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Church Post Code  MK43 7BB

Closed to visitors

Visited December 2020 (Revisit June 2024)

It was a bright and sunny early December day in 2020 and we were exploring north Bedfordshire; with the church of All Saints, Odell being our fifth church of the Day. The country was still in the grip of covid 19 with the second national lockdown having ended just a few days before. We were allowed to travel and the churches were allowed to be open but we found that the majority were closed on the day, including the church here. A visit to the same area a few months later saw several of the closed churches now open again to visitors as the country started to come back to life after a terribly challenging period.

 Exterior photographs are from that December 2020 visit with some interior shots added from a subsequent visit in the summer of 2024.

Odell is a pleasant village which recorded a population of 282 at the time of the 2021 census. It can be found some seven miles to the north west of Bedford, with the River Great Ouse running to the south of the parish.

    The village of Harrold is a neighbour off to the south west, with Felmersham two and a half miles away to the east. Sharnbrook is a similar distance away to the north east.

There was an eleventh century castle in the village, opposite the church, which was in ruins by the 17th century when a manor house was built in its grounds; which subsequently burned down in 1931.


There was no mention made of a church or priest here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. The church that we see today dates from the 15th century but there was a previous church here, with the list of incumbents dating back to 1220.

The church of All Saints is built on high ground to the north east of the village.  It consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel. The present church is entirely a 15th century construction; being restored between 1686 and 1687 and the church clock, which is attached to the south face of the tower dates from 1820. There was further restoration in the late 1860’s.

This is a fine church, a real statement piece which reflects the wealth of the village in the past. The substantial four stage west tower is battlemented with crocketed pinnacles; a frieze of a repeated quatrefoil design running across the top. A much weathered gargoyle central to the south lifts what remains of its head to the sky and howls.

Nave, clerestory and chancel are all flat roofed; with the clerestory stage consisting of four two light windows. With the church here all being built at the same time and not added to over the centuries, there is no evidence of a pre clerestory roof line to be seen.


With regards the bells here there are six in the ring. When Thomas North compiled his study of the church bells in Bedfordshire; published in 1883 there were five in the ring. North makes note that the first four of the ring were all cast by James Keene; with the first three all dated 1638; being cast at his foundry in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. The fourth of the ring is of an earlier date, being cast in 1618 when he worked out of Bedford. This bell is inscribed ‘God Save Our King’.

The fifth of the ring in North’s study was cast by Hugh Watts II from Leicester in 1635. This one is inscribed, in typical Watts’ style that my spell checker dislikes so much ‘Love and feare God honour and obaie the King’. The sixth was courtesy of Taylor of Loughborough, with this being added in 1958.

We had revisited on the off chance that the church might be open. It was a last minute decision to visit so I had not checked in advance with the church. As it happens the church was closed but a lady was just locking up and was happy to let me in for a few minutes which I was very grateful for.


Moving inside, it was bright and welcoming. There are four bay arcades to north and south with quatrefoil piers and moulded capitals. Nave is separated from chancel by a rood screen, which dates from the 15th century, and which is contemporary with the building of the church itself. A close look to the north of the chancel arch shows a doorway at ground level which would have led to the stairs up to the rood loft; the corresponding doorway higher up leading on to the rood itself. The rood was a wooden carving of the crucifixion, with Mary the mother of Jesus and John in their traditional positions alongside the cross. These were hated by the 16th century reformers as being idolatrous; taken down and destroyed as a result.

The pews date from the 17th century restoration and the pulpit was brought in from another church, being purchased in the 1650’s. Looking to the west of the nave the tall, elegant tower arch has a 17th century screen with the church organ contained under the tower.


Moving in to the chancel there is a three light window on the south wall. The sedilia, the seating for the priests during the mass in pre reformation days, can be found under this window. The sedilia is graduated, with seating on three levels, with the highest seat, and therefore the holiest seat, being that closest to the east, the holiest part of the church, and sat on by the holiest person there on the day. The piscina, used for the washing of the holy vessel used in the mass, is to the east of the sedilia.

The table altar is simple with just a single cross on it. There are also altars set up at the east end of the north and south aisles. There is a piscina at the east end of the south aisle, indicating that the mass was celebrated at this altar as well.

The east window is of three lights and dates from 1904. We see three scenes involving sheep. From left to right we see David, later to become King, cradling a sheep which looks up at him; safe as wild animals roam in the background, the wording from Psalm 23 ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’ underneath. Central we see Jesus as the Good Shepherd whilst on the right we see Peter on his knees, looking across at Jesus, who reinstates Peter after he betrayed Jesus on the night of his arrest ‘Feed My Sheep’!

Up in the tracery of the east window we have the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, with two angels below; one playing a harp with another wielding a censer.

There is some surviving medieval glass to be seen here. In the tracery in a south window of the chancel we have six roundels, which show the symbols of three of the four gospel writers, with that of St Mark missing. One further roundel has the letters ‘IHS’ which is the first three letters of the name Jesus in Greek. The other two roundels are blank. In the east window of the south aisle there are four and a half angels, with the bottom half of one of the angels missing. These are golden haired and have golden wings; shown with hands raised in blessing. It is suggested that the medieval glass here dates from the first three decades of the 15th century and therefore could possibly be original to the rebuilding of the present church.

The font dates from the 15th century and again this is contemporary with the building of this present church. However, two coffin lids which date from the 13th century predate the church.



