The church of St Bartholomew is set in some exquisite countryside. The church is set on the edge of unbroken Cambridgeshire fens and a single Red Kite circled around the fields at the side of the church looking for food. This is the furthest south that I have seen a Red Kite whilst researching this site, although I have been told that they have moved a lot further south than this!
The almost obligatory white thatched cottage stands at the side of the church and, as at neighbouring Little Stukeley, a war memorial stands proudly in the church grounds. Also, as with Little Stukeley, the church is kept locked. There is no keyholder, churchwardens or rector listed. I met a very nice lady in the churchyard, and enjoyed chatting to her for a while. She told me that services still took place here...but if it wasn't for that, I could have left here not really knowing if St Bartholomew was still used for regular worship. She also said to me that the church was very nice inside, but I will have to take her word on that! Having said all that, the church grounds here were very well kept, and someone obviously put time and effort in keeping the place in good order.
There was a church mentioned here in the Domesday Survey of 1086. That early structure would have been wooden, and has long since gone, but there is evidence to suggest that a more sunstantial stone church was here in the 12th century. The earliest parts of the present structure date from around 1250, with nave and north arcade, and a very wide north aisle dating from around then. The south artcade, aisle and the chancel date from a little later.
Much rebuilding was done here in the 15th century, including the rebuilding of the chancel arch and the porch in around 1470. The west tower dates from the late 15th century and at roughly the same time the clerastory was added to the nave. The porch was altered in the 17th century and the whole church was restored in the middle of the 19th century, and again in 1909-10.
Interestingly, as with neighbouring Little Stukeley, there is evidence of stonework being re-used in later walls. Here at St Bartholomew, we can see 13th century coffin lids built in to the walls.
The tower is perpundicular, and is heavily buttressed. Some very well carved grotesques sit, or should I say crouch, part way up the tower. These are strange, winged creatures, and look as if they are about to launch themselves off of the tower on to those unfortunate enough to be standing below. These are really nice pieces of work.
The tower houses four bells, with the first being cast by William Haulsey of St Ives. This is dated 1622 and the inscription on it reads OMNIA FIANT AD GLORIAM DEI, which when translated reads “Let all things be done for the glory of God” The second bell is circa 1600 and was cast by Newcombe of Leicester, who also provided two bells for neighbouring Little Stukeley. A charming olde English inscription reads REMEMBER THE PORE AND NEDE (poor and needy). The third bell was cast in 1797 by Robert Taylor of St Neots, and this bell features the name of Robert Bond, the churchwarden of the day, inscribed in to it.
The fourth and final bell is from the Stamford Bellfoundry. The research for this has shown some discrepancy as to the dates. The Revd Owen's study of Huntingdonshire church bells published in 1899 suggests that Tobias Norris cast this bell in 1635. This would have been Tobias Norris II, and not many bells carry his name. The National Church Bell Register though dates the bell at 1695, and therefore this would be Tobias Norris III. What is beyond doubt though is that the bell is inscribed with the names of John Dobson, the vivar of that time, and churchwardens I Webster and T Clark.
As was mentioned before, the church grounds here are kept very neat and tidy. Most of the gravestones of any real age are very badly worn. There was something here, though, that was unique to me on my travels in this area. A grave to the north side of the church was very badly worn, and three skulls were just discernible on it. Skulls on graves were symbols on the mortality of Man in days when the ordinary man or woman would not have been able to read. These are not terribly common in this area, but there are a few about. What was unique about this one was that one of the skulls was upside down and one was at a 90 degree angle. One of my main interests is these "Deaths Head Stones" and early gravestone symbolism in general. I have no idea what an upside down skull would symbolise.
Inside the porch is a coffin lid built in to the wall. There is also an ancient looking recess with a more modern looking water stoup in it. Interesting to see that the west of the white thatched cottage here actually is part of the perimiter wall of the church grounds itself. This really is a delightful setting, and it was good to spend time here. Very few cars went through the village and it was good to see two ladied riding horses trotting up the middle of the main street.
Leaving the church grounds I headed a little way further in to the village to take some distance shots. From the south east I could just see the top of the tower, through the trees and bushes. To the west there are some glorious long distance shots to be had. The sun was blazing down still at that time, but the sky was no longer cloudless, and from distance the sun silhouetted the church and surrounding trees. The Red Kite was still hard at work, circling the area. A really lovely area and it is always good to head out this way.