Fletton, along with neighbouring Woodston and Stanground were small villages that have all but been swallowed up by the growth of Peterborough. Fletton grew at a fast rate due to the local brickyard industry. The population was 134 in 1801, rising to just over 4,000 100 years later. There was a church at Fletton mentioned in the Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, although it is thought that the church here was completely rebuilt in or around 1150.
The church of St Margaret is in a built up area, surrounded by terraced houses and shops. Despite this, though, the church grounds are quiet and peaceful, and if you like dragonflies you could do worse than be here in the early Autumn as these seem to like the delightfully overgrown nature of some of the graves.
Half a mile or so away to the south there is a lake, and anyone standing on the far side of this lake will have a nice view of St Margaret, and the church at nearby Stanground.Also in the same direction, off in the distance, is the delightful Peterborough Cathedral, and the not so delightful Peterborough United football ground!
The original structure, which would probably have been wooden, was rebuilt in stone around 1150, with a north chapel and north aisle added some 15 years later. Around 1300 a south aisle and the west tower were added. The chancel and nave both date from the mid 12th century.
Quite a lot of restoration has gone on here over the years including work in the 1870's and very early 1900's. The top of the spire was also replaced in 1917 after the church was struck by lightning. The porch is modern, being built at the time of the Victorian restoration.
A very pleasant, but unremarkable church on the outside. Inside though we have, in my opinion, one of the most important historical relics to be found in any of the churches within the catchment area of this site. Built in to the east wall of the chancel we have a series of carvings, which are originally thought to have come from Peterborough Cathedral, being removed after the Cathedral burned down in 1116. These are carved from Barnack stone and those looking at the photographs below will notice a reddish tint to the stone. This type of stone adopts a reddish tone when exposed to heat. A fascinating relic of something precious that was saved from the Cathedral fire all those centuries ago. These carvings, thought to date from the 8th century, are now thankfully inside the church and away from the threat of erosion. At one time they stood outside.
As to the carvings themseles, these are fabulously intricate work in places. One panel shows a man either tied between two columns or pushing two columns apart. The local, and very helpful, rector suggested that this might be a depiction of Samson. Another panel shows a close up depiction of an angel with halo and wings, holding a staff in its right hand. Other panels show bizarre creatures and the human figures have had the eyes crudely drilled out at some point in the past. Fascinating!
Built into the inside south wall of the chancel are two carvings, liable to date from the 10th century, with carved figures of an angel and a saint under round arches. These are again though to have come from Peterborough Cathedral.
The Revd Sweeting, in his look at the Parish Churches in and around Peterborough, which was printed in 1868, visited St Margaret and described the tower here as being in " a somewhat dangerous state". The ladder which went up to the bells at the time of his visit was dated 1777, a mere 91 years old at the time of Sweeting's study!! I think that health and safety might have had something to say about that these days!
At the time of North's comprehensive study of church bells in the 1860's there was a ring of three bells here. These days there are five bells here with two being added by Taylor of Loughborough in 1952.
The church of St Margaret at Fletton is, at first glance, an unremarkable building. No wow factor here, just a pleasant church surrounded by houses and shops. The wow factor here can be seen inside the church, with a series of Anglo Saxon carvings mounted in to the east wall of the chancel being one of the most important features to be seen in any church within the catchment area of this site....but more of that later!
The other three bells hanging here are all of considerable age. The first of these was cast by Newcombe of Leicester and is inscribed S.P.A.L.L.E. It has been suggested that this might be a dedication to St Paul.
The second bell was made locally, at the Stamford Bellfoundry, who were prolific bellfounders all through the seventeenth century. This one is dated 1620, and was made by Tobias Norris I, who started up the foundry.
The final bell is inscribed WILLIAM + WATES + MADE ME 1590. This is William Watts, who worked with Newcombe in Leicester.
The church grounds are large but access to the north side of the church grounds is prevented. There are some very finely carved Georgian graves here, a few of which are included below. Interested to see one of the graves having an hourglass depicted on it. In gravestone symbolism, this would have been included on the grave to illustrate the passing of time. Occasionally, the hourglass would have had wings on it, saying "time flies" to the onlooker. These were carved using symbols rather than words as the average onlooker at that time would not have been able to read. Anyone interested in this type of thing might care to take a look at the pages entitled "Death Head Stones" and "Gravestone Symbolism" which can be found by scrolling down under the Welcome tab.
St Margaret is usually kept locked, but it is special inside and is well worth taking a look inside if you ever get the chance.