Great Paxton Church

Just another weblog

England’s Thousand Best Churches

In 1999 Simon Jenkins published a fascinating book called ” England’s  Thousand Best Churches” . I treated myself to it some time ago  as it included a paragraph on St James Church, Twycross which was one of the  five churches I looked after in the Sheepy Group in Leicestershire.

I happened to look at the book a day or two ago and found that under the Huntingdonshire Section, Holy Trinity Great Paxton is mentioned – it has 2 stars out of 5 which isnt bad going.

So, here is the entry ( with asides by myself!)

” As long as English Churches  offer surprises such as Paxton they will survive. The old church sits on a mound looking across the Ouse Valley and East Coast Railway towards the Great North Road. The churchyard is reached over a small brook. ( Im not sure about that – more like a ditch ?? )

The exterior of the church is Perpendicular and only two round-headed clerestory windows set into the brown cobbled nave offer a clue as to what lies within. Great Paxton is said to be the only Saxon church in England to survive with both nave arcades and a crossing.

The church was built in about 1020 ( they must have been quick to build it in a year – my guess is that it took much longer ) as a ” minster” or large parochial church at the centre of a mission to the pagan forest and marsh dwellers ( not sure they would have liked to have been called pagan, Simon – still, it’s  quite a romantic idea).

The Saxon features of the interior include the low, three bay nave arcades and crossing. Clustered piers rise to bulbous capitals, like old pillows crammed under plain arches. At the crossing, all four piers survive, but above only the north transept arch remains. It is extraordinarily high, indicating that the Saxon church originally had equally high transepts to both north and south. The central tower has gone ( if it ever had one ??) , but there is enough remaining here to show that this was a substantial church with complex liturgical requirements.

Great Paxton was little altered by the Victorians, but the modern rood is ugly, dominating the view of the 13th century chancel.  ( Why not comment on the equally ugly large globe like light fittings which we will one day remove) The benches are 15th century originals ( and certainly feel like that when you sit in them after a long time).

Well, its very good to be included in England’s Thousand Best Churches and incase you would like to buy the book – its ISBN No is 0-713-99281-6. The publishers are Allen Lane, The Penguin Press. If you go over to Amazon, a certain Rev Reed has a  hard back copy for sale at £9.50 – its new price is £25.00 for the hard back

Last night I celebrated Ash Wednesday with four other faithful folk in Holy Trinity on a  cold  night with a  crescent moon high in the sky.

The liturgy wasnt that complex – and how I wish more had come to ponder the mysteries of Lent.


February 20, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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