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Church Post Code PE28 5QS

Closed to Visitors

David and I visited the church of All Saints, Hamerton towards the end of a Sunday afternoon churchcrawl which, if I remember correctly, ended up in an evening prayer service somewhere local; my memory fails me, which logically may have been Great Gidding!

Hamerton is a lovely little village which can be found some eight miles to the north west of Huntingdon. The Giddings, a cluster of three villages, stand off to the north; with the closest, Steeple Gidding forming, since 2010 the Parish of Hamerton and Steeple Gidding. There is a church in Steeple Gidding which is redundant; cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust since 1976.

The village is probably best known for Hamerton Wildlife Park, which can be found to the north of the village. It is quiet and peaceful here, a pleasant village set in beautiful countryside. The church sits over to the east of the village, with the visitor approaching the church by way of a small bridge which crosses Alconbury Brook, which has its own Grade II Listing.


This was a revisit for me; with the church here being a regular destination over the years. Fond memories of sitting in the church grounds at Steeple Gidding on a Saturday afternoon back in the early days of my interest in churches; my only company being a red kite and grass snake, a little most forming over the fields; listening to the sounds of exotic animals from the wildlife park a mile or so distant.

There was no church recorded here at the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086, but mention was made of a church fifty years later. Some of the present structure dates from the late 13th century, but it seems that much of the present building dates from a period of 14th century rebuilding.

 Much work has been done here over the years. More reconstruction was undertaken here in the 15th century, with the clerestory added and tower rebuilt during that time. In 1707 the south clerestory and south porch were rebuilt. In 1796 the chancel was partially rebuilt. The church was restored in 1854. At the end of the nineteenth century, the chancel was underpinned and restored.


The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel. The perpendicular late 15th century west tower is battlemented and buttressed and is best viewed from an area of green to the west. There is a fine west doorway in the tower, with a frieze running across the top of a repeating quatrefoil design. Gargoyles look out from the corners of the tower.

With the exception of the chancel, the rest of the church is battlemented. A row of grotesques look out from the clerestory; one very weathered figure has lost the top half of its head, but still visible is a pointed beard. Close by, one which looks to be from a later date shows a beast with a benign expression but ferocious looking fangs and stubble!

The chancel is fairly small and plain from the exterior, with a steeply pitched roof, which I believed replaced an original flat roof during the 1796 rebuilding. There is a 14th century priest’s door on the south wall of the chancel and the east


    There are four bells in the tower, one is from a London founder C&G Mears, and is dated 1854; an existing bell being recast or an extra bell being added at the time of the restoration here.  The second is from Thomas I Eayre of Kettering. This one is inscribed with the makers name and the date of 1728 and the Latin inscription "Gloria Patri Filio et Spiritui Sancto" which translates as ‘Glory to the Father the Son and to the Holy Spirit’.

 The third is from Thomas Norris, of the Stamford bellfoundry and is inscribed “Non Verba Sed Voce Resonabo Domine Lavdem  ‘I will resound not with words but with a voice, O Lord’. The inscription continues ‘Thomas Norris cast me 1628 W. Bvrnbi S. Fitchjohn Ch: Wa"

The Revd Owen, who was the rector of Woodwalton, in his study of the church bells of Huntingdonshire, which was published in 1899 notes that one of the church wardens names was Fitzjohn, surmising that Norris didn’t have any ‘Z’s available at the time that this bell was made!

 The fourth is from notable Peterborough founder Henry Penn; inscribed "Henry Penn made me 1706 William Smith churchwarden". Again, this bell, within a year or so, coincides with a period of rebuilding at the church.


  The church here is normally kept locked and a very helpful man, working in his garden close by, saw David and myself looking around and asked us if we would like to see inside, which we were grateful for. This is the first time that I had seen inside this one!

 Moving inside and the initial thought was how bright and welcoming it was inside. It was a fairly dull day but the large three light clerestory windows were doing what they should, By the way, I am using exterior photographs from an earlier visit as the lighting conditions were better on the day.

There are four bay arcades to north and south, each having octagonal piers and capitals. Both north and south aisles date from the 14th century.  There are reminders which show the history of the church; one of these being stairs immediately to the north of the chancel arch, which would have led to a rood loft. At one point in time the nave and chancel would have been separated by a rood screen, with an upper section being the rood loft, which would have held the rood; a large carving of the crucifixion, with Mary and John standing in their traditional positions alongside the cross. Rood by the way, is an old word for cross.


There is also a piscina on the south wall of the chancel and alongside the altar in the south chapel; these being used to wash the priest’s hands and the holy vessels used during the mass. All of these are reminders of how our churches were prior to the reformation.

Moving in to the chancel, the east window is of three lights with clear glass. There is no stained glass in this church at all. The altar is flanked by boards on the east wall which have on them the 10 Commandments and the Creed.

In the choirstalls, there are a couple of finely carved wooden angels, which I think date from the Victorian restoration. One serene looking figure has long hair, with wings unfurled, hands crossed over chest.

Stone heads look out from throughout the interior. These include a quite stern and imposing female figure, with small face peering out from within a huge headdress. A male figure smiles contentedly showing one missing front tooth. Close by, two figures stick out their tongues in medieval gesture of insult.


A carving of a human skull, which is covered by a small canopy, is part of the wall monument to Ferra Colleti, who was a previous rector here, and who died in 1679. Interestingly the Latin word ecclesiae has been spelled incorrectly, with the letter ‘L’ being missed out and added above.

There are two large monuments on the south wall. One of these was to Sir John Bedell, Knyght, who was, according to the script, 'abvot the age of three skore and seventene' He died in April 1613. The old English wording on this one is charming but my spell checker did not care for it!

  The other monument dates from 1587, and is to Mawde Bedell, wife of John. The script here goes on to say that Mawde was the mother of ten children, five sons and five daughters. On this one as well there is a mistake on the inscription, with one letter included upside down, erased and reinserted the right way up. There are many mistakes with regards lettering and spacing, on monuments and gravestones throughout, with some of the masons being semi literate.

I wouldn’t normally mention fire extinguishers, for pretty obvious reasons. However, an ancient looking extinguisher was mounted up on to a nave wall. This was by a firm called Minimax, who were a British firm who were taken over by the Pyrene Company in 1955. This extinguisher is older than me, but I am sure that it is only still mounted as a historic item!


The church grounds are of interest. There is the base of a cross close to the south porch, which dates back to the late 13th century; which has on it a 19th century shaft and cross.

There some very old gravestone here, with a row against the south wall of the church grounds being of interest in particular. One of these has the oldest readable date that I sew here; this being for someone, whose name is weathered away, who passed away in 1693.

A small, lichen encrusted skull, reminds the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die. Two other stones have the same design, a tree with its branches bowing down to the ground.  When it is like this, it can symbolise death and mourning; the inevitability of death. This is backed up on one of the two stones which also includes ab hourglass, symbolising the passing of time. Often willow trees are used with the willow also symbolising immortality


I enjoyed my time here very much and we appreciated the time that the keyholder took in opening up for us. It was good to take a little time looking around the grounds; the sheep contentedly grazing on a field to the North West. A peaceful pleasant scene, this is why we do what we do!

As mentioned earlier, the church here is normally closed to visitors but is well worth taking a look at if you get the chance. It was time to move on, the intention being working our way gradually north, in to the Giddings, with Great Gidding the final point of call; keeping a careful eye out for the horse in the field to the west of the church, which I affectionately labelled ‘Screaming Psycho’ after an incident a year or two before.

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