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Church Post Code PE9 3RD

Open to visitors


It was early January 2015, and a much overdue return to the church of St Mary The Virgin, Ketton Rutland. I had visited here back in 2007 the early days of my interest in church photography, with that visit falling foul of some indifferent lighting conditions and an early and very basic digital camera.  The revisit took a mere eight years and came about on a glorious early January Saturday morning.

Ketton is the largest village in Rutland, and the third largest settlement in the county, behind the towns of Oakham and Uppingham. At the time of the 2011 census the population was 1,926. Stamford is three miles off to the north east; Rutland Water being a little further away to the North West. The River Chater cuts through the village, before it joins with the River Welland as it heads in to Stamford.

The church of St Mary must go down as one of the most striking and interesting churches to be found in Rutland. It can be found in the centre of the village, tightly packed with lovely stone cottages and one of the two village pubs, as it often the case, close by. A short distance away from the church is a 17th century bridge which crosses the Chater; this having a Grade II Listing in its own right.


   It was a very quiet Saturday morning in Ketton. Time moves slowly here, with just a couple on horseback ambling along Church Street. As is mostly the case in Rutland the church was open to visitors.

The church of St Mary consists of central tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch, north vestry and chancel.

    The church here is made of Barnack stone and is mainly a thirteenth century rebuilding of an earlier structure, with a church and priest listed here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. Building work had been underway and appears to have stopped for a number of years towards the end of the 12th century. The hugely impressive west door can be dated to around 1190. This consists of several orders of chevrons, mostly zig zag patterns, but with one order consisting of heads, both human and creatures. The western end of this church is perpendicular and of great quality.

    Soon after this date, building stopped. Perhaps finances ran out. Whatever happened, in 1232 Bishop Hugh De Wells gave a release of 20 days penance for anyone helping to rebuild the church, which was in a 'ruinous' condition. Most of the present structure was built during the thirteenth century, following that call for help, and the church was re-dedicated in 1240.


  The lower stage of the central tower dates from the 12th century. Three tall and elegant lancet windows are to be seen on all four sides of the bell tower stage.  The impressive octagonal broach spire dates from the 14th century, at which time new windows were added to the north aisle and the west end of the nave. The walls of the aisles were heightened and the battlemented south porch was added. The following century saw the addition of the small two window clerestory, to north and south. Finely carved grotesque heads can be seen throughout the exterior; some ancient and weathered with others looking to possibly date from Victorian restoration. High up on the tower a depiction of a King, badly weathered with eyes gone and crown just discernible sits alongside a human figure that holds his head in his hands in despair!

 Nearby, a curious carving has a single head with two faces! A line of smaller human heads can be seen running along the top of the tower, with a wide variety of expressions. A carving of what I think to be St Paul as he is holding a downturned sword can be seen under an elaborately carved arch.

 A closer look at the north and south walls of the tower show the outline of previous roof lines, which would have been transepts.

       There was much Victorian restoration here. In 1861 the church, to the west of the chancel, was restored under Sir Gilbert Scott and in 1863 the chancel was restored under the direction of TG Jackson. There was also work undertaken here during the 20th century, with the chancel roof repainted in 1950.


   Six bells hang here, with the first being cast originally in 1640 and then re-cast by Thomas Eayre I in 1748. This is inscribed NICHO BULINGHAM AB ME SUIS SUMTIBUS HIC COLLOCARI CURAVIT 1640. This translates as 'Nicholas Bulingham caused me to be placed here at his expense'. The original 1640 inscription remains, with Eayre adding T WOOTTON W ROWLATT 1748.

    The second is from Henry Oldfield of Nottingham. This is inscribed 'I sweetly tolling men do call to taste on meat that feeds the soul 1609'. The third was cast by celebrated founder Henry Penn in 1713 and is inscribed to Moses Sisson, church warden of the day. This was re-cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1897.

    The fourth bell on the ring is by Newcombe and Watts of Leicester 1598 and has the unusual inscription 'ME ME I MERELY WILL SING'  The fifth reads SARVE THE LORDE and is from Hugh Watts I in 1601. Watts were a family of bellfounders with a great reputation for the quality of their work. Not so sometimes in their spelling though.



