St Peter & St Paul is a hidden gem, located in the tiny hamlet of Preston Deanery (pop. 51), just to the south of the urban sprawl of Northampton.
Its tower appears amongst trees and fields as you approach the hamlet along what is virtually a single track road from the larger village of Quinton.
When I’m cycling around villages like these, I quite often use distant church towers and steeples as a navigational aid - an ancient building peeps over the tops of trees and beckons me closer.
Partly it’s that these buildings are often the most significant among a small scattering of houses and farm buildings. But it’s also because these buildings are so ancient.
I find something powerfully magnetic about them - these piles of stone, sometimes grand, sometimes modest, that have played such a significant role throughout the settlement’s history.
St Peter & St Paul was first dedicated around 1200, and the building apparently features not just Norman parts (11th century), but a small part even has rare early Viking influence.
I find this staggering.1
I was able to find this page, which explains briefly that:
A snake with a protruding tongue, two fan-tailed birds and a strange animal, all Viking in character and 1,000 years old, are carved on each side of the chancel arch in this simple aisleless church.
Wikipedia (of course…) explains further:
It has been suggested that they are in Viking style, and were possibly re-used from a former churchyard cross. However this has been refuted by Kathryn Morrison who expresses the opinion that the carvings date from the late 11th or early 12th century, and that an earlier date is “impossible”.
Of course, my untrained eyes just soaked it all up en masse, but knowing all these details just fills me with wonder and admiration.
…So staggering, in fact, that I went hunting for more details to add to this piece. Thanks to Adrian for prompting me for more information too. And thanks to Hi in general for encouraging me to share this photograph and information, as well as add to it. All of these factors have helped me learn more about this beautiful building, and nothing makes me happier than satisfying my own curiosity. ↩
Churchyard cows, Preston Deanery
Preston Deanery. A self-portrait of sorts.
Fields of rapeseed