STOKE DOYLE : CHURCH OF ST RUMBOLD
Church Post Code PE8 5TH
The church here, I believe, is normally closed to visitors.
Over the course of the previous 15 years; since I was first bitten by the churchcrawling bug, I have put in a few miles; covering large parts of Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Rutland and Northamptonshire and going as far north as Cockermouth. I have a great fondness for the areas that I have visited; .but in truth though, many of my fondest memories are on my doorstep in East Northamptonshire.
There are some exquisite villages here and a visit to Stoke Doyle will live long in the memory! David and I had attended an evening prayer service at Wadenhoe, a few miles away. The light quality whilst we were there was stunning, with the sun starting to set. After the service we headed off to Stoke Doyle and we were rewarded with some of the loveliest light quality that I have ever had the pleasure to shoot in.
We stood to the south west of the church, close to a stream which wound its way vaguely easterly. A sheep with lambs wandered alongside the bank of the stream. The setting sun highlighted the tower of St Rumbold, and also the spire of St Peter at Oundle, a couple of miles off to the north. The landscape was gently undulating, with a patchwork of green fields and stone walls, with the occasional yellow of oilseed rape; much to the annoyance of hay fever sufferers everywhere.
The sky was beautiful, full of minute changes as the sun continued to set. It was one of those evenings when you could stand there and take dozens od photos at 60 second intervals and they would all be different in some small way.
Stoke Doyle is a small picturesque village, two miles to the south west of Oundle. These days, the population is included with that of neighbouring Wadenhoe, but back in 1991, the population was a mere 64.
The church that we see today was built on the site of a previous church, this being erected between 1725 and 1727. The church that it replaced was larger and dated mainly to the 13th century. This previous church was in a poor state of repair and a petition to the bishop mentioned that it was in a ruinous condition and in danger of collapse.
The church was pulled down in the spring of 1725, with the first stone of the new building laid in May 1722. The church was completed by August 1725, but was not opened until March 1726.
The west wall of the present church is where the west wall of the previous church was, but to the south the present church is five feet narrower and the church is some 30 feet shorter from the east. In the church grounds, to the east of the present chancel, there is a recumbent effigy of a figure with hands raised in prayer. This appears to be in situ, and would have been inside the chancel of the previous structure.
The church consists of west tower, with nave and chancel running seamlessly in to each other, south doorway and north transept. The west tower is square and pinnacled, with an elaborate parapet running across the top. There is a one handed clock attached to the south face of the tower. One handed clocks are unusual, but not unique in this part of Northamptonshire, with another to be found a few miles away at Polebrook.
Just a very quick word about St Rumbold! He was the son of Kyneburgha, after whom the church at Castor is dedicated. She was the daughter of Penda the King of Mercia. Rumbold only lived for three days but on the second day of his life it is said that he preached a Christian sermon on Christian virtues and the Trinity, he died soon after.
Looking around the exterior, there is some very faded graffiti. It is very difficult to make out but one of the dates appears to read 1725. If that is true then this would have been etched in to the wall as the church was being built. Easier to read is John Rye, who made his mark here in 1816. If he had stood where we had been a few minutes earlier, back in that year after Waterloo, and looked towards the church, he wouldn’t have noticed much difference, with the exception of the telephone pylons obviously!
The church here used to be closed to visitors, but I have seen reports from churchcrawler who have since found it open. This was all pre covid so goodness only knows what the situation is as this page is being reworked between Christmas and New Year 2021. The interior photographs included here are from a previous visit, where David and I took in an evening prayer here.
Moving inside, and with the exception of the north transept, this is a single cell building, with nave flowing in to chancel with no chancel arch. I suspect that very little has been done to the interior of this church since it was opened, with the exception of the electricity being put in.
The three light east window is of clear glass, with the central light taller and with a semi circular arch. The glass is edged with an orange band of differing shades throughout. On either side of the taller central light are two angels in flight. The angels’ hands are slightly awkward and it looks as if they may have been carrying something, possibly a banner, at some point in time.
The reredos consists of boards containing the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Creed. The altar is tasteful, with a cross, two candlesticks and some daffodils. This is in keeping with the rest of the church; simple, tasteful Georgian elegance!
A monument to one Frances Palmer, who passed away in 1628 stands on the north wall at the east end of the church, and would originally have come from the old church. I do wonder why the recumbent effigy of the figure at prayer was left outside and not brought inside like this one!
Frances is on her death bed, with her figure very much devoid of colour. Perhaps this symbolises her illness or perhaps I am reading too much in to things! Her husband kneels by her bed, hands at prayer. Two children, also at prayer face their father below and on the opposite side are four human skulls with a gap in the middle indicating that one might be missing. The memorial indicates that she had seven ‘sweet’ children and these would therefore refer to the children who pre deceased her.
Close by is another marble plaque with a devoted husband at his wife’s death bed. Perhaps this one was inspired by the earlier monument!
Moving in to the north transept we have a fine monument to Sir Edward Ward, knight and Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, who passed away in 1714. Sir Edward reclines, dressed in judge’s robes and wearing a fine flowing wig which has a centre parting! Although this monument is not signed it is suggested to have been carved by John Michael Rysbrack, one of the foremost sculptors of the day.
Sir Edward died 12 years before the new church was first used, and I have not been able to find out if this monument came from the old church or if it was carved at a later date and installed straight in to the new church; either way, I daresay that the north transept was built specifically for this monument.
This is a delightful church, in a glorious setting, photographed in great lighting conditions, in an area that I love. This is why I do what I do!