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Church Post Code LE15 8ED

Open to visitors.

It was early April 2023 and heavy morning rain had wiped out my work for the day; hence a hastily arranged mini churchcrawl; starting in Rutland before crossing in to Northamptonshire. We started with a revisit to the church of St Peter at Barrowden.

Barrowden is an attractive village in Rutland, with the name meaning burial mound hill. It can be found four miles to the south of Rutland Water. The busy A47 runs close by to the north, with the A43 a little more distant to the south and east. Despite that, this is a quiet and peaceful area. Uppingham, the smaller of the two towns in Rutland, is around six miles away to the west; Peterborough is some 17 miles off to the east.

We are right on the edge of the Rutland border here, with neighbouring Wakerley, a short distance across the field to the north east, on the other side of the River Welland, to be found in Northamptonshire. The population of Barrowden was 506 at the time of the 2011 census. Yes, a small village, but one which has no fewer than 52 listed structures.


The church of St Peter stands at the western edge of the village, at the end of an attractive lane; wisteria climbing the wall of a neighbouring cottage on a previous visit here. Across the village, the Baptist chapel dates from 1819 and has a Grade II Listing.

There is a large village pond to the east of the church, with a grebe and heron both in residence as we approached. Sadly, the grebe took off as I was getting out of the van with the heron, in its usual awkward gangly fashion, following soon after.

   There was a church mentioned here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, with Barrowden at that time being an important royal manor. The oldest parts of the present church date back to around 1210, with the chancel arch and the two bay arcade which separates the chancel from north chapel each dating from that time.

 Later in the 13th century, the north and south aisles were added, with the south porch and south doorways also dating from this period.

  In 1364 it was noted that the church was in a ruinous condition and indulgences were granted for those who were able to help in the repair. The west tower was erected towards the end of the 14th century with the clerestory being added soon after.

The chancel was rebuilt during the 15th century and the broach spire was added during the 16th century.

The building was restored in 1843 to 1844 and again in 1875, when the roofs were renewed, the north wall of the north chapel rebuilt, a west gallery removed, and the chancel restored. There was a further restoration in 1896. The spire here was struck by lightning in 1915 with the tip having to be replaced.

The church that we see today consists of west tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch, north chapel and chancel.


The square west tower is heavily buttressed with tall double lancet windows at the belfry stage. The tall octagonal broach spire rises up, with three tiers of windows, which are irregularly spaced. The bottom two tiers are gabled lucarne windows, with the upper tier consisting of a small quatrefoil shape. Grotesque heads, human and beasts, look out from all directions.

The south porch has wide semi circular moulded arches, and it is interesting to see that the shafts have gone. Inside the porch are stone benches on which there are several traced outlines of hobnail boots. These are undated but other graffiti in this area dates to the late 1700’s. It is interesting to think if the people who traced their boots are now at rest in the spacious and well maintained church grounds.

Three substantial two light windows with quatrefoil tracery form the clerestory, with the east window being of five lights. A couple of benches look out to the south; making for a very pleasant view out across the fields, with dozens of lambs. The whole visit was made to the continual sound of bleating!


   North's Victorian study of the church bells of Rutland, which was published in 1880, informs us that there were five bells hanging, and a priest’s bell. Two of the bells were cast by Alexander Rigby, who took over the Stamford Bellfoundry after the death of Tobias Norris III, These are dated 1704 and 1706. This latter bell was cast just two years before his death, and the subsequent closure of the Stamford bellfoundry.

One of Rigby’s bells was noted by North as being damaged with canons broken at the time of his study.

Two of the bells North recorded as being cast by Francis Watts of Leicester in the very late 16th century. One of these is inscribed ‘Cvm Cvm and Praey’ with the other inscribed ‘God Save the Queene’

The final of the ring was an alphabet bell, with the inscription being the letters of the alphabet; with this again being cast in Leicester, this time by Thomas II Newcombe in 1570.  The priest’s bell was cast by Edward Arnold of Leicester in 1786. North noted that the bells here were rehung in 1857 at a cost of £102 8s with this cost being raised by subscription.

