The three stage perpendicular tower dates from 1500 and dominates the local landscape. This is heavily buttressed and has what appears to have been a restored frieze running around all four sides, consisting of a repeated quatre foil design. Gargoyles look out from all four corners.
The oldest part of the present structure is the chancel arch, which dates back to 1270; with the chancel itself, nave arcades and north aisle dating from around 1300. Much of the rest of the building can be dated to the same date as the tower. There are gargoyles and grotesques to be seen throughout the rest of the structure and an ancient west door in the tower, which I am assuming dates back to the building of the tower itself.
As I was admiring the tower from the west, I was welcomed by a golden Labrador, carrying a stick in his mouth that was nearly as long as his body. A pleasant ten minutes or so with this gentle, amiable dog and his owner then it was inside to explore. The church was open for visitors.
Inside, the church is spacious, bright and welcoming and the chancel is dominated by the great Te Deum east window of 1893 dedicated to the 4th Earl of Carysfot. There are 52 main figures depicted and many lesser ones, with the figures having halos. The figures are gathered below a depiction of Christ, with hand raised in benediction, with angels playing musical instruments just below Christ. Some of the figures are easily recognisable; others not! St Paul is depicted with sword, St Peter carries the key to the Kingdom of Heaven. At the front of this New Testament grouping is the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene.
To the right as we look at it are New Testament and monarchs, St Edmund for example is depicted holding arrows. To the left are Old Testament figures, with David and Moses to the forefront, depicted with harp and commandments respectively.
The church guide helpfully puts a name to all of the figures, and sincere hats off to whoever put a name to some of these. A truly stunning piece of work; and amongst the most interesting glass to be seen in any church covered by this site!
It is not just the east window which is of great quality here. A window by Edward Burne Jones dated 1904 in wonderful vibrant colours depicts an angel flanked by Mary Magdalene and St Denis with the risen Christ above, in the clouds surrounded by angels, hand raised in blessing with crucifixion wounds visible. Close by is a three light window depicting St Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
A three light window shows the crucifixion as central, with Jesus' baptism and the Resurrection at either side. The two Mary's and John are at the cross, with as usual Mary Magdalene portrayed as the most affected, clutching hold of Jesus' legs Luke says in Chapter 7 on this matter 'Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”In my opinion, some of the finest glass to be seen within the catchment area of this site can be seen here.
At the west of the nave there are a few fragments of carved stone, with one of these being a carved Saxon coffin lid. Close by is a fragment of grave to one Thomas Lea who passed away in 1687. It was interesting to see lots of 18th century graffiti carved in to walls inside the church, and also in and around the south porch. This is not unusual and normally takes the form of initials and date. However, one piece of crude etching seems to depict a house with flames coming up from it.
Five bells hang here and I suspect that this was originally a ring of five bells cast locally by Thomas Norris of the Stamford bellfoundry in 1631. The first bell of the ring is inscribed "Thomas Norris cast me 1631" with an inscription below to say that it was recast by G Mears & Co London 1864. The third bell is identical apart from that it lists "Wm Pix Th Barkar CH WA 1631" Bells 2 and 5 are attributed to Norris and have remained uncast since, with bell number 5 having the latin inscription "Iesvs Spede Me Onmia Fiant Ad Gloriam Dei". Bell number 4 was re-cast by J Eayre in 1746 and then again by Taylor of Loughborough in 1896 but I haven't seen anything which suggests that it was originally cast by Norris at the same time as the others. As with many bells from the Stamford bellfoundry, the letter "S" in Norris' name are reversed.
The church grounds are interesting. Some very finely carved gravestones are to be seen, with one particularly fine deaths head stone to the north of the church, a beautifully sculptured human skull reminding the passer by that man is mortal. There is some evidence of subsidence over the years with stones leaning at various gravity defying angles. A superbly crafted deaths head stone, with carving of human skull can be see close to the west face of the tower; designed to remind the onlooker that they would go the same way as the deceased, so be careful how you live your life. These are sometimes accompanied by verse which will end something like ‘…as I am now so you shall be’.
Major items of interest in the church grounds though are two Saxon graves, thought to date from 970 AD. There are lots of bits and pieces of Saxon stonework to be seen within the catchment area of this site, but this is the only instance that I have seen of actual Saxon graves still standing outside. These are almost certainly not in situ but lovely to see these.
It is good to see the church open again, after a few years when it was closed to visitors. This page is being revised in the summer of 2022 and it does appear that All Saints has returned to being opened after the pandemic restrictions.