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Church Post Code LE15 8JR

Open to visitors

  December 2022, a couple of weeks before Christmas and a long overdue return to Rutland. The unseasonably warm start to the winter had ended and the frost was on the ground in places as we returned to the church of St John the Baptist, North Luffenham.

This was a return visit, with my previous time here coming at the end of a Sunday afternoon churchcrawl of churches close to Rutland Water. We ended the day taking in an evening prayer service here; a scattering of people in the choirstalls and a friendly atmosphere after the service. By the time that we got to North Luffenham that day, the light was fading and it was one that I had marked down for a revisit.

  North Luffenham can be found north of the river Chater. South Luffenham, not surprisingly is off to the south, with the river separating the two. It is situated some five miles east of Uppingham and seven miles west of Stamford. The population of the village was 672 at the time of the 2011 census.


    The church here consists of west tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, north and south porches and chancel. It is situated in a quiet, secluded spot at the south of the village. Glorious Rutland countryside can be seen from the south end of the church grounds; sheep grazing as the sun set on my previous visit here on a warm summer evening.

Taking a look around the exterior, the substantial square tower is heavily buttressed, with stair turret to the north west corner. An octagonal broach spire rises up, with two tiers of irregularly positioned lucarne windows. The western ends of the tower are encompassed by the north and south aisles, which are battlemented; the outline of the previous roofline in pre clerestory days is visible on the eastern face of the tower.

Gargoyles and grotesques can be seen throughout the exterior, with some of these looking to be relatively recent. The steeply pitched chancel roof means that the chancel stands taller than the nave. This is an impressive church which no doubt reflects the wealth of the time that it was built. A bench is situated against the south wall of the nave; this would have been pleasant on another day but, even though the frost had started to burn off in the sun, it was a no go today!


 The earliest part of the church of St John The Baptist dates back to the 12th century, with the original structure being an aisleless nave with chancel. This was enlarged with the addition of a north aisle later that century, with a south aisle being added in the 13th century. The three stage tower, with broache spire dates from the 13th century. The chancel was re-built around 1300 until 1325 and the clerestory was added in the 15th century. There was much Victorian restoration here during the 1870's.

   When North was compiling his Victorian study of the church bells of Rutland, there were five bells hanging here. The first was courtesy of a local founder, Thomas Norris, working from his premises in Stamford. This bell is inscribed with the names of the church wardens of the day, Jo Exton, Ed Hunt, Ro Munton and He Law. It is dated 1630.

    The second bell was undated and was attributed to Newcombe of Leicester. The third is another from the Stamford Bellfoundry, but a different generation of the Norris family. This one is dated 1618, and was cast by Tobias Norris I, who founded the Stamford bellfoundry. This is inscribed OMNIA FIANT AD GLORIAM DEI 'let all things be made for the glory of God'.

    The fourth in the ring is from Thomas Eayre I, who worked from Kettering, and was cast in 1742. This is inscribed GLORIA DEO SOLI 'Glory To God Alone'.  The fifth here was cast in 1619 by Henry Oldfield from Nottingham. North described this bell as being cracked and not used.

   Today, the situation is a little different with there being a ring of six bells. One extra was added by Taylor of Loughborough in 1989, with the bell from Oldfield that North found cracked, finally being re-cast by Taylor in 1998.


There are north and south porches here, but the visitor enters in through the north porch. There are four bays here to north and south, tall and elegant. The north arcade dates from the late 12th century and the south bay is from the 13th century. This leads up to the chancel arch which was rebuilt around 1300.

Carved heads look out across the nave, including the almost obligatory mouth puller. One exquisite carving of a female wearing a headdress caught the eye. At first glance she appears to have hands raised in prayer. A closer look suggests that she might be holding something. I have seen several tombs where a human figure is depicted holding a heart. Perhaps this might be the case here! Wall paintings, dating from the 13th century can be found in the arches of the south arcade.

There are some fine monuments here including a head and shoulders to Susanna Noel dated 1640 which is on the north wall of the chancel. Susanna holds a prayer book, with a few of her fingers mossing sadly.

