Mid Summer 2013 and Cambridgeshire Historic Churches tour day. Three churches were scheduled to be looked at, starting with Farcet then on to both Anglican churches in Whittlesey. .This was the first time that I had been on one of these tours. My church photography is normally a very solitary hobby for me and at times I have been out for a week on my own and hardly seen a soul. It was good to be with a decent sized group of people and this is something that I hope to do again during 2014.
There is very little distance between the two churches in Whittlesey, in fact if you take a look at the photograph above you will see the tip of the spire of St Mary off in the distance. The last time that I went through Whittlesey, the church of St Andrew was enclosed in scaffolding. The church looked great on this gorgeous sunday afternoon, and with England having gone one ahead in the ashes about an hour earlier, all was well with the world..
The church here was known locally as the 'low church' and dates mainly from the 14th century, with the three stage castlelated and pinnacled tower dating from the 16th century.There was much rebuilding here in the 15th century, at which time the clerastory was added. There was major restoration here in the early 1870's and it was then that the south porch was added.
An impressive eight bells hang here with two of these being modern, cast by Gillett and Johnston in 1930. The other six were cast by Joseph Eayre of St Neots. Five of these dated from 1759, with the inscription on one of the bells reading 'These five bells was cast May the 12 1759'. A sixth was added by the same founder in 1769 with the bell having the wonderful inscription 'I to the church the living call and to the grave do summon all'. Three of the Eayre bells were taken down in exchange for three bells from Thomas Mears II in 1843 and one of the remaining Eayre bells was re-cast by Gillett and Johnston in 1911.
I had not seen inside this church before, and it was lovely to be able to have a look around. One thing that was of great interest to me was in the porchway. A fragment of gravestone sits against one wall and has an interesting design on it. A figure appears to be bent over and in the process of slaughtering an animal whilst what appears to be a ghostlike figure lurks in the background. Turns out that this was the gravestone for a Whittlesey butcher, Abraham Read who, legend states, slaughtered a sheep on the sabbath and was immediately struck dead. A fabulous piece of local history and it is good to see that this grave is now safely inside.
The inside of this church is very beautiful. The walls are painted white and the whole place is bright, welcoming and peaceful as a result The stained glass in the chancel depicts scenes from the life of Christ with birth, baptism, crucifiction, resurrection and ascension. Was very taken with the lectern, which is supported by an angels arms.
A couple of wall plaques are very old and both feature the human skull as an image of the mortality of man. One of these is a small brass plaque and Revd Sweeting, in his mid Victorian look at the churches in and around Peterborough was particularly disparaging about this. He made mention that there were spelling mistakes in the text, with the person putting this together having a not so great grasp of Latin.
There are some fine quality carved heads throughout the interior of the church. These seem to date from various different periods, with some obviously being Victorian.
Outside and the church grounds are well maintained. At some point in the past the gravestones have been moved and are now lined up in two rows back to back to the south of the church. There are further gravestones lines up against the walls. Nothing really interesting to be found here but hiding against a wall underneath some bushes a human skull rests in a bowl full of human bones, reminding the onlooker that man is mortal and will die, the same message that is on the plaques inside. Precious few onlookers where the grave is situated now mind you!
This is a lovely church. It may not be as big as the church of St Mary a few hundred yards away but big is not necessarily best. This is a lovely place to be and a lovely place to worship and I thoroughly enjoyed my brief stay here. Well worth a look. I think that this church is normally kept closed throughout the week.