WATER NEWTON : CHURCH OF REMIGIUS.
Church Post Code PE8 6LY
Usually Open To Visitors
Water Newton is a very small village set on the South bank of the river Nene, with the tower and spire a familiar landmark for anyone travelling the A1, with Stamford some nine miles off to the north.
The village may be small in size, but big in history with the whole area (as with neighbouring Castor and Chesterton) rich in Roman history. Water Newton is close to the old Roman town of Durobrivae, and the area well known for its pottery, Nene Valley Ware. There was also a Roman military garrison was stationed here. It is no surprise really to see a stone Roman coffin situated in the church grounds. Water Newton is not alone in having a Roman coffin in its grounds; with neighbouring Chesterton and Castor each having similar.
The church of Remigius has struggled with dwindling congregation in recent years, and the numbers of services were limited. This page is being revised in January 2022 and a quick check on the Castor Benefice website suggests that regular services are no longer held here.
I have very fond memories of a carol service here several years ago. Snow was on the ground and there was no heating in the church at that time. It was really cold inside and I will always remember the little plumes of mist coming from each of the congregation as they sang!
Given that it is very close to the busy A1, the church at Water Newton is surprisingly quiet and peaceful. Some very beautiful views to be had from the north bank Nene and lovers of wildlife will be well catered for here as well. Water Newton is where I saw my first ever King Fisher some 50 years ago, and when I visited to photograph the church, a family of Swans were preening themselves on the river bank. Full sized dragonflies were buzzing about, and a couple of electric blue butterflies darted about. A young couple sat by the side of the river, dangling their feet in the water, enjoying the summer heat and each other’s company. Red Kites circles overhead.
It is thought that there has been a church on this site since the 12th Century, with many of the original stones being built in to later walls. The tower is early 14th Century, with the exception of the top six feet which is modern. The original apex, with cross, still stands close to the church gate.
The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel. An octagonal spire sits atop the tower, and the church clock is set on to the south face. On the West wall of the tower is a niche, containing the figure of a man in a long robe, with hands in prayer. It is thought that this commemorates the builder of the tower. The Roman coffin mentioned earlier is set against the foot of the south tower wall.
Three bells hang here and two of them are of great age. A look at the National Church Bell Database shows that one of these bells is dated at 14th century, with another dated at 1400. Neither was attributed to a particular founder. The third is dated 1902, and was cast by Charles Carr. When Revd Sweeting was compiling his notes for his study of church bells in the Peterborough area in the 1860's, he went in to a little more detail. Of the two ancient bells, one has the inscription AUE GRA PLENA DNS TECUM. This translates as 'Hail (Mary) full of grace, the Lord be with you'.
The inscription on the second bell is SANCTA MARIA ORA PRO NOBIS which translates as 'Holy Mary pray for us'. Sweeting suggests that the third bell simply has the date 1665 on it and I am assuming that this bell was re-cast by Carr in 1902.
Moving inside, it was a little dull due to the amount of stained glass here. The north and south arcades are of three bays, with a restored 15th century chancel screen separating chancel from nave. There is a lot of stained glass here, the three light east window depicting scenes from the life of Christ, with the crucifixion as the focal point; the resurrection and the ascension to either side. Three smaller panels below include Jesus forgiving Peter for denying Him ‘Feed My Sheep’ it reads across the bottom.
For those wishing to brush up on their Old Testament, six panels chart the life of Moses, from being found floating in a basket, parting the waves and bringing down the Ten Commandments to talking to the Jewish people shortly before they entered the promised land; which he was not to set foot on himself.
Close by, Jesus holds and blesses a child, the accompanying script reading ‘for of such in the Kingdom of Heaven’. This is from Matthew Chapter 19 verse 14 and is a verse that was often used on gravestones for children.
The glass here is good; my personal favourite is a small panel with Jesus talking to Mary Magdalene. Mart sits, hands at prayer and with long flowing hair, looks intently at Jesus, who in turn looks down at her with compassion as He blesses her.
An ancient very ancient stone effigy can be seen against the south wall. This is of a man praying in a long gown which is said to date from the time of Edward III. One floor slab is for the gloriously named Original Jackson Esq, who departed this life in 1771, aged 74 years. Another floor slab in the chancel commemorates Admiral Edward Edwards. A visitor to this site tells me that Edwards was on board HMS Pandora, when it was lost on the Great Barrier Reef in 1791, whilst carrying prisoners from the Bounty back to the UK for trial.
Some medieval carvings on the end of wooden benches feature grotesquely contorted faces, one or two almost devilish in appearance, some with tongues stuck out and mouths pulled open in a medieval gesture of insult.
The church grounds are well maintained and there are a few things of interest here. At one point, a hole in the wall of the church grounds has been plugged with some old gravestones. Two of these are worthy of note, One features a winged human skull, a symbol of the mortality of Man. The wings symbolise the flight of the soul to Heaven. The text is virtually all gone now but the date of 1750 is still very faintly discernible. The second is a beautiful carving of a pair of cherubs, eyes closed and with delicate wings.
A headstone to one Ann Houltom is propped up against the south wall of the church grounds. Dated 1681 and still perfectly readable. A remarkable stone still stands proudly to the south east of the church. This featured a depiction of Old Father Time, scythe in one hand and an upturned hourglass in the other. An effigy of the deceased, now very worn, is underneath the hourglass and this in turn rests on two human skulls. Rich in symbolism, this headstone is similar to several found at Tichmarsh near to Thrapston and also similar to an impressive box tomb at Stilton.
This is a beautiful and historic church, and it good to see that A friends of St Remigius was formed a few years ago, which will hopefully ensure that this church is protected and is there for the present and future generations to enjoy.
If you have liked looking at this page, you might be interested in seeing my report on the visit to neighbouring Chesterton. Please click on the photograph immediately above on the right to be directed there.