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Church Post Code PE28 0BF

Open to visitors


It was a few days before the coronation of Kings Charles III and the church of St Andrew, Kimbolton was being prepared for the celebration. A couple of ladies were decorating the south chapel and a teddy bear at the west end was already wearing a crown and to be honest, looked as if he or she had been celebrating for a while!

Kimbolton is a small Huntingdonshire town, which had a population of 1056 at the time of the 2021 census. It can be found some nine miles to the west of Huntingdon and 14 miles north of Bedford. Peterborough is getting on for 30 miles to the north, making the church here one of the most southerly covered by my sites. This is an attractive area, with some beautiful villages; with Grafham Water a short distance off to the east.

Not far from the church is Kimbolton Castle, which now forms the main building of the prestigious Kimbolton School. Catherine of Aragon, who was the first wife of Henry VIII, and whose divorce led to the split from the Roman Catholic Church and the subsequent reformation, was sent here in 1534, and  died here a little less than two years later.


The church of St Andrew sits centrally, with tall broach spire standing proud; war memorial and lychgate to the south. There was a church and priest mentioned here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, but the oldest parts of the church that we see today are the north and south arcades, which date from the 13th century.

 The present church dates mainly from the 14th century, with some 15th century additions and Victorian restoration. It consists of west tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, north and south chapels, south porch, north vestry and chancel.

The west tower dates back to the early 14th century and is of three stages. At the top of the tower is a string course, with carvings of animals, some grotesque, and human. Among the animals is a pig suckling it’s young and near by a bearded beast looks out; its eyes though long since weathered away. An octagonal broach spire rises up, this containing three tiers of gabled lucarne windows. From base of tower to tip of spire is 150 feet.

The nave and chancel are each 14th century, with the south porch, clerestories and south chapel all being 15th century additions. The exterior is battlemented throughout and there is a further string course of small grotesque heads above the clerestory. A small image niche above the south porch doorway is empty; and doubtless would have once held a statue in pre reformation times, possibly of St Andrew after whom the church is dedicated. A drain pipe is dated 1733, and may well be now out of guarantee. There was Victorian restoration here, with a north vestry being added in 1847, with a Montagu family vault added on in 1853.


When Revd Owen compiled his study of the church bells in Huntingdonshire, which was published in 1899, there were five bells in the ring here. The first was cast by Henry II Bagley, who worked out of Ecton in Northamptonshire, in 1702.

The second was attributed to John Grene, who was a founder between 1571 and 1575, and is listed as being itinerant. Some founders travelled to where there was work to be done, setting up shop so to speak in the church grounds and casting the bells on site.

The third of the ring was courtesy of notable Peterborough founder Henry Penn, with this one being cast in 1713. William I Eldridge cast the fourth in 1660. This is a founder that I have not come across before; a quick check on the bellfounder database shows that he was based in Chertsey and was an active founder for a massive 56 years, with this being one of his earliest bells.

The final bell in the ring in Owen’s day was cast by Hugh II Watts of Leicester in 1634. This has the Latin script ‘HIS NASARENUS REX JUDOREUM FILI DEI MISIERE MEI’. This translates as ‘Jesus of Nazareth Kings of the Jews son of God have mercy on me’.

The situation today is a little different with an extra bell being added in 1997, this being a new first of the ring. This is believed to have been cast by Henry Penn in 1703; but I have not turned up any information on where this bell originally hung.


The church, as mentioned earlier, was being decorated but is usually open to visitors anyway. The visitor enters in through a 14th century south door in to a bright and pleasing interior, with sunlight streaming in through the south windows.

There are four bays to north and south. The north arcade is early 13th century with piers alternating between round and octagonal, with nailhead design on the capitals. The south arcade is later 13th century with round piers. Hatchments can see seen above the bays to north and south. Restored 15th century screens separate the chapels from north and south aisles.

The tower arch and chancel arch are each 14th century. An ancient ogee headed niche with modern statue of the Virgin with child can be seen to the north of the chancel arch. Higher up to the south; a door to the rood loft; a glimpse back to pre reformation times!

The chancel itself dates back to the 14th century but restoration has stripped away most of its history. The north and south walls were rebuilt during the 18th century, with possibly things such as piscina, sedilia and aumbry being lost at that time. The roof was replaced in 1853 and the east window was rebuilt around 1882 after being destroyed in a gale.


