top of page


Church Post Code PE28 0PA

Open to visitors

It was a unseasonably warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in November 2022; and a mini churchcrawl looking at churches along the A14, which connects Thrapston to Huntingdon. I had started off at Keyston and had moved vaguely south east towards Huntingdon, with Catworth being the fifth and final church of the day; a early finish for me with the afternoon due to be spent watching Stamford AFC play at St Neots; the afternoon proving a little less peaceful than the morning!

Catworth is a pleasant Huntingdonshire village, which can be found just off the A14, some nine miles west of Huntingdon and eight miles east of Thrapston. The population was 347 at the time of the 2011 census. The church here is dedicated to St Leonard and is centrally located, on slightly raised ground and with a fine surrounding wall, the gates and piers of which have a Grade II Listing in their own right.


I had visited here very briefly back in 2013, and had taken a few photographs. This revisit coincided with a patronal festival and the church was packed out with people. For that reason I have used a couple of interior shots of the nave and chancel from that previous visit when there was no one around.

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

There was no church mentioned here ate the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086, but it is thought that there was a church built here fairly soon afterwards. During the 13th century there was a nave with a south aisle but possibly no north aisle. Much rebuilding work towards the end of the 14th century saw considerable rebuilding. At that point the chancel arch and south arcade were each rebuilt with the south aisle being rebuilt in parts.

At the same time, the north aisle and arcade were either added or rebuilt along with the addition of the west tower and south porch. The chancel was rebuilt during the 15th century, at which point the clerestory was added.

The church was restored in 1876 and the tip of the spire was replaced after it was struck by lightning in 1914.


This is a fine church; a beautiful structure, but to be fair it is not the easiest to photograph due to the large number of trees and I failed to get the entire exterior in one shot!

The west tower is perpendicular, buttressed and battlemented with stair turret to the south east corner. The church clock in the traditional colours of blue and gold faces out from the west. At the top of the tower is a frieze, along which small grotesque faces peer out in a variety of contorted expressions. A larger gargoyle sits centrally on all four sides, with the one on the east wall having some company, being flanked by two smaller gargoyles,

The battlements here are interesting.  A close look shows that there are red tiles incorporated in to the stonework in places. These looked Roman to me and; perhaps these may have been taken from Roman ruins locally and reused.

The nave is battlemented at the clerestory stage and some finely crafted gargoyles and grotesques can be seen to north and south. These include a damaged human figure who could at one point have been wearing a horned headdress. Close by is a grotesque figure with huge ears and few teeth. On the north side is a small beast with large head and what look like small wings over its rear end!


There are four bells in the ring here, with all being of interest.  The first is of great age, being cast by Mellours of Nottingham in 1502. This one has the inscription ‘Vox Mea Plene Dilces Laudes Det Magdalene’ which translates as ‘My voice will give sweet praises to Magdalene’.

The second was recast by Mears in 1863, with the original bell being cast by William Hull in 1687. This one is intriguing as Hull was a Sussex founder, based at South Maling; a great distance away from Catworth.

The third of the ring was another cast by Mellours around 1500. This one is inscribed ‘Vox dni ihu xpi wox exultacionis’; a lovely inscriptions which translates as ‘The voice of the Lord Jesus Christ is the voice of exultation’.

The fourth and final of the ring dates from 1585; cast by Robert II Newcombe who worked out of Leicester. The inscription on it reads simply ‘Robert Newcombe made me 1585’.


Moving inside, the church was packed out and there was a lovely buzz around the place. My churchcrawling is a very solitary thing for me; and I love the chance to escape from the world and be at peace in solitude. I do enjoy things such as these though and it was good to see the church full of people; and the prospects of food in the village hall afterwards.

As mentioned earlier, I am using a couple of interior shots of nave and chancel, which were taken when the church was empty. There are four bay arcades to north and south. Given that these were erected at the same period, they are the same architecturally; cluster shafted piers with rounded capitals.

