I have discovered that my wish to see all 342 of the churches managed by the Churches Conservation Trust might be a little more difficult than I thought.
Yesterday I headed home from my holidays, leaving Man behind in Nottingam (boo). Work calls today.
I decided to break up the journey home by visiting some more churches on the way.
I checked the interactive map on the website and decided to leave the M1 at Northampton and cross country, taking in nine churches on the way.
In hindsight, this was a little ambitious :).
Now when Man and I went church visiting the other day, all the churches we found were on or visible from the roads. This was not the case yesterday.
First stop was St Bartholomew’s in Furtho, Northamptonshire. The church, a dovecote and a farm are all that is left of a medieval village, deserted when boundary changes diverted the road away from the village.
It can be found half a mile up a private road to a farm. I asked a horserider whether it was ok for me to visit and she kindly let me park my car and pointed me in the right direction.
The gate latch was broken and stuck and I had to clamber over the top (which was fun for a middle-aged short person lol). But the church was lovely and so was the dovecote.
The second church was much more easily accessible, in the grounds of a very nice girls schools called Thornton School.
It was when I was standing in the reception of the school while the very nice, and extremely well-presented receptionist found me the key and got me to sign the visitor book that I noticed I was covered in green algae from my climb over the gate at Furtho.
The receptionist was far too well-mannered to say anything.
This church is in the well kept grounds of the school just by the car park. There are some lovely statues outside but inside is amazing.
There are a couple of memorials to soldiers who were lost in the First World War – a period that interests me very much.
Life size alabaster monuments sit either side of the aisle as you go through the door. These, apparently, are 15th century and are memorials to John Barton and his wife (note to self: find out who they were).
But in the centre of the church lies an amazing brass that has 16 kneeling children at the bottom and a man and three women further up. The man is Robert Ingleton (1472) and the women his three wives.
The children are grouped together underneath the respective mother.
The church also has box pews, something I find strange. it’s a bit like sitting facing fellow churchgoers in an old railway carriage. Shouldn’t you be looking at the priest?
Now so far, I was doing quite well.
But here’s where I started running into problems. The next church was meant to be St Mary’s at Fleet Marston. The Sat Nav took me to a farm shop, where I stopped and asked where the church was. apparently the farmer held the key but the church was accessed about half a mile up the road behind a haulage firm and across a field and I decided this was something I would rather do with Man so I bought some honey and went on my way.
The Church of the Assumption in Hartwell, Buckinghamshire, was only a little more satisfying.
After getting stuck in a dead end down a single track farm road, I managed to do a 15-point turn and parked up and walked through an old, overgrown graveyard and found the wall of the church.
Behind a locked gate I could see the church but I couldn’t get any closer than this.
A very nice Scottish dog walking lady said the hotel nearby had held the key, it said so on the sign by the gate in the wall, she said.
But this part of the sign has been painted out so I couldn’t get any further than this.
You can’t go into the building itself anyway. Apparently shortly after the Second World War all the lead was nicked from the roof of the church and the weather got in, causing the vaults to collapse. So the building is now shut, It would have been good to be able to get through the gates though.
I had no more luck at the next church, which was supposed to be All Saints at Shirburn. There is a note on a gate in a wall giving a phone number for the keyholder. This one, I think is going to take a little pre-planning. I couldn’t see the church at all from where I was.
By this time it was getting quite late so I decided to abandon some of my list and head home.
But the journey took me straight past a place called Mongewell, so I stopped for one last church.
This church is tucked away down a single track road in the grounds of what looked like some sort of disused Government facility ( I was wrong, but I’ll tell you what it turned out to be another day).
St John the Baptist is ruined. The nave and the tower are derelict.
But you can go into the chancel, which is still intact, and when you do, it is quite a surprise.
Because the rest of the building is in such bad condition, I expected this to be too.
But it wasn’t. In fact it was lovely. Tiny, but lovely.
And there was quite a special monument of a guy in a turban reclining. (it’s not really in focus, sorry).
But the area was quite dark and wooded and the deserted buildings of this strange place I was in spooked me a bit so I grabbed a few photos and ran.
I wish Man had been there so I could have explored a bit more, but to be honest, I felt a bit vulnerable on my own.
I did find the skinniest door I’ve ever seen though. I’m not sure I would fit through that!
So, of the nine (too ambitious) churches I set out to see, I managed four.
Two I know how to get to, but are going to involve a little pre-planning, and three I abandoned because it was late and I wanted to get home.
The journey left me with some research to do and I would love to go back to Thornton and do a brassrubbing of Robert Ingleton, his three wives and 16 children.
It was fun, but as always, it would have been more fun if Man had been with me.