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Church Post Code PE28 0QD

Open to visitors

It was a crisp November day in 2023 and I paid a return trip to the church of St Peter, Molesworth. It was a mini cycling crawl of churches alongside the A14; the day starting off at Keyston and ending up at Catworth, with lunch at the village hall before spending the afternoon watching some football, with my old team Stamford AFC playing at St Neots.

Molesworth was my third church of the day; with the church here being most noted probably for a fine selection of medieval wall paintings; some of the finest to be seen in churches covered by my sites.

    Molesworth is a small village, just off the main A14 which can be found some six miles east of Thrapston. There has been an RAF base here since 1917. The name Molesworth to me is best known for the peace protests which happened here from 1981; protesting against the Cruise Missiles which were based there. Events here were in the news daily when I was doing my A Levels in those long ago sepia tinted days!


 Not much seems to have happened here over the years, but two people were tried for witchcraft here in the 17th century, with John Winnick being hanged at Huntingdon in the 1640's. Since 1931, the population of the village has been included with that of neighbouring Brington, with a joint population of 342 at the time of the 2011 census.

There was no mention of a church here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, with the church that we see today mainly dating from the 13th century.

The forecast had suggested that it was to be bright and sunny all day and that had failed to materialise; with just a little weak sunshine in the time that I was here. The church is pleasantly isolated and peaceful, perhaps surprisingly given the close proximity of the busy A14.

    The church here is a fairly basic structure of west tower, nave, south porch and chancel. The square battlemented tower is fairly squat, being roughly level in height with the top of the chancel roof, which has a steeply pitches tile roof. The nave inbetween is considerably lower in height. The church is buttressed throughout.


The south porch has a series of ascending blind arcades, leading to the highest, which has an image of St Peter, bearded and with receding hairline; that is holding the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.

As mentioned earlier, there was no church here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 and the earliest parts of the structure that we see today date from the last quarter of the 13th century. However, there are some stones preserved in the church which date from the 12th century, so it is likely that there was a previous church here.

The chancel dates from around 1275, with the inner south door and the chancel arch also dating from the late 13th century. The west tower was added in the late 15th century, with the nave being rebuilt during this period.

The church was restored in 1884/85 with the south porch being added in 1890. It is said that during the restoration of the 1880’s the chancel was taken down and rebuilt due to its orientation differing from that of the nave. The tower and the west wall of the nave were underpinned in 1931, at which point a 13th century coffin lid was found, which again suggests that an earlier church existed here.


    Three bells hang in the ring here, with the first being re-cast by Mears of Whitechapel in 1861. I haven’t been able to find out the original founder of this bell. This bell is inscribed with the name F Clarkson, who was the rector of the day and church warden Thomas Pashler.

The second was cast at the Stamford Bellfoundry, with this one being inscribed ‘Thomas Norris made me 1636’.

The third was cast by noted Peterborough founder Henry Penn, with this one dated 1710. Interestingly, this bell is also inscribed with the name of the church warden of the day; in this case Oliver Pashler, the same family name which was on the bell 150 years later.


The church was open to visitors, as it had been on my previous visit here. Moving inside, the visitor’s attention is caught by a display of ancient stonework, built in to a display on the north wall. By the side of this display is a wall painting, one of a pair for which this church is noted. It is thought that these paintings here were paid for by a man called Forster, who became Lord Mayor of London in 1454.

There is a St Christopher in its traditional place on the north wall of the nave, opposite the south door, and a painting of St Anthony on the south wall of the nave.

The legend of St Christopher carrying Jesus is that he was carrying him over a river, without knowing who he was carrying. He struggled with the load, feeling the weight increase with each step. When he asked the child he was told, I am Jesus and you are carrying the weight of the world.

The painting is much faded in parts but we see St Christopher carrying the child. There is a building close by with a man outside holding a lantern. St Christopher’s feet are in the river, with several fish and an eel swimming by his feet. The painting to St Anthony on the south wall is much faded but with a forest of exotic trees clearly visible.


The sun had come out while I was taking a look at the interior and the light quality was good inside. There are three bays built in to the north and south walls of the chancel, with a repositioned piscina at the south east corner. Unusually, there is stone seating alongside the north wall of the chancel.

The sanctuary is very tasteful, with a reredos in the form of a gold curtain with altar cloth that matches.

The stained glass in the east window is of great quality; courtesy of a stained glass artist that I had not come across before. This is the work of Margaret Edith Rope, with this window dating to 1929.

This three light window has Christ in majesty at the centre. Jesus, crowned as the King of Heaven stands, one hand raised in blessing, carrying a sceptre; with white blazing aureole surrounding him. The risen Christ is attended by angels and flanked by several figures. Mary the mother of Jesus, Peter and one other figure stand to the left as we look at it; John the Baptist, John and Mary Magdalene are to the right.

A key is included close to the figure of Peter, helping with identification. Text to the side of John the Baptist reads ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’ which translates as ‘Behold the Lamb of God’. Mary Magdalene is identifiable by her long hair.

People are gathered at worship close by, including a King who has removed his crown in respect to our King!

Below this is a depiction of the crucifixion. Christ in crucified, with Mary and John standing in their traditional places at the side of the cross. Roman soldiers, some partially hidden from sight, stand in the background.

To the left of this is the nativity; Mary holds the baby Jesus as the wise men arrive, with the light from the star shining down on Mary and her child. To the right, an exquisitely beautiful depiction of Jesus shows him standing outside a door, script close by reading ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’. Well, have we opened the door is probably the thought which has probably gone through many minds during the last nearly 100 years!


A scroll running across the top reads ‘Thou are the King of glory O Christ; a further scroll lower down reads ‘When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers’. This is part of the text from the Te Deum.

In the tracery at the top of this window is a depiction of the trinity, with the Father, son and Holy Spirit in one form; the latter shown by a beam of light, within which is the Agnus Dei.

At the bottom are representations of Molesworth and neighbouring Keyston churches. At the side of Molesworth church is a small representation of St Peter crucified upside down, with cockerel also depicted close by.. Close to the illustration of Keyston church we see St John the Baptist baptising Jesus.

The only other stained glass here is on the west wall of the tower, where Jesus is shown in the act of placing on a crown on a knight, which I daresay is St George as his cross is included below.


There is a very cracked and battered marble memorial slab on the floor of the nave, which is thought to date from the early 14th century. The inscription is very faded and it has not been easy to establish who this is in memory of. On the floor slab is a worn inscription and over the years different interpretations of the words have been made. It was though, at one point, to relate to Walter de Molesworth’s wife, dating to about 1300. Walter de Molesworth was a sheriff of Beds and Bucks between 1298-1308, and accompanied Edward I to the Holy Land. However, it was later thought that it is instead the wife of William de Molesworth, named perhaps Amicia or Maria. Another similar slab is to be found under the pulpit.


The church grounds are compact and there is nothing which had its own Grade II Listing. A fine box tomb to one Elizabeth Stewart who died in 1811 aged 18 years stands close to the south porch. There are some finely crafted 18th century stones, several of which feature am angel, which symbolises the safe escorting of the soul to Heaven. To be fair, there is nothing of any great age or rarity though, except of course for the 12th century coffin lid mentioned earlier.

It was time to move on, with Brington the next point of call, as I continued to follow the back roads adjacent to the A14 west towards Huntingdon. To be honest though, the thoughts of the food at Catworth, who had a patronal festival taking place, with home made refreshments at the village hall, was a little bit too much in my thoughts. Not for the first time, churchcrawling and food were very much hand in hand.

This is a delightful church, which is usually open and welcoming and well worth taking a look at if you are around.

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