Brackley, Northamptonshire

St. Peter's Church, Brackley, Northamptonshire

Brackley’s parish church – St. Peter’s – sits separate from the town centre of today down a small side road. It is thought to date to the 7th Century, but as is usually the case, there is no actual record nor evidence to suggest anything earlier than the Norman period. It is said the infant St. Rumwold (or Rumbold) briefly lay at Brackley before his eventual internment in Buckingham – that being the case, and the year of Rumwold’s 3-day life being 662, then there would have had to have been an early Saxon church here.

The first surviving structures from the church date to around 1100. These are a few very small parts of some pillars at the east end of the aisle and, probably, the south door. The Norman church would have been a fairly small and simple affair but was greatly enlarged in the 13th Century at which time the west tower and south aisle were added. Late in the 13th Century the old Norman chancel was removed and the church extended and a new one built. Further additions were made during the 14th Century including the rebuilding of the north aisle and the addition of a crypt.

Above the doorway is a carving of a man with a dog. This is a representation of a priest who quarrelled with Lord Neville and was buried alive as punishment. His faithful dog having jumped into the grave just before it was filled in. The grave in question stands in the churchyard.

Aside from the raising of the roof in the 1500s no more work was done to the church for several centuries and what was there began to deteriorate rapidly. In 1837 things had got to a very poor state and the first work was undertaken to replace a window – at the princely cost of £10.  In 1868 Francis Thicknesse became vicar of St. Peter’s and had big plans for his parish. Firstly he restored and reopened the Chapel of St. John and St. James in the town centre, then he turned his attentions to St. Peters. The churchyard was extended and Thicknesse began to consider a plan to destroy the church entirely and build a new one closer to the town centre. Thicknesse died in 1879 and so this plan never came to fruition and his successor as vicar, Brooke de Malpas Egerton, decided enough was enough and instigated a massive remodelling scheme which has left us with the church we see today.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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