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Church Post Code NN17 3AF

Open to visitors

Harringworth church with viaduct
The church of St John the Baptist, Harringworth

It was Maundy Thursday afternoon 2023, with heavy morning rain wiping out my work for the day; hence a hastily arranged mini churchcrawl which started in Rutland before crossing the border in to Northamptonshire. The church of St John the Baptist at Harringworth was the third church of the day, with all at that point being open to visitors.

   With due respect to the delightful village of Harringworth, this village is mostly famed for its viaduct, which runs to the west of the village. This was built between 1877 and 1879, and more than 20 million bricks were used in its construction, all of which were made on site. It is 1,275 yards long (or 1.66 km in new money) and has 82 arches, each having a 40 foot span.

Harringworth can be found against the south bank of the River Welland, on the edge of the Northamptonshire Rutland border, mid way between the southern bank of Rutland Water to the north and Corby to the south. Peterborough is around 22 miles off to the west. The population was 241 at the time of the 2011 census.

The church of St John the Baptist, Harringworth.

    To the north west of Harringworth is the neighbouring village of Seaton. A steep hill connects the two villages; which I found impossible to cycle up and terrifying to cycle down on a previous visit!

My first visit here was back in 2008, armed with a very basic digital camera. On my first visit a peacock walked across the main street, in front of the Market Cross, before hopping over a garden wall. A subsequent visit saw chickens foraging in the church grounds with a friendly black Labrador inside the church.

The church of St John the Baptist can be found to the north of the village, with the church that we see today consisting of west tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel.

There was no church mentioned here during the Domesday Survey of 1086 but there was a church during the 12th century, with the three stage west tower dating from that time. The church clock in the traditional colours of blue and gold faces out from the south face.

 The octagonal broach spire was a later addition, dating from the 14th century, having three tiers of gabled lucarne windows at the main compass points. Stone heads look out from on high; with one pulling open its mouth; another sticking out his tongue, each being a medieval, and modern day to be honest, gesture of insult.

On a previous visit, a grotesque on the spire had a small Elder bush growing out of it. I am a gardener by trade but I wouldn’t have fancied taking that out! Am pretty sure that my public liability insurance wouldn’t cover this!


 The south porch was originally built in the 15th century but has been rebuilt several times, the last being in 1909. It has a wide arch with nail head design.

The clerestory consists of four two light windows to north and south, with these being added in the 15th century, at which time there appears to have been a period of rebuilding. The outlines of the previous roofline in pre clerestory days can be seen on the east wall of the tower and nave.

The substantial chancel dates from the late 13th century and has a fine five light east window. At the south east corner there is a grotesque in the form of a beast, with small, bearded human head at the side of it. The church here was restored in Victorian times, with the work being completed in 1892.


     According to North's Victorian study of church bells in Northamptonshire there were five bells hanging, plus an ancient hand bell. Three of the bells were made by Thomas Mears and Son of London in 1805, and I daresay that they were recast from existing bells..

One further was cast by Thomas Eayre of Kettering in 1755. This one is inscribed ‘CAELPRUM CHRISTIE PLACEAT TIBI REX SONUS ISTE’ which translates as ‘Christ Heavens King may this sound please you’.

The other bell was cast by Tobias Norris I in 1603. Norris set up the Stamford bellfoundry and this is one of his earliest bells, possibly cast whilst he was still in his teens. Unusually for bells from the Stamford bellfoundry, the bell does not have a founders’ name on it but does have the Latin inscription ‘NUNC IACOBUS EGO CANO VOBIS ORE IVCUNDO 1603’ ‘I James now sing to you with cheerful voice’.

The James referred to is likely to be James I who came to the throne that year. This bell was re-cast by Mears and Stainbank in 1919, at which point an extra bell was added, making for the ring of six that we hear today.

   The real history here is in the small handbell though. The inscription indicates that the bell was a gift from Philip, Bishop of Lincoln. This would have been Philip de Repingdon, who was Bishop of Lincoln from 1405 - 1420. The National Church Bell Database attributes this hand bell as being cast by Johannes De Colsale, a founder from Leicester or Nottingham, and dated at circa 1410.


