Saturday, 11 April 2020

Churches Revisited

Back in September 2011, soon after I started this blog, I gave readers a tour around an English village church. Someone was foolish enough to request more such posts and I was only too happy to oblige. I'm not sure how many churches I've visited since but it must be over a hundred, and every one of them is different and every one is a precious historical document.

Here are a dozen that we've seen  (with links to previous posts where relevant) in alphabetical order:


I remember well the first time I went into the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Arkesden. We were having a long period of wet weather, but I decided to go for a walk anyway. I arrived, tired and muddy, and it immediately started raining. I sought shelter in the church porch and decided that, having found the door open, I'd take off my filthy boots and pad around inside in my socks. I'm glad I did as there were a series of interesting monuments inside. I went back a couple of years later when the sun was shining and found a picture-perfect village with many thatched cottages. 

Ayot St Peter

The pretty little church at Ayot St Peter is not as old as the others included here, having been built in 1875. It's usually kept locked, but on National Heritage Days it is open so that the public can enjoy its beautiful Arts & Crafts style interior. I made certain to go on one of those days last September and you can see the photos here.


The village of Barrington stands just a few miles from home. It's a very picturesque place with cottages all around its huge village green, one of the largest in England. It's very much part of its community, something which I tried to show here by including the road, road signs and man walking his dog in the photo. It was once the parish of the learned and eccentric Rev Edward Conybeare, some of whose curious tales about the Cambridge colleges I wrote about here.


St Leonard's Church in Bengeo is just about the most perfectly preserved Saxon/Norman church you're ever likely to find. It stands, not in deep countryside as you might expect, but on the edge of the town of Hertford. It owes its preservation to the Victorian family who had just enough money to repair it, but not enough to start knocking it about and "improving" it.


Despite being not far from a main road, Clothall Church has the feeling of being a secret, as well as a sacred, place. It may be that its obscure position saved it from the attentions of the Protestant iconoclasts who may have passed by without stopping to destroy the ancient stained-glass windows, which can still be viewed inside.

Cold Christmas

This ruined church is usually known as Cold Christmas church, from the unforgettably-named hamlet nearby, though it actually belonged to Thundridge village which slowly migrated over the centuries down to the main A10 road and left the old church isolated. So when a new church was required it was built nearer to the houses. All that remains here is an ivy-clad tower and stories of witches and ghosts - quite a place on a foggy morning!


Deep in the Suffolk countryside is a group of three tiny, little-known, but nevertheless fascinating churches. I visited all three in the course of a pleasant walk back in November 2014. The church at Onehouse looks the most ancient, while that at Shelland is unique in that it's painted pink with bright red beams inside. The third of them is the lovely thatched church at Harleston.


Lavenham church is one of the most magnificent churches you're likely to find anywhere. It was built between 1486 and 1525 with the proceeds from the wool trade, which was huge in the area at that time, and is a fine example of late-Perpendicular church architecture. Despite this it's often missed by visitors to the town who understandably become entranced by the little town of Lavenham itself, which has more half-timbered buildings than any town of its size.

Little Hormead

Little Hormead Church is tucked away in beautiful countryside in Hertfordshire. It contains a very old door, though I've never seen it as it was undergoing restoration work both times when I visited. I really must try again as soon as I can.

Long Melford

Long Melford is another "wool church", built when this area was at the heart of Medieval England's biggest and most lucrative industry. Last time I visited I promised that I'd go back when I had more time to look at its Medieval stained glass, though I still haven't got around to it.

Wiggenhall St Germans

The Silt Fens, or Marshland, of North Cambridgeshire and NW Norfolk were also extremely wealthy in Medieval times. About a year ago I visited the four Wiggenhall churches - the ruined St Peter's, the redundant church of St Mary the Virgin, and the still active churches of St Mary Magdalen and St German's. All four churches are full of interest, especially the wood-carving. There are several more churches in the area which I have yet to investigate.


Last, but certainly not least, we come to the church at Woolpit which has many fine features including an angel roof. 

I hope you've enjoyed that little saunter back through the past life of this blog, and I hope it won't be too long before I can add a few new posts. I feel that our village churches are one of the great, largely unknown parts of our heritage. They lie scattered, with often just a mile or two between them, all over the country. Most are open to the public throughout daylight hours, others have a notice explaining how you can borrow the key from someone living nearby. Don't be shy, go and take a look. Oh, and don't forget to drop a few coins in the collection box to help pay for the upkeep of these fine buildings.

