ORTON LONGUEVILLE : CHURCH OF HOLY TRINITY
Church Post Code PE2 7DW
Normally closed to visitors
It was a cloudy early afternoon in June 2019, and the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust tour afternoon was to visit Orton Longueville. As with the majority of churches around Peterborough itself, the church of Holy Trinity is generally closed to visitors, so this was an ideal opportunity to have a proper look around.
Orton Longueville is a couple of miles to the west of Peterborough, the busy A605 heading towards Northamptonshire running close by. The church is set in picturesque surroundings in the old part of the village. More modern housing estates stretch off towards Peterborough to the east. A large Hall stands to the rear of the church. Thatched cottages surround the church. Tranquil and pleasant!
There was a church mentioned here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. Nothing remains of that early structure, and a general re-building seems to have been started towards the end of the 13th century. The chancel the chancel arch and north chapel date from around 1280. The nave, aisles and west tower date from around 1300.
There was a church at nearby Botolph Bridge, closer to Peterborough, and this had fallen in to disrepair by the 17th century. The south aisle of Holy Trinity was doubled in size, and the porch was rebuilt using stone from this disused church. The porch has a date marker of 1675 on it. Two very ancient looking stone heads are positioned on either side of the porch. Possibly, these pre date 1675 and would have stood as part of the church at Botolph Bridge. The Reverend Sweeting, in his mid Victorian look at the churches in an around Peterborough, mentioned that at the time of his study, just a single gravestone marked where the church was. Today nothing remains at all although a depiction of what it may have looked like can be seen in a mosaic in a modern housing estate a few hundred yards away.
I had taken in a service in Peterborough itself that morning, and arrived early, sitting in the spacious and interesting church grounds, having a packed lunch and watching the people start to arrive. The structure that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and, clerestories, south porch and chancel.
The tower is buttressed and battlemented with stair turret to the south east corner. A small, but very lovely circular window frame, with quatre foil design inside can be seen mid-way up on the south face. A similar window is incorporated in to the porch. It is evident from the exterior that the south aisle is very substantial. The chancel is also battlemented. Empty image niches stand on the south wall of the chancel.
Just a single bell hangs here, but this is of considerable age and interest. It was cast by John Walgrave who operated out of London, as far back as 1440. Bells from Walgrave are scarce, not surprisingly given their age, but there is another three miles or so away to the west, at Chesterton. It does not necessarily mean that the bell was actually cast in London though. Some founders set up shop, so to speak, locally and it could be that the bell was cast in the church grounds; the founder building a foundry for the sole purpose of casting this bell and them moving on. The bell here is inscribed ‘Nomen Magdalene Campana Gerit Melodie’.
It was good to be able to see inside. There is the remains of a St Christopher in its traditional place on the north wall of the nave, opposite the south doorway. Just the top half survives, this being protected by a wooden screen, which had been opened for the day. The infant Jesus rides on the shoulders of St Christopher, who holds a staff. Jesus has arms help wide, with one hand holding a globe which signifies the world. Superstition of the day would have it that a glance at this before the traveler left on a journey would protect them whilst travelling.
It was a fairly dull day and there is a fair amount of stained glass here, and it was quite dull inside; the church lights being on as a result. The enlarged south aisle is very wide, so much so that the east end has two three light windows, each of clear glass.
Partially hidden to the north side of the chancel is a recumbent effigy of a cross legged knight, hands at prayer and shield at his side. There is a lot of conflicting information about cross legged knights on the internet. Some suggest that it signifies that they fought and died in the crusades, others suggest that it signifies that they died in the Christian faith. The tomb here is said to commemorate John De Longueville, the founder of the church here, who is said to have died whilst fighting the Danes.
The east window is of five lights, and is of clear glass, with a repeated quatre foil pattern repeated in the tracery. There is stained glass on the south wall of the chancel, the risen Christ surrounded by rays of light and displaying crucifixion wounds on His outstretched hands, quite appropriate given that the visit took place on Pentecost Sunday.
Elsewhere, a nativity scene depicts Mary and the baby Jesus surrounded by angels, shepherds and wise men, poetic license with the latter arriving anywhere up to two years after Jesus’ birth. To the left as look at it, awestruck shepherds look up at an angel who point towards The Virgin Mary, who looks serene as she holds the baby Jesus. Joseph on the other hand is depicted a little way back with head in hand, looking, to be honest, a little bored!
In the tracery, angels play musical instruments; one fine panel depicting an angel with blue and white flowing wings playing a harp. Some medieval glass includes a figure with nimbus holding a sword and shield.
There are quite a few monuments and floor slabs to be seen here, with several being for previous vicars. A couple of things caught my eye; firstly was an exquisite monument depicting a seated woman, this being to one Lady Mary Seymour and dated 1828. The lady gazes upwards, eyes closed and an expression of peace on her face.
The other is a tiny little thing, which I didn’t notice until I looked back at the photographs after I was back home. I photographed a monument which is edged with coats of arms. Within the coats of arms is one which has a large bird, which looks down, perhaps protectively, on a very small baby, who is still in its swaddling cloths.
The church grounds are large and interesting, with some nicely crafted 18th century gravestones to be seen, especially to the south of the nave. To be fair though, there is nothing of any great rarity or importance.
This was a good start to the afternoon. A large number of people had turned out, which was good. It is good to meet like minded people, and it is always useful as afternoons such as these allow the interested access to churches which would otherwise be closed. This is a beautiful church and it was good for it to be seen by other than those who would normally be there on a Sunday.
To be taken to the page for my visit to neighbouring Woodston, please click on the photograph immediately above left. This page will open up in a different window.