The stained glass in the east window of the chancel is from Clayton and Bell; is of four lights and depicts the nativity. Mary holds the Baby Jesus in her arms, including symbols of Lilies symbolising purity and palm leaf symbolising victory. A lamb looks up; either left behind by the shepherds now departed or much more likely a reference to Jesus being the Lamb of God. A pair of doves is present, these reminding the onlooker of Jesus’ humble origins, with a pair of doves being the sacrifice in the Temple for those who could not afford a greater sacrifice; as well as being a symbol for peace and the Holy Spirit. Across the centre two panels, angels hold banners which read ‘Gloria In Excelsis Et In Terra Pax’  which translates as ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace’.

Joseph is off to the left as we look at it, holding a torch, along with a couple of angels, with golden hair and vibrantly coloured wings. The wise men present their gifts, this taking up the two panels to the right.


The south chapel, which dates to the 15th century has kept more of its history, with a 15th century double piscina against the south wall indicating that the mass was taken here in pre reformation days.

There is some superb glass in the south chapel. The five light east window has Christ in majesty as the centre piece. The risen Christ is seated, crowned with one hand raised in blessing, carrying a globe in the other. Bands of fire radiate out from him. He is attended by a band of angelic musicians, whilst others wield censers.

In the foreground stands St Michael, carrying the scales on which the souls of the dead will be weighed on the final day. St Michael looks directly out at those looking in; a challenging look perhaps? How will we fare on that final day!

Christ is flanked by several characters. Over to the left as we look at it are Moses, King David and Isaiah. Below are disciples and Gospel writers. Immediately at Christ’s side is St Peter with key, St Andrew with Saltire cross, St John and St Paul.

To the right as we look at it, we have a panel with four female characters. Forefront is the Virgin Mary, with what I think is Martha and Mary, with Mary Magdalene behind. Close by we have the three patriarchs, the forefathers of the Israelites; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

We can also see King Edmund and the Venerable Bede; who I can’t recall ever seeing in stained glass before.  He wrote the ‘Ecclesiastical History of the English People’ which is a history of Christian churches in England. Close by we see St Jerome, who was largely responsible for the first Latin translation of the Bible; the Vulgate, during the very late 4th to early 5th centuries. St Jerome is considered to be one of the four ‘doctors’ of the early western church.


On the south wall of the south chapel is a delightful stained glass design by Louis Tiffany, which commemorates the twin daughters of the 8th Duke of Manchester. Lady Jaqueline died aged 15 in 1895, whilst twin sister Lady Alice died in 1900 aged 20. In this design, both girls line up before Jesus, who looks down tenderly towards them, reaching out a hand to both.

The north chapel is set out with a modern altar and there is clear glass in the four light east window.

Elsewhere, there is a memorial to their mother, Consuelo Yznaga, who passed away in 1909. In this she reaches up towards the clouds, with her daughters, who were waiting for her, reaching down!

Other stained glass here includes a three light depiction of the Good Samaritan, with the stricken Jew being tended by his sworn enemy the Samaritan, while a priest and Levite walk past their own countryman.

Another three light window shows the scene on Easter morning. The three Mary’s have arrived at Jesus’ empty tomb. An angel of the Lord is there, pointing upwards towards Heaven and holding a palm leaf symbolising victory. ‘He is not here he is risen as he said’.


One further window is in memorial to Firman Gordon Carter and Henry Gordon Carter, who each fell during  the First World War. Jesus holds out a crown of victory, with script reading ‘Be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life’.

In among the wall monuments, a human skull looks out, reminding the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die. Therefore, trust in God and live a good Christian life as you do not know when your own time will come. Over to the west a grotesque with joyful expression leers out from between its own spread legs. The font is 13th century and is fairly battered; it rests on a more modern base.

The church grounds are stripped of gravestones, but there are several table tombs in situ which have Grade II Listings. The churchyard walls to the west and south of the church also have Grade II Listing.

It was good to be back here again; it did not seem five minutes since I was visiting churches, seeing the churches set out for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Now she had passed and the churches were being decorated to mark the crowning of Charles III. The church here is open and welcoming and is well worth taking a look at. It was time to hit the road again; making the short trip east to Buckden; in what turned out to be a six church crawl with all being open.

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