MORBORNE : CHURCH OF ALL SAINTS
Church Post Code PE7 3TG
Usually closed to visitors open by arrangement.
Morborne is a small, picturesque village which can be found some five miles to the South West of Peterborough and close to Norman Cross, where the world’s first purpose built prisoner of war camp was built in 1796 to house prisoners taken during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
This is a tiny farming village, where the population of lambs in the spring far exceeds that of humans. At the time of the 1991 census the population was 43. These days, the population is included in with Folksworth and Washingley; the latter just being a scattering of dwellings which is said to have been abandoned during the Black Death.
I visited here on a crisp mid March morning in 2022. This is a church that I have often visited. It is always peaceful and calm here, with very little traffic going through the village. I had been inside the church here on a couple of occasions. The first was back on a snowy day in 2010 where I thought that it would be a good idea to cycle up Morborne hill in the snow (it wasn’t!). The second was to take in a service at the end of a Rogation Sunday walk where we walked around the churches in the benefice, popping in to Morborne along the way. I had never shot the interior with the Nikon so it was time for a reshoot.
The church of All Saints sits by the side of the main road which runs through the village. It consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles, north porch, south transept and chancel. There are no clerestories here.
The church dates back to the 12th century, with the nave and chancel arch dating to that time. The north aisle dates to around 1240 with the south aisles and transept dating to around 1260. The nave walls were rebuilt during the 16th century, at which time the red bricked two stage tower and the north porch were added.
The tower is battlemented and has small pinnacles at the four corners. There is a 17th century sundial on the south face with the very faded remains of an earlier one close by. There is a fine south doorway which dates to the 12th century. There was a period of restoration here in 1864 and again in 1900.
The church here is heavily buttressed. All Saints has two fonts! One inside and one outside!! The one outside can be found just to the side of the north porch, and I am told that this came from the nearby deconsecrated church at Caldecott, which is now a private house.
Two bells are hung here, one of which was cast at the Stamford bellfoundry by Tobias Norris I, who was a founder between 1603 and 1626. This bell is inscribed ‘Cvm : Voc : Ad : Ecclesiam : Venite 1614" which translates as ‘When you call come to the church’.
The second is courtesy of Peterborough founder Henry Penn, and which is dated 1712, which is inscribed ‘Henry Penn Fvsore’. A dictionary definition of the word Fusore is a founder, a caster or a melter’.
When Owen published his late Victorian study of the church bells of Huntingdonshire, he noted that there were pits for four bells here. Local legend at the time was that two had been sold to nearby Lutton, but Owen suspected that this might not have been the case.
Michael Lee, in his excellent study of the bells cast by Henry Penn, notes that this bell is not of great quality and suggests that this may be due to the pressures that Penn was under in completing his ring of ten bells at Peterborough cathedral.
I had arranged to have the church opened and was a little early, so I started on the exterior, to the interest of a selection of sheep and lambs in an enclosure to the south west. Fond memories of a previous visit here on a sticky late summer evening, spending as much time trying to photograph the dragonflies as I spent on the church. It was considerably less warm on this March morning but the prospects were for one of the warmest days of the year thus far. Morborne was the first call of the day and it looked as if it was going to be a really good churchcrawl!
It was good to spend a little time with the church warden. As I keep banging on about in the pages of this site, the churches are important; they are why I do what I do, but the people and the animals and the food that are met, and eaten, along the way all help to add to the pool of memories.
Entry to the church is through the north porch, and it was interesting to see graffiti on the porch stalls; just initials and a few dates of those who have left their mark over the centuries.
Moving inside, after my eyes had adjusted from the bright conditions outside, the interior was light and welcoming. There are no clerestory windows here to let in further light; but to counter that, there is no stained glass to diminish the natural light.
There are three bay arcades to north and south with, as mentioned earlier, each of these dating to the 13th century. North and south are the same in design, with round columns on square plinths.
Moving in to the chancel, the altar is plain and tasteful, with the cross standing on a shelf behind the altar. There is no reredos here. On the south wall is a double piscina, a stone basin used to wash hands and ceremonial objects after communion. On the north wall opposite is an aumbry, well two actually, which are small wooden cupboards used to store the sacred vessels used in communion, or mass if you like as these would have been used in pre reformation times.
The east window is circular, with six round panels combining to form a Rose. The chancel was restored in the 1864 restoration and looking at this window from the inside, it seems as if this window was previously much larger, the original window frame still visible, with the bottom part bricked up.
A window on the north wall has the remains of a medieval wall painting; an unidentified figure, with one arm visible, with the figure carrying something which may be a knife.
Tucked in against the north wall of the nave is a 13th century monument; a priest dressed in mass vestments, recumbent with hands raised in prayer, feet resting on two human heads. It is suggested that this could be the Abbott of Morborne, who would have been responsible for the church here being built; this was found under the tower when restoration work was ongoing in 1900. Perhaps this may have been hidden at some point, for whatever reason, possibly over concerns during the reformation. It is reasonable to assume that, if this was someone of importance which it obviously is, it would have probably rested in the chancel. Close by is a medieval stone coffin with carved lid.
On a table at the west end of the nave is a folder with snippets of the church history. I was really please to find that my entry for this church on the original Moonfruit site had been printed off and was in the folder. For those who do not know, this present site replaces the original site that was lost in December 2021 when Moonfruit ceased to trade. The site may be gone for good, which was a blow after a few hundred hours of work over 15 years, but it was great to see that a small part of the site lives on here!
Moving back outside, the church grounds are of interest, without there being anything of any great interest to note. To the south of the south transept, four rows of gravestones, dating from the early 18th century through to the early 19th, have been given a Grade II listing in their own right.
Propped up against the outside east wall of the chancel is a crudely carved gravestone to one Thomas Woods. It is crudely carved in that the surname of the deceased starts on one line and spills over to the next. Crude yes, but beautiful in its simplicity.
This is a charming church, lovingly looked after by people who care for it very much. I enjoyed my time here very much. I left; heading in the direction of Stilton, with the sun now blazing down! It was going to be a good day!
To complete this page, a photograph from another visit to Morborne church. Late summer 2013 and an entertaining time attempting to photograph the dragonflies that were flitting about between the gravestones.
If you would like to see the page for my visit to the church of St Mary, at neighbouring Haddon please click on the photograph of the dragonfly to be taken there. This page will open up in another window.