Orton Waterville.  CHURCH : st mary

  No snow here on the day of my re-visit. W warm afternoon with a fair amount of sunshine Lighting conditions were pretty good outside and it was a delight to be here.

    There was no church mentioned here in the Domesday Survey of 1086, but it is thought that a church, with north aisle, was here in the 12th century. That original structure was probably a private chapel.

    The church was re-built at the end of the 13th century, with the west tower dating from 1270 or thereabouts.  The late 13th century nave has an arcade of four bays on both north and south sides. The north aisle dates from 1270, with the south aisle dating from ten years later. The chancel arch appears to have been re-built between 1300 and 1310.

    The clerastory was added in the 15th century, with the chancel being re-built in the 17th century. Restoration was undertaken here in the 1920's and in the late 1960's extensive restoration work was carried out to the tower after it was struck by lightning.

    There are four bells hanging here with two from the Stamford bellfoundry and two from Joseph Eayre of St Neots. Starting off with the bells made locally and one of these is dated 1606 and is a very early bell from Tobias Norris I, who founded the Stamford bellfoundry. This has the inscription "Protete Prece Pia Quos Convoco Santa Maria 1606". This is an inscription that Tobias never used on his bells and it is suggested that he re-cast an earlier bell that hung here, which is thought to have dated from 1270, when the tower was built. This would make this the earliest church bell recorded in Huntingdonshire.

   The second bell from the Stamford bellfoundry is dated 1670, and was cast by Thomas Norris. The two bells from Eayre are dated 1754 and 1755. The former bell has the name of Richard Chambers, the churchwardern of the time. Interestingly, there is a floor slab inside St Mary marking Chambers' passing in 1770. The latter bell has the name Samuel Sharman inscribed on to it, another churchwardern.

    The font here is plain, and is of octagonal design, and stands on a circular plinth. This dates from very early in the 14th century.

    Pride of place in the interior of St Mary goes to an intricately carved pulpit. This was carved from Elizabethan oak in the early 17th century and was a present to the church from the church of Great St Mary in Cambridge. This is a beautifully carved piece of work and there are depictions of volumptuous females carved in to the pulpit. It is suggested that the reason that this pulpit was given as a gift is that these images of the female form were proving too distracting to the male students at Cambridge, where the pulpit previously stood. Not sure if this is the true reason, but it made me smile when I saw it proposed! A mr Paley, being quoted in Revd Sweeting's Victorian study of churches in the Peterborough area siad... " it says little for the taste of those who rejected so magnificent a specimen of carving"   It is recorded that the cost of the trasportation from getting this fine piece of work from Cambridge to Orton Waterville was 37 1/2p!

  The figures carved on to this pulpit are mermaids and there are other instances of mermaids being used on other carvings in the area. Mermaid figures appear on the pulpit at Farcet, just a few miles away and a mermaid features on a tympanum doorway at Stow Longa near to Kimbolton.

    Church grounds are well kept and there is a war memorial to the fallen of the village, which stands to the north of the church. In the south of the church grounds stands a gravestone to one Fred Bason from Walworth London, a published diarist. His slate gravestone rather grandly proclaims that the deceased was ..."A  Modern Samuel Pepys".

    I have always liked to see the cross on top of the tower, lit up in the dark evenings. I liked this 30 years and more ago when I was a child, and still like to see it now! Enjoyed my visit here.

Orton waterville pulpit close up 3

Orton Waterville is a fairly large village, three miles to the west of Peterborough. The church of St Mary is quiet and peaceful, but in a built up area, surrounded by housing estates and a row of shops. The church here is usually kept closed to visitors, but I fell lucky after a church service during 2013 and was able to go inside to take some photographs. My first visit here with the camera was on Easter Day 2008, when the whole area was covered in snow.