BEDFORDSHIRE DECEMBER

HARROLD & TURVEY DECEMBER 2020  REVISIT JUNE 2022.

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We moved on, to the wonderfully named Harrold, a village of some 1500 selected by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 best places to live in Britain in 2013. The village is set on the north bank of the river Great Ouse, and is on the site of an ancient bridge that crossed the river. In November 1981 Harrold was hit by a tornado, one of 104 which touched down in the space of five and a half hours, this being the largest recorded tornado outbreak in European history. Sadly, Harrold was affected by the weather again three weeks or so after my visit here in December 2020; torrential rain leading to severe flooding with many homes evacuated in the early hours of Christmas morning.

The church of St Peter is a fine structure.  Unusual in design though! I arrived at the church via an entrance to the north. It soon became evident that there was no way around to the south without leaving the way that I came in and following a path around to the main entrance, which is in the west face of the tower. Curiously, a beautiful row of cottages joins right up to the north face of the tower, which would explain the lack of accessibility! I can’t recall having seen anything like this before.

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What a beautiful sight. The tall perpendicular 14th century tower, with church clock in blue and gold on north and west faces, leads to a recessed spire, with three lucarne windows facing out to the four points of the compass.  There is a tall pinnacle at each corner of the tower, with a flying buttress connecting pinnacle to spire. There was much rebuilding up high here in the late 1980’s. What a statement piece this is!

As I was looking at the tower a couple walking their dog came by. They expressed an interest in what I was doing. When I told them what my hobby was the man’s answer was ‘what e rewarding thing to do’. Quite!

The church grounds are limited in area to the south, east and west. A public footpath passes the west tower, and there are only graves to the spacious grounds north of the church.

A sign up on the main entrance indicated that the church would normally be open to visitors. That was pre covid though and all bets were off at that time. Covid had not gone far away; we were allowed to travel but it would not be too long before we would be locked down again ! The church was closed. It is what it is, but this is one that I would really like to have seen inside.

…and a return visit in June 2022 saw the church open; a helpful benefice office confirming that several of their churches which were closed previously had now reopened to visitors.

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Moving inside the interior walls are whitewashed and it was bright and welcoming inside. The north arcade is of three bays, with the arches of unequal size. The south arcade is of two bays.

Victorian pews and a red carpet lead up to the chancel screen. This screen has a coloured carving of the crucifixion, which is also gilded in places. The altar is plain and simple, with just a cross on it; there is no reredos, and a bay allows access in to the north chapel.

 The east end of the south aisle ends in the church organ; the north aisle has an altar, with a modern coloured reredos depicting the annunciation. There is an informal scattering of chairs around this altar and unusually there is no east window here!

It was good to wander around the interior here, enjoying the peace and the solitude.

There is little stained glass here; the east window of the chancel is of three lights and has the risen Christ as central. He is crowned as King of Heaven and has one hand raised in blessing, wounds visible. The Holy Spirit pours down from above in the form of fire, and radiates outwards towards Peter and Paul who stand on either side.

The only other stained glass here can be found on the north wall of the north chapel; and is a small panel depicting St Crispin and St Crispinian, the patron saints of cobblers, tanners and leatherworkers. This is modern glass and illustrates what was an important industry in the area until the 1970’s.

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The church grounds hold little of interest or rarity, but it was good to look around them; enjoying particularly the views of the church from the north as excited sounds of children at play came over from the east. A beautiful and historic church; and I was pleased to have been able to see inside it.

We headed south, picking up the A428 and headed towards Kempston, stopping off at the church of All Saints, Turvey, a pleasant village on the east bank of the river Great Ouse. The church here is seen as one of the most impressive in Bedfordshire. There was a church here in Saxon times, that original church occupying the area of the present tower and west end of the nave.

