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Church Post Code NN14 3EL.

Open to visitors but champing church so check with CCT for opening times.

Redundant church : cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.


 It was a freezing cold January afternoon in 2023, with a revisit to the church of All Saints Aldwincle completing what was a six church Northamptonshire crawl.

The church here is a favourite of mine and I have visited several times over the years, but it was good to revisit. This is a ‘Champing’ church (Camping in Churches) organised by the Churches Conservation Trust.  In pre covid days All Saints was always open to visitors and I am not sure what this will do to opening arrangements during the camping season. It was open on this January afternoon though, which was good to see.

Aldwincle is a pleasant village which can be found some four miles north of Thrapston, which had a population of 322 at the time of the 2011 census. The village here used to be two separate parishes, with All Saints and St Peter merging together in 1879. It was seen that two churches for a village this size was not viable and All Saints, at the extreme south east of the village, was little used for many years. It was declared redundant in 1971, and has been cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust since 1976.

 This is an area of great beauty, with some glorious long distance shots of All Saints to be had from high ground at Titchmarsh to the south east, with fishing lakes and the River Nene to the south of the church.


The church of All Saints is set against the road that leads through to neighbouring Thorpe Waterville. The old rectory stands opposite the church, with war memorial in the north of the church grounds. The only noise was from the birds, with the exception of a single horse and rider heading west past the church. Entrance in to the church grounds is via a lychgate to the west.

The church here dates mainly from the 13th century, with the west tower dating from the 15th century. The chantry chapel was founded in 1489 by Elizabeth Chambre, the wife of the late William Aldewynckle, to whom there is a memorial brass inside the church. The purpose of these chantry chapels was for masses to be sung for the founder and their family by clergy taken on for this sole purpose. In pre reformation catholic times in this country it was believed that this would lessen the time that the deceased spent there.

The south porch dates from 1950; being rebuilt on a smaller scale after the previous porch was damaged by a falling tree.

The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south chantry chapel, south porch, vestry  and chancel. The square tower is perpendicular, heavily buttressed with battlements and crocketed pinnacles. A gargoyle is positioned centrally on each of the four walls, with grotesques throughout the tower! More of those in a moment!

The nave, clerestories and south chantry chapel are all battlemented, with the church buttressed throughout. The chantry chapel extends eastwards over the western half of the chancel.


The gargoyles and grotesques are particularly fine quality and it is unusual to see a church in this area being so heavily decorated. It was like being in Lincolnshire, where this level of decoration is commonplace.

I spent an enjoyable few minutes taking in the grotesques, with my only company being a Wagtail who was flitting between the carvings. There are carvings of human figures and mythical beasts. Some of the figures are very weathered; with a human male figure peering out through sightless eyes, a coating of orange lichen covering his forehead.

An eagle looks out from the south with close by, a surprised looking bird with small wings and a Wagtail sitting on its back!

Some of the grotesques lower down are missing their heads. At least one grotesque is recent, I daresay dating from a period a few years ago when the scaffolding was up. A frieze across the top of the tower with a repeated quatrefoil design is also new.

    Just a single bell remains here, this being cast by John Taylor of Loughborough in 1905. When North was compiling his Victorian study of Northamptonshire church bells there were five bells hanging here. All of these were sadly melted down in 1903 to help make a new ring for neighbouring St Peter. The new bell by Taylor was hung a couple of years later.

    The eldest of the bells that previously hung at All Saints was made at the Stamford Bellfoundry, being cast by Thomas Norris in 1637. This bell was inscribed ‘Thomas Norris made me 1637’ and North notes that there is a bird a fish and some fruit are carved under the text.

 Two bells were dated 1720 with the founder of these not known. A further bell was cast in 1724 by Thomas Eayre of Kettering. The final bell was just dated 1830, with no founders name. All sadly melted down; a small piece of history lost!


Entry is through the north door. The Georgian box pews that used to be here are now gone, all pews removed, with just a single bench present along the north wall of the nave.

