THORNHAUGH : CHURCH OF ST ANDREW
Church Post Code PE8 6HL
Normally closed to visitors
My association with Thornhaugh goes back many years. Back in those long gone days when many small villages had a junior school, both Alwalton, where I attended junior school and Thornhaugh each had a small school. Twice a year we used to meet; the boys playing each other at football the girls at netball.
The schools have gone the way of many others, each closing within a short while of each other in the late 1970’s, along with countless pubs, village post offices and shops.
Thornhaugh is a small, pleasant and very peaceful village; which is quite remarkable given that the busy A1M and A47 border it on two sides. It is around 10 miles to the west of Peterborough. Those travelling north past the village will soon be in Stamford; a delightful Georgian town with its wide selection of tea shops.
It was through Thornhaugh that I first had the great pleasure of meeting the Revd Thomas Christie, who was vicar at Thornhaugh and neighbouring Wansford. He was a great encouragement to me in the very early days of the original website being set up. A few weeks in, and with very few people visiting the site, his interest and enthusiasm persuaded me to keep going; and I have very fond memories of taking in a service at Thornhaugh one Sunday when I had a day off from my own church. He passed away in 2012, and was a fantastic man who it was a pleasure to spend a little time with.
The parish church of St Andrew sits at the centre of the village, set on slightly raised ground with the grass level being at the same height as the top of the church wall, giving an uninterrupted view out across the grounds.
The church here dates back to the 12th century, with major restoration in 1889. The structure that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north aisle and north clerestory, south porch, south transept and chancel. This church has been battered about over the years. There used to be a spire which fell around 1500, taking out the south aisle on the way.
The church here was normally closed to visitors but it was open on this Sunday afternoon as part of a Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust tour afternoon. Taking the church in from the south, the west tower is square and is of three stages. The upper stage is very slightly recessed and battlemented. There is buttressing throughout.
There are two large four light windows on the south wall of the nave; these standing pretty much where the arches of the south arcade would have stood before the spire collapsed. The south transept is battlemented and there is a bricked in priests door on the chancel wall.
Moving inside and there was a pleasing number of people in the church, with the majority aiming for the south transept and the monument to be found there. The nave floor shows the effects of the tread of thousands of feet over hundreds of years. Part of a medieval grave slab is set in to the floor.
The pews look to be from the restoration of the late 1880’s, at which point the tower was rebuilt as was the north aisle, which was originally built in the late 14th century. The north aisle is of four bays, with beautiful semi-circular arches.
The chancel itself dates back to the early to mid-13th century. The three light east window is of clear glass. The altar is plain and simple; just a cross and two candlesticks. There is the odd wall monument, including one for Mrs Wing, the wife of the rector and her daughter who drowned in the river Nene on the same day in April 1838.The Gentleman’s Magazine from the time shed some light on what happened. Evidently, the women were in a boat close to Wansford with daughter Ellen’s fiancée Mr Girdlestone from Stibbington when a sudden gust of wind tipped over the boat, the weight of the women’s dresses tragically proving fatal.
The only stained glass to be seen here is in three encircled trefoil windows; which were part of the 1889 restoration. These show the coat of arms of the Duke of Bedford, the Bishop of Peterborough and St Andrew.
The south transept houses a memorial to Sir William Russell, who was Vice General in the Low Countries in the time of Elizabeth I, and who passed away in 1613. He lays recumbent, dressed in armour, sword at his side, with hands raised in prayer. He rests alone, with no sign of his wife Elizabeth. They had one son, Francis, who kneels at his father’s feet, facing him with his hands also raised in prayer.
Underneath Sir William’s effigy, on the north and south sides of the monument are three male and female figures; all of which are at prayer. The male figures are to the south, the female to the north and these are Sir William’s brothers and sisters.
The monument is quite tight for space against the south wall of the transept and it is quite difficult to photograph the male figures.
To the side of the kneeling figures are images of the mortality of Man. There can be seen a carving of a human skull, a scythe and crossed human bones’ all being symbols of death. There is also an hourglass, symbolising the passing of time. ‘Tempus Fugit’ time flies; the sands of time have run out for the deceased and they will run out one day for you as well. Therefore, live a good Christian life as you do not know when your own time will come.
There is a ring of five bells here, with three bells being cast locally, by the Norris family who operated out of their premises in Stamford. The second bell of the ring was cast by Tobias Norris I in 1619. It is inscribed MULTI : VOCATI : PAVCI : ELECTI, which translates as ‘Many Are Called Few Are Chosen’ This bell was cracked and was donated to the Museum in Stamford. Another bell was cast by Thomas Norris in 1634 and Tobias Norris III in 1684.
Moving outside, and taking a look around the grounds, we can see some fine quality eighteenth century gravestones. To be fair though, there is little that is of any great rarity. I will make note though of a gravestone to the west of the grounds, which in undated and sunk into the ground. There are no elaborately carved angels here; no final displays of wealth to show those looking on. This is just a simple stone with two carvings standing proud of the rest of the stone. One has the initials ‘EP’ carved in to it, the initials on the second weathered away. Just a simple reminder to those looking on that they too will follow the path of the deceased!
A delightful church in a picturesque village! If someone from overseas who didn’t know the country asked me to show them a beautiful English parish church, this one would be on the short list of ones to show them!
To take a look at the page for my visit to neighbouring Wansford, please click on the photograph immediately above right. This page will open up in a different window.