Church Post Code MK43 7QB

Open to Visitors

Visited June 2022

Continuing our look at this beautiful part of North Bedfordshire, we found ourselves at the church of St Mary the Virgin at Stevington, some four miles to the south east of Odell. Our visit here was in June of 2022, on a dry and sunny afternoon, with the church being open to visitors.

Stevington recorded a population of 582 at the time of the census of 2021 and there is thought to have been a church here from possibly as far back as the 9th century. Having said this though, there was no church or priest recorded here during the Domesday Survey of 1086.

There is a rich history of non-conformist worship in the village here with a fine Baptist church dating from 1720 standing at the west of the village. Part of the reason for this is probably the geographical position of Stevington, which is five miles to the north west of Bedford. The Five Mile Act of 1665 prohibited clergy who refused to take the oath of allegiance, who were normally non-conformist, from holding a service within five miles of a town. There is a legend that author and Puritan preacher John Bunyan preached here, at the medieval village cross.


 The church of St Mary the Virgin can be found to the north of the village, a quiet and peaceful spot, surrounded by trees and isolated a little from the rest of the village as a result. There is a holy well situated to the north east of the church, built in to the churchyard wall, this being one of only two found in Bedfordshire. It was said that the water from this was particularly useful in the treatment of eye problems.

Arriving at the church from the south, a quick look at the exterior shows a square tower, encased by the north and south aisles, each of which extend out to the west wall of the tower. The nave is short, cut in half by the double decker south porch. The chancel is partially hidden by the ruins of the chapels.

A curious thing! A small recess can be seen against the north wall of the nave, which looks out in to the nave. Could this be a squint? Perhaps but a squint looking out in to the nave?

 A bench is set against the south aisle, a pleasant place to sit and rest awhile, enjoying a cool drink and a pack up on a warm summer evening, enjoying the peace and quiet; humid with thunder rumbling off in the distance!

The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, north and south porches, chancel and the ruins of north and south chapels. The tower up to the belfry stage is Saxon and there is a fine Saxon window on the south wall of the tower; which is difficult to see properly due to the battlements on the south aisle. Most of the rest of the church was rebuilt during the 14th century, with the aisles and north and south chapels all dating from that time. The clerestory and the top of the tower are from the 15th century.


Stevington's holy well.

The north and south chapels were in poor condition by the mid 17th century. Traditionally the Rector was responsible for the chancel and the nave was the responsibility of the congregation. Here though, no one would accept responsibility for the chapels and they fell in to disrepair as a result.

By the time that the church was restored in the early 1870’s the damage was seen as being beyond repair; with the ruins still standing today. There is still a piscina set in to the east wall of the north chapel, indicating that the mass was celebrated in that chapel.

The Victorian restoration saw the south porch being remodelled, substantial battlements being added to the nave clerestory and south porch and the roofs restored.

When Thomas North compiled his study of the church bells in Bedfordshire, which was published in 1883 there were five bells in the ring here. Four of these were cast by John Hodson, a London founder who had cast a bell for nearby Harrold the previous year. The other bell, the first of the ring, was cast by Birmingham founder James Barwell in 1872. There are still five bells in the ring here today but three of Hodson’s bells were retuned by Alfred Bowell of Ipswich in 1905.


Entry is through the south porch, those entering will go past the initials of those who have been here in the past; and long deceased. JW left his or her mark in 1754 and TM did the same in 1802.

The north and south arcades are each of three bays, with quatrefoil piers and moulded capitals. Carvings of human heads, both male and female look out across the nave. Both arcades are 14th century, but the south is older, dating from around 1300. The entrance to the rood stair can be seen at the south east corner. The rood itself would have been destroyed as being idolatrous during the 16th century but the rood screen, the lower section which would have separated nave from chancel stood until 1826 when it was taken down, with parts of it being incorporated in to the tower arch.

 A memorial brass in the south aisle depicts a knight in armour with long flowing moustache, and standing on what could be a lion. This has a Latin inscription which translates as ‘Pray for the soul of Thomas Salle Knight who died the 21st day of the month of April in the year of our Lord 1421’.


Moving in to the chancel, the east window is of five lights and has clear glass. There is no stained glass anywhere in this church. Against the north wall of the chancel there is a large bricked in arch which would have led in to the north chapel. There is similar against the south wall, with an extra smaller arch a little further to the east, which looks to have been a window, the sill of which incorporates a two seat sedilia. Close by is a squint so that those in the south chapel could observe the Elevation of the Host during the mass.

There are also substantial bricked in arches at the east end of the north and south aisles. What an impressive structure this must have been before the chapels deteriorated!

There are some interesting bench ends here, which date back to the 16th century. These are a mixture of animal and human, with the animals including two dogs and a wild boar. One of the dogs and the boar are each missing their heads. Often when a bench end is damaged it could be the mark of the restorers who destroyed things that they saw as idolatrous. This is surely not the case here though with possibly woodworm more likely to be the culprit!

The human figures are of great interest and quality. We see a beautifully carved figure of a priest sat at his desk, possibly working on his next sermon. Two male figures on their hands and knees each drink from a cup whilst two figures, one male and one female, are reclining in a very relaxed state. It might just be me, but the carving of the Priest, from the angle that I shot it, does look like he is driving a fairground bumper car!


A glorious church, with much for the interested visitor to look at!   Well worth a look if you are in the area. I noted at the start of this page that this is an area that I had a great love for and there are some really good churches to look at. This could by no means be called an area of open churches, but we found a fair number open to visitors and a search around this area would be very rewarding for the churchcrawler. We found the churches at Turvey, Sharnbrook, Harrold and Felmersham open to visitors, all of which are covered on this site.

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