These days there is a ring of six, with a new first of the ring being cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1990, with each of Rigby’s bells and one of Watts’ being recast in 1915, again by Taylor.


Moving inside, it was bright and welcoming, with the substantial clerestories and virtually no stained glass helping in this respect’ the only stained glass in this church being a single roundel.

There are two bay arcades to north and south, with each dating from the 13th century. The south arcade is a little older, with circular piers and carved capitals. The north has circular piers with plain circular capitals. The arches to north and south are pointed. The octagonal plain 13th century font sits centrally in front of the tower arch.

A line of grotesque carvings look out from high up on the nave walls. A figure with wild hair, reminiscent of church Zoom meetings during the lockdown, is at prayer. Close by is a small dog and a human figure playing a recorder; head back and eyes looking towards Heaven. One further human figure with long chin looks morose!

A squint, also known as a hagioscope, can be seen in a quatrefoil design to the north of the chancel arch, with this being directed towards the altar in the north chapel. These were cut in to walls to allow the altar to be seen; possibly so that someone could witness the progression of the mass so that the bells could be rung at the appropriate times.

A memorial on the north wall greets the visitor as they enter. This is in remembrance of Roland Durant who died in 1588. This features the Durant coat of arms. This monument was originally mounted on to the east wall of the north aisle, but was moved to its present position in 1875.


The chancel shows the hand of the Victorian restorer and is a mix of ancient and more modern, with medieval double sedilia and piscina in the usual positions on the south wall. The altar is minimalist; a simple table with no altar cloth with a blue curtain as reredos. Looking back on my photographs from a previous visit, this is a different set up as there was a full altar with cloth here back in 2015.

 The hand sanitiser on a small table in the south east corner of the chancel dates this visit to post covid; invaluable dating evidence for future generations.

There is a two bay arcade separating the chancel from the north chapel. Both of the bays are blocked with modern boarding, with this boarding also extending around to the east end of the north aisle.

At the east end of the south aisle is the village war memorial. This takes the form of a basic table as altar, with the reredos containing a vibrant depiction of Christ crucified, with the wording ‘Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends’, this coming from John, Chapter 15 verse 13, with the names of those who fell in both world wars included.

The depiction of the crucifixion is striking; with Christ wearing the crown of thorns, flames pulsating out from his body.


The church grounds are of interest, with many finely carved gravestones dating back to the 18th century. One striking stone has the deaths head, a carving of a human skull, which is designed to remind the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die. The skull is beautifully shaded with several different colours of lichen.

Throughout the grounds there are depictions of angels, which symbolise the safe escorting of the soul towards Heaven. In days of low life expectancy your own time could come sooner than you might think. An inscription to Elizabeth Bates, who is buried with two of her infant children and who passed away in 1830 aged 32 years reads ’With my two babes here I repose / Our bed composed of clay /With dust our bodies are enclos’d / Until the final day.

A chest tomb has torches downturned, with this symbolising death and mourning.

Also worth noting is a stone to one John Arnold, who died in 1810 aged 69 years. This has symbolism in the form of the book of life and also a tree grown to its full height, which I think here symbolises a life lived to a full age; which in fairness 69 years might well have been in those days.

A couple of 19th century tombs have a Grade II Listing in their own right, as do the gates and piers at the east end of the church grounds, these also dating from the 19th century.

Also worth noting is a magnificent Grade II Listed 17th or 18th century barn, with triangular ventilation loops on its southern wall. This barn forms part of the northern boundary of the church grounds.


This is a church that I have grown very fond of over the years. The church itself is a beautiful structure, and the countryside around the church, particularly across the field to the south is lovely; particularly on a spring day such as this when the lambing season is in full swing! Some very attractive long distance shots of the church can be had from high ground to the west.

It was time to hit the road, making the short trip to neighbouring Wakerley. The sun was shining, the promised heavy showers were holding off, and all was good.

All of the photographs used on this page was from the visit in April 2023, with the exception of the view of the church at the end of the lane and the long distance shot of the church which were from a previous visit in the summer of 2017.

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