The church here was open to visitors, and I have never found it closed on my previous visits. Moving inside, there are four bay arcades to north and south, with these dating to the 14th century. A fine 15th century rood screen separates nave from chancel, and a door on the east wall of the south aisle allowed access to the rood loft in pre reformation days.

The two most easterly bays on the north aisle house a raised up and railed off vault for members of the Tryon family from nearby Bulwick Park. This was in use from the late 17th century to 1833, when the last burial took place.

There is a 14th century triple sedilia against the south wall of the chancel; nothing really unusual in that, but this one is very weathered and the informative church guide suggests that this may have been due to the fact that the chancel was without a roof until it was re roofed in the 15th century. If this is true, it suggests that the roof was missing for some time as there is considerable wear. These sedilia now contain a modern tapestry. A piscina stands in its usual position alongside,

The altar is raised up on two steps and had a white cloth; this being the liturgical colour for the Easter period.


The east window of the chancel commemorates those who were killed during the First Wold War. It was made by Burlinson and Grylls, who also produced the stained glass at the east end of the south aisle.

The chancel window has Christ crucified at the centre, attended by two angels, who carry the crown of thorns and a scourge. In turn, these are flanked by Archangels Gabriel and Michael. Gabriel carries lilies; a symbol of purity whilst Michael is depicted dressed in armour, carrying the scale on which the souls of the dead will be judged. A close look shows a small figure at prayer in one of the trays, with a weight on the other.

At the bottom we have Mary the mother of Jesus on the left hand side of the cross as we look at it and John to the right. Mary Magdalene, with long hair flowing is at the foot of the cross looking up at her crucified Lord.

Mary the mother of Jesus will very nearly always be found to the left of the cross as we look at it. This means that looking out from the cross, she is on Jesus’ right hand side; the traditional place of honour in Jewish custom.

 These are flanked by a curiously elegantly dressed John the Baptist, with red cloak covering his camel hair clothing. He holds a banner on which is written ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’ ‘Behold the Lamb of God’. Opposite is St George, with red dragon vanquished underfoot.

At the bottom of this window are three small panels where pairs of angels hold aloft a shield on which are Lilies, the Agnus Dei and a chalice out of which appears a dragon.


The altar in the south aisle was also clothed in white, this colour symbolising purity; with white being used for the major dates in the Christian calendar. There is another treble sedilia here, with this one in better condition; being decorated with carvings of heads, including a King wearing a crown with long wavy hair.

The east window of the south aisle depicts the baby Jesus being presented to Simeon in the temple, with Anna looking on. Mary and Joseph are carrying their offering for sacrifice, which is two doves, which is the offering for those people who do not have the money for a lamb. They were people of great faith but limited means. Both Mary and Joseph though are immaculately and expensively clothed in this depiction!

There is other stained glass here in the form of medieval fragments; including a red haired figure at prayer, a bird of prey and a deer with a solitary antler.

A small memorial floor mounted memorial brass is of interest. This is in memoriam for the ‘pious and learned’ William Gardiner, a previous minister at this church. He died in 1680, with his wife Elizabeth also remembered; she passing in 1719. The brass is marked with symbols of the mortality of Man’ with a human skull inbetween two sets of crossed bones. These in turn are flanked by two banners with the same symbols on them.

The font dates back to the late 12th century and stands isolated on a raised section at the south west corner of the nave,


The church grounds are of interest with several chest tombs having a Grade II Listing in their own right. There is nothing of any great rarity amongst the gravestones but several have a delightfully naïve quality about them, showing an angel with wings unfurled, which symbolised the safe escorting of the soul to Heaven.

There are some superb long distance shots of the church here; the broach spire standing out above the trees, with the viaduct in the foreground. Standing on the Harringworth side of the viaduct, the church at neighbouring Seaton can be photographed through one of the arches of the viaduct.

The church here is open and welcoming and is well worth taking a look at if you are in the area. This is also, on the whole, an area of open churches and a rewarding area for the churchcrawler to explore. One of two village tea rooms also helps in that respect!

It was time to hit the road again and we headed roughly south, towards Corby, with Gretton being the destination. All of the photographs used on this page are from the April 2023 visit, with the exception of the long distance shot of the church with the viaduct at the top of the page, and the chickens in the church grounds at the foot of the page which were from previous visits.

harr chicken.jpg
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