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Church Post Code PE19 5BB

Open to visitors

It was a fine sunny afternoon in May 2023; a half day off of work and a six church crawl in Huntingdonshire/Cambridgeshire, with the church of St Andrew, Great Staughton starting this crawl.

I have a great deal of time for this church, and have very fond memories of a previous visit here, back in the summer of 2013. I was staying for a few days in digs at nearby West Perry and started out on the cycle early on the Sunday morning. Not to paint too graphic a picture, but that morning I was a ‘MAMIL’, a ‘middle aged man in lycra’. I was looking for a service to take in and joined in with a service here; missing the first ten minutes or so.

This was the first and only time that I have taken communion in lycra and hopefully for the sake of all concerned this will not be repeated. Pleasant memories of a healthy sized congregation, friendly folk and a kind lady vicar who made a point of coming over to say hi, despite how I was dressed!

Great Staughton can be found some 26 miles south of Peterborough, making this one of the furthest flung churches to the south to be covered by my sites. It is some eight miles to the south west of Huntingdon; to the extreme south of Cambridgeshire, with neighbouring Little Staughton over the county line in to Bedfordshire.


This is an area of small pleasant villages and picturesque countryside, with Grafham Water a little less than three miles away to the north east. The church of St Andrew sits alongside the main road which runs through the village; with the River Kyme running close by to the south of the church, close enough that running water could easily be heard to the east as I looked around the church grounds.

There was a church and priest mentioned here during the Domesday Survey of 1086, but nothing of that early structure remains. The structure that we see today dates back to the 13th century and consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch, north chapel, north vestry and chancel.

Interestingly, there is a connection between Great Staughton and the 17th century ‘Witchfinder General’ Matthew Hopkins. The church here had a vicar at the time called John Gaule, who was an outspoken critic of Hopkins, casting doubt as to his methods; writing ‘Select Cases of Conscience touching Witches and Witchcraft’ in 1646, to expose Hopkins.

The rebuilding of the present structure started in the late 13th century, when arches were punched through the existing nave, with the chancel being rebuilt in the same period. North and south aisles were added during the 14th century, at which point the south porch was added.

The nave arcades were rebuilt during the 15th century, with clerestory windows added. The west tower dates from the early 16th century, with the north vestry and north chapel also being added at that time.

During the mid 16th century the roof fell in and was replaced at a cost of £40. By the mid 17th century the church here was in a poor state of repair and was restored. There were two further periods of Victorian restoration, with repairs undertaken between 1848 and 1850 and a full restoration in 1866.


Structurally, this is a fine church of pleasing proportions. The perpendicular west tower is buttressed and battlemented with crocketed pinnacles. An ancient gargoyle looks out centrally from all four sides. A frieze runs across the top of the tower, consisting of a repeated diamond design.

The door on the west face of the tower contains a quatrefoil design in the spandrels; the church clock in the traditional colours of blue and gold looks out from the west face.

A tragic but interesting plaque on the west face records an event here in 1787 when three people were struck and killed by lightning whilst in the belfry.

A faded sundial is set above the door of the south porch; grotesque, contorted faces peer out from the label stops and a very ancient, weathered and curious carving of a person can be seen under an arch against the south wall of the chancel. At the east end of the nave is a bellcote, which still holds the Sanctus bell.

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Revd Owen took at close look at the bells here in his study of the church bell in Huntingdonshire, which was published in 1899. At the time of his study there were five bells in the ring here. Today there are six in the ring with one further; the new first of the ring, cast in 1919 by Taylor of Loughborough to commemorate those from the village who fell in the Great War.

Owen notes that the first of the ring is inscribed ‘HIS NAZARENUS REX IVDEORUM FILI DEI MISERERE MEI’. This translates as ‘Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews son of God have mercy on me’.  

This bell was cast in 1633 by Hugh II Watts of Leicester, as was the second of the ring on Owen’s day, which is inscribed with the names Edmund Ibbott and Ralph Paine, the church wardens of the day.

The third is of real age, cast in London in the early 1400’s, possibly by William Dawe. This is inscribed ‘HAC IN CONCLAVE GABRIEL NUNC PANGE SUAVE’. This translates as ‘In this congregation Gabriel sounds sweetly’.

The fourth was cast locally by Robert Taylor of St Neots in 1787, with this being inscribed with the name John Appleby, who was the vicar of the day. Owen notes that Taylor was paid £12 for casting the bell with a further £5 and 5 shillings paid later.

The fifth was another cast in Leicester, this time by Hugh Watts I around 1600. This is inscribed with the names George Wauton Esquire, George Walker, minister with George Darter and William Glover also included, the church wardens. As we shall see later, there is a monument to Wauton at the east end of the south aisle.

