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Church Post Code LE15 8DE

Open to visitors

It was back in 2006, just a couple of weeks after I started to take an interest in photographing churches, that I first visited the church of St Peter at Brooke. A dear friend and neighbour, now no longer with us, suggested a churchcrawl in to Rutland; announcing that he was going to show me a beautiful tower that was special to him. This was at Brooke!

Brooke is a small, picturesque village, set in beautiful rolling countryside, which can be found some three miles to the south west of Oakham and five miles north of Uppingham. The population here was 211 at the time of the 2001 census, with the figures from then on included with that of neighbouring Braunstone. The River Gwash forms part of the parish to the east, this running in to Rutland Water which is also off to the east.

This is the furthest church out to the north west of Peterborough that is covered by my sites; with Peterborough being around 27 miles distant.


Brooke as a village was not specifically mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086, with it being included in with Oakham Manor. There used to be a Priory at Brooke, which was founded before 1153. It was a very small priory and struggled continually. Around 1300 it was dilapidated and decayed and at the time of the mid-16th century dissolution, it was in a poor state of repair. Nothing remains of it today but parts of it were incorporated in to a 16th century house called Brooke Priory which stands today.

I have visited the church here several times over the years, including once with David, who had sorted out an evening prayer service here; we arrived shortly before the appointed start time; to find that the service was just finishing. Turns out that it was a special service, possibly for a vicar leaving the benefice, and they had had to bring the start time forward by an hour. The friendly locals asked if we would like to eat with them; an easy question to answer! Regular readers of my pages will know of a deep connection between churchcrawling and food, and this was a particularly fine spread. I recall that quails eggs were present…

The photographs used on this page are from a gloriously sunny February afternoon in 2023, with St Peter being the 9th church visited of what turned in to a 12 church crawl, with all of the churches visited in Rutland that day being open.


Approaching from the west, the visitor is greeted with an exquisite sight. The church is on slightly raised ground, with a background of trees to the east, the majority of which were skeletal at this time of the year. An area of green can be found to the west, with a bench occupied by a couple of walkers. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was highlighting the finely crafted Georgian gravestones to the west of the tower. . In the spring, the grounds to the west of the church are a carpet of yellow daffodils.  Stone cottages stand to the north and south of the church; a small lane runs by the church to the north; it did not take a great leap of imagination to imagine sheep being driven along here in the past.

It is the tower that does it for me; it was also the tower that did it for Jeff all those years ago. There are bigger, more structurally impressive towers close by. There are older and more ornate towers close by. To be fair, this is a small, squat and fairly plain tower, patches up in places and with a slightly curious look to it with each of its three stages being slightly wider at the top that they are at the bottom. However, in conjunction with the setting this is a beautiful scene. I have photographed here in all seasons and on the failed evening service, late in the day, as the summer sun sunk and we got to that time when the angle is just right and all turns golden for a couple of minutes.


The church that stands today consists of west tower, nave with north aisle and chapel, south porch and chancel. There is no south aisle and no clerestory.

  The oldest parts of the present church date from the 12th century, with the north arcade, the south door and the font all dating from that time. The tower dates from the 13th century, with the battlements on the top being a later addition.

The roof of the north aisle is steeply pitched, as is that of the south porch. The archway over the porch is rounded, as you would expect the arch over the inner door to be given that this is Norman and dates from the 12th century. The arch over the inner door though is pointed, with the Listing for this church suggesting that it has been altered from its original shape.

The church here was in need of repair and the nave and north aisle was substantially rebuilt around 1579, with the church of St Peter being called 'An Elizabethan church with Norman spine'. The church was restored sympathetically in 1888.

When Thomas North compiled his Victorian study of the church bells in Rutland, he noted that there were four bells here. The first was cast by Edward Arnold of St Neots in 1780. The second and third of the ring were cast by different generations of the Norris family from their foundry in Stamford.

The second of the ring was cast in 1610 by Tobias Norris I, who set up this foundry. This one is inscribed ‘JESUS SPEDE ME CUM VOCO VENITE’, which translates as ‘Christ be with me, come when I call’. The third was courtesy of Thomas Norris and is dated 1648  .

