Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire – St Mary and All Saints

On Friday 27 January we went off towards Rutland Water where we were meeting friends for lunch. The first church of call was Fotheringhay – St Mary and All Saints (TL060932). We entered the village over the old bridge, and saw the remains of the Castle on the right – but it was cold and foggy, so not really a day to go wandering round castles.

The church is well worth visiting. There is a website for the whole of the Oundle Deanery and links to each parish – here – a lot of work has gone into it. There is also a very strong Friends’ – website. I am writing this diary on Wednesday 8 February  2017, the 430th anniversary of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, executed at the Castle on the orders of Elizabeth I in 1587. The church had a Memorial Service this morning – sadly I wasn’t able to attend. 135 years earlier, on 2 October 1452, the future Richard III was born here. The castle was Norman, and lasted until about 1630.

In Norman times there would have been a chapel in the Castle, and a parish church. Around 1100 a Cluniac nunnery was founded here. In the C14 Edmund Langley founded a College, and in 1412 it moved to a site on the south and east of the parish church. The Chancel was rebuilt and extended in 1415, and formed the Quire and Lady Chapel of the Collegiate church. The nave was rebuilt in 1434 – a copy of the paperwork (which includes the earliest use of the word “Freemason”) is displayed inside.

The College had a staff of 34 including a Master, Preceptor, eleven chaplains or fellows, with 8 clerks and 13 choristers who sang the services. It was surrendered to the Crown in 1539, and closed in 1348. You can see the marks of the College on the East End of the church. The photos would have been better if the sun was shining. When you enter the church it is a wow!

There is a lovely stone lion by the North Door which was once part of the castle.

The font is C16, and the cover has been made from a medieval Misericord seat which was originally situated in the Quire.

Rather nice rainwater goods now inside – the lead would be worth a bit – and lovely fan vaulting under the tower.

The pulpit is rather lovely. It is C15 and was said to have been donated by Edward IV. The Royal Arms is George III.

The altar and communion rails are modern, but the cross and candles were made from bell frame timber when the bells were re-hung in the mid 1990s. The monuments on either side are C16. When Elizabeth I visited in 1566 she saw the desecrated tombs of the royal dukes among the ruins of the Collegiate Church, and ordered that her ancestors should be exhumed and reburied in the church. To the left of the altar is Richard, 3rd Duke of York, killed in Wakefield in 1460, and his wife Cecily Neville. To the right Edward, 2nd Duke of York, killed at Agincourt in 1415.


On the south east side is the York Chapel. The guidebook doesn’t tell me who the memorial is to, and I didn’t get a photo of the Richard III window.

This is an amazing church, which warrants a longer visit. There is plenty of history to read and some good displays, but Julie was in the car and no doubt getting cold. Time to move on – I’ll come back in the summer.


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One Response to Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire – St Mary and All Saints

  1. Stephen Dunhill says:

    Lovely blog. I visited the church many times when my late parents lived in retirement at Kings Cliffe a few miles away. I am always intrigued by churches which arise from much larger monastic buildings which have been truncated. Like Abbey Dore and Little Malvern. One was always led to believe that Queen Elizabeth ordered the castle to be eradicated from the map to stop it becoming some sort of place of pilgrimage, but modern scholarship shows that it fell into gradual decline and the stone was plundered for local building.

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