Owen also notes the disused Sanctus bell, which was blank. The National Church Bell Database suggests a date of around 1280 for this.


Moving inside, the sun was streaming in through the south windows and it was bright and welcoming inside. There are five bay arcades to north and south with circular piers and moulded capitals.  There is a single candle holder on each pier and the bottle of hand sanitiser in the north aisle is valuable dating evidence for those looking at this photograph in future generations; dating this to post covid restrictions!

There is a rood staircase to the south of the chancel arch; a reminder of pre reformation days the nave a chancel would have been separated by a screen, with the upper stage having a large depiction of the crucifixion. These were hated by the reformers and destroyed as idolatrous.

There is also a single bell rope leading up to the Sanctus bell. I have seen many bellcote at the east end of naves, but I can’t recall seeing one with the bell rope still attached. The eagle eyed will also see a squint behind the pulpit giving a line of sight to the altar.

The altar had white altar cloth, which is the liturgical colour for the period between Easter and Pentecost, or Whitsun if you prefer. A stone reredos dates from the Victorian restoration; consisting of three tall central gabled arches, flanked by three ogee headed arches to either side.


The church organ is situated at the western end of the chancel, against the north wall.  On the same wall, at the eastern end is a fine early 17th century monument to members of the Deyer family. Ere we have two couples facing each other across a prayer desk, on which is what I assume to be a Bible.

James Deyer, who died in 1580, faces his wife Margaret who passed away in 1560. Close by Richard Deyer Knight, who passed away in 1605 faces his wife Marie who died four years previously.

Each couple face each other; kneeling on cushions. Their hands are missing, but at one point would have been raised in prayer. A helmet rests on each of the Bibles and a pair of gauntlets can be seen against one of the prayer desks. The gauntlets face downwards and I wonder of this symbolises mourning.

On the opposite wall is a white marble monument, dating to the late 17th century, which is to the infant children of John Conyer. A putti at the top holds upright the flame of life, this symbolising eternal life. If the flame is downturned or extinguished it would symbolise death and mourning.


downturned or extinguished it would symbolise death and mourning.

The five light east window has a depiction of Christ central, with hand raised in blessing; wounds visible on hands and feet. The risen Christ in flanked by Peter holding the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, St James with pilgrim’s staff, St John and St Andrew, who carries a saltire cross, this denoting the manner of his martyrdom. In the tracery at the top this window is a celestial band of golden haired angel musicians.

At the east end of the south aisle is a three light window which shows Jesus alone with Mary and Martha of Bethany, who were the sisters of Lazarus. Martha was a doer and an organiser, and her sister was more thoughtful; a listener. In this depiction, Martha looks a little stressed and carries a plate as she will doubtless sort out the evening meal. Mary (Maria) is relaxed and takes in the words of Jesus!

The two sisters appear in another window as Jesus says to them ‘Thy brother shall rise again’. Here Mary is kneeling and is depicted, as usual with long hair. This is a reference to an event a few days before the crucifixion when Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus with a jar of expensive perfume, pouring the perfume on his feet and wiping it with her hair.

There is sometimes confusion as to whether it was Mary of Bethany or Mary Magdalene who did the anointing. This episode is mentioned in all four Gospels; with John Chapter 12 indicating that it was Mary of Bethany.

Other stained glass includes are depiction from Luke Chapter 5. Jesus is on Simon (Peter’s) boat. The nets are empty after a fruitless nights fishing. ‘Launch out in to the deep’ Jesus instructs; the nets are not empty for long!

Elsewhere we see a two light window featuring two of the Beatitudes; blessed are the merciful and the pure in heart. There is a small panel below illustrating each. Under the merciful is Dorcas handing out food to the hungry. Below the pure in heart is the baby Jesus being presented to Simeon in the temple.


There is a fine memorial at the east end of the south aisle, this being to George Wauton who passed away in 1606. He lays recumbent, dressed in armour; feet resting on a helmet and head resting on a large pillow. He is on a shelf, which is supported by two figures wearing Roman costume; the Christian scallop symbol alongside each.

There are no signs of sedilia or piscina here, and I did think that the post reformation monuments in the chancel and the south aisle may have covered over these. The font dates back to the 13th century, and is octagonal, with the bowl resting on a more modern base.


The church grounds are well maintained but there is nothing of any great interest or rarity to comment on, with nothing in the grounds having its own listing.

It was great to be able to see this church again after a few years. I enjoyed my previous visit during the service, but it was also good to be able to wander around in solitude and really take the church in. Open to visitors and full of things to see for those interested. It was time to hit the road, but not too far, crossing the country line in to Bedfordshire, with Little Staughton being the destination.

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