The church as we see it today dates mainly from the 13th and 14th centuries, with the chancel being restored by George Gilbert Scott between 1852 and 1854. The result is described as being “the finest mid-Victorian ecclesiastical ensemble in Bedfordshire". Added to this, a number of impressive monuments within and this is certainly an important church in all regards! All Saints was closed and this is one that I really wanted to see, and as before, we were able to revisit, with the church open in June 2022.

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Access to the church grounds is via a lychgate to the south east corner, a long path leading to the south porch. The west tower rises up from within the west end of the nave, tall battlemented and with a pyramid top, a cross on top of that. Glance to the left on your way up the path and you will be scowled at by a grotesque; cross eyed and definitely not happy!

The north and south aisles are very tall, and also battlemented. There is no clerestory here. The south porch is on the same large scale, a double decker porch; there is just a very small slit window and a tiny empty image niche on the upper story. These appear to be far too small for the scale of the porch!

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Moving inside, it is evident that there has been some great wealth here over the centuries. This is an impressive interior with some of the finest monuments in the county.

There are four monuments here to the Mordaunt family, with one dated 1601 bearing no figures. This is to Lewis, 3rd Baron Mordaunt. Of the others, the oldest dates from 1506 and can be found in the middle of the south aisle. This is to Sir John Mordaunt and his wife Lady Edith.

The second dates from 1562 and commemorates John the 1st Baron Mordaunt and his wife Elizabeth. This can be found between the chancel and north chapel. The couple, as always, are recumbent with hands raised in prayer; with this being supported by a series of voluptuous female figures.

The third monument is dated 1571 and is to John the 2nd Baron Mordaunt and his two wives Eleanor and Joan.  The three lay side by side, but John is raised up above his two wives. The three are laid out on a rolled out mat, with John wearing armour and stirrups.

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Above: monument dated 1571 to John 2nd Baron Mordaunt, with his two wives Eleanor and Joan.

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Above : monument dated 1562 to John 1st Baron Mordaunt and his wife Elizabeth.

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Above : monument dated to 1506 to Sir John Mordaunt and his wife Edith

As mentioned earlier, the chancel here is Victorian, having been built in the 1850’s by GG Scott, with the two most western bays of the church also being added at that time as the church was lengthened.

To be honest, there is more historic interest in the south Lady Chapel with its triple sedilia, the medieval seating for the clergy, with the piscina alongside, in which the Holy vessels used during the communion were washed.

At the entrance of this south chapel is a remarkable survival; a painting of the crucifixion which dates from the 13th century and was hidden for many years before being found again during the Victorian restorations.

The stained glass here dates from the Victorian restoration as well. The three light east window in the chancel depicts three Easter scenes. Firstly we have Jesus’ triumphal entry in to Jerusalem, as he enters the city on a carpet of cloaks and palm leaves. Central is the crucifixion and we also have the risen Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning.

I found one of the other two light windows of more interest though. On the first panel we see Jesus talking to children, with three disciples at the rear. The children worship Jesus, with hands at prayer. On the second panel we have Jesus preaching to adults; pointing upwards towards Heaven, and the response appears mixed to be honest!

One male character faces away from Jesus, head in hands and none of those gathered around Jesus look entirely happy. The children accept Jesus, the adults don’t! There is a message in there somewhere!

Just before leaving the interior, just a word about the font, which is thought to be late Norman.

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To the north of the church grounds is a mausoleum to the Higgins family. This was built in the early 19th century, in red brick. Lettering around the parapet at the top reads “‘What man is he that liveth  and shall not see death?” This is Psalm 89, part of verse 48. The full verse reads well in the New Living Translation, which reads “No one can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave”.

I enjoyed my time here very much. A church that speaks of the wealth that has been associated with it in the past! It had been a good churchcrawl thus far, with only one closed church so far out of eight visited. That sequence was to be extended as we headed towards neighbouring Stevengton.

I don’t travel to Bedfordshire very often but I am always pleased with what I see when I do. Each of these churches are well worth a visit if you are in the area, and the Chellington Team, which is the benefice to which both of these churches belong is friendly and helpful.