History

The Church building

The Church was built of stone, by the Bidun family, Lords of the manor of Wootton, in the early English style, on an artificial mound, in 1265, in the centre of the Wootton village and in the Diocese of Peterborough. It is dedicated to Saint George the Martyr and is older than Westminster Abbey. It is Grade 1 listed [May 1968] and its location, the High Street, is a conservation area.

The church was built onto an existing watchtower so pre 13th Century. 

  • The tower and west walls predate the 13th century
  • The chancel and nave were built in the first half of the 13th Century.
  • The aisles were added around 1275. 

The building can accommodate approximately 120 people. The lack of modern utilities restricts the churches used for wider community activities.

History of Restorations

The interior of the church has undergone extensive restoration and alteration over the years, but the external structure has altered little.

  • In the 14th Century the aisles were extended to the east. This created the side chapels.
  • The tower was also heightened in the 14th century.
  • In the 15th century the clerestory was added, with a Sanctus belle-cote over the chancel arch was either added or rebuilt.  This fact is noted in “Architectural Notes” in 1891. At this time the church was given a peal of bells.
  • A gallery was inserted in the 18th century, and was renovated in 1809.   
  • By 1844 it was in drastic need of repair. There repairs were done at the sole expense of the Rector John Prideaus Lightfoot, who became Rector in 1833. At this time the Chancel was completely renovated. Particular attention was given to the lancet window in the North East Corner of the Sanctuary, which is the only window from the original building now remaining. When the old plaster was removed it revealed two frescos, depicting the Crucifixion and the Scourging – West and East. These have now been obliterated under plaster and paint.
  • The church also underwent further significant restoration in 1864/5, under Lightfoot’s successor William Woolcombe. The Faculty for the Restoration in 1864 proposed to thoroughly repair the church: The actual restoration was under the direction of William Butterfield, the Gothic Revival Anglo-Saxon architect. “reseat it with open seating’s of oak, rebuild some of the arches which are dangerous, restore and repair windows, rebuild the south porch, close up the north porch, remove the gallery, open the tower arch, place a suitable font in the church and close up the belfry door and insert windows in the tower. Bath stone was to be used throughout and it was estimated that the cost would be £1,094. The final cost was £1,425.4s.6d.  £1,000 was borrowed from the Public Loan Commissioners and the remainder defrayed by Rector Woolcombe. The Faculty also stated that the church wardens would assign seating to parishioners according to status.

Under Butterfield’s direction:

  • The chancel arch and the arches between the chancel and the chapels were rebuilt and new windows were inserted.
  • Ceiling was painted and restored in 13th century style
  • The Reredos was restored in 13th century style.
  • The gallery in the tower was demolished.
  • The north arch was taken down, as indicated below
  • The west window and doorway beneath were inserted [check this out]
  • A new 13th century style south porch was erected on the south wall.

The organ was also installed at this time and the prayer books were donated by the sister of the Rector Mrs Kenneth McCauley.

  • The church was re-dedicated in 1991 after a £93,000.00 restoration programme. The work included stonework repairs to the tower, north and south clerestory walls and nave parapets and renewal of rainwater goods, in accordance with the specification dated June 1988 from Messes Gotch Pearson, Architect, 18 sheep Street Wellingborough. It is believed that as the church was a Grade One listed building, it received a grant of 60% of the total cost of restoration from English Heritage.  

 

South Porch

Although now Victorian, the south porch was rebuilt in 1865 as part of the Butterfield restoration and consequently is styled 13th-century. The inner south doorway, is the original 13thcentury doorway and has a pointed arch.

 

North Porch

There was a north porch, which was removed during the 1865 restoration. Now all that remains is the door, which was blocked off as part of the restoration. The doorway is of the same character as the south doorway and the shafts and capitals have been renewed.

 

The Embattled Western Tower – The Bells

The tower houses 6 bells. The fourth and second are the earliest, dated 1629. They appear to have been given by the rector Jeremiah Stephens who was made rector in 1626. He was the last rector to be appointed by Royalty – King Charles 1.The treble is inscribed “God save the King 1629” and the other bell, now the fourth is inscribed “Simul Venire Fratric in vnvn 1929” During the civil war he was imprisoned – 1647. At the restoration of the monarchy – King Charles 11 in 1660, Jeremiah was returned to Wootton and remained Rector until his death in 1664. During this period he added the third bell inscribed “Henry Bagley made me 1660” It is assumed this gesture was to celebrate his return and also to celebrate the fact that bells could once again be rung after the Calvinistic period under Cromwell. This third bell had to be recast in 1895.

The treble is by Matthew Bagley 1770, but there is no indication of who paid for it. It just has the founder inscription “Matthew Bagley Made Me 1770”. The 5thbell the tenor was added in 1836 “Taylor, Oxford Campanarius 1836”.  The 6thbell is a treble bell inscribed “July 15th1996, donated by Clifford and Rosemary Jury of Wootton to celebrate their wedding day and the Millennium. It is inscribed John Taylor of Loughborough. In 1895 the whole set of bells were re-hung on an iron frame and the 18thcentury bell was recast by Taylors.

 

The windows

  • The north wall of the chancel retains an original 13thcentury narrow lancet window.
  • The pointed east window has three trefoiled lights, but the mullions and geometrical tracery are modern.
  • The stained glass window itself, although put in place during the Butterfield restoration, is reputed to be by Gibbs, but is not signed and is of poor quality.
  • On the south side there is a wide 15thcentury window with three cinquefoiled lights.
  • The stained glass window on the south wall near the Harris grave was commissioned by the wife of William Oliver Harris who died without issue in 1907. He never actually lived in the village, but when he died his widow returned to the village and made sure that William Oliver was remembered by having the stained glass window installed in the church in his memory. The window was designed by William Morris. It depicts the patron saint St George slaying the Dragon. 

The Font

The Font reflects the colours in the chancel and is made of Devonshire marble. It was presented to the church in 1874 by Rev W, W. Woolcombe B.D. The font was executed by Street, but its line and rhythm carry Butterfields signature as clearly as the Chancel roof. The original font was placed inside the south door towards the tower.

The Pulpit

Is modern and is located in the north side of the chancel.

The Organ

The organ was a gift from the Hon. Mrs Whyte Melville as a contribution to the great restoration in 1864/5.

Articles

Mr George Adams donated the silver-headed Churchwardens Wands to the church. He also gave the oak hand-carved Lectern, in memory of Mrs George Adams and the silver processional cross in memory of an only child who died during the Second World War.

Pews

As described above, early in the 19th Century, as part of the extensive alterations in the church, new pews and a gallery were installed. On March 30th 1808 a special vestry meeting was called for villagers to choose their places in the new pews. The layout of the pews is recorded in a document “New Church pews in 1808”.  They are mostly plain and have different styles. In the western end of the church the pews have been removed.  

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