Take care.


  1. I enjoyed the tour of these village churches, John. I tend to be drawn to the little hidden or secrete ones. Cold Christmas church ruins really caught my eye! Stay safe and healthy.

  2. Lavenham and Long Melford I know well John - but what a delight is Bengeo.

  3. I quite enjoyed the tour of churches, and there are small as well as large ones around. Thanks for putting this together for our pleasure.

  4. St. Leonard’s is my favourite but each is special!

  5. This is a wonderful post! Thanks!

  6. A wonderful tour, thank you John. There's so much beauty in those churches, glad they're still around and being cared for.

  7. This is a truly delightful post. Many thanks.
    I was fascinated by the old grave yards and loved seeing that the one in Wiggenhall St Germans appears to be still in use.

    1. I would think that most, if not all, of the graveyards in these churches are still in use.

  8. I've always enjoyed your posts on these old churches. A fascinating group of churches you highlighted today.

  9. They are amazing pieces of history. You have done a great job collating them.

  10. What wonderful churches - our local church, Christ Church in the suburb of Regent in Whangarei was built in the 1960's.

  11. Nice collection of churches there John. You sound like a fellow Church Crawler. I'm feeling it a bit now that I cannot get out to visit any. I have come across a few ruined churches but none with a tower like Cold Christmas. Happy Easter John

  12. Hi John – these are delightful … lovely to see them … great notes too: thank you. I had a weekend away in Bury St Edmunds a few years ago … and she drove me around showing me the town, and also, I think, Clothall … and this past week I found the guide books for Lavenham, Long Melford, and possibly the Woolpit one.

    One of them I remember had a school room attached to it … amazing buildings and history … thanks – loved seeing them again. Take care - Hilary

  13. Religious life has waned but these churches are still an essential part of the British landscape, and should be preserved. I have always found country churchyards to be fabulous places for quite contemplation and good birding when I have visited Britain. There is more than a little irony perhaps, at Easter, the holiest part of the Christian year, that I have seen several blog posts bemoaning the fact that there will be no family dinners, or eggs hunts for the children, but not a single one regretting that there will be no church service.

  14. Beautiful English churches and sad to think they are most likely closed today for the usual Easter services. Every time I come home to visit I try to visit a new country church as they are lovely and the history always so interesting.
    My local country church in Torquay (home town) is St. George and St. Mary in Cockington Village where I spent much of my childhood as it was just a 15 min. hilly walk from home, which was nothing in those days when we walked miles everywhere!
    FYI - here's the link to my old post when I last visited there in 2015 - gosh how time flies!

    Happy day to you John.

    1. P.S. I don't mean I haven't visit Torquay since 2015 - I actually go every year but of course have a problem with getting across the pond as planned for this Spring!
      Hopefully we'll make it back in Autumn instead!
      Mary -

  15. How beautiful these old churches are! I love the different architectural styles. You have a Blessed Easter, hugs, Edna B.

  16. A nice post for Easter! All very lovely churches. We don't have many stone churches. Certainly not small ones. I wish we did.

  17. I have never seen a church before with a thatched roof. But they are all special and beautiful.

  18. Lovely churches. I have visited the Lavenham and Long Melford ones.

  19. This seemed an appropriate post of churches, John, especially on this Easter Sunday celebration when most are closed and many are streaming online services. Thanks for an enjoyable photo tour and Hapy Easter.

  20. Yes. I enjoyed your tour of churches. It felt also like a tour of my past. Where I live now - in West Yorkshire - there are lots of closed churches and churches demolished except for the tower. One I know is now an Islamic centre - which is probably more in keeping with its original purpose than if it had been left to rot. These are lovely. And as the wind howls (it must be something to do with the direction, it is very noisy) and the world outside becomes more and more a dangerous place, it has been good to look through pictures of sunny days. Thank you.

  21. I don't have time now, but hopefully will get to revisit the original posts over the next few days. They are all so beautiful, they deserve a second look.

  22. How nice that was to go back and explore these beautiful churches again John, such a diverse style of architecture and grandness, enjoyed seeing them all 💜

  23. I do enjoy seeing the different types of architecture. Each one is beautiful in its own right!

  24. These are so old...

    So many days before us.


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