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Church Post Code PE28 2RJ

Open to visitors

It was a sunny and warm late afternoon in 2016 and a visit to the church of St Mary Magdalene at Warboys. The shadows were just starting to lengthen, but the church here was still open to visitors. My mind plays tricks on me sometimes, but I think that David and I were heading towards an evening prayer service at Ramsey. Or perhaps not!

For several years, before I photographed my first church and life suddenly took off in an unexpected direction, I was the programme editor for a couple of local non league football teams. Starting off at Stamford; then moving on to Yaxley. Whilst at Yaxley we would occasionally play Warboys in a county cup competition. Their club nickname was the ‘Witches’ and I always wondered about it. Now, finally, many years later, I have researched it!


In 1593 76 year old Alice Samuel was accused of being a witch after members of Robert Throckmorton’s family started to become ill. He was wealthy and with influence, being a close friend of Henry Cromwell, the grandfather of Oliver Cromwell. After a trial, which I assume was as corrupt as every other witchcraft trial during those troubled times; Alice, her husband and daughter were all hanged in April 1593.

The story certainly hasn’t been forgotten, with some thatched witches on top of a cottage elsewhere in the village in remembrance.

Warboys is a pleasant village, which recorded a population of just over 4,300 at the time of the Domesday Survey. It can be found some seven miles to the north east of Huntingdon with Peterborough approximately 18 miles away to the North West. This makes the church here on of the furthest to the south east of Peterborough to be covered by my sites.

There was first mention of a village here back as far as 974, and there was mention of a church and a priest here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. More recently, RAF Warboys had Wellington bombers flying from there for a time from 1942; with operations ceasing in 1945 and the whole site being cleared by the mid 1960’s.

The church of St Mart Magdalene stands at the south west of the village, by the side of the B1040, which leads on to the A141, which in turn heads in to Huntingdon.


As mentioned earlier, there was a church here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 but nothing of that early basic structure remains. At one point back in time the church here was dedicated to the Blessed Mary the Virgin. The earliest parts of the present church date back to the mid 12th century, with this structure consisting of nave chancel and north aisle. The chancel arch, part of the north arcade and a section of wall at the south west corner of the nave survives today.

The north arcade was rebuilt in the early 13th century, with a south aisle being added soon after. During the mid 13th century the west tower and spire were added and the aisles were extended westwards, to the west wall of the tower. There was rebuilding of the south aisle during the 14th century at which point the south porch was added and rebuilding of the north aisle during the 15th century, at which point the north porch was added.

The chancel was rebuilt at the beginning of the 19th century, being shortened from its original length. There was further rebuilding in 1832, when it was put back to its original length; at the same time galleries were erected in both aisles and at the west end.

The spire was restored in 1898 and in 1926 the tower and south aisle were underpinned and the galleries were removed. The level of the floor was dropped when the galleries were installed and was raised back to its previous level when the galleries were removed!

 The church that we see today consists of west tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, north and south porches and chancel. The perpendicular three stage west tower has an elegant broach spire rising up, with three tiers of gabled lucarne windows at the main compass points.


Looking at the exterior, it is evident at a first glance that the chancel has been rebuilt and there is very much a late Georgian feel to it; with the brick chancel standing out from the rubble walls of the nave. A few stones heads look out, including a human figure with tongue stuck out and a grimacing figure which would have made a great’ before’ photograph in an advertisement for a private dental practice! This is an impressive village church; a church of pleasing proportions!

When Revd Owen liked at the church bells in Huntingdonshire, which was published in 1899, there were five bells in the ring here, with each of the five being cast by Joseph Eayre of St Neots in 1765. This ring was in part made up from a previous set of bells that had been melted down and recast. The situation today is that there is a ring of six, with the extra bell; the new first of the ring being cast by Mears and Stainbank in 1955.

