HADDON : CHURCH OF ST MARY
Church Post Code PE7 3TR
Open to visitors
The page for Haddon is being revised in December 2021, in readiness for my website being rebuilt following the hoster ceasing trading. This is some 15 years since my first visit to the church of St Mary.
I have spoken in a few pages about the memories that I have stored away over the course of this period. The churches are important to me, but so are the people and the animals encountered along the way. The times spent in conversation with people of a like mind, the times spent simply watching the sun go down. I never anticipated this when originally setting up the original site.
I have many memories associated with this church. On my second day of shooting back in 2006 I was cycling from the church and was ‘chased’ by an old and arthritic black Labrador; trying to recapture the glories of his youth. In the end I stopped to see if he was okay!
I have fond memories of an open air advent service, in which the Christmas story was acted out in various farm buildings which surround the church. On days where life was feeling really tough, Haddon was one of my bolt holes! Always open and welcoming. Wonderful people with their hearts in the right place! An open church can be a powerful Christian witness, and so it is here.
Haddon is a small village some five miles to the south west of Peterborough. A pleasant sleepy village though, to be honest, you only go there if you have a need to. Haddon is tucked away a little way from the A1M and the A605 but it is quiet and peaceful. Coming in to the village from the north west, on a narrow back road, the tower of St Mary comes in to view from between the trees and assorted farm buildings. The A1M can be seen off in the distance but it might as well be miles away!
The church here consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, north porch, south transept and chancel. There are quite a few trees to the north of the church and the best views of the exterior are from the south.
There was a church mentioned at Haddon in the Domesday Survey of 1086. It is thought that the eastern wall of the Nave belongs to that period. The chancel arch dates from the 12th century with the north and south aisles being added during the 13th century.
The clerestories were added in the 16th century, at which point the tower was added. The tower is square and battlemented and, viewed from the south, rises up from above the western end of the extended nave. A couple of gargoyles peer out from the south wall of the nave and it looks as if a fairly large window might have been bricked in on the south wall of the chancel at some point.
As was mentioned earlier, the church here is always open to visitors and those in need of some peace and calm. When I photographed this church a sign welcomes the visitor and points them over to the west of the church where the kettle is.
Moving inside, the attention is immediately caught by the 12th century chancel arch, which to my mind is one of the best to be found within the catchment area of this site. This has a rounded arch with five tiers, resting on scalloped capitals.
Over the chancel there are the fragments of a 15th Century wall painting that shows a figure seated on a rainbow. This is very faded and just legible still. This is all that is left of a doom painting. The figure would be Christ, who sits on high on the day of judgement. These doom paintings followed a pattern. Christ sits on the rainbow with those judged righteous being taken off to Heaven, to the left of the scene as we look at it. Heaven was sometimes portrayed as a castle; somewhere safe in violent times. Those judged as being condemned were thrown naked in to hell by demons; hell was often portrayed as the mouth of a huge serpent.
The chancel is simple and tasteful. The small altar has a cross and candlesticks, with a Bible open to the north side.
A large memorial window in the chancel commemorates Lieutenant Cornwallis Jasper Trower, R.N., killed at the battle of Majuba Hill, in February 1881. A stained glass image of Christ crucified is central; Christ wears the crown of thorns, with blood weeping from wounds in hands, feet and side. To either side is St Michael and St George; with the latter having the slayed dragon at his feet.
Underneath the depiction of Christ crucified is what is probably the most interesting part of the tableaux. This is the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus on her lap. A coiled snake is at Jesus’ feet with the wording Leonem et Draconem circling around Mary. It is a reminder to the onlooker that Christ has beaten the devil He has trampled the devil underfoot. This is taken from Psalm 91 verse 13 which, in the NIV version reads ‘You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent’ so the onlooker who puts their faith in Christ can know that they will live their life safe from the devils power. Christ has conquered.
The font is plain, and is thought to date from the 14th century, and inside the church, against the north wall of the aisle, is a stone carving of a lion, which is said to have once belonged to a large monument. There is a floor slab in the chancel to Samuel Morton, Rector here, who passed away in 1680.
Looking upwards and a ceiling boss, with animal like face, beard and a moustache really does look to me as if it is wearing glasses!
There are three bells hanging here. The first of these was originally cast by 15th century bellfounder, and wine maker, John Danyell, who was a London founder who worked between 1450 and 1470. Many founders were itinerant and set up foundries in the church grounds where they were working so even though he was a London founder it is possible that the bell might have been founded on site so to speak.
The other two bells date from the 16th century, and were cast by Newcombe of Leicester. North's study of church bells in Huntingdonshire, complied in the 1860's, made note of the fact that two of the three bells were broken. In the end all three bells were re-cast by Taylor of Loughborough, and rehung in the very early 20th century.
The church grounds are very peaceful, with a cluster of old gravestones huddled up against the south wall of the nave. These stones appear not to be in situ and look to have been relocated to their present position at some point in the past. A couple of these are dated 1702, and were carved by the same hand. One small row look to be older from their shape; with one having the initials WC and a date of 16 something, part of the date being illegible.
There is no wow factor here at St Mary. No bells and whistles. This is an honest, loving small village Christian church which does have, as a man connected with the church once told me, the echoes of a ‘thousand years of prayers’ within the place. A jewel of a church! The photographs on this page are from several different visits.
If you would like to see the page for my visit to neighbouring Morborne, please click on the photograph above left. To be taken to the church of St Mary Magdelene, Stilton, please click on the photograph above right. Each of these pages will open up in another window.