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Church Post Code LE15 8PW

Open to visitors


    It was a cold crisp December morning in 2022, with the mild start to the winter ending abruptly. It was good to be back in Rutland again, with the church of St Peter at Empingham being the first church of the day, in what turned out to be a 12 church Rutland crawl, with all being open.

I have visited the church here on a few occasions over the years but this was my first time here for eight years or so. It used to be a regular point of call in those long ago, sepia tinted days, when it was possible to go through Empingham on a Kimes bus on the way to Nottingham. There is virtually no bus service through the village at all now; with rural bus routes sadly going the same way as village shops, pubs and schools!

Empingham is a village in Rutland, which had a population of 880 at the time of the 2011 census. This makes it the ninth largest settlement in the county, allowing for the fact that Cottesmore airfield is counted as a separate settlement! The main road from Stamford to Oakham runs through the village. Stamford is six miles or so off to the east and Oakham a similar distance to the west. Empingham can be found at the eastern end of Rutland Water.


The village stands in the Gwash Valley, with the River Gwash running to the south of the village, taking a very circuitous route on its way towards Stamford. There is a great deal of history here, with habitation as far back as the Iron Age. The Romans were here, with the major Roman Road Ermine Street running a few miles away to the east. The battle of Empingham was fought nearby in 1470, during the Wars of the Roses, albeit with there being some doubt about the exact place it was fought.

The church here dates from the 13th to 15th centuries; and is cruciform in structure,  consisting of western tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch, north and south transepts, north vestry and chancel. It stands on slightly high ground to the south of the village, with village shop and hairdressers as neighbours.

The 14th century perpendicular tower is of four stages. A date stamp of 1713 along with the initials ‘GL’ and ‘IB’ can be seen on the south face, this probably being the date of some repair. The tower is battlemented and pinnacled with a frieze running under the battlements on all four sides. The church clock faces out from the north, and is relatively modern, dating from 1895, and dating from a period of extensive Victorian restoration. The previous clock was made by famous Stamford clock maker John Watts in 1686, and this is now in Stamford museum.


A flight of steps leads up to a fine west doorway, with several shafts, decorated with ballflower design with an ogee arch at the top. Two very weathered heads stand to either side. The right hand head wears the faded remains of a crown so perhaps we have a king and queen here. A recessed crocketed octagonal spire rises up from the tower, with two tiers of lucarne windows.

There are substantial north and south transepts; with the aisles, clerestory, transepts and south porch all battlemented. There are gargoyles and grotesques throughout. In amongst these are a couple of mouth pullers. One of these has lost the top of its head whilst the other has the tiniest pair of hands!

A gargoyle looks on in surprise from the west face of the tower, whilst a bald headed man with sunken eyes and a long beard gazes sternly out from the south. Hidden away under stonework close to the north door is a sheela na gig. These carvings are ancient in origin, and were a fertility symbol; taking the form of a female who is holding open her vulva. There are a few of these to be found throughout the country but there are few in this area, with the only other one to be found close to Peterborough being at Etton.

This is a fine church which dominates the landscape, with some lovely views to be had as the visitors approaches the church on the main road from Stamford.


   There is an interesting set of church bells to be found here. To start with though, there is evidence to suggest that church bells were cast in the church grounds of St Peter. Sometimes, nomadic bell founders set up shop, so to speak, as close as they could to where the bells were being hung. At the time of North's Victorian study of the church bells of Rutland, there was a ring of five bells here with all of them being cast by G Mears of London in 1859, with the existing ring being replaced at that time due to all of the existing bells  being damaged.

   At least three of the previous bells were cast locally by the Stamford bellfoundry, with three generations of the Norris family all contributing a bell each! Tobias Norris I cast a bell here in 1611, this being inscribed with the names of the donors, mother and son Ann and Thomas Mackworth. Thomas Norris cast a bell in 1661 and Tobias Norris III added another in 1697, this one being inscribed T Mitchell. One bell is simply dated 1648, and this could also have come from Thomas Norris but Thomas usually left an inscription on his bells. The other bell, definitely not from the Stamford bellfoundry, and was just dated 1548.

    Since the time of Norths study, a sixth bell has been added, and all the others were re-cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1895.


Moving inside, I entered in through the north door. It was two weeks before Christmas and I arrived as the church was being decorated. More people were arriving as I explored the interior and there was a nice buzz of conversation from those gathered.

There are four bay arcades to north and south. The south arcade dates from the early 13th century and has circular piers with octagonal capitals. The north arcade dates from the late 13th century and has circular piers and circular capitals. My photographs of the south arcade were compromised a little by a green wheelie bin in the centre of the arcade, which had been used to transport the decorations.

The chairs here are modern and looked very comfortable. I am sure that this will bring comments from those who probably see uncomfortable Victorian pews at some sort of necessary penance during service! There is a modern altar at the chancel arch, which has just a single cross on it.

The most easterly bay in the south aisle hosts the church organ. Over to the south there is some medieval wall painting; a repeated flower design. Various carved heads look out across the nave. One serene looking figure has hands raised in prayer; close by another figure not at prayer looks in distress; I think that the inference there is obvious!


The chancel is long, wide and relatively plain. The flooring shows the work of the Victorian restorers; of much greater age is the treble sedilia and the double piscina on the south wall. A small niche with ogee arch on the east wall contains a modern statue. The fine east window is of three lights and is of clear glass.