Of great interest is a wall plaque to Simon Digby, which also mentioned the burial of Roger Digby his son. This mentions a few details of Roger’s life and his wife’s name has been erased, possibly by a member of the Digby family. It was suggested to me that this might have been because Mary had been a catholic. Elsewhere on the internet it is suggested that it was due to Mary having remarried.


There is finely carved double sedilia, the seating for the clergy, against the north wall of the chancel, with ogee arches; the piscina in the usual position to the east of that. The piscina was used for the priest of the day to wash his hands and the holy vessels when performing the mass. There is another beautiful piscina in the south chapel.

    The east window is a fine affair, made by Kempe in 1892. At the top is Christ in majesty, flanked by Angels wielding censers. The rest of the window is on three levels with the crucifixion at the top. The middle level has the risen Christ as central, flanked by David, Elijah, Malachi and Moses. The bottom level features John the Baptist with the baptism of Jesus as central. This level starts with the angel appearing to Zechariah, John’s father, in the temple, proclaiming the forthcoming birth of John; finishing with John’s head being served up to Herod on a platter.

Kempe was a prolific stained glass artist whose work was ‘signed’ with a depiction of a wheatsheaf until his death in 1907. I did not see the trademark wheatsheaf on this one, but the bottom of the window is hidden by the reredos and I suspect that it may well be found hidden behind that.


   Jewel among the windows though is to be seen in the north wall of the chancel. Two windows have glass which dates from the 14th century. One of the windows has glass which is fragments, but the other is more complete; with various coats of arms and three central characters.

These are Mary of Bethany, who is depicted holding a jar of nard, with which she anointed Jesus shortly before his arrest. We can also see Edward the Confessor who, in 1060, bequeathed Rutland to his wife Edith, whose name is still commemorated in neighbouring Edith Weston.

Also depicted is St Barbara a Christian martyr, who is holding a small tower in her hands. The story of St Barbara is an interesting one. She was kept confined by her father in a tower and became a Christian during that time. When her father found out he went to kill her but her prayers opened up a hole in the wall of the tower and she was transported to a mountain gorge, where two shepherds watched their flocks. One of these shepherds betrayed her and she was brought back to her father who had her tortured and beheaded her himself. Her tomb became a site for miracles.

The glass in the east window of the south chapel is interesting. Jesus is preaching to a crowd and there is a variety of responses from those assembled. Some look doubtful, several look puzzled and some are visibly affected by what they are seeing and hearing.


    The nave roof dates from the 15th century and has carvings of angels, which are depicted as wingless, can be seen on north and south sides. The roof was restored but many of the angels still retain their original colour.  An angel with long flowing hair holds a crown in front of him; others are playing instruments such as trumpets, which are symbols of the resurrection. Other figures have their arms crossed over their chests or their hands raised in prayer. I did notice that a few of the angels’ faces are damaged and I did wonder if this might have happened during the reformation. If that is the case though, why would some be damaged and not others?


     Moving back outside, the church grounds are well maintained and there is much of interest.  One area of the churchyard is set aside for Air Force graves which are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. These include 11 graves of Canadian airmen from the time that North Luffenham was a RCAF base in the 1950's.

  There are many graves here dating back to Georgian times. As with many churchyards in Rutland though, most of the graves of any real age are very badly weathered. One 18th century graves features angels at either side of the grave blowing trumpets, a symbol of the resurrection. Many of the graves are no longer in situ and have been placed against the north wall of the church grounds. The view of the rolling Rutland countryside out to the south is beautiful.

   There is nothing of great age or importance historically in the church grounds, but one table tomb, dated 1818 and being to one William Fancourt, does have a Grade II listing.


   Open and welcoming; a church with much of interest for the visitor! Well worth a look if you are in this area and with this being an area of open churches for the most part the area as a whole is worth exploring. It was time to hit the road again, and we proceeded, albeit a little gingerly with some areas still tricky underfoot, north westerly towards neighbouring Lyndon.

The photographs on this page are from my December 2022 visit, with the exception of the photograph opposite this text box, which shows the scene at twilight; sheep grazing in a field to the south of the church, as we came out of an evening prayer service in the late summer of 2013.

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