HEMINGTON : CHURCH OF ST PETER & ST PAUL
Church Post Code PE8 5QJ
This church is usually closed. Opened by arrangement.
Hemington is a small farming village in the picturesque East Northamptonshire countryside. Oundle is a few miles away across the fields to the North West. The village itself is pretty much just a scattering of houses and the church of St Peter & St Paul. An attractive village, which I had the pleasure of working in in my early days of being self employed.
This is the village where I was attacked by a customers’ large and very angry black goose; the same goose I later chased down the main road to Barnwell after accidently leaving a gate open. I have fond memories of having lunch in the church porch whilst at work, listening to a thunderstorm coming in from the west on a warm and humid Friday morning.
There are also pleasant memories of taking a service here on a Sunday morning, with friendly locals and a very pleasant lady Vicar who was interested in what I was doing.
I first visited the church here back in 2007. I had started off early so that I could get back to listen to England take on Australia in the cricket world cup. It had been a good trip, and I sat in the church grounds here, eating lunch in the solitude, just a couple of horses and a single car passing in twenty minutes or so. The only noise was from the birds and a few early spring bees. It was a peaceful and pleasant ride home; and then the cricket started and things went rapidly downhill from there!
The church here has origins dating back to the 13th century, but it was substantially rebuilt in 1666, with the exception of the early 16th century tower. The new building was erected for Lord Montagu, whose coat of arms can be seen above the west door of the tower. The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with south porch and chancel.
The church sits right at the side of the main road which leads to neighbouring Luddington In The Brook, and is a little way away from the main concentration of houses in the village. It is hard to photograph the church from the south due to a large number of trees close by.
The west tower is of four stages, and is buttressed and battlemented. The church here is a simple structure, with no aisles or clerestories. The name "MOVNTAGV" (please note the difference in spelling and the reversed letter N) is also to be seen carved high up on the south wall. Close by is carved the name "THORNHILL". Very faded and hidden away at the side of the south doorway, are the initials E.T.H and the year 1667.
A close examination of the east end of the exterior shows a single stone on which is engraved the names or initials of several people from then latter years of the 17th century, with dates from 1668 until 1690. This is an unusual place for graffiti; there was restoration and some rebuilding here in 1873 and perhaps this stone has been repositioned.
There are four bells in the ring here. The first is dated 1872 and was cast by Taylor of Loughborough. Thomas North issued his study on the church bells of Northamptonshire in 1878. He was very thorough in what he did and he made no mention of this bells history. It may be reasonable to assume then that this was a new bell, cast at the time of Victorian restoration.
The second is attributed to Thomas Eayre I who worked out of Kettering. This is inscribed ‘HIS Nararene Rex Iudaeorum miserere mei Gloria Deo Soli’ This translates as ‘Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews Son of God Have Mercy on Me Glory to God Alone’
The third dated 1598, and the National Church Bell Database has this down as being cast at the Newcombe Foundry at Leicester. This has the inscription ‘Cum Voco Ad Ecclesiam Venite EM 1598’ This reads as ‘Come to Church When I Call’. It is thought that the EM stands for Edward Maontagu, the Lord of the Manor who died in January 1601.
North attributes the fourth of the ring to a Leicester foundry, possibly Newcombe again or Francis Watts. This one is inscribed "Obe (obay) The Prince"
There are some fine quality gargoyles to be seen here, particularly on the south wall. These are very high quality, but I suspect that they are of no real age. As mentioned earlier, restoration work was undertaken here in the 1870’s, and I suspect that these might have been put up them.
I revisited the church here on a sunny and blustery late February day in 2022.The tower was covered in scaffolding, with building work due to start the following week. Exterior shots are therefore included from a previous visit. Interior shots are a little limited due to some building materials which had been stored at the west end.
Natural light was a little limited due to a line of trees to the south of the church, so I opted to shoot with the lights on, which I wouldn’t normally have done.
There is much Victorian restoration in the chancel. The reredos is a painted depiction of the crucifixion, contained within three arches. The central arch shows Christ crucified, Mary and John close by, with a blood red sun in the background.
The east window shows Christ in majesty. Jesus is crowned as King of Heaven, with hand raised in blessing. He is seated on a rainbow with the sun’s rays shining below. Jesus is surrounded at the side and below by Biblical figures from both Old and New Testament. These include St Katherine, who is depicted with the wheel, which was the manner of her martyrdom, St Peter who is depicted with keys and St Paul with sword. St John holds a giblet from which evil in the symbolic form of a dragon emerges.
Moses holds the commandment tablets and points to the first commandment ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me’
Also present; and easily identified is King David with harp and St Michael, who holds the scales on which the souls of all people will be judged on the final day.
Inside the chancel, there are ten 15th century oak stalls, which came from the church at Fotheringhay. The stalls on the north side are blocked in and out of bounds so to speak, but those on the south side can be viewed.
These have carved ends in the form of angels with long flowing wings. They retain their original misericords. The misericords are as follows...a ferocious looking dragon, a crown, a hawk, a man with jug raised aloft, a mermaid, an owl, a beast with the head of a man, a man standing on his head and two boars. It is said that these stalls were left to Hemington church in a will from a Fotheringhay farmer in the 18th century.
Those in the area with an interest in Fotheringhay might also know that there are wooden carvings from the church there also at Tansor and Lower Benefield, neither of which is all that far away.
At the east end of the nave is a floor slab with brass figures of Thomas Montagu and his wife Agnes (Dudley), and a shield in each of the four corners. The male figure is bareheaded, with long flowing hair and wears a large cloak and gown edged with fur; the lady is wearing a tight-fitting gown and also wears a headdress. The inscription records that Montagu died 5 September, 1517
The font is exceptional. Dating from the 12th or 13th century, this is octagonal and has crudely of carved heads, on four sides. One of these has tongue stuck out in typical medieval gesture of insult. There is nothing unusual in this symbolism; this along with a mouth puller is almost obligatory where gargoyles and grotesques are gathered together. I can’t recall ever having seen one on a font though!
The church grounds are of interest, without there being anything of any great rarity though. Three gravestones close to the south porch have a Grade II listing, with one of these to Thomas Bullocke, Vicar of Hemington, who died in 1703.
This is a lovely church in a beautiful setting. As I have said on a few other pages on this site, the churches are important; it is why I do what I do. However, the memories that we gather along the way are also important, and there are many pleasant memories associated with this small Northamptonshire village.
If you would like to take a look at the two churches in neighbouring Barnwell, click on the photograph of the font above left, to see the page for Barnwell All Saints; and if you would like to see the page for Barnwell St Andrew, click on the photograph of the village sign. Each will open in a different window.