The north transept is set out with tables for refreshments. Under an arch in the north transept there is a tomb with a carved cross on it. It is thought that this might be the final resting place of Stephen of Sutton who ordered that he be buried in the church in 1280.

There is not a great deal of stained glass to be seen here. A three light window at the west end of the south aisle depicts Jesus being presented to Simeon in the temple. Simeon holds Jesus aloft whilst Mary tenderly looks at her child, with arms held out for his return. Anna is depicted to the right as we look at it, shown with walking stick and looking downwards!

The only other glass to be seen here can be found high up in the tracery in the north transept. These are medieval fragments, possibly dating from the 13th century and original to the building of the transept. There are a few faces and some coats of arms and amusingly a pair of feathered legs, which would originally have been an angel.


There is a little graffiti carved on to the piers and it was interesting to see a pentagram carved on to a pier in the north aisle. Today, this is seen as a pagan symbol and out of place in a church. However, this was originally a Christian symbol which symbolised the five wounds of Christ. Its pagan connections came about in later times.

It is interesting to see people’s attitudes towards this symbol. In the spring of 2022 I was given a tour around a church in Lincolnshire by a very knowledgeable guide. When we were going around, she missed nothing; except the pentagram at the chancel arch. After the tour we chatted and I mentioned the pentagram. Her reply was a simple ‘It shouldn’t be here’ and leaving it out of her tour as a result.


The church grounds are of interest, with several tombs having a Grade II listing in their own right. Close to the south aisle, there is a box tomb with two sets of initials; ‘HP’ passing away in 1705 with ‘IP’ following in December 1752. To the south of the tower is the remains of a medieval cross shaft and base.

It was freezing cold that Saturday morning; shadows of the skeletal trees being cast on to the south of the church by a weak winter sun. The frost was still present to the north of the grounds, in the shadow of the church. The light quality was good and it was a delight to be out and about in it.

The church here is normally open to visitors and is well worth taking a look at. This is a beautiful church in a picturesque village in a glorious county! There are also lots of open churches nearby!


All of the photographs on this page are from my December 2022 visit, with the exception of the two long distance shots immediately above, which were taken on two previous visits.


Church Post Code PE9 4DJ

Open to visitors

The December day which had started at Empingham ended with a visit to nearby Pickworth. It was mid afternoon, but the shadows were already lengthening; the shortest day was a few days away and the sun would soon be setting.

We were ending this 12 church Rutland crawl with a last minute visit to the church of All Saints, Pickworth, some five miles to the south east of where we started  the day. We decided to take this one in as the light quality was excellent as we were looking to head home; the temperature was dropping sharply and the frost had not cleared from the sheltered parts of the fields from the previous night.

The hamlet of Pickworth here is not be confused with the village of the same name in the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire. The population here was less than 100 at the time of the 2011 census. The Lincolnshire border is a short distance away to the north and east. It is quiet and peaceful, despite the close proximity of the A1 off to the west.

There was a quite substantial medieval village here, with earthworks to be seen to the west of the church. There was a medieval church here, which boasted a fine tower and spire. Some ancient glass from this church is now said to be at nearby Clipsham. This church was partially destroyed during the Battle of Losecoat Field, also known as the Battle of Empingham, during the Wars of the Roses in 1470. Soon after, the village was all but gone.

The ruins of the church stood for some time with the spire being taken down around 1728, with the tower following three years or so later. All that stands now is a single arch, said to be from the south porch.


The church here opened in 1821, but was not consecrated until 1824, with the building influenced by the rebuilding of St Peter, Tickencote in 1792. It is a simple structure of nave with south porch and chancel, with bellcote at the western end. There is a single bell here, which was cast by Thomas Mears II of Whitechapel in 1821.

The Stamford Mercury from October 26th 1821 reads "On Sunday last, the handsome new church lately erected at Pickworth, in the county of Rutland, by the Rev. Richard Lucas, Rector of Great Casterton, was opened for the first time (it being feast Sunday at Pickworth). Divine service was performed by the Rev. Edw. Brown, before a very numerous congregation."


Moving inside, there is a lovely late Georgian feel to the place still. With the exception of the Victorian stained glass east window and the two gas heaters, this is a scene that will not have changed much since that first service in 1821.

Georgian box pews lead up the semi circular chancel arch; the Royal coat of arms can be seen over the top of the west window. All of the windows are round headed, with clear glass in all of the windows in the nave. The majority of the nave walls are panelled  in a dado style; the walls tastefully painted. Simple late Georgian taste and elegance.

Moving in to the chancel, the east window depicts Jesus as the Good Shepherd, this being the only stained glass to be seen here. On a previous visit there was an oak reredos against the east wall, but that had been moved on this revisit, with the stained glass now fully visible. The altar is of oak, and along with the communion rails, date from the building of the church.

The font is plain and does seem to have some age to it. Perhaps this dates back to the previous church here!  A wall plaque to one Joseph Armitage details that he bequeathed the money which allowed this church to be built.


There was a real sense of peace and calm here and I enjoyed my brief spell here very much.

Moving back outside, the light quality was really good and looking out to the south there were some lovely views out across the rolling Rutland countryside. This really is the most glorious of counties!

There was a real bite to the cold though and it looked like matching the previous evening where it had dipped to minus 6. 

It was time to head towards home, the sun setting quickly and it was fully dark by the time we reached home 40 minutes or so later.

All Saints is open to visitors; small but perfectly formed!

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