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Church Post Code PE28 0QW

Open to visitors


It was a bright and sunny Saturday morning in what was turning out to be an unseasonably warm and pleasant November day in 2022. I had a five church crawl planned on the cycle, visiting villages on either side of the busy A14 between Huntingdon and Thrapston.

The day had started off at nearby Keyston, with St Lawrence at Bythorn being the second church of the day. The crawl crossed the A14 a couple of times; working my way slowly in the direction of Huntingdon before ending at Catworth, moving on after that to see Stamford play St Neots in the Northern Premier League!

These were all revisits; having visited this area on cycle some ten years before. The church of St Lawrence at Bythorn was closed to visitors on that original visit but was open on the return.

Bythorn and neighbouring Keyston form a single parish; each having a church but with the church at Keyston now only having occasional services. The A14 runs through the centre, with a village on each side. The population of the two villages combined was a little over 300 at the time of the 2011 census.


Approaching from the south east, the church of St Lawrence comes in to view across the fields. The spire is capped, seemingly reduced in size, and the gut reaction is that some misfortune has happened to it in the past. There is a photograph taken in 1940 on Bythorn village’s website which shows the spire at its full height; an octagonal broach spire with three tiers of lucarne windows. There is just a single tier now, with the spire reduced in size, with what was left being capped in 1960.

    There was no church here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, but re-used 12th century stone built in to the present walls indicate a structure being here at that date. This early structure would probably have been a basic aisleless nave, with chancel.

    The nave and chancel from the original church were rebuilt during the late 13th century, with the north aisle being added at that time. The south aisle dates from the early 14th century. The chancel was rebuilt around 1340 with the west tower and the south porch also dating from that time. The clerestory windows were added in the 15th century with the north chapel dating from the 16th century.

    The tower and spire were restored in the early 1843 and the church as a whole underwent considerable restoration in 1870. As was mentioned earlier, the spire has lost some of its height and was capped in 1960.


All Saints sits at the centre of the village, on slightly raised ground, with some beautiful thatched cottages and the village green close by. A seat is set just outside the church grounds; a pleasant place to sit and enjoy the peace, despite the background noise of the traffic on the main road not too far away.

All Saints consists of west tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch, chancel and north chapel. The tower has a stair turret at the south east corner and has a frieze across the top with a repeated pattern of quatrefoil design, with a row of small grotesque heads above that; these being cartoonlike in depiction with several adopting a look of bulging eyed surprise!

A look at what is left of the spire shows a great deal of damage just below where it is capped. A row of well carved, but relatively modern gargoyles can be seen on the walls of the nave, including a sleepy cartoonlike depiction of a dog on the south wall. Of considerably more age is a very badly weathered carving of a bearded man in the frame of a window, sightless eyes staring out at those making their way to the south porch.


    A very fine and elaborately carved scratch dial can also be seen. Again, this is very badly weathered but a lovely piece of work.

The chancel roof is steeply pitched and rises up above the roof level of the nave. The church is buttressed throughout with a buttress at the north east having crumbled and ironically, has found itself being supported by the wall!

    The first church bell to be hung here was cast around the year 1360 by  William Rufford. It is thought that the bell would have been cast nearby, either in the church grounds or in a nearby field, although William and his father John each worked out of their foundry at Toddington, Bedfordshire. Between 1385 and 1400 two more bells were added by William Dawe, a founder from London.

    Two of these early bells were re-cast by the Stamford Bellfoundry, with Tobias Norris I re-casting one in 1620, which bears the Latin inscription "OMNIA  FIANT AD GLORIAM  DEI 1620", which translates as  “Let all things be done for the glory of God. Thomas Norris re-cast the other bell in 1674. The third of the ancient bells was re-cast by well known Peterborough based founder Henry Penn in 1711, which bears the inscription "GOD SAVE OVR QUEEN AND PRESARVE PECE"

    In 1682, the ring of three bells was taken to a ring of four with Henry Bagley, another well known founder who worked from premises in Ecton, Northamptonshire.

As mentioned, the church was open to visitors and entry is through a reset 13th century south door. It was lovely and bright inside; with the lack of stained glass here helping in that respect. Looking outside through the south door a bellcote rises up in an adjoining building with a single small bell within which used to be the local school.


The north and south aisles are each of four bays. The north arcade has alternating circular and octagonal piers whilst the piers in the south arcade are of quatrefoil design. The work of the Victorian restorers can be seen in the nave with the pews looking to date from then. The north aisle is very narrow with the south aisle housing the organ towards its eastern end.

Walking up to the chancel arch and looking west, the outline of the previous roofline, pre clerestory, can be seen on the west wall.

The chancel is long and spacious; with the three light east window containing some patterned glass. The altar itself is plain and simple with just a solitary cross standing on a plain altar cloth. I daresay that this would alter a little on service days.

There is a mix of ancient and relatively modern in the sanctuary, with Victorian tiles standing alongside a medieval piscina and sedilia, with the latter taking the form of a low sill under a window on the south wall. There is an aumbry on the east wall alongside two banners, one on each side of the altar, which proclaim two of Jesus’ proclamations; ‘I am the true vine’ and ‘I am the bread of life’.


If the sedilia and piscina in the chancel reflect back to pre reformation times then so does the squint or hagioscope which can be seen set in to the east wall of the south aisle. These are openings cut in to an internal wall which would allow those in a side aisle or chapel to see the altar, and therefore be able to see the Elevation of the Host.

There are two bays to the north of the chancel, which date from the 16th century, with the most easterly of these leading to the north chapel, which is screened off at its south and westerly sides.

Looking upwards a single ceiling boss can be seen in the form of a human figure with hair standing on end and a surprised expression. A stone carving of a king stares regally towards the west from his vantage point alongside the chancel arch. The font has a plain, octagonal bowl and is said to date from the 16th century, chisel marks still visible from when it was carved. Things such as this always make me wonder as to the craftsman who carved this; wondering if he was buried in the church grounds here.


Moving back outside, there is nothing of any great interest or importance in the church grounds, although three chest tombs, which date from the late 18th to early 19th centuries, have a Grade II listing.

There was a pleasant hint of warmth in the sun still, despite it being November; definitely no need for a jacket, and the light quality was beautiful. It was good to be back here again in this friendly and welcoming area. I enjoyed my time here very much.

 It was time to hit the road again, with Molesworth, around a mile away to the east, my next point of call. In truth though, in the back of my mind my thoughts were already starting to lunchtime and a craft fair and patronal festival at Catworth, and the promise of ‘high quality’ refreshments. Sometimes you have to take one for the team and support the church activities!

bythorn distance.jpg
bythorn exterior3.jpg

All of the photographs used on this page come from the November 2022 visit, with the exception of the two immediately exterior shots immediately above, which were taken on a previous visit here some years previously.

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