It was good to see the church here open. I was told by a person connected with this church that they closed the doors for a time after a break in. Moving inside, it was bright and welcoming, with the sun streaming in through the south windows. The Christmas tree was still up and lanterns were set up throughout the nave, I daresay a reminder of the Christmas services just passed.

There are three bay arcades to north and south, with these having circular piers and capitals with nail head design. The arches are pointed as are those of the crossing arches, with a staircase leading in to the tower from the southern end of the western crossing arch, an outline of the previous roofline being clearly visible on that wall.

Standing at the chancel arch and looking to the west, the fine western window is of five lights with clear glass and large roundel in the tracery.

The chancel ceiling which also contains angels carrying shields are painted. Gilded angels stand to the north and south of the altar holding candles; the reredos is a golden curtain.


There is a good amount of stained glass here, of high quality. The east window is of three lights, with stained glass on two levels, but with a roundel of the risen Christ over the top of those. The upper level features Mary, wearing a crown as the Queen of Heaven; holding the infant Jesus in her arms. The lower level has the risen Christ as central, golden haired and looking distinctly Un-Jewish. He points to his wounds, with ‘doubting’ Thomas kneeling at prayer to the left as we look at it. Mary Magdalene can be seen, also at prayer to the right.

The risen Christ is also central in a three light window; depicted with instruments from the passion. Alongside Christ is spear, sponge on hyssop stick, nails, scourge and dice. To the right as we look at it, Mary the mother of Jesus hands him a crown, crowning him the King of Heaven. Christ is down from the cross, with the cross standing between him and Mary.

One other window has six depictions on Old Testament characters. Three male characters are at the top, David, Moses and Solomon. Three female figures can be seen below, namely Hannah, Miriam and Deborah, all of whom were prophetesses.

Elsewhere, we see a depiction of Peter, who holds the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, also carrying a fisherman’s net; this referring to his occupation and possibly also a reference to when Jesus said to him and his brother that they would become fishers of men!


Close by is St Thomas Aquinas, who is depicted holding a chalice with communion wafer visible at the top. A dove swoops down towards him with nimbus. Interestingly, there is a trinity shield at the top of this panel, with Latin text. This was a diagram which was often used to explain the concept of the trinity. It consists of four nodes. The three outer nodes would have been labelled with the elements of the trinity “Father” “Son” and “Holy Spirit”. The inner node would have been labelled “God”. Six lines connect the nodes and these lines would have been marked either “is” or “is not” Twelve statements can be made as follows…

   The Father is God"   "The Son is God"   "The Holy Spirit is God"   "God is the Father" "God is the Son"   "God is the Holy Spirit"   "The Father is not the Son" "The Father is not the Holy Spirit"   "The Son is not the Father"   "The Son is not the Holy Spirit"   "The Holy Spirit is not the Father"   "The Holy Spirit is not the Son"

Also to be seen here are roundels of the four Evangelists and two scenes from the life of Christ. One shows Jesus surrounded by children and the other shows the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead.


Tucked away is a ‘retired’ gargoyle, which would have at one point hung on the tower. It now enjoys retirement, away from the cold winter wind. It is always fascinating to see these up close at eye level. The font was bathed in sunlight as I photographed it. This dates from the 14th century and has an octagonal bowl with blind tracery and a leaf design with quatrefoil shape in a roundel on each panel.

   The church grounds are well maintained and many of the graves are not in situ, having been removed from their original position and leaned up against the outer perimeter walls, one of these features the tools of the trade of the deceased, which looks to be a miller, with what appears to be a grinding stone on the gravestone.

There is nothing of any great importance to be seen in the grounds here, but there are some finely carved Georgian stones to be seen here. Close to the south porch is a churchyard cross, which is modern, which has a depiction of the crucifixion on one side with the Virgin and child on the other.

This is a fine church; one that I enjoyed revisiting very much. It was time to move on again, with North and South Luffenham on the list to visit before heading back to Stamford and then home to Peterborough. Open and welcoming, well worth taking a look at if you are in the area. An impressive church in a glorious county!

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