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Church Post Code  PE28 0TE

Church Opened by arrangement


It was a gloriously sunny afternoon in April 2023; a half day away from work and five churches lined up, with the church of St James at Spaldwick being the first of the day. This was a revisit, having previously visited here on the August bank holiday of 2009, armed with a basic digital camera, and in 2011, armed with the Nikon but in indifferent lighting. The church here is closed to visitors but was open by arrangement, for which I was really grateful!

We are close to the extreme south of churches covered by this site, with Peterborough roughly 25 miles away to the north. Spaldwick is one of a number of villages set against the busy A14, which connects Thrapston to Huntingdon; with Huntingdon to be found some seven miles away to the east.

Despite the close proximity of the A14 and the A1 which runs three miles or so off to the east, this is an area of quiet, pleasant villages, which I enjoyed very much cycling around in past years when I was a little younger. There are fond memories of staying for a few days at West Perry, on the banks of Grafham Water, a short distance off to the south.

Spaldwick itself had a population of 631 at the time of the 2011 census. The church of St James sits at the end of a small lane, just away from the centre of the village; the impressive broach spire standing proud above what I think was an eighteenth century cottage.

I was a little surprised to see a bus go past Church Lane, a 400 to Huntingdon; which would have probably caused some excitement amongst the bus enthusiasts given the infrequency of this service. The 14.23 which was heading towards Huntingdon was the final of the day heading in that direction, with a solitary bus all day from Huntingdon which passes through Spaldwick at 18.35!


The church that we see today consists of west tower with spire, nave with south aisle and chapel, clerestory, south porch and chancel.

There was no church mentioned here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, but there seems to have been a basic church of nave and chancel here by the end of the 12th century. The south aisle was added around 1250, with the chancel and chancel arch being rebuilt in the early 14th century.

The clerestory was added around 1370, at which point the south porch was built.

    The west tower was begun towards the middle of the 14th century and was completed by the end of that century; it is suspected that building was halted as the Black Death decimated England in 1348 and 1349. The lower two stages are of different stonework than the upper stages and it is thought that these lower stages were pre Black Death, with the upper stages and spire dating from when building resumed after the horrors.

The south chapel was added around 1500, at which time the south aisle and south porch were rebuilt. The church was restored in 1863 and the chancel was restored in 1908. The tower was restored in 1914, with the spire twice suffering storm damage in 1904 and 1953.


Looking around the exterior, the visitor is drawn towards the impressive west tower. This is one of my favourite church towers among the churches covered by my sites, with possibly the towers at Titchmarsh in Northamptonshire and Morton in Lincolnshire edging ahead!

From base of tower to tip of spire is 152 feet and is particularly well viewed from the west. A large lozenge shaped window can be seen on all sides with the side to the east containing the church clock, which is in the traditional colours of blue and gold. A weathered carving of a figure with tongue out in medieval gesture of insult can be seen over a window at the belfry stage to the south.

The octagonal broach spire rises up, with three tiers of gabled lucarne windows at the main compass points. Two carvings can be seen low down on the spire. A breaded man looks out to the south west whilst a small scaly figure with tiny wings looks ready to take off from the south east.

Looking at the spire from a distance, it can be seen that the tip has been replaced at some point, following the storm damage.

The north doorway dates from the 12th century and is surrounded by beakhead decoration. On the south side of the nave is two scratch or mass dials which worked as sundials to indicate the time of the next service.

Looking at the church from the south, the clerestory is of three windows, with a red brick parapet over the top of these windows, which does tend to stand out from the rest of the exterior. This brickwork looked to be 17th century to me and I did wonder if it dated from the same period as when the ring of five bells was added by Watts, which I shall come to in a moment.

This is a pleasing exterior, but an unusual one in one respect, with the rest of the church being absolutely overshadowed by this real statement piece of a tower!


There is a ring of six bells here, with five of these being cast by Leicester founder Hugh II Watts in 1635. A further bell was added by Alfred Bowell of Ipswich in 1921, with this becoming the new first of the ring, with the same founder re-casting one of Watts’ bells.

