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St Nicholas Church Potterspury - early 1900s


View Monumental Inscriptions

The village was originally called Pyrie, derived from ‘pyrige’ meaning the place where pear trees grow. During the 12th century, the introduction of pottery kilns caused the place to be known as ‘Potters Pyrie’, and although the modern spelling is Potterspury, it is pronounced Potters Perry.

The Church

The church is dedicated to St Nicholas. It is not known when a church was first built in the village but there has been one on the same site since at least 1086 when the Domesday Book was compiled. It has been altered and rebuilt several times throughout the centuries. A major alteration was carried out in 1848 at a cost of £3,000; the architect was Richard Hussey of Birmingham and the work was carried out by Richard Dunkley of Blisworth.

The chancel

Was originally longer than it is now and stood at a higher level. The old arch joined on to the wide pillar, inside which were the stairs (now blocked up) which led up tp the rood loft above the screen – the screen was removed during the alterations of 1848. The new lofty triple arch with its wide centre arch was designed to give a good view of the altar and chancel. It stands several feet further east than the old one did, thus shortening the chancel and lengthening the nave, in order to provide extra seats.

At that date the church had to accommodate Yardley Gobion people and also the inmates of the workhouse.

The Duke of Grafton, as lay Rector, was responsible for maintaining the chancel. In return, he and his family had the right of sitting in the chancel, accompanied by the household staff of about 50, every Sunday when in residence at Wakefield Lodge. After the death of the 7th Duke, the estate was broken up and the chancel left unoccupied. The organ was moved to the east end of the north aisle and a robed choir sat in the chancel.

On the north side is the tomb of Gabriel Clarke who died in 1624, a member of the family who had the rectorial rights and duties at the time.

The east window glass was the gift of the Rev’d Walter Plant (Vicar 1897 – 1920).

South Aisle

The arcade on the south aisle is 14th century although the windows are later than this. The east window is a memorial to the dead of the 1st World War. On the south-east side is the tomb of Cuthbert Ogle who died in 1633, having been lieutenant of Whittlewood Forest, under the Crown, for 42 years. He lived in the old Wakefield Lodge, long since demolished.  On the floor nearby is a brass in memory of his first wife, Agnes.
The shield of the arms on the wall facing, really belongs to the tomb of Gabriel Clerke in the Chancel, but seems to have been moved in 1848.

The porch was built or rebuilt in 1510 and again rebuilt in the same style in 1848. It was extensively repaired in 1989 at a cost of £10,000.

North Aisle and North Chapel

The oldest remaining portion of the church is the thick round pillar with scalloped capital in the north aisle, which dates from the 12th century and has unaccountably survived every rebuilding since. The rest of the north aisle arcade and the chapel arcade is 13th century; the windows are much later. The stained glass in three of the windows is some of that given by the Rev’d Walter Plant.
The north door was blocked up in 1848. The Children's Corner dates from about 1935. Until the 1848 rearrangement of the chancel, the organ stood at the east end of the north aisle; the organist faced the east and the singers sat in the pews behind.
There is a piscine set into the wall near the vestry door, presumably not in its original position.
The vestry was built in 1867, the architect being E F Law, who also built St Leonard’s Church in nearby Yardley Gobion.

The Font

The font dates from the 14th century but was rebuilt and placed in its present position in 1848, having previously been attached to a pillar.

The Tower

The tower was built in the 14th century and there are indications that it was intended to add a spire, but was never done. The large west doorway has elaborate mouldings; the west window is large and the arch between the tower and the nave is very lofty. This arch was at one time filled with brickwork and had a gallery in front of it for singers and musicians.

The clock was given by the Duke of Grafton in 1897 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. A list of the Rectors of Furtho, and a painting of St Bartholomew’s Church at Furtho have been removed from this part of the church and are now in the new meeting room.The church, a dovecote and a farm are all that remain of the former village of Furtho; the parish was united with Potterspury in 1921.

Major repairs to the tower were carried out in 1985 at a cost of £40,000.


The Bells

The bells were re-hung in 1951 by Taylors of Loughborough, who cast a new bell at the time to make the number up to 6.
Treble 5 cwt. 2 qu. 2 lbs Note C## Taylor 1951
2nd 6 3 0 B Emerton 1774
3rd 9 3 1 A Ancient 1479/80
? Thomas Harris
4th 9 3 24 C## Briant 1792
5th 11 0 26 F## Warner 1885
6th 13 0 4 E Warner 1885

There are some interesting pieces among the collection of communion plate. A silver gilt paten dated 1683 given by Thomas Crosse of the parish of St Paul, Covent Garden, London. It is thought that although Thomas never lived in the village, his mother did. A silver flagon, chalice and standing paten, forming a set, were given by Lady Bathurst, widow of Sir Benjamin Bathurst, in 1728. He was patron of the living and lived at Paulerspury Park. Another silver chalice made to match the Bathurst one was given by the Duchess of Grafton in 1854.

The Furtho Plate includes a silver gilt chalice and cover dated 1601. This was probably secular in origin. A silver gilt flagon and paten were made to match the chalice and were presented in 1885 by the Rev’d John Chalmers, then Rector of Furtho. The Furtho Chalice is currently on display in Peterborough Cathedral.

A list of the Rectors of Furtho may been seen next to the picture in the upstairs of the Potterspury Church.

The organ dates from 1877 and the timber of the roofing is thought to be 19th century. The organ was completely rebuilt and placed in its present position by the re-ordering of 1991.

This major re-ordering was initiated by the Vicar, the Rev’d Dr E H Lurkings, designed by architect Bruce Deacon and the work carried out by D S W Holloway, who was also a church warden.

The provision of kitchen, toilets and a meeting room in the north east corner of the church provide much needed facilities which no church building in the 20th century can afford to be without. The clearing of the nave, provision of paved flooring and the introduction of essentially portable and comfortable church furniture enables the congregation to gather for worship in a way which more adequately expresses the sense of Christ’s family gathered together, and also enables wider and more regular use to be made of the building.

The removal of the pews has revealed the spacious splendour of the medieval building and many people, seeing the structure uncluttered for the first time, have been astonished by the beauty of the church’s proportions. The sense of space and the simple beauty of the arcades and arches have become very apparent.

An especially interesting discovery was made in the chancel, where the removal of the oak panelling on the south side led to the uncovering of a medieval sedilla (a triple-arched stone seat for the priest) and a piscina (a small recess with a stone basin for the disposal of the water used in Holy Communion). Both had been filled with rubble and plastered over in Victorian times. Fortunately the beauty of the structure is still visible and large sections of the smashed columns were found amongst the rubble. The piscine, which adjoins the sedilla at its eastern end, is particularly fascinating because, in fact, there are remains of two piscinas, one set above the other. Both of these were probably installed at the same time as the sedilla and dating from the 14th century; thus belonging to the same period as the main structure of the church. It was possible, with some restoration work, to retain the sedilla and piscina as an exposed feature.


No valuables are stored in the church but held in a safe at a local bank.


Taken from exacts of Hild Faux's book of Potterspury.





(c) 2012 Mark Russell -

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