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Church Post Code  LE15 8SP

Open to visitors

It was a sunny but cold Saturday in December, two weeks before Christmas in 2022. The warm start to the winter had ended abruptly and the overnight frost was still on the ground as we arrived at the church of St Mary, Manton; mid way through what was to be a 12 church crawl in the Rutland Water area,

Manton is a small village which had a population of 359 at the time of the 2011 census. It is to be found close to the south and west banks of Rutland Water. It is mid way between the two largest settlements in the county. Oakham is three miles off to the north west with Uppingham roughly the same distance off to the south

Egleton is a short distance off to the north and Hambleton, on Rutland Water Peninsula is off to the north east across the water.


More than 15 years after starting out photographing churches, there is a bank of memories from my trips out. I have fond memories of a previous visit here, a couple of weeks after I became interested in the hobby. I was out with my neighbour and his wife. He was interested in churches, his wife brought along a couple of magazines; confidently expecting to the bored; in the end she wasn’t! He passed on some of his knowledge and enthusiasm, and I was happy to receive it. He has passed on now but the fond memories remain.

The church of St Mary can be found in the centre of the village, on slightly raised ground; surrounded by delightful old cottages. It consists of western bellcote, nave with north and south aisles, north and south transepts, south porch and chancel.

There was no mention of Manton at the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086 but a chantry chapel is documented at the church. This was founded by William Wade in 1351, with two chaplains tasked with praying for the souls of William and his family. Prayers were to be said three times daily in the Lady Chapel at Manton church. This chantry was dissolved in 1548.

It is thought that there has been a church here since the 12th century, with that original structure being a basic structure of nave and chancel which was added to over the years. In the early 13th century a north aisle was added and the nave lengthened to the west. After that the west end that we see today was built. A south aisle followed.


During the 14th century the clerestory was added and the south porch built, this is a two storey affair, with the upper room being called a parvaise  A stair turret to the upper room can be seen at the north west end of the porch. Sometimes, these upper rooms were used as schoolrooms.

The south transept also dates from the 14th century, possibly coinciding with the 1351 formation of the chantry chapel here. If this is the case, it is fascinating to look at something which was built two years or so after the Black Death decimated Europe.

The chancel arch dates from the 13th century, but the chancel itself was rebuilt in the very late 18th century.

The western bellcote holds two bells; with Taylor of Loughborough recasting two earlier bells in 1920. There is also a very small bellcote at the eastern end of the nave which would have one time held a sanctus bell.

When Thomas North compiled his Victorian study of the church bells of Rutland he detailed those earlier bells. The first he attributed to Robert Newcombe I who operated out of a foundry in Leicester. A suggested date for this bell is around 1540.

The second bell was not attributed to a founder by North. It was inscribed ‘Cum Voco Ad Ecclesiam Venite’ which translates as ‘Come to the church when I call’. This bell is dated at 1610.

North issued several books on church bells and was very thorough in what he did. In his notes for the entry for Manton, he notes that there were several pieces of a small bell within a trunk at the church. He wonders if these were pieces of the sanctus bell which once would have hung here.


A bench is set against the south wall of the nave; an attractive spot to sit and rest awhile; a warm summer evening with a cold drink; thunder rumbling off in the distance. Not so attractive today though with the temperature a couple of degrees above freezing.

This lovely ironstone church was bathed in weak winter sunshine; a delightful quirky exterior with the south porch and south transept dominating the structure.


The church here has been open on each occasion that I visited. Entering the church ground towards the south porch, Christmas lights were strewn in the bushes against the path, the door of the porch was left open in welcome to the traveller and we were good to go!

Moving inside, the interior was bathed in sunlight, with no stained glass at all to the south helping in that respect. My eye was immediately drawn, and not entirely in a positive way, by a repainted coat of arms of George III over the chancel arch.

There are four bay arcades to north and south, with circular piers and capitals. On the north arcade, there is a slight break between the first and second bay from the west, which shows where the nave was lengthened.

The north transept holds the church organ. The south aisle flows in to the south transept; with a medieval stone coffin lid stood up against the east wall of the transept.


The chancel was rebuilt in 1796. It is a beautiful space but very austere. There are round headed windows to the east and south, which are of plain glass; walls are whitewashed and there are no memorials mounted. There is panelling on all three sides to the height of the altar.

 High up the north and south ends of the east wall there are two figures carved in stone. Both are crouched and wearing button up tunics. One is a mouth puller; the other is harder to see but he may have tongue out in medieval gesture of insult. These figures are each far older than the 1796 rebuilding, and it is possible that what we see here is all that remains of the chancel prior to the rebuilding.

Given that it was advent, the altar cloth had been changed to purple, the liturgical colour for advent; a time of preparation and waiting.

There is a single stained glass panel to be seen here, this in the north aisle. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me what the scene was which was depicted but it appears to be Isaac meeting Rebekah while she was drawing water, from Genesis Chapter 24. I can’t recall ever seeing this depicted in stained glass before.


There are three plaques on the north wall, which date from the 18th century. One of these is to Penelope Smith, who died in 1727 aged 57 years. She was the widow of Henry Smith and her plaque has an intriguing inscription. It is said that she was ‘exceedingly lamented’ and  ‘her extraordinary success in physick and her extensive charity to thousands of poor people, make her loss universal to the British nation’.

A plaque for Henry is alongside; he ‘changed this mortal for an immortal state ‘ in 1716, aged 71 years. He was, according to the epitaph ‘Lord of this mannour Faithfull to his friend just to his neighbour and pious toward God’.

The third is to Elizabeth, the wife of William Shield, and the youngest daughter of Henry and Penelope. She ‘meekly resigned her soul in to ye hands of our redeemer’ in 1724 aged 32 years.


There is a beautiful wall monument to Francis the wife of Rob Tomblin who passed away aged 26 years in 1745. An angel is carved below. Angels were used as a symbol to show the safe escorting of the soul to Heaven. This particular angel has suffered some damage to one wing at some point.

One further is to Thomas Burneby who passed away in August 1705 aged 33 years. This includes the skull and crossed bones at the bottom, reminding the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die.

The font is ancient, dating back to the 12th century. It stands of five shafts and features a carving of repeated blank arcading; the arcades having a rounded arch which may well have corresponded with the arch on the original chancel arch which was built at the same time.


Moving back outside, it was good to spend a little time looking through the gravestones. There are some finely crafted Georgian stone here, but nothing in the grounds has its own listing.

One stone stands out though; this being over to the west of the church grounds. This features a triangle, set within a circle, with the sun’s rays, or the Holy Spirit, bursting outwards from it. My gut reaction was masonic, as this was a symbol that they use. However, the Masonic use of this would normally see an eye included within the triangle; this is the ‘All Seeing Eye’ or the ‘Eye of Providence’. This is missing here so it might well be the case that this is purely a Christian symbol; with the triangle used to symbolise the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is a quirky beautiful church; it was good to see it again. I enjoyed my time here very much. Rutland has a really good attitude towards open churches and there were 12 open out of 12 on this particular crawl. It was time to hit the road again; there were four more churches to visit and we were only a few days away from the shortest day and the sun was liable to set quickly. We headed north, with Egleton the next point of call. The church here is of much interest, as are others in the area; well worth taking a look at if you are in the area.

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