KINGS CLIFFE : CHURCH OF ALL SAINTS & ST JAMES

Church Post Code PE8 6XQ

Normally open to visitors

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It was a delightfully sunny Saturday in April 2015, and a return to Kings Cliffe. This was my first visit here for several years and I have always been struck by the friendly feel to the place. According to the 2011 census, the population of the village is a little over 1200.

    It can be found some nine miles north east of Corby, and six miles to the south east of Stamford. We are over to the far west of the catchment area of this site, and the Lincolnshire border is not too far away.

       Kings Cliffe's most famous son was born in the village in 1686. William Law was an important theologian whose major work "A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life" is still read today. He retired back to the village of his birth in 1740 and is buried in the churchyard.

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   The church of All Saints & St James, can be found in the centre of the village, surrounded by some delightful stone cottages.  The church is cruciform in structure and consists of central tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, north and south porches, north and south transepts and chancel. The structure is battlemented and buttressed throughout.

 There was a huge fire in Kings Cliffe somewhere between the years 1450 and 1480, and there is a theory that the village may have been rebuilt after this fire to the north of the church. If that was the case then the north porch may have been added at that time.

   The oldest part of this church is the tower which dates from the first part of the 12th Century. The spire was added in the 13th Century, with the rest of the church mainly dating from the 15th Century.  It is thought that there may have been an older Saxon church on this site.

   The north porch appears to have been rebuilt in the 17th century, a plaque over the porch, now badly faded, reads 1663, with the initials LT : TR, who may have been the churchwardens at the time.  A look at the south porch shows that there is an indentation to the right hand side of the porch where a brass figure kneeling in prayer was once affixed to the wall.  'WR' carved their initials in to the south porch in 1701; perhaps graffiti was a problem in the early 18thcentury as it is now!

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    There is a ring of six bells hanging here. The first was cast by Taylor's of Loughborough in 1929. The second is dated 1714, and comes from the famous Peterborough founder Henry Penn. This one is inscribed ‘SING UNTO THE LORD A NEW SONG JOHN NEBON ESQ GAVE’.

The third bell was cast locally, at the Stamford bellfoundry, with Tobias Norris I the founder in 1619. This one is inscribed ‘ MVLTI  VOCATI  PAVCI  ELECTI’ which translates as ‘Many are called few are chosen’, along with the names of the donors, of which there were quite a few.

    The fourth bell is courtesy of Thomas Mears of London, being dated 1832. The fifth is the oldest, being dated 1592, and is attributed to a foundry in Leicester, and having the names William Heywood and Henrie Thorpe inscribed in to it. The sixth bell is another relatively modern one, coming from Mears and Stainbank in 1917.

   Gargoyles can be seen on both the north and south walls; a crowned figure with flared nostrils plays two horns, a crouching figure with goatee beard grins showing some ferocious teeth. A queen, grimaces, eyes closed! A muzzled beast supports the weight of an overflow pipe. An interesting selection!

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The church was open to visitors, as had been the case on each previous visit here. It was good to see a couple more churchcrawlers here, enjoying the building. It was bright and welcoming inside, with sunlight streaming in through the south clerestory windows.

The north and south arcades are of four bays, leading up to the central crossing tower, which has a carving of the crucifixion above it. An empty image niche can be seen to the south of the arch.

 The nave was rebuilt in the 13th century. The pulpit is dated 1818 and was made out of 15th century woodwork from Fotheringhay church, after the size of that church was greatly reduced after the reformation. There are some fragments of medieval stained glass to be found here, and these are also thought to have come from Fotheringhay. One of these fragments depicts a cherub with golden hair and a hint of golden wings, playing a mandolin.

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The east window has Christ in majesty as the focal point; Hand raised in blessing and carrying a globe, with crucifixion wounds visible on hand and feet. An empty image niche is placed at either side of the east window; which have probably been empty since the reformation.

A three panel depiction of the scenes leading to the crucifixion is a powerful piece of work. Jesus carries His cross and wears the crown of thorns; looking down at His mother who is kneeling. To the left hand panel as we look at it the two who were crucified with Jesus are led to the place of execution; a small boy in the foreground carries a basket full of thick nails.

A separate depiction of the crucifixion carries on the story; with Mary Magdalene wrapped around the foot of the cross in grief.

   Also of interest is a brass plaque to one Samuel Wyman who died in 1700. It reads ..."Know reader that in dust I lie, that you are now, so once was I, and as I am so you must be. Therefore prepare to follow me” In the same vein a wall plaque to one Charles Atkins, apothecary in this parish for 35 years is inscribed ‘Life’s uncertain death is sure. Sin’s the wound but Christ’s the cure’.

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    The church grounds are large and well maintained, with a large number of finely carved eighteenth century gravestones. There are some 17th century gravestones on the south side of the church grounds. One double grave consists of two small heart shaped stones joined together with the initial SB & RB on them. Both have 1686 as the year of death. With mortality being as high as it was in those days possibly this was two people taken within a very short space of time by disease.

This is a lovely church, open and welcoming, in a delightful village. This church is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area.

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If you have enjoyed looking at this page, you might like to check out my visit to Fotheringhay. Click on the photograph above right to be taken there, with the page opening in a different window.