Rushden, Northamptonshire

St. Mary's Church, Rushden, Northamptonshire

St. Mary’s Church is a typical Northamptonshire church with a tall dominant spire and a rather low-roofed nave.

It isn’t clear quite when the church was founded, but the Domesday Book records land held by “Samar the Priest” which implies some sort of religious structure. A simple Norman church exists below the current one which was built largely between 1250 and 1270. It is unusual in having a ‘strainer arch’ – one of only four in England (the others are at nearby Finedon Church, Canterbury Cathedral and Wells Cathedral). The arch is in place to stop the walls folding in on themselves and is suggestive that the same architect was involved in all four structures.

It is thought that the strainer arch was inserted at the same time the 172 foot spire was placed on top of the tower – late in the 14th Century. Work continued through the 15th  Century, the last extensive work being undertaken around 1490.

In 1541 Rushden left the Diocese of Lincoln and was added to the new Diocese of Peterborough. This new Diocese undertook some rather zealous removal of Catholic imagery and icons and Rushden Church was stripped of much of its statuary and stained glass. By 1682 the church was in a sorry state and the it was being used by more pigeons than townsfolk.

It wasn’t until 1847 that serious work began on the church to bring it to a fit state. £6,000 was spent in 1875 and in 1879 a new clock was installed in the tower. Work continued through the early 20th Century, including work shoring up the churchyard when, in 1959, the road outside was widened and part of the church grounds were lost.

St. Mary’s stands at one end of Rushden town centre and feels a bit stranded and forgotten.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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