Welcome to the Churches of St Andrew’s, Thornhaugh and St Mary’s, Wansford
The Parish of Thornhaugh and Wansford is part of the Watersmete Benefice consisting of the villages of Apethorpe, Nassington, Thornhaugh, Wansford, Woodnewton and Yarwell. The Rev Jane Tailby is the Vicar of the Watersmete Benefice. If you wish to contact Jane, she can be contacted at the Vicarage at 34 Station Road in Nassington, or by phone 01780 782271. Friday is her day off.
There are services every Sunday at 9.30am (1st and 3rd at St Andrew’s, and 2nd and 4th at St Mary’s). There are an increasing number of weddings and baptisms. If you would like to arrange a funeral or wedding, please contact Rev Jane Tailby, see contact pages. If you would like to arrange baptism, please contact Jan Downey. Alternatively, please contact one of the Churchwardens:
Thornhaugh Stuart Foreman or Liz kemp
Wansford Alan Jones or Caroline Ashley
Thornhaugh has around 85 houses and a population of around 200. There are no commercial premises, such as a public house, village hall, shop or post office. Following the provision of the toilet and servery facilities, the hope is that St Andrew’s will be more widely used as the village hall.
A thriving village magazine “Living Villages”, serves the villages of Thornhaugh, Wansford, Stibbington, Sutton and Water Newton.
Wansford has a population of about 650. Over recent years the number of families with young children has increased. There are many hobby and interest groups with many threads connecting to St Mary’s and its congregation. These include a horticultural soc, Friends of St Mary’s, WI, church choir, toddlers group, cricket club and more. The village has a community hall and a village hall. Residents also come together for informal social events and special occasions such as Jubilee/royal weddings and Christmas parties are well supported.
Through history the village has been in and out of being combined with Stibbington. Most Wansford residents do not “see the join” and regard it all as one village. Over the bridge there are two pubs, a restaurant, a PO/store and the Haycock Hotel, which used to be a coaching inn. A few niche retail outlets sit within this area.
Both churches in our parish are set within their villages to serve their respective communities. Although they are primarily used for worship they also fulfill a wider role within the villages and beyond, providing a venue for concerts, meetings and other events.
St Andrew’s, Thornhaugh and the adjacent and substantial former Rectory, are situated on the west bank of a small stream that flows into the River Nene. It forms part of the Parish of Thornhaugh-cum-Wansford, the other parish church being St Mary’s, Wansford.
The earliest work in the church dates from the end of the 12th century. The chancel and tower were built in the 13th century. The fall of the church spire in the late 15th century destroyed the porch, the south arcade and the south aisle of the nave. These were replaced in 1500 by a new wall on the line of the previous arcade (the remains of the original arches are still visible at each end). The present light and bright character of the church was created at that time by the two large perpendicular windows, which were incorporated in the replacement wall.
In the south chapel is the Russell Monument of 1613. This is the tomb of William Lord Russell of Thornhaugh, who was the Lord Deputy of Ireland under Queen Elizabeth 1 and grandfather of the first Duke of Bedford. Other memorials in the church include one on the south wall of the nave to Stanley Brotherhood and his wife Vera. Stanley was the son of Peter Brotherhood who started the well-known Peterborough engineering company at the end of the 19th century. Stanley built Thornhaugh Hall in 1907 and until 1931 owned the whole of the village and estate. The Hall was then bought by Frank Perkins of Perkins Engines Ltd and was owned by the company until 1994.
There are a few traces of wall paintings above the entrance to the south transept. This is thought to depict the arms of the St Medard family who were tenants of Thornhaugh from before the Doomsday Book right through to the 15th century.
There is a ring of five bells, the oldest being the 3rd by Tobie Norris of Stamford, dated 1634. In 1993, a new 2nd bell (Taylor) was hung replacing a bell of 1619, also cast by T Norris.
St Andrew’s churchyard is the burial ground for the parish of Thornhaugh with Wansford, following the closure of St Mary’s churchyard to further burials.
In 2010, a single storey extension was added at the west end alongside the tower, which houses a disability-compliant toilet, servery facilities and new central heating boiler; in 2011, all the convector radiators were replaced; a induction-loop sound system installed and the interior redecorated. These works have been possible through Landfill Tax grant aid.
A list of Rectors from 1247 to the present day can be seen in the south transept.
St Mary’s, Wansford was formerly a ‘chapel of ease’ to St. Andrew’s, Thornhaugh, created for the convenience of parishioners residing in Wansford. Saxon in its origin, it probably dates from well before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Given the church’s dominant location above an important crossing point of the River Nene and at a nodal point of ancient highways, it is entirely possible that it has been a site of worship and veneration since pagan times: a possibility unscientifically supported by dousing experiments.
Sometime during the 15th century the church fabric fell into serious decay and the chancel collapsed, a state of affairs that pertained until 1902 when the chancel was rebuilt and the vestry and organ chamber constructed. Until that latter time, St. Mary’s competed for the title of the smallest church in England measuring just 30 feet by 25½ feet comprising the tower, nave and north aisle.
The tower, just 8 square feet internally, can be accurately dated to the 1200s. The broach spire (a tapering, octagonal spire, via triangular faces, rising from a square base) with its two tiers of lucarnes (apertures to admit light and dissipate wind pressure) dates from about 1300 and houses six bells. The sixth bell, the Barnaby Bell, was installed in 1968, as the result of generous fundraising by the Haycock Hotel.
The oldest architectural feature extant is the Saxon window in the west wall high above the tower door and which dates from sometime around the Norman Conquest. Originally, being of earlier construction than the tower, it would have been an external window. The south (main) doorway is c1200 and, opposite, the north arcade of the nave was built shortly after that date. In 1663, the south wall of the nave and the porch were rebuilt, the porch also providing a substantial buttress against the adverse effects of the downward slope towards the river. This slope may have been more pronounced before an additional yard or so of soil was subsequently heaped over the old burials to permit new burials above, as was common practice. Given burials were a notional 6 feet in depth, the addition of some further 3 feet of soil above did, in theory at least, still leave about 3 feet between the old burials and the new interments. Presumably, any multiple occupancies of graves were addressed on a case by case basis; doubtless pragmatically. The earliest burials evident date from the 17th century. Earlier burials would likely have been indicated by a wooden marker or cross, if at all.
The exceptionally well-figured font is Norman and has been dated at c1120. Sculpting ‘in the round’ represents warriors and, it is believed, Jesus and John the Baptist. Its survival is also remarkable in that it was rescued from a more prosaic, secular use as a cattle trough at Sibberton Lodge; quite possibly removed from the church around the time of the Reformation as being ‘popish’ and therefore ‘idolatrous’. Although Norman in period the carving is indicative of Saxon craftsmanship and the carved figures are framed within a thirteen-bay arcade surround. Given the population at this period was overwhelmingly illiterate, the power of the story told in the carvings, which would have been interpreted for parishioners by the priest, would have been deeply significant and powerful. Today, the only representative interpretation upon which there is consensus is a carving believed to characterise the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist. Living largely in wattle and daub huts and hovels, stone-built churches would have had an awesome, even fearsome, significance to local populations to a degree it is impossible to comprehend at this distance in time.
St Mary’s underwent a comprehensive refurbishment programme in 2008, which included the removal of some pews to provide greater flexibility. A project installing disabled access and toilet facilities was completed in October 2012 and a servery has recently been installed.
The total seating capacity including choir stalls is 105. The close proximity of the Haycock Hotel affords the opportunity for weddings.