Sawtry is one of the largest villages that I am covering in this site, with a population today of more than 7,000 as opposed to the 790 who were recorded as living there in the 1801 census.
This village has a rich and varied history, going back to Roman times. In 1147 Simon De Senlis formed a Cistercian Abbey here. This took 98 years to build, but sadly considerably less time to demolish as it fell foul of the Reformation.
In 1536, after her death, Catherine of Aragon, divorced wife of Henry VIII, was laid overnight in Sawtry Abbey on her way to her final resting place at Peterborough Cathedral.
Sawtry used to be divided in to three different parishes. These were Sawtry All Saints, Sawtry St Andrew and Sawtry Judith. There has been no church in the latter Parish since 1573, when St Mary was demolished. The other two churches were each demolished in the 1870’s, with the present church being built in their place. The present All Saints stands in the same spot as the previous All Saints church, and is built to the same design.
A lesson learned here! Do not have preconceptions when visiting a church! To my mind this was going to be an unremarkable mid to late Victorian church, and those who know me will know that, however much good they did, I am not the biggest fan of the Victorian era! However, this was a big surprise! This is a lovely church. Everything is white inside, reminding me of the interior of Edenham near to Bourne. It is bright and welcoming inside, particularly with the sun streaming in through the south windows.
Was very surprised to see some beautiful medieval brass on the interior of the south wall. Two figures, Sir William Le Moyne and his wife Maria stand side by side, as they have done since 1404. Sir William is in full armour, including spurs. Behind Sir William is a figure of a monk holding a flagellum, a kind of very nasty whip, which I am assuming the flagellents used at the time of the black death in the mid 14th century. At Sir William's feet is a lion, and looking up at the lion, at Maria's feet, is a small dog.
This brass is in really superb condition and was previously housed on an alter tomb which was situated in the chancel of the previous church.
So, feeling a little surprised to see 600 year old brass on the wall of a Victorian church, I was then very pleasantly surprised to see some fragments of medieval stained glass in windows on the south wall. You only have to look at the pages in this site to realise that there are quite a few churches covered that I have not been able to get in to, but even allowing for that, I have seen very little medieval stained glass whilst covering the churches in this area.
Some of the fragments depicting heads reminded me very much of similar fragments that I had seen shortly before on the North Norfolk coast. A helpful panel in one of the windows informed the onlooker that these glass panels used to hang at the manor house of Sawtry St Andrew, and were donated to the church in 1905.
One window looked to me to possibly be flemish, possibly 17th century, and featured cherubs, two of which were carrying crosses. Several butterflies were also depicted on this window.
A more modern stained glass window can be found in the north aisle, a rather nice depiction of Jesus. Two adult male figures appear to be questioning Jesus, possibly these are pharisees or saducees whilst a woman and child worship at Jesus' feet. A rather nice window and it was good to see it here along with the antique glass.
No tower here but a bellcote on the western end of the church which houses a single bell. According to the National Church Bell Databse this bell was cast by the London Foundry in or around 1320. According to Owens Victorian look at Church Bells of Huntingdon the present bell here is one of two that rang at the old All Saints. The other was sold and hung at a school in Peterborough. According to the same book, the single bell at St Peter was sold to a church in Ludlow in Cheshire.
Even though this is a Victorian church, as mentioned earlier the church is situated on the site of the previous All Saints. For that reason there are some older gravestones to be found here. Was interested to see one stone, script illegible but I suspect fairly early Georgian, leaning upside down against the outer wall of the chancel, with two cherub heads facing downwards!
Was also interested to see a reasonably unusual piece of gravestone symbolism on one of the stones. This is not oictured here as it is only a really small part of a much bigger grave. It is a serpent with its own tail in its mouth. This was a fairly common symbol for eternity, but I have very rarely seen this symbol used in this area.
Lovely church, nice people, an enjoyable time spent here. This church is usually locked but is usually open to visitors between 2PM and 4PM on a Saturday.