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Church Post Code NN14 3DB

Open to visitors.

It was a cold and sunny January afternoon in 2023, and a revisit to the church of St Mary, Titchmarsh. The imposing perpendicular pinnacled tower here is a familiar landmark on high ground, just off the A605, as the traveller approaches Thrapston from the west.

I first visited here in the early days of my interest in churches, walking from Thrapston and enjoying the views from the high grounds; the pinnacled tower of All Saints, Aldwincle standing out above the trees, with fishing lakes in the foreground. I have fond memories of that visit; a glorious church that was open to visitors on a sunny and warm summer afternoon.

The comic relief that day was provided by a large, boisterous, and very wet dog called Nelly, whose owners tried unsuccessfully to keep her out of the church after she had managed to open the church gate herself with her nose!

I always wanted to pop back with the Nikon to reshoot. I returned in the autumn of 2022, only to find the church closed as they were hosting a Murder Mystery that evening. I shot the exterior that day in glorious autumn sunshine and returned in the January to shoot the interior.


    Titchmarsh had a population of 598 at the time of the 2011 census; a small village perhaps but it has had famous inhabitants over the years. John Dryden, who was Poet Laureate from 1670 until 1688, lived his early life in the village after being born in nearby Aldwincle.

In 1611 Sir Gilbert Puckering, a cousin of Dryden, was born in the village; who was was to become Lord Chamberlain to Oliver Cromwell.

    Samuel Pepys came to the village in 1668 to be present at the marriage of his friend John Creed to Elizabeth Pickering; and Robert Keys, who married Margaret Pickering, was a principal agent in the Gun Powder plot in 1605

    There has been a church here since at least the 12th century, as a doorway dating from that time can be seen in the chancel. The present structure that can be seen today was built in the late 15th century, with the tower, clerestory and south porch all being added at that time.

As mentioned, the church sits on high ground and is a commanding structure. I would suggest that the tower here is possibly the finest in the churches to be found within the catchment area of this site. Dr FJ Allen described the tower here as being the finest on a parish church outside of Somerset to be found in England.

Taking a look at the four stage tower from the west, across a flat expanse of grass, this is a truly wonderful piece of work. It is thought that the bulk of the tower dates from the late 15th century, with the parapet and pinnacles at the top dating from around 1500.


This square tower is perpendicular and buttressed, with fine west door. There are six image niches to the west, with modern statues in them. At the top we have archangels Michael and Gabriel standing guard. Lower down we have Moses and Aaron, with the former holding the Ten Commandments. We also have Mary the mother of Jesus; depicted holding the baby Jesus with the sixth containing a statue of Peter.

There is a frieze at the top of each of the four stages, with two friezes of a repeated quatre foil design at the foot of the tower, with certain areas looking to have been restored at some point. There are coats of arms in the spandrels in the west door; no doubt from the 15th century sponsors.

Moving around to the south, the south porch in a two storey affair, with the lower part built in the 15th century, with the upper room added in 1583. This is a church of pleasing lines and symmetry. The clerestory and chancel are battlemented; a painted sundial is dated 1789. The church is buttressed throughout, with a couple of the south buttresses having scratch dials on them.


  There is an impressive ring of eight bells here, with all eight being re-cast by Gillett and Johnstone in 1913. Thomas North’s study of the church bells of Northamptonshire, published in the 1860’s noted that six bells were hanging here at that time.

 Henry Bagley II of Ecton Northamptonshire cast four of the bells in 1688. One of these states "God Save the King" whilst another commemorates R Greene and John Wells, the church wardens at the time. Notable Peterborough founder Henry Penn cast another of the bells in 1708 and Edward Arnold of Leicester casting a sixth in 1781.  Two more were added in 1885, as a memorial to a Rector's late wife.

The church was open and the light quality was excellent, especially in the chancel where the sun was shining through the stained glass windows on the south wall, giving multi coloured shadows on the ledges.

There are modern chairs here, arranged in an informal semi circle. There are three bay arcades to north and south. The north arcade dates to the 13th century and has circular piers with nailhead decoration on the capitals. The south arcade dates to the 14th century and has circular piers with still leaf carvings on the capitals.

Entering in to the chancel, the east window is of five lights, with stained glass on two levels featuring scenes from the life of Christ. Central on the lower level is the crucifixion, with my eye caught by a depiction to the far right of that as we look at it of John escorting Mary the mother of Jesus to his home following the crucifixion, the cross shown in the background.

