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Church Post Code LE15 7DH

Open to visitors


Those who have supported my websites and Facebook page will have heard me go on and on about how much I enjoy my trips in to Rutland. These have pretty much always been on glorious Summer afternoon. Some fond memories of warm, shirtsleeve Sunday churchcrawls, Paul O’Grady on Radio Two, with an evening prayer to follow and a leisurely trip back to Peterborough with the sun setting.

    This was different though. It was a freezing cold late January afternoon. It was beautifully sunny though and a delight to be out on the cycle. The day had started early, with the sun rising as I was at Colsterworth and the church of St Nicholas at Cottesmore was to be my ninth and final church of the day, the trip covering three counties with brief forays in to Leicestershire and Lincolnshire as well.

Cottesmore was to be my third Rutland church of the day, following Thistleton, the most northern village in the county and Market Overton, the latter being open to visitors.

Cottesmore is the largest village in Rutland and the third largest settlement, behind the towns of Oakham and Uppingham. The population is greatly enhanced by the presence of RAF Cottesmore, known since 2012 as the Kendrew Barracks. It is to be found in the north of Rutland, with the Leicestershire and Lincolnshire borders being nearby. However, with Rutland being England’s smallest county, it could be argued that county boundaries are not all that far away wherever you are in the county.


The church of St Nicholas is situated in the centre of the village, with post office and fish and chip shop close by. A thatched cat stretches out against a chimney on the roof of a cottage close to the church. The last of the previous day’s snow was stubbornly hanging around in the shade against the perimeter wall. Despite the cold, a touch of spring was in the air. The light quality was really good.

The church consists of nave, with north and south aisles, clerestory, west tower with spire, chancel, with vestry to the north and two storey south porch. The eastern part of the north aisle is given over to a memorial for the RAF airbase. At first glance, this is an impressive church. A real statement piece for what would have been small settlement at the time of building. The three stage tower is from the 13th century, is heavily buttressed and has a broache spire with two sets of lucarne windows to each face.  The church clock in the traditional colours of blue and gold faces out to the south. Corbel strings contain some very quirky designs, including a human figure with surprised expression banging a drum. The usual mouth puller is in evidence, as it usually is.


At the time of North’s Victorian study of the church bells of Rutland, there were five bells hanging here, with four of these being cast by the Norris family, from their premises in Stamford. Thomas Norris cast the first and third of the ring in 1660, with Tobias Norris III adding the fourth and fifth of the ring in 1699, this being the last year he was active before his death. The second of the ring was the oldest, dating from 1598 and being cast by Henry Oldfield II at Nottingham. This is engraved “God Save His Chvrch”

These days there are six in the ring, with a new first bell cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1935. The fourth and fifth bells of the old ring were each re-cast by Taylor in 1885.

I was a little surprised to see that there were just three perpendicular clerestory lights running the length of the nave to north and south, and my initial thought was that the chancel was very long and would probably have been lengthened at some point. The oldest part of the present church, the south doorway, is Norman and dates from 1300. This is finely carved with zig zag designs and is not in situ.


    Moving inside and I was immediately struck by how bright and welcoming it was inside, especially considering how much stained glass there is here. Obviously three clerestory windows to north and south is ample enough! Chairs are modern, stacking and looked very comfortable. I am totally in favour of chairs that can be moved around to suit the churches purpose at a particular time. I strongly suspect that many find comfortable chairs as unacceptable in a church and probably see hard pews as some sort of penance that is required for their spiritual growth.

   There are four bays to north and south, with these dating from the 14th century. As mentioned briefly earlier, the east end of the north aisle is a memorial chapel to the RAF base. A very ancient looking union jack hangs high up to the north and the nave leads to a wide elegant, pointed chancel arch. There is some real history to the font. It is suggested that the base of the font dates back as far as 1200, with the octagonal bowl and stem dating from 14th or 15th century.


There is some high quality glass to be seen here. The east window is of five lights and is on two levels. The top level depicts the crucifixion whilst the bottom level shows five scenes from the life of Christ. We start with the nativity, followed by Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist. Central is the transfiguration, followed by the triumphal entry as Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey. Finally, a few days later we see Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss in Gethsemane on the night of Jesus’ arrest.

I was very taken with a three light window which details Easter morning; albeit with a fair amount of poetic license so to speak. The risen Christ is normally absent from this scene, as the three Mary’s encounter the angels. Here though, Christ is central, crucifixion wound visible om hand raised in blessing. There is a faint wound still visible on Christ’s forehead from the crown of thorns.

Christ is flanked by an angel on each side. They hold banners which read ‘He is not here He is risen’. The head and shoulders of the three Mary’s appear over the top of the angel to the left as we look at it. Peter and John appear over the top of the angel on the right.

High up in the tracery golden haired angels with golden wings and flaming nimbus play stringed instruments whilst another holds a golden crown above Jesus’ head.


Moving back outside and the sun was just starting to dip. The breath was coming out in steam as the temperature dropped a little further. The church grounds are large and with much of interest.

It was good to see a couple of Belvoir Angel headstones, carved in slate, just to the west of the main path leading to the south porch. These particular gravestones have a following and have a Facebook page devoted to them. I set up a website devoted to them, which can be found by clicking on the photograph at the bottom right of this page. Little is known about the stonemasons who carved these, but it is suggested that they are from a firm located in Hickling in Nottinghamshire.

The Belvoir Angel consists of an angel with wings unfurled, which runs across the top of the gravestone. The carving on the wings is intricate, with fabulous detail in the feathers. The angels wear a ruff and have curly hair. They have individual expressions and this one looks perturbed to be honest. As with many of these type of gravestone, symbols of the mortality of Man are to be seen in the upper corners, on either side of the angels. Here we have the hourglass (tempus fugit time flies) and crossed human bones.

With these being carved in slate there is little in the way of erosion over the years. The stone to Thomas Laxton reads “Grieve not for me my glass in run. It is the Lord His will be done”.

The stone to William Laxton has a very interesting inscription. It reads “Farewell vain world, I have had enough of thee. I value not what thou cans’t say of me. What fault thoust seen in me take care to inure. Go look at home there’s something to be done”

This inscription looks to be a parting gesture at the world and the attitude of the people who were around the deceased. This is actually a template and I have seen this, with a few small differences in wording, on probably half a dozen gravestones on my travels.

Those looking in depth at these stones will see the craftsmen here as very gifted in carving the angels but less gifted in their use of text. Words were often misspelled and spacing problems left many words completed in smaller lettering as the mason realised that he wasn’t going to get the full word on a line!


    Rutland is a delight but there are comparatively few really interesting churchyards to be seen in that county. Cottesmore is one of the more interesting though, with several box tombs lined up towards the south east of the church. On checking the British Listed Buildings site, I was a little surprised that nothing in the church grounds is listed with the exception of the First World War memorial, which is dated 1920.  The oldest legible headstone that I could see dates from 1686.

This is a lovely church in a delightful Rutland village. It was open and welcoming, as most in this county are and I enjoyed my stay here very much. That was it for the day; it was time to head back towards Peterborough, fortunately the cycle was going in the back of a friend’s van. The church here, and the area as a whole to be fair, is well worth taking a look at if you are around.

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