The fourth of the ring in North’s study was cast in St Neots by Robert Taylor, with this bell dated 1811. This one is inscribed with the name H Orton, who was church warden of the day. Today there are six bells here, with two more being added by Taylor of Loughborough in 1992.


Moving inside, the north arcade is of three bays, with circular piers and square carved capitals. As mentioned earlier, this dates back to the 12th century, as does the font close to the most western bay, which consists of a square bowl on a square base, with blind arcading around the bowl.

The nave and the north aisle are of the same dimensions; being separated from the chancel and north chapel by an Elizabethan screen which basically runs the entire width of the church from north to south.

The chancel and north chapel each have semi-circular arches, the same style as the south door. However, when the chancel and north chapel were rebuilt, semi-circular arches were not in fashion; perhaps these were built in this way as a reminder to what was here previously. In fact there was little actual church building going on in the country during the 16th century and it is possible to see the construction of each as reflecting the spiritual ‘flavour’ of the day, plain and simple, moving away from the pre reformation ornamentation and ritual. The Victorian restoration kept this character.

It is interesting to see a stone bench which runs along the west and north walls of the north aisle. In its day, this would likely have been the only seating in the church, this being for the elderly and those in poor health.

The chancel is long and wide, simple and uncluttered. The four light east window is of plain glass and apart from a little patterned Victorian glass, there is no stained glass to be seen here. The altar has a single cross and four vases of early season daffodils were placed on altar and east window ledge.


Beautifully crafted Elizabethan communion rails run the width of the chancel and there is a two bay arcade leading to the north chapel. Unusually, there was no hand sanitiser in the chancel; the presence of the aforesaid in photographs being good dating evidence for future generations! Tongue in cheek, I did wonder if this was due to the lack of sedilia and piscina as this is where I have usually found the hand sanitiser positioned!

The north chapel is in the same style as the chancel, plain and simple in the manner of the immediate post reformation period. It is suggested that this was once a family chapel, and against the north wall is an alabaster monument to Charles Noel, who died in 1619 aged 28 years. Noel rests on a woven bed, hands raised in prayer, wearing armour including spurs on his boots. Some of the original paintwork remains on the monument. The Noel family have several magnificent memorials in the church at nearby Exton. Noel died unmarried, as is depicted alone on his monument. Exton church is covered by this site for anyone wishing to take a look at the Noel family monuments there.


On the floor of the north chapel is a slab to the wonderfully named Endymion Cannyinge. This man born in Essex, became Captain of the Horse in the service of King Charles I during the Civil War 1642 - 1646 and afterwards became the steward to Juliana Viscountess Campden. Endymion Cannynge died at Brooke on 7th December 1683 and in his will he left bequests to his family and friends and money for the poor of several local towns and villages. To 'the poore of Brooke I give and bequeath the sum of twenty pounds to be paid within six months of my decease.' Interesting to see the word 'Generosus' nest to the name. This means well bred, noble, generous, dignified and honourable; a good epitaph!

Also worth noting here are floor slabs to Henry Rawlings, who died in 1742, alongside four of his five wives. His fifth wife outlived him and the fragility of human life at that time is illustrated by the fact that his four previous wives died within a nine year spell from 1713 to 1722. Life expectancy was low and it is worth noting that Rawlings and his family were people of means, otherwise they wouldn’t have these slabs. If the situation was bad for people such as these, how much worse would it have been for those who lived in poverty in those days!


The church grounds are interesting, without there being anything of great rarity; with nothing here having its own listing. There are plenty of finely crafted Georgian gravestones though, with patterns of orange, black and white lichen highlighted by the weak winter sun. A couple with near identical designs stand to the west of the tower, script weathered away but possibly for members of the same family. An angel at the top symbolises the safe escorting of the soul to Heaven; flowers running on each side of the stone symbolising new life amid death.


This is a glorious church in a picturesque setting. St Peter is normally open and welcoming with a wealth of history. Well worth taking a look at and this is in an area (and a county to be truthful) where the majority of churches are usually open; this making for a rewarding days churchcrawling for those inclined!

Photographs included are from my February 2023 visit, with the exception of a couple at the foot of the page which are from a previous visit.

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