There are three bay arcades to north and south, each dating from the 13th century. These have circular piers and capitals with some having nailhead decoration. It was not long after Christmas and Christmas lights were still wrapped around the piers.

Over the top of the chancel arch is the Royal Coat of Arms, flanked by a damaged Ten Commandments board.

The east window is of four lights, with a stained glass depiction of the reinstating of Peter. Peter kneels at Jesus’ feet as he asks him three times if he loved him; Peter answers yes three times, these balancing out the three times that he denied knowing Jesus on the night of his crucifixion. Jesus’ wounds are visible as he tells Peter to ‘Feed My Sheep’, with several sheep included in this depiction. This is the only stained glass to be seen here with the exception of a few medieval fragments in the chantry chapel.

On the chancel floor is a memorial brass to William Aldewynckle; who is depicted with hands raised in prayer, wearing long pointed shoes, with a defaced animal at his feet.


There is no altar set up at the east end of the south chantry chapel; with just an old keyboard against the wall under the four light east window. However, there are glimpses of how things might have been in the past. There are empty plinths which would have held statues on either side of the altar; with a piscina, with ogee arch in the usual position on the south wall, where the priest would have washed the Holy vessels used in the mass.

There are a few interesting stone slabs on the floor here, with two to Thomas and Fleetwood Ford dating from 1642 and 1643 respectively; the time of the English Civil War. A short inscription on the slab to Thomas reads ‘We Lived to dye’ with the wording on Fleetwood’s slab continuing ‘We dyd to live’. One further commemorates ‘Rachel the wife of Daniel Walsh the rector of this parish who dyed July 10th AD 1705’.


    The poet John Dryden was born in Aldwincle, at the Old Rectory opposite the church in 1631. He was one of 14 children born to Erasmus Dryden and Mary Pickering! John Dryden's mother’s father was Henry Pickering, who was the Rector here for 40 years. Pickering died in 1637 and his gravestone, now very worn, has been brought inside the church to protect it. The inscription on this stone reads as follows...

"Here lyeth the body of Henry Pykering Rector of this parish for the space of 40 years who departed this life September 1637 aged 75.   Just dealing meekness charitye being such at Heavens command he practized very much for which Heavens comfort failed not when he cryed. He lived to a full age, yet bewailed he died".

aldwinckle all saints 11.jpg

The church grounds are of interest, with the grounds stretching away to the east. There is little on the north side of the church except the war memorial. One chest tomb close to the south porch has a Grade II Listing in its own right. This is to Thomas Thorpe who died in 1655.

A little further to the east is a gravestone to one ‘Doiathy’ (I am assuming that the mason was struggling with the word Dorothy) Gaunt who died in 1750 at the advanced age for that day of 85 years.

What times these people lived through. I don’t know Thomas’ age but unless he died as a child he would have lived through the English Civil War; perhaps he may even have fought in it. Dorothy was born in a serious plague year when the Bubonic Plague was sweeping the country.

One male figure at the top of a slate stone points upwards towards Heaven, accompanied by an anchor, a symbol of Christian faith. Close by is an Ouroboros, a serpent with its tail in its mouth, an often used symbol for eternity. Read all three together and the deceased will spend eternity in Heaven due to his Christian faith. This is a testimony to his faith, no go and do likewise it says to the onlooker.

Also worth noting briefly, is a row of grieving widow stones, also in slate. These are pretty much along similar lines, with the widow in an attitude of mourning, with plant life around here that has either died or is pointing downwards. One has a tree which has branches cut off, this symbolising a life that was not lived to its full span.


I have spent several pleasant visits here over the years. I like the village, the church and the area in general. My days of long cycle journeys have halted now but this was a favourite place to cycle to, enjoying the backroads with the sun on my back. I have a great attachment for the churches that I cover in my sites; and this is a particular favourite. Well worth a visit if you are around, but you might need to plan a visit around the champing! Check with the good folks at the Churches Conservation Trust before setting out.

Photographs on this page are from my visit in January 2023, but I have enclosed a couple from a previous visit at the foot of the page, when the light conditions were superb.

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