The nave is separated from the chancel via a beautiful old chancel screen, which dates back to the 15th century. There is some lovely detail on this. Two large birds of prey face each other, wings outstretched. Close by two human, cartoonlike figures peer out from under a piece of trefoil tracery. One of the figures looks as if it might be a modern replacement. Over the top of the screen is a coloured carving of the crucifixion which is considerable more modern.

Moving into the chancel, the reredos takes the form of a blue curtain which runs the full width of the chancel. There is a piscina against the south wall, where the priest would have washed the holy vessels used in the Mass. There would normally be a sedilia, the seating for the priest against this but this is missing here.


The impressive east window is of five lights, with there being stained glass in three of these, with the two outer panels being simply coloured geometric shapes. With regards the rest, the stained glass is on two levels. Central at the bottom we have the crucifixion. This is flanked by Mary meeting Elizabeth, with Joseph and Zechariah also present. Interestingly, Elizabeth is depicted with nimbus and Zechariah without. Interesting as well to be fair that the men are both depicted In the first place as it is normally just the women when this scene is shown.

Here we also have Jesus being presented to Simeon in the temple. Anna kneels close by at prayer. Mary holds in her hand two turtledoves for sacrifice; this being indicative of their humble status as they could not afford to bring a lamb. It is a bugbear of mine that Mary is sometimes shown in immaculate expensive clothes; a Victorian sanitising of the story in the same way that the risen Christ is often portrayed without wounds!

On the upper level we have the ascension at the centre. This is flanked by the Annunciation and the nativity. Just a small point on the latter; all of the wise men wear crowns, with the wise man presenting his gift having removed his crown to respect Jesus; who is the King over all.

Other stained glass here consists of a two light panel showing St George and St Leonard, with the church here dedicated to the latter. Close by we have Elizabeth with John the Baptist as a child alongside Mary who holds the infant Jesus in her arms.

There are some interesting carvings in the roof in the south aisle ; bizarre creatures with elongated faces with their facial features highlighted by the grain of the wood. More than one of these has its tongue out in medieval gesture of insult. I had seen similar earlier that morning when visiting Keyston.


Moving outside, the church grounds are large and interesting, but nothing in the church grounds has its own Grade II Listing.  Just to take a look at a few of the stones. A crudely produced headstone just has the initials of the deceased, EB; along with their age and date of death. I couldn’t read the age or the date of death. I did photograph this stone though when I was here back in 2013 and it was readable at that point! ‘EB’ passed away in 1729 aged 67 years. It is sad to think that the script has become weathered away in places in just a few years.

On a couple of gravestones, the trumpet is being blown by an angel. The trumpet was an often used as a symbol of resurrection. Two angels are blowing a trumpet on one stone, with a single angel on the other; the latter holding the book of life which would have recorded the deeds of the deceased. These can be seen as a statement as to the faith of the deceased for others to look at and do likewise!

Close to the south porch there is a fabulously crafted stone where the deceased in the form of a skeleton is gathered up and safely escorted to Heaven by an angel. The skeleton appears to have a cutting implement in one hand and it may be cutting through their chord of life.


I enjoyed my time here very much. A few people knew that I was going to visit and were keeping an eye out for me; saying hi which was appreciated very much. There is a definite connection between my church photography and food; a bit too close a connection to be honest as the increasing waistline testifies! Fond memories of the lemon drizzle at Buckden and the all day breakfasts at Reepham, Stamford and Bourne! My Facebook page in pre covid times had a tongue in cheek cheese scone of the year award, which was last won by the National Trust tea room at Belton House in Lincolnshire.

Catworth was added to the list with the home made sausage rolls, followed by a cheese scone. It was a pleasure to be here; an impressive church and a full stomach!  Several people came over to chat as I waited, with my cycle, to be picked up and taken off to the football. It is a pleasant 17 miles cycle ride home, but it was good to be chauffeured on this occasion.

This is an impressive church, full of interest for the visitor. It is normally open and welcoming and is well worth taking a look at if you are in the area.

bottom of page