Weldon.  church : st mary the virgin

August 2011, and a return trip to the church of St Mary The Virgin at Weldon. A previous visit had coincided with one of the darkest and most dismal Easter Sunday's for several years, with none of the photographs taken that day being worth using.  No problems this time, though, with the sun shining down brightly.

    Weldon is at the extreme western edge of the catchment area of this site. The village itself is found just off the busy A427, two miles east of Corby and on the junction with the even busier A43, which heads off toowards Stamford. Despite the surroundings though the church of St Mary is set in picturesque grounds, and is quiet and peaceful. The entrance to the church grounds from the north is particularly attractive, with a small bridge crossing a stream which winds its way through some trees. Very pleasant indeed!

    Weldon is situated in what is called the Rockingham Forest. This covers some 200 square miles, lying between the rivers Welland and Nene and the towns of Stamford and Kettering. After the Norman Conquest the area was designated a royal hunting ground for William the Conqueror and was given the title of Rockingham forest. The term 'Forest' represented an area of legal jurisdiction relating to the King's hunting preserves rather than an area of continuous woodland, having said that, Weldon would have been surrounded by large areas of woodland in the past.

    The present church has origins dating back to the early 13th century, with the church having been built by the Bassett family, who came over to this country with William The Conqueror. Most of the present structure dates from the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The west tower though was re-built in the 18th century. The tower is three stage and has a pinnacle at each corner. There are tall lancet windows at the third stage and a clock and sundial appear on the south side of the tower. As can be seen in the photograph top right there is a lantern at the top of the tower, and it is thought that this was lit at night to guide travellers through the forest to the village.

   The south porch dates from the 15th century, and a north chapel was added in the 1860's. Plenty of gargoyles to be seen here, with carvings on both north and south walls. Sadly, most of these are showing quite serious signs of wear, as can be seen in the photographs below. I was also interested to see a small carved head of what looked to be the devil.

    No fewer than eight bells hang here, with six of these being cast by celebrated Peterborough founder Henry Penn in 1710. The first of these bells has the inscription "NULLY SECONDUS" (translated as Second To None).  The second bell reads "I PRAE SEQUAR" (Go First, I Will Follow) whilst the third says "FELICES TER ET AMPLIUS" (Thrice Happy And Yet More). Penn's fourth bell has the inscription "LINGUAE NOS PENES SUNT QUIS NOBIS CONTRADICTAT 1710" (Our Tongues Are With Us Who Can Contradict Us)

    The fifth bell is inscribed with names of the churchwardens of the day, John Sprig and John Phillip, as well as having the Latin inscription "ORDINE QUISQUE SUO" (Each In It's Own Order). The final bell has the name of the rector of the day Henry Goode, and also says "FINIS CORONAT OPUS", which translates as Final Crowning Work, a direct, and possibly immodest reference to the fact that this was the final bell cast in his ring of six.

    Two modern bells were added by the Whitechapel Bellfoundry and two of the Penn bells mentioned above were re-cast by the same company.

    The church was locked to visitors when I arrived, which was a shame as I had hoped to see the 13th century glass with the Bassett family coat of arms on it, as well as some Flemish glass from the 17th century depicting the adoration of the Magi, which at one point in time was given by Lord Nelson to diplomat Sir William Hamilton. A little internet research on Sir William showed a very interesting relationship between him, his wife Emma Lyon and Horatio Nelson. No room to put it down here but it is well worth looking up if you are not already aware of it.

    As was mentioned earlier, the church grounds here are very peaceful and quiet, despite the close proximity of two busy roads. This really is a beautiful part of Northamptonshire. The church grounds are well maintained and very spacious, and there are a large number of elaborately carved Georgian headstones. Close to the tower there is a headstone to one Dr John Clarke who, going back to the topic of Horatio Nelson, was a surgeon who served on the Drednaught at the battle of Trafalgar in October 1805.

    Spent a very enjoyable three quarters of an hour here. It was good to visit here again, and really good to be here with the sun shining down. Had a little lunch then spent a fruitless few minutes searching the church grounds for a lost lense cap...if you find one it's mine!!! Then headed off towards neighbouring Stanion.


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