Apethorpe, Northamptonshire – St Leonard

The next church we stopped at was Apethorpe – TL025957. On my return I look at the Apethorpe village website which gives details of the new Vicar, but not much about the church. It doesn’t mention the Palace, see below. It is another parish in the Oundle deanery – website. There are some very good photos of this and other nearby churches at this website.

There are signs in the village to Apethorpe Palace, and I remembered seeing a TV programme about it – which I researched when I got home. The Palace was on the heritage at risk register, and English Heritage stepped in, £10 million was spent. It was then sold to Baron von Pfetten for only £2.5 million – the argument being that he will still need to spend more millions on it. The EH website says “Among England’s finest country houses, Apethorpe was begun in the late 15th century. It contains one of the country’s most complete Jacobean interiors and hosted 13 royal visits between 1565 and 1636. It has a particularly important place in England’s history because of this role it played in entertaining Tudor and Stuart royalty at the pinnacle of its influence around the turn of the 17th century. Its state rooms are arguably the most complete in the country and provide a fascinating window on a rich period of English history. The architectural importance of Apethorpe lies in the breadth of architectural elements which survive today from almost every period of English architecture since the late 15th century.” The website is currently advertising guided tours in summer 2015 – we’ll be in touch later this year to see if there are guided tours in 2017.

There is a Manor House next to the church, on which a huge amount of money is being spent.

There was a C12 church, and the building was probably rebuilt in 1485. The tower was built in 1633 and the Chancel Arch in circa 1480. The clock is by John Watts and dates to 1704.

Most of my readers will know that my wife is disabled, so she tends to sit in the car with a book while I go and explore. I entered this church and thought “nothing special”, though I wondered why Charles and Camilla had signed the Visitors’ Book. Then I saw something in the south aisle, went to investigate, and went back to get Julie.

The Nave is simple, and the Chancel rather lovely.

The East Window is of the Last Supper by John Rowell of Hugh Wycombe, signed and dated 1732. It is a painted glass window, but the artists had not mastered the art of fixing colour, so most of the windows faded and were taken out. This was one was restored in 1994.

The large oil painting of “Christ walking on the water” is by R.S. Lauder, a Scottish mid-Victorian artist. It would look better properly-lit in a Gallery. There is a lovely wooden chest, and an C18 font.

Some nice memorials. I found this little child very moving – although I didn’t make a note as to her name.

In any other church, this would be enough. But there is more to come. We have the tomb slab of the Lord of the Manor, Sir Richard Dalton, who did in 1442. The effigy is half size, and in armour. Above the head is an unusual Annunciation scene, with figures of God, theVirgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel. It would originally have been brightly painted.

We have a stained glass window of 1621. It has Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Christ on the cross, the Ascension (with bodies rising from their tombs), and Christ surrounded by angels and patriarchs.

Most amazing of all, we have the Mildmay Monument. From the outside you can see how the church has been altered for it. The effigies of Sir Anthony (died 1617) and his wife, Lady Grace Mildmay (died 1620). She is in full mantle, ruff and headdress, he in Greenwich army. Sir Anthony was the son of Sir Walter Mildmay, founder of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. At the corners are standing female figures, Piety, Charity, Wisdom and Justice (why did I only photo three of them?). Sadly the only guidebook to the church is a double sided A4 sheet – I would love to know more.


When you think you’ve seen everything, look up at the decoration above the arches.

Julie made no complaint that I had got her out of the car to see all this.


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2 Responses to Apethorpe, Northamptonshire – St Leonard

  1. Stephen Dunhill says:

    In his retirement my father used to take services at Apethorpe, just down the road from Kings Cliffe. The lady of the manor, Lady Brassey, approved of my father – old-school, tall, rather patrician and gently commanding. After the service she would always tell my father, ‘Brace of pheasant for you behind the vestry door, Father.’ My father loved pheasant – he was always pleased to get them. No so my mother: “She doesn’t have to pluck the bloody things!”

    • admin says:

      Thanks Stephen. My training incumbent in Suffolk Villages was a vegetarian, so all the gifts of pheasant and venison went into the freezer. When he moved on it was all transferred to our freezer. We had a friend who came to stay. She was an excellent chef, and we ate well that week!

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