Central on the upper level is the ascension, disciples at prayer below including Peter who holds the keys to the kingdom of Heaven.


To be fair, I was more interested though in a three light window depicting scenes from the life of Peter. In the first panel, Jesus reinstates Peter for denying him three times on the night of the crucifixion. ‘Feed My Lambs’ reads the script across the bottom.

Central is from Acts Chapter 9 where Peter raises Dorcas from the dead. Pictured; her friends surround Peter is distress as Dorcas lies dead above.  The third panel shows Peter, who has for a brief time walked on water. Jesus takes Peter’s hand as two disciples look on from the boat.

The wall paintings in the chancel are relatively modern; taking one lady 12 years to produce, being completed in 1895. The altar dates from 1866 and features depictions of Melchizedek offering bread and wine (and I am grateful for the church guide for identifying this one) and Abraham; who offers up his son Isaac for sacrifice; with angel calling on him to cease at the last second. With a sacrificial ram caught up in the bushes close by.

The sedilia and the piscina, which can be found in their usual positions against the south wall of the chancel, date back to the 13th century.

Further glass shows three scenes; the first being a depiction of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus’ feet shortly before the crucifixion. The central panel shows the risen Christ meeting Jesus after the resurrection. The third panel follows on from a panel on one of the other windows; with Peter having brought back Dorcas from the dead. He leads her gently by the hand, to the amazement of those gathered!


The three light west window is a fine affair. It shows Christ in majesty. Christ in seated on a throne on the clouds; light pulsating out of him in the shape of a cross. He wears the crown of thorns and wounds are visible on hands and feet.

Christ is attended by Mary the mother of Jesus and John the Baptist. Mary, in blue robe, is crowned as Queen of Heaven. She kneels, hands at prayer. John the Baptist holds a banner which reads ‘Behold the Lamb of God’.

There are various Bible characters behind Mary, on the left as we look at it. On the right, angels wielding blood red swords attack those who are condemned, who attempt to flee and who are looking away from the risen Christ.

Up in the tracery of this window are the 12 disciples, with Matthias having replaced Judas. Each of these is depicted with a symbol associated with them, with some of these showing the manner of their martyrdom, such as Andrew shown with saltire cross and Thaddaeus who was sawn in half, shown holding a saw.

It is suggested that John was the only disciple to die of old age. He is shown holding a goblet, from which a serpent rises. This is not Biblical but comes from a contemporary biography which stated that he was given poisoned wine. John prayed over the wine and the poison came out in the form of a serpent.


A memorial to one John Creed, the son in law of Gilbert Pickering who we mentioned earlier, makes for interesting reading. Creed died ‘much lamented’ in 1701 a ‘wise pious and learned man’. He had 11 children with five dying in infancy. A sixth Anne lived to be a ‘gracious child’ of nine. Interestedly, it then says ‘He left alive five’ who lived to adulthood. A sign of the hard times that these people lived through! Worth noting as well that this was a family of means; things would doubtless have been worse still for those who lived in poverty.

Another wall memorial is to Theophius Pickering so of Gilbert, with a scroll which his character and achievements held aloft by mourning putti.


The church grounds are of interest, but with nothing of any great rarity or importance. Worth noting through is a row of four 18th century gravestones, which all having a similar theme. In all four, Old Father Time carries a scythe and an hour glass. The hour glass is upturned and from which comes a cameo of the deceased.  On one of the four is a carving of a human skull.

Father time is a sometimes used symbol of the passing of time; and therefore the inevitability of death. The hour glass is similar; the sands of time have run out for the deceased. The skull is the deaths head, an often used symbol to pass on to the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die.

Therefore know that man is mortal and your time will come. Know this and do not be caught short when your own time comes. This can be seen as a message to those looking on; in symbol form, at a time when most would not have been able to read or write.

    The large church grounds are surrounded by a ditch called a "Ha ha". These are sunken walls whereby the top of the wall is level with the ground. This gives an uninterrupted view out over the churchyard and helped to keep cattle from straying in to the church grounds.

This is a fine church; we spoke at the start of this piece about how impressive the tower is. Within the catchment area of my sites only Morton in Lincolnshire comes close to matching the tower at Titchmarsh. It dominates the landscape and is well worth seeing up close and personal if you get the chance. St Mary the Virgin is normally open to visitors; one to put on to the must visit list if you have not already been here!


All exterior photographs used on this page are from the late autumn 2022 visit, with the exception of the tower from the west which was taken during the January 2023 revisit. All interior shots are from January 2023.

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