Mid February 2009, and the UK was still recovering from the heaviest snowfall in 20 years or so. A few days previously London had been brought to a standstill bu heavy snowstorms. We laughed at them...but three days later it was our turn and we ground to a halt equally as fast as our capital!
Three days after the blizzard I visited as many churches as I could whilst the snow was still on the ground. Managed eight churches on the Saturday, with the church of St Pega at Peakirk being one of these. Peakirk is a little off the beaten track and I had a mile or so walk from my previous stop at Glinton. A lovely walk in what was still quite deep snow. A few sledgers were out and about and the view out over the fields was lovely.
A small and well kept village, with some very lovely old cottages. Amazingly, considering that this village is off the beaten track a little, there was once a very decent second hand and collectors bookshop here, now sadly closed.
The church is named after St Pega. She was the brother of Guthlac, who set up a hermitage in the Peterborough fens. Pega built her hermitage in imitation of her brother. Guthlac and Pega came from one of the great noble families, and it seems as if Pega received a grant from the King to set up her hermitage. It is said that the current church at Peakirk is built on the site of Pega's retreat. Interestingly, the history books state that Pega sailed up the river Welland to attend her brothers funeral, and healed a blind man from Wisbech on the way.
This church was built in the 11th Century, and the dedication to St Pega is a unique one. A north aisle was added in 1170, with a south aisle added some 50 years later. This church is nationally famous for a series of wall paintings, mainly to be found on the north aisle. Wall paintings were common in Churches and were used to teach Bible passages in an age in which few people could read or write.
These were found really by accident. In 1945 traces of colour were seen when a bracket was inserted in to the wall of the north aisle in order that a curtain pole be fixed up. This brought away some lime wash and it was evident that that a wall painting had been limewashed over at some point. By 1950, a whole series of wall paintings had been uncovered depicting the Passion Cycle. No fewer than 11 wall paitnings were found intact, a major find and one that has made this small church nationally famous. Was interested to see one of the wall paintings featuring a very worn depiction of a skeleton, picture below right, and it is thought that this is marking an outbreak of plague in the village.
Stained glass includes a depiction of St Pega surrounded by Swans, whilst one of the three bells hanging in the Norman bellcote is modern, being dated 1999. The second is from the Newcombe Foundry in Leicester, and is 16th century in date. The third is dated 1657 and was cast locally, by Thomas Norris of the Stamford Bellfoundry.