The church of St Benedict at Glinton is a beautiful, striking, structure with its 140 foot needle spire dominating the flat landscape for miles around. The "Peasant Poet" John Clare lived in the village, in a charming white thatched cottage and immortalised the church in his poem "Glinton Spire". The other thing that this church is famous, or infamous, for is the mooning gargoyle pictured below right.
This can be found on the south wall of the nave. There is a row of conventional gargoyles, and one that is reversed at the end of the line. This gargoyle is bearing his buttucks, with an upside down face leering in between his legs. It is said that the stonemason of the day were paid in accordance with how their bosses viewed the quality of the work. It is suggested that the stonemason in question was unhappy with what he had been paid, so carved this gargoyle as a personal comment, expressing his discontent so to speak, and aimed it so that its buttucks were pointed in a direct line towards Peterborough Cathedral. There are one or two of these about, most notably at Easton On The Hill, high up on the tower. Urban myth...possibly, but a good story nonetheless!
There was a church here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. The early Saxon church here would have been a basic wooden building, nothing of which remains today. In the 12th century, a church was constructed out of Barnack stone. This consisted of a nave and chancel, with possibly a north aisle. Much rebuilding was done here in the 13th century, and more still in the 15th century, at which point in time the tower and spire were added. The latter is a magnificent and is considered one of the finest in the country. In 1843 the spire was struck by lightning, with the top 10 ft having to be rebuilt.
Whilst still on the subject of the tower, a ring of six bells hang here, all of these being cast by Thomas Osborn of Downham Market in Norfolk. One of these is dated 1798, with the remainder dated a year later. The first four bells have some lovely inscriptions on them. The first says "THE LORD TO PRAISE, MY VOICE I'LL RAISE" whilst the inscription on the second reads "PEACE AND GOOD NEIGHBOURHOOD". The third reads "GIVE NO OFFENCE TO THE CHURCH" whilst the fourth says "OUR VOICES SHALL WITH JOYFUL SOUND, MAKE HILLS AND VALLEYS ECHO ROUND".
The fifth bell notes the names Edmund and George Webster, the churchwardens of the day. The final bell reads "JOHN SCOTT DID PAY FOR ME ONE HUNDRED POUNDS AND ODD MONEY". John Scott was a resident here and was, apparantly, a very fine ringer of the church bells at St Benedict.
Other work completed here in the 15th century included the arcades being rebuilt, as well as clerestory and south porch being added. There are two very impressive 14th century tomb tops standing inside the porch. These are thought to represent members of the De La Mere family who came over from Normandy with William The Conquorer and whose remains are known to have been removed from nearby Northborough.
The church here is kept open to visitors and is just exquisite! The walls are limewashed, and the whole place is bright and welcoming. The chancel arch dates from the original 12th century structure. Carved heads in between the arches show one woman at peace and three others in torment, a lesson to those who attended the church in days long gone when the vast majority of the population could not read or write. The font is Norman, and is designed with squares and crosses. The bowl looks to be far older than the base that it is resting on.
Stained glass includes quality representations of the Crucifiction and the Ascension. A St George window in the south aisle is in memory of Lt Samuel Vergette, who was killed in World War One. Was also very impressed with the carved poppyheads on the pews. Some of these depicted mythical creatures and anotherlooked to be a styalised Green Man, with tongue stuck out in typical medieval gesture of insult.
Was interested to see a wall monument in the chancel having a skull and crossed bones at the bottom of it, denoting the mortality of Man.
The church grounds here are large and well kept. There is a real oddity close to the porch. A gravestone dated 1652 reads as follows..."Herae lyeath the Bodyes of Robert Smith and XX John Smith Dyed 1652" Note that the letter "N" are reversed, please see photograph middle bottom. On the reverse side of this grave is another carving. Again, this has the same olde English rustic script, but this time the "N"s are the right way around but the letter "D"'s are reversed. The grave commemorates one Elizabeth Strickson, who passed away in 1712. The actual carving here is very crisp, and looks to have been worked pretty recently. Certainly, I have seen gravestones used more than once, so I am not surprised to see a gravestone with carvings front and back but I am left wondering why the latter inscription was re carved!
Poet John Clare's childhood sweetheart, Mary Joyce died, unmarried, in a house fire in 1838 at the age of 41. She was buried in the church grounds at St Benedicts. This was a sad story with any possible romance bwteeen the two not possible because John Clare's social standing was so much lower than that of the Joyce's.
This is a very lovely church, and a favourite place of mine to visit. The church of St Benedict is well worth a visit if you are in the area.