Owen looked in detail at the bells. He notes that the first had the Latin inscription ‘CUM VOCO VENITE’, which translates as ‘Come when I call’. The second is inscribed ‘OMNIA FIANT AD GLORIAM DEI’ ‘let all things be done for the glory of God’.

The third has the names of the churchwardens of the day, Edward Dring and Oliver Hills. Curiously, the fourth of the ring has had the name of another churchwarden erased, with just the word churchwarden remaining!

The fifth has the name of the Rector of the day, Allen Cowper, who was Rector here for 40 years. A floor slab in the chancel records that he died aged 77 years in 1772.

Owen was thorough in his work and has left us with some interesting facts and figures; which includes a charge of £43 1s to recast the previous bells with another £12 2s for new metal to complete the ring of five. Other assorted costs are listed including 3s for beer, which was often used as a form of payment!


The church here is open and welcoming to visitors. Moving inside, there are screens to north and south of the chancel arch and a banner over the top of the arch. I am sure that this will raise the ire of many churchcrawlers with regards the look of the interior. Not me though, having worshiped for several years in a church with screens and a small worship band; the churches are here for the congregation and those in the parish, not for those people who walk through the door once or twice in their lifetime. If this is what this congregation want then great! It is probably part and parcel of a church that has moved with the times and is probably thriving relative to many!

Moving inside, it was bright and welcoming with the sun still streaming down on what was a glorious early evening. There are four bay arcades to north and south with these dating from the early 13th century. The semi-circular chancel arch dates from the 12th century with the pointed arch consisting of two orders; with one being decorated with a chevron design, this resting on substantial Norman capitals.  A crudely carved face looks out from the north of the chancel arch, looking to the west at those who approach the chancel. The tower arch is tall, slim and imposing!

warboys towerarch.jpg

As mentioned earlier the chancel here was rebuilt during the late 18th century and later extended and there seems nothing left of the original here, with sedilia and piscina missing. The altar is plain and simple and an elaborate reredos stretches the width of the chancel from north to south; containing a series of blind arches on which are the following, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed and on two arches we have ‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?’ which comes from I Corinthians Chapter 10 verse 16.

The east window has a small depiction of the ascension, with the risen Christ above the clouds with the sky blood red.

Other stained glass includes a single light window showing Jesus as the Good Shepherd and in the south aisle we have a modern memorial window to RAF Bomber Command RAF Warboys.

Two eighteenth century plaques can be seen on the north wall of the chancel. These are each by John Bacon, esteemed sculptor of the day whose work can be seen in Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, with a bust of George III to be seen in Windsor Castle. On one of these monuments a female figure leans against a funerary urn, with an anchor; a symbol of Christian faith running through the scene. We shall also see this symbol on a gravestone in the church grounds.

The font dates back to the early 13th century and consists of a square bowl carved with  foliage designs, standing on a large central shaft with four other smaller legs at each corner.


The church grounds are of interest, but there is nothing of any great rarity, and nothing has its own listing.  An angel holds aloft a crown, an often used symbol of victory, with the victory here being over death.

 The crown appears again on another gravestone, along with a trumpet, a symbol of the resurrection; this being a testament as to the faith of the deceased, victory over death and resurrection on the final day.

One other small carving at the top of a gravestone is worth noting. A grieving widow holds on to a baby, with two other small children close to her. In her free hand she holds on to an anchor, a symbol of Christian faith.


It was good to be back here again and I enjoyed my visit very much. The church here is open and welcoming, with sadly the other three churches in this benefice, Bury, Broughton and Wistow all being closed generally. Well worth taking a look at if you are in the area. For those looking at finding open churches close to here, then Upwood and Ramsey are usually open; and it was in the direction of the latter that we headed, the afternoon’s photography finishing with an evening prayer service there.



Checking back through my records after having uploaded this page, I found a photograph from a subsequent visit. where there were no screens up and no banner partially obscuring the chancel arch.

I have enclosed this here, so that you can see what the chancel arch looks like 'bare' so to speak.

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