Wakerley is a very small village set in idyllic countryside right on the East Northamptonshire/Rutland border. Anyone who wants to know why I do what I do should just take a look at the long distance view of the church of St John The Baptist half way down on the left hand side of this page Beautiful countryside, field after field of unspoiled beauty and a great delight to be here, especially on a lovely late Spring day with the sun blazing down.
I get a few people express surprise when they find out that my hobby is photographing churches. I hold my hand up and admit to being an eccentric Englishman...but look at some of the lovely places that I have got to visit. I am blessed to be able to get out and enjoy places like Wakerley, and I wouldn't swap what I do for anything! The church here is still consecrated, but there are only three services a year held here. The church of St Peter at neighbouring Barrowden covers both villages. Today, the church at Wakerley is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust. Despite the lack of worship here, this is a church that still stands proud, at the extreme western edge of the village, and is still well cared for. The church grounds are immaculately well kept and this is a really nice place to spend some time. The church itself dates back as far as the 12th century, with the tower and spire dating back to the 14th century. There was mention made of a priest here at the time of the Domesday survey of 1086. That earlier church would probably have been a basic wooden chancel and nave, of which no trace remains. The whole church was restored in 1875 by J.B Corby of Stamford. He was a prolific architect who was even responsible for the design of the Westminster Memorial Hospital as far away as Shaftsbury in Dorset. The church was closed when I visited here so I was unable to see what the church is most notable for, fabulous and intricate Norman carvings on, and to the side, of the 12th century chancel. A corbel table features nine carvings including that of a horses head, human heads and a strange collection of beasts! It has been suggested that the carvings here are some of the finest in the whole of England. On that basis I was a little surprised not to find the church here listed in Simon Jenkins excellent book detailing the 1,000 best churches in the UK. When North compiled his Victorian study of the church bells of Northamptonshire he noted that there were three bells hanging, going on to mention that four bells had hung here in 1700. The fourth bell, founder unknown, has rested for many years inside the church, and was eventually sold with the procedes going towards church repairs. Of the three noted by North, one was from Newcombe of Leicester and is dated 1598. another was dated a year later and was cast by Francis Watts, also of Leicester in the year before his death. This bell has a typical olde English inscription, often associated with Watts' bells, which reads "Cum Cum and Prae". The other bell was also cast locally, coming from Thomas Norris of the Stamford Bellfoundry. This one is dated 1663 and has the inscription "Thomas Norris Made Mee 1663". A walk around the church grounds show a few very ancient looking graves. A deaths head stone in particular caught my eye. The has a depiction of a human skull on it, an image designed to symbolise the mortality of man in a way that people could understand in an age when the majority could not read or write. This grave also has a depiction of an hourglass on it. This serves the same purpose as the skull in reminding the onlooker that man is mortal, with the hourglass depicting the sands of time having run out. Another gravestone, pictured at the bottom left of this page, would have been a super piece of work in its time. Now sadly faded, and starting to sink in to the ground, this has a just discernible date of 1689 on it. To my mind, this is rural England in all its glory. With apologies to hay fever sufferers the fields of yellow oilseed rape seemed to patchwork the whole area. Fields of sheep seemed unwilling to move a muscle in the warm late Spring sunshine. Birdsong was everywhere. Amazing to think that the busy A47 was just a mile or two away. Life is good. Had my lunch in the church grounds and then headed off in the direction of Stamford, taking in the churches at Collyweston and then Easton on the Hill, before reluctantly heading towards home. This whole area is well worth a visit if you are in the vicinity.