top of page

WHIT WALK 2023  (PART 2)

Continuing our five church walk with a visit to Colmworth. May 2023

We were part way through a five church ‘Whit Walk’ on what had turned out to be a gloriously sunny and warm Saturday in May 2023. For those who haven’t read the first part (which is immediately above this page in the menu at the top of the page) we were due to visit all five churches in the benefice, with food provided at each church, with a short service taking place in each of the five.

We had met for breakfast at Ravensden; before moving on to Wilden and then on to the third church of the day, St Denys at Colmworth, where we were to have lunch. After that we were due to head to Bolnhurst before ending the day at Keysoe.

The walk from Wilden to Colmworth was the longest individual leg of the day and it was good to get chatting to the other walkers; which numbered around a dozen in total, none of whom I had met before. It was a good relaxed atmosphere.

The entertainment was provided by a small, friendly, black dog that seemed to bounce rather than run; head occasionally emerging from above the vegetation with a look of happiness on his face that most of us would never come near!


 The impressive tower and spire of Sr Denys church came in to view as we approached through fields from the west. This is a real statement piece, with the tip of the spire rising up 156 feet. As we walked across the fields the thought struck me that this was a scene that would not have changed in hundreds of years.

The party of walkers stopped for a breather while the lady sorting out lunch here went on ahead to heat up the soup, which was homemade minted pea and was lovely!

The church that we see today consists of west tower with spire, nave with south porch and north vestry and chancel. It is thought that there was a Saxon church here before the Domesday Survey was compiled in 1086; however there was no mention of a church in the survey itself. The present structure was built in its entirety around 1430, courtesy of Gerard Braybrook who died shortly before building was completed, with evidently, some of his plans for this church left unfulfilled! The church went through a period of neglect, before restoration work during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The four stage square west tower is battlemented and heavily buttressed, with a gargoyle central on each side. One cheerful looking gargoyle looks out from the south as a couple of white doves basked in the lunchtime warmth. A recessed octagonal broach spire rises up, with three tiers of gabled lucarne windows. The south porch, nave and chancel are all battlemented; with the south porch being a two storey affair with room above. Sometimes these rooms were used by priests; sometimes they were used for storage or for school rooms. There is no window or door here allowing access to the upper room, this having been bricked in at some point.


Moving inside, it was bright and welcoming. The visitor is immediately struck by the dimensions of this church. Okay, there are no aisles here, no clerestories and no transepts but this is a long way away from being a basic structure!

A quick look at the east end of the nave shows a little insight on what the church would have been like in pre reformation times. To the north of the chancel arch there is a doorway at ground level and one higher up, this leading to the rood loft which would have stretched across the entrance to the chancel. This would have held a large wooden carving of the crucifixion, with Mary the Mother of Jesus and John alongside the cross. These were hated by the reformers and destroyed as being idolatrous. To the south of the chancel arch is a piscina, used in washing the holy vessels used in the Mass. This indicates that there was an altar here from which Mass was taken.


Cut in to the east wall of the nave on the south side, is a squint of hagioscope. These were openings through which someone in the side chapel could see the altar in the chancel; with an attendant ringing a Sanctus bell on the Elevation of the Host. A nice touch here is that a small hand bell has been left inside this squint; a reminder of its past function.

Standing at the chancel arch and looking west, there is a screen and a balcony at the west end with several shields attached to the screen, including the family crest of the Braybrook family who built the church in the 15th century.


The fine east window dates from 1893, and was made by Heaton, Butler and Bayne, who worked out of premises in Covent Garden. This firm were prolific stained glass producers whose work can be seen in Westminster Abbey, Cathedrals at Peterborough and Chester, throughout Europe, Canada and the United States.

This is of five lights and depicts the nativity; albeit with poetic licence with the shepherds and wise men together at the same time.  The shepherds are to the left as we look at it, with one playing the bagpipes. Over to the right, the wise men present their gifts. Central is the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus, with Joseph standing behind, holding a lamp in one hand and lilies, a symbol of purity in the other. The Holy Spirit pours down on them from above.

In the tracery at the top of this window we have a celestial band of angel musicians. Others hold shields; with two of these having the letters Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. One shield has a crown and one other the crown of thorns.

The same firm produced two other windows here. One three light window shows Jesus presented to Simeon in the Temple, with Anna off to one side. The start of the Nunc Dimitis, the Song of Simeon, is included, in the old King James Version ‘Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.

The other window, also of three lights shows Jesus teaching in the Temple as a 12 year old. Mary and Joseph enter from the left as Jesus speaks to the elders. It is always interesting when scenes are depicted showing Jesus teaching. It is interesting to see the reaction of the crowd, with varying attitudes from enthusiasm to dismay. Here we see thoughtful interest from those listening!

The other glass here is medieval and I daresay a rare surviving panel from what would have been destroyed here during the reformation or Civil War. This dates to the 15th century and I daresay would have been contemporary to the building of the present church itself.


After lunch was completed and before the short service commenced, a friendly and knowledgeable local showed me around the Dyer monument, which can be seen against the north wall of the chancel. This is to William and Katherine Dyer; made of Italian marble, recumbent effigies of the deceased lay; he behind and raised higher than she. This scene is supported by three female figures symbolising Faith, Hope and Charity.

Fabulously carved, the detail here is superb. William is shown wearing armour, head in hand with elbow resting on a cushion, with his body on a mat. His sword is by his side, still in its sheath. Katherine adopts the same pose, and holds what could be a prayer book in her other hand.

William died first in 1621 and the monument was provided by Katherine in her lifetime, and is 1641 a poem that she had composed called ‘My Dearest Dust’ was written on to the monument. Katherine died in 1654 and her effigy was added to the monument after her death. At Katherine’s feet is a depiction of her eldest grandson Henry, whom died in infancy. Here he is shown carrying a skull; a symbol that he pre deceased the adults commemorated on the tomb.

For me, the really interesting thing on this monument can be seen below, where the children of the deceased are depicted. There are four sons and three daughters. Two of the sons are dressed as Royalists and two as Parliamentarians. The three daughters are all shown carrying long handkerchiefs; weeping for a family divided.


High up in the ceiling, battered over the centuries and really hard to photograph, are angels which are said to pre date the current church, dating back to the late 12th century; being part of a previous church on this site. The angels are without wings, with it being thought that Cromwell's troops, who were billeted in the church for a time, had used the wings as target practice. The angels carry shields, which contain symbols of the crucifixion. Every carving stands on a support, with each support having its own carving, which includes Green Men.


It was time to move on; journeying west to neighbouring Bolnhurst. I took a final look back at the tower and spire of Colmworth church; one that I had enjoyed visiting very much indeed. At that time we had walked around six miles, but had eaten enough food to negate the good that the exercise had done. We were a little ahead of schedule and it was a pleasant stroll in the mid afternoon warmth, with the only problem being an occasional badger set inconveniently placed alongside the path.

Before long we spotted the battlemented square tower of St Dunstan, standing isolated across the fields, the square battlemented tower just visible above the surrounding trees. We had arrived at our destination! 

bottom of page