The bells here were looked at in some detail by Revd TM Owen, whose study of the church bells in Huntingdonshire was published in 1899. At that time there was a ring of five; with all cast by Watts. The first of the ring in Owen’s day was inscribed ‘God Save the King’ and this bell was recast by Bowell.

The second is inscribed with the names Robert Filbrigge and Richard Edwardes, who were the church wardens of the day back in 1635.

The third has the Latin inscription ‘CUM SONO SI NON VIS VENIRE NVN QVAM AD PRECES CUPIES IRE’ which translates as ‘If you do not wish to come when i sound, you will never wish to go to prayers’.

The fourth of the ring read ‘IHS NAZARENUS REX IUDEORUM FILI DEI MISERERE MEI’, which reads as ‘Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews, Son of God, Have mercy upon me’.

The fifth of the ring, in Watts’ wonderful old English, is inscribed ‘Mi Soundinge is each one to call to serve the Lord boeth great and small’. My spell checker does not care for Watts’ inscriptions! There were bells here prior to this though and a will for one John Tryce in 1493 has listed a donation of 6sh 8d to the bells.


Moving inside, it was bright and welcoming, with the lack of stained glass to the south helping in this respect. A quick initial look suggested that much of the furnishings in the nave dated from the time of the Victorian restoration.

The south arcade is of four bays and dates from 1250; consisting of rounded piers with circular moulded capitals which have nailhead decoration.

The east window is of three lights, with a repeated pattern of trefoil design in the tracery. The altar cloth was white and gold, this being the liturgical colour used from Easter until Pentecost, which comes around 50 days after Easter day; at which point a red altar cloth will be used.

Against the south wall, the sedilia; the seating for the priests, is in the form of a lowered window sill. The piscina, for the washing of the holy vessels used during the mass, to the east of this has carved human heads at each side, including a female figure wearing a veil.

As was the case with the other churches visited nearby, there was little in the way of stained glass here. The only stained glass that we have here is in the clerestory windows to the north, with shields and coats of arms for the Cooper and Hulbert families. At the east end of the south chapel there are two small reset medieval glass fragments.

The other glass here is either clear with coloured edging or is simply coloured glass, dating from the time of the Victorian restoration. As I was wandering around the interior, the sun was casting multi coloured patterns across the font, through a window to the west of the nave. A glance at the step leading up to the inner south door showed it to be delightfully worn, with thousands of feet over hundreds of years leaving their mark!


The south aisle is separated from the south chapel by an early 16th century oak screen. This screen is much altered over the years, and one internet source suggests that it is a combination of two screens added together. It is intricately carved with vine scroll and flowers. 

There was a guild here to the Blessed Mary, with the same will from John Tryce as mentioned earlier leaving 6sh 8d to the Guild of the Blessed Mary of Spaldwick.

On the floor of this chapel are two matrixes for medieval memorial brasses. The brasses themselves are long gone but would doubtless have been laid to commemorate the donors of this chapel; with their donation helping to lessen the time that they and their family would spend in purgatory in those catholic pre reformation days.

 At the west end of the nave, the font is plain and octagonal, dating from the 13th century, A bier stands close by; once used to transport a body to the graveside. This one is enjoying its retirement by carrying a teddy bear who is holding a wicker basket!


There is nothing in the church grounds which has its own Grade II listing and, to be fair, I didn’t find anything of any great interest or rarity to comment on. There are several gravestones which feature an angel with wings unfurled, this being a commonly used symbol to represent the safe escorting of the soul towards Heaven.

 It was good though to walk through a right of way to the south east of the church grounds and get a few distance shots of the church from the west.

As mentioned earlier, externally the church of St James is a real statement piece; built to the glory of God and I daresay with an eye towards lessening the time spent in purgatory for the donor and their family. I appreciated very much the church being opened up and enjoyed my brief time here very much.

 It was time to hit the road again, with Stow Longa the destination, a mile or so off to the south west. The morning cloud had lifted, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and all was good.

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