History of St Mary the Virgin Church
St Mary’s is a picturesque country church dating back to Norman times.
The actual date of its construction is not known however it is
that the patronage of St Mary’s went with the Manor and was included in
the donation of the Manor from William, Earl of Mortain, to the Abbey of
Grestain in 1189.
As is inevitable with such an old buildings the church has been changed through
the ages and much of the surviving building is in the Decorated style
(c.1290-c.1350), the north aisle dates from the early 13th century and
the tower from the 15th century. The exterior of the tower has a
polygonal turret staircase.
An unusual event took place in the church on the 14th May 2005 when a
Consistory Court Hearing took place. The PCC had requested permission
from the Council for the Care of Churches to sell the remains of a
wooden screen depicting ‘The Passion of Christ’. The funds were required
to carry out long outstanding maintenance work in this ancient building.
The Council refused the request the PCC then asked for a court hearing
to take place. The judgement of the court was found in favour of the
The church also contains many interesting monuments in memory of the
FitzRoys, descended from Charles II.
There is a fine east window in memory of The Rev. Barwick John Sams,
rector for 47 years, and fragments of mediaeval glass in one of the
Outside, the churchyard is a peaceful haven. Snowdrops and aconites
abound in winter,and are quickly followed by violets and primroses.
Sir John Woodville
Woodvilles living in Northamptonshire can be traced back to the reign of
Henry II. Of most interest in St Mary’s is Sir John Woodville, who rose
to the rank of Sheriff of Northampton and who built the tower at the
west end of the church.
Sir John was great grandfather to Elizabeth Woodville who secretly
married Edward IV in Grafton on 1st May 1464.
The altar tomb of freestone to the memory of John Woodville is St Mary’s
most important monument. Deeply incised in the alabaster top is the
figure of a man in full armour, his head resting on a crested great
helmet supported by two angels, and with his feet against a lion.
The marginal inscription to the slab is in Latin and, translated, reads:
Under the mercy of God, this stone covers under itself John Wydeville,
who made the belltower; have mercy. O God, and as you have mercy grant
help, O my God, and your Mother as well. Amen
The adjacent altar tomb, also in the Gothic style, although without any
inscription, appears to be of a similar age and is likely to be of
another member of the Woodville family.
Monuments to members of the FitzRoy family.
St Mary’s Church contains
many monuments erected in memory of the FitzRoys descended from Henry
FitzRoy, son of Charles II by his mistress, Barbara Villiers. Monuments
to those whose names are in blue in the family tree may be found in the
church or churchyard.
The marble monument to Charlotte Maria, Countess
of Euston, was created by the renowned sculptor, John Flaxman. It carries the inscription:
the memory of Charlotte Maria Countess of Euston, second
daughter of James Earl of Waldegrave Born Oct.11th 1761 Buried in
this church February 8th. 1808, whose virtue rendered her the
object of the tenderest affection during life,and affords the most
consoling hopes of her eternal happiness to her surviving husband, by
whom this monument is erected
Family Tree identifying FitrRoy memorials in St Mary's Church
As well as memorials to
the FitzRoys, there are several memorials to the Sams family in St
Mary’s. The east window is dedicated to the remarkable Barwick John
Sams, born 1803 and died 1885.
In the chancel a brass plate has been
placed in memory of his son. It is inscribed:
"In loving memory of
Charles Dawson Sams, R.N.R. aged 41 years who was lost whilst in command
of the “Bokhara” which was wrecked off the coast of
the Pescadores on the 10th Oct.
1892 And there was no more sea. Rev 21"
Inside St Mary’s
The east window in Munich glass is
dedicated to Barwick John Sams, rector from 1837 until his death in
The east window was restored
and fitted with a blaze of stained glass made in Munich depicting scenes
from the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
An ancient tub-shaped
Norman font stands at the west end of the Nave.
The Church Tower
On the way up the narrow staircase, carved in a window
opening, is a curious face, a mason’s doodle?
Carved into the lead roofing to the tower are yet more doodles
adding interestingly to the history of St Mary’s.
Images on the Outside walls of
Two of the nine Mass dials on
the South wall of the church