What to Look for Inside Great Paxton Church
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The nave is Saxon dating from 1020, there are two aisles and an impressive full central crossing found nowhere else in this country in a church of this style and age.

Entry to the church is through the south porch which was added in about 1350, the internal door would have been the original external door for the first 330 years. The side windows are a later Victorian addition. The floor tiles are Victorian and are found throughout the church.

To the sides of the porch are stone benches where "jurors" would have sat as witnesses to weddings prior to the introduction of church registers in 1538. They were used for this purpose for about 190 years.

The inner doorway dates from the 1400's and is almost certainly in the same place the original Saxon one would have been. The door itself is very old as are the iron hinges and elaborate ironwork on the surface, either or both could date back to the late 1200's, the ironwork possibly earlier.

Standing in the nave looking back out the door. The pillar is a part of the original from 1020, likewise the rounded arch to the left. The asymmetrical pointed arch is a somewhat clumsily executed adjustment probably dating from about 1380 when the tower (to the right) was added with the result that the nave was shortened. Originally this third arch would have been complete and there would most probably have been a further fourth arch to right and perhaps even a fifth after that. The south aisle is between the pillar and the door.

Looking eastwards along the nave (the large central space) towards the chancel (with the wooden roof). The end windows of the aisles can be seen to the left and right as can the large pillars that support arches to what were the north and south transepts. The pillars of the north arch (left) are significantly taller than the pillars of the south arch (right). The wooden eagle lectern and pulpit are Victorian and at the crossing where an altar would have been. The base of the higher altar at the end of the chancel is about 5 feet above the floor level at this point.

An octagonal font in the south aisle dates from the 1400's, since 2015 it has had a lightweight wooden cover, given in memory of Isaac and Henry Nicholson, both former vicars here, by their descendants John Nicholson and Susan Nicholson Siegel.

This older much larger, heavier and more ornate font cover lies on the floor just behind the font. It was given in memory of Clara Towgood in 1897 and was suspended over the font from the roof by a rope, being raised and lowered by a pulley until it became unsafe in 2014. To the left is the church chest dating from the 1400's.

The remaining two and a half arches of the south arcade and the southern aisle.

The northern arcade, the third arch to the left has been filled in, though the outline can be seen. The clerestory windows above line up with the arches, light from those on the southern side can be seen falling on the wall. These windows add considerably to the amount of light in the church and especially the higher part of the nave, it must have been notably darker when these were blocked up as they were in the past.

The northern arch at the crossing to what was the north transept. This is an original rounded Saxon arch at full height with original pillars. The roof is similar to how it would have been though extends only about half as far (from the pillar) as when the transept was still standing.

The southern arch at the crossing to what was the south transept. This is considerably remodelled, what was a rounded Saxon arch is now a pointed Norman arch on shortened and re-worked pillars. It is thought this work was carried out in the mid 1300's following the collapse of a tower or spire over the crossing that fell or caused damage to the southern arch and so was removed. Rather than replace it as it was, the arch was replaced in the prevalent style of the time. The roof is now lower than the northern equivalent though it would have been the same height.

The north-eastern pillar of the crossing, unmodified and original.

The south western pillar of the crossing, with the top placed on the much shortened column and edges trimmed to fit the smaller emerging arch.

This pillar at the northeast of the crossing would have supported a tower or spire structure above the crossing. A stairway such as this could not have been cut through the stone without weakening it significantly, so we can conclude that it was probably made when the weight of the structure it supported was removed.

It led to a rood loft, a gallery, or platform, atop the rood screen, used for the rood (crucifix) and sometimes for musicians or singers. It would have been more substantial than the current screen, probably 3-4 feet wide, enough for a single file row of people. It was probably destroyed at any time from the Reformation in the early 1500's to the civil war in the middle 1600's. Access to the first step would have been by a short ladder.

The other side of the northeast pillar of the crossing where the stairway emerges into what would have been a rood loft, a wider and more substantial rood screen, like a narrow minstrels gallery.

Looking down the south aisle towards the door showing the western modified column of the south arch.

The grave of the Reverend Isaac Nicholson in the chancel. He was the reverend at Great Paxton during the time of Annie Izzard, the "Paxton Witch", he was instrumental in bringing her tormentors to justice and defusing the accompanying hysteria.

A fine wooden carving known as a reredos at the chancel altar, paid for by Hamer Towgood in 1899 in memory of his three sisters. Some of the Towgood family lived at Paxton Hill House having made their money from the Little Paxton paper mill in the 1800's. The Towgoods were great benefactors to Great Paxton and the church, several are buried in the church yard.

The pews in the nave, while parts of these in more vulnerable positions have been replaced due to damage and particularly the effects of damp and decay, most of the wooden seats date back to the 1400's, that's about 600 years of uncomfortably seating the residents of Great Paxton, a true historic experience.

The base of the first Saxon pillar you encounter on entering the church, the first northern and southern pillars are identical. The triangular inclusion between the two round columns is a characteristic Saxon adornment, note how this carving is carried on to the base in a series of terraced levels.

The base of the second Saxon pillar you encounter on entering the church. While the triangular strip is present, at the base it ends in a simple unfinished bulge of stone. Did the stonemasons forget to finish these in the same manner that they did the first columns? Did they get paid to do them but got away without doing so or was it an example of cost-cutting and hoping no-one would notice after the first?

There are four columns each with four sides, but this design appears in only one of the possible sixteen positions.

Looking down the nave to the eastern arch and the chancel from the bell ringers' floor put in place in the tower in 2009. The ringing floor means that the bell ropes are out of the way and frees up the ground floor area to be used for other purposes.

This small medieval door dates from around 1380 when the tower was built and leads to a spiral stone staircase up the bell tower to the bells and to the roof of the tower.

A small window to admit light to the spiral staircase, the rope serves as a handrail.

At the top of the staircase looking downwards. There are now electric lights along the way, but relying on the small original windows is so much more atmospheric and is exactly as it would have been at any time back to 1380. As with all steep staircases, spiral or otherwise, going up is harder work but feels much safer than going down.

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