Tuesday, 29 October 2013




Cockfighting in church


The village church at Knotting in Bedfordshire was the scene of unseemly conduct back in the 17th century, when the rector, churchwardens and several parishioners were caught cockfighting in the church  on Shrove Tuesday in 1637.   As a result, gates were erected below the chancel arch to prevent any recurrence.
Knotting Church


The Hell Fire Club


The church of St Lawrence is situated on a hill 600ft above the village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.   On top of the church tower is a curious golden ball, made of wood and covered with a gilded fabric and large enough to seat at least ten people inside.   Former 18th century Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Francis Dashwood who resided in the village, was responsible for this strange addition to the church.  It was he who formed the infamous ‘ Hell Fire Club’ and they held card playing parties inside the ball.   The very same group are also said to have gathered in caves under the church and at Medenham Hall to practice black magic.
West Wycombe church
Both photographs © Copyright Dave Hitchborne and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
As I was unable to obtain a photograph when I visited I am grateful to Dave Hitchborne for the use of his Geograph photographs.

The  buried  statue

A statue commemorating Jane Johnson, the young wife of Henry Johnson the dancing master of Nantwich in Cheshire, originally stood close to the main altar of Bunbury church.   Jane died 6th April 1741 aged just 24 years.
In the 1760’s, the then vicar was ‘so disturbed by the bulging udders of Jane,’ that he had the statue removed and secretly buried in the churchyard.    It was re-discovered by chance in 1882 and now stands proudly back inside the church, albeit at the back.

 Bunbury Church
Copyright 'big dutchman' to whom I am grateful for allowing me to copy his Panoramio photograph.

Jane Johnson

An  old  sailor


A fine memorial also in the church at Bunbury  tells us that Sir George Beeston, 1499 – 1601 (102 years), served four monarchs.   He was Admiral of the Fleet and Captained The Dreadnaught against the Spanish Armada when he was 89 years old.


The  disgraced  vicar

The roofless ruin of the 12th century church of St Andrew stands alongside the main street in Gullane, Lothian, Scotland.   It is said that James V1 dismissed the last vicar for smoking! 
Gullane Church

A crooked  vicar


Although the present parish church at Holmfirth in West Yorkshire dates from 1777, it replaced a former church on the same site dominating this small town.  Adjoining the church is an ecclesiastical lock-up dating from 1597 and known locally as T’owd Towzer.  (see lock-ups).  
The Rev. Edmund Robinson, vicar in 1688 probably saw more of the inside of the lock-up than he wished because he was caught ‘coining’, the crime of clipping or filing coins of the realm to make counterfeit coins.  He was convicted and hanged at York.


The  Parson’s  Nose

A 600 years old carving on the choir stalls in the parish church at Nantwich in Cheshire clearly depicts a fowl with a face in its rear end!   Apparently a medieval  wood carver had a disagreement with the parson of the time and produced this curious carving for all to see.   Hence  ‘The parson’s nose’.
The Parson's Nose

Military Might

Oliver Cromwell billeted his troops and stabled his horses in All Saints church at Ripley in North Yorkshire after the  Civil War battle at nearby Marston Moor.. He had pursued the losing Royalist’s after the battle and reached Ripley by nightfall spending the night in  Ripley Castle.

Ripley Church

Several Royalist prisoners were executed against the rear wall of the church where bullet marks
are still evident today.


Bullet marks

Before he left Ripley, Cromwell is said to have had a carved inscription added to the church memorial and tomb of a former Sir William Ingilby which can still be seen today. It reads:




degenerating the rhyming inscription on the memorial praising Sir William.

Probably the only such cross in the country, the base of a curious  weeping  cross  can be seen in the churchyard of All Saints.  Only the huge base remains, which is circular and has eight niches spaced round it.   The origins of this cross are obscure, but it seems to have been connected with penitents and pilgrims and may date back to the 2nd century.

 The Weeping Cross



A poignant signature scratched on the lead lining of the font in Burford Parish Church recalls an incident of mutiny within Cromwell’s New Model Army.  It reads :


1649. PRISNER’

The font


He was one of the supporters of 'The Levellers', a group of radicals who were crushed by Cromwell.   On May Day 1649 the army had reached Salisbury on its way to Ireland when eight soldiers refused to go any further until their complaints were satisfied.  They wanted a levelling of the ranks within the army and an end to Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland, as well as the considerable back pay owed to them.  Several hundred troops ended up deserting, eventually meeting up with more comrades in Banbury.  The upshot was that they were defeated by loyal troops and imprisoned in Burford Church, the only building in the area big enough to contain them.  Three of their leaders were court martialled on the spot and sentenced to death.  On the morning of 17th May the majority were taken up onto the church roof so that they could watch whilst Cornet Thompson, Corporal Church and Private Perkins were put against the church wall and shot.


Burford Church

Penance for murder

In the early 16th century. Nicholas Brome was the owner of Baddersley Clinton House near Solihull in Warwickshire.

When he died he was  buried just inside the south entrance to Baddersley Clinton church, standing up, which meant that people walked on his head. This was Brome's final act of pennance for killing a priest whom he had found 'in close contact' with his wife. 

Brome had been pardoned by the King and also by the Pope, but was required to do penance for his crime which entailed good work in his community.  Indeed he re-built the tower of Baddersley Clinton church and this is recorded by an inscription on the inside wall of the tower. 



Baddersley Clinton Church

Buried standing up
Rebuilt the steeple

A finger pillory


Even people who misbehaved in church were liable to be punished by the use of a nasty little ecclesiastical device known as  ‘ a finger pillory.’   The only one to survive can be seen in the interesting church of St Helen at Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire.  Two grooved beams came together to trap the miscreants fingers and. although the grooves catered for varying thicknesses, the incumbent probably wasn’t given much choice.

Finger pillory


Ashby Church
Copyright 'zanat'  to whom I am grateful for allowing me to copy her :Panoramio photograph. 

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