Brief History of St Peter & St Paul, Weedon Bec

HISTORICAL OUTLINE

As far as is known, the church was originally dedicated to St Peter and later to St Peter & St Paul. There may have been an earlier church built here as the Doomsday Book (1086) states that there was a priest in Weedon at that time. Soon after the Conquest, the Manor of Weedon was given to the Abbots of L'Abbaye du Notre Dame Le Bec-Hellouin, once the most significant monastery in the whole of Western Europe.

The tower was built in the early-mid 12th century and is all that remains of the medieval church. However, pictures exist showing the complete church before substantial alterations were carried out resulting in the building we see today.

The presence of a sizeable military garrison in the parish meant that the modestly proportioned Norman church was inadequate and, in 1823, the nave and the chancel were demolished. By 1825, the present nave had been constructed but it wasn't until 1863 that the chancel was built with the Vicar's vestry being added in 1885. There was a military presence in Weedon until the closure of the Royal Ordnance Depot in 1965.

THE CHANTRY CHAPEL

Dedicated to St Werburgh, this chapel was built after her death and either adjoined the church or was close by. Nothing remains, although the historian Bridges recorded that part of it was still visible in the 18th Century.

THE ROYAL PALACE OF THE HOUSE OF MERCIA

According to early histories, during the early part of the 7th century, Paeda, King of Mercia, built a palace which was possibly located in the field known as 'Ashards' to the south of the present church. It was occupied in turn by his son, King Wulphere and then by his brother King Ethelred who eventually gave it to Wulphere's daugher Princess Werburgh who had been trained as a nun at Ely by her mother St Ermenilda in about 673. The Royal use of the 'palace' ceased and Werburgh established a nunnery there where she subsequently spent much of her time. She also presided over nunneries at Trentham, Hanbury, Staffordshire and Repton in Derbyshire and is buried in Chester Cathedral.

Tradition has it that the palace was burned down by the Danes in the 9th century.

A WALK AROUND THE CHURCH

If one starts from the main, south entrance and walks clockwise then the first item of interest is the south-facing stained glass window dedicated to St Werburgh.

Legend relates that crops in the neighborhood suffered from the ravages of wild geese. Werburgh (see above) remonstrated with them and restored one of them to life on condition that they never stole corn again. Since then '...no wild geese are ever seen to settle and graze in a Weedon field....' (Bridges).

In memory of the Goff family, a window by Anthony MacRae, a local artist, in the south west corner of the church depicts the Story.

THE WEST END

The font and the hatchment of the Royal Coat of Arms hanging above the arch date from 1825 and, an eight day clock by Tom Maison of Weedon stands near the south door. Made in 1988, this reproduces a 'Vestibule' or 'Office' style of clock of 1830. Pressure and temperatures are compensated by a bob-weight on the pendulum and other control- ling features are modelled on Harrison (chronometer maker to Captain Thomas Cook), Graham and Tompion. Two boards near the south door name the vicars of Weedon Bec from 1226 - a remarkably continuous record.

Also, there is a massive three-lock chest from the 17th century.

THE TOWER

The tower was built in the early-mid 12th century. There is a fine Norman arch to the ground floor ringing chamber that was revealed on removal of the gallery in 1968. The bells are dated as follows:
  • Treble: 1950 a memorial to those who died and who served in World War II
  • Two: 1950
  • Three: 1920 A memorial to those who died and who served in World War I
  • Four: 1745
  • Five: 1601
  • Six: 1665
  • Seven: 1624 Inscribed 'O Son of God have mercy on me'
  • Tenor: 1822
ST CECILIA WINDOW

On the north west corner of the nave is a window dedicated to the Abbott family. In 2010, this window, showing St Cecilia, the patron saint of music was dedicated by the Rt Revd Frank White, Bishop of Brixsworth.

THE CHAPTER HOUSE

This addition to the church, approached through the north porch, was funded entirely by voluntary donations and dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd William Westwood in June 1989. Built of Cotswold stone, it is of traditional octagonal Chapter House design and incorporates a Choir vestry, kitchen, WC and meeting facilities for the many church activities. 

THE NAVE

This was the main feature of the 1823 rebuilding and includes an ornamental circular ventilator in the roof. The pulpit was installed in 1825. 

THE NORTH AISLE

This houses several Military memorials and also a black marble miniature replica of the Winchester Cathedral font, formerly used in the chapel at the Royal Military Depot. The 1876 window depicts the Sermon on the Mount. 

THE CHILDREN'S ALTAR

In 1947, pews were removed from the north aisle to allow the formation of the Children's Chapel and this was dedicated by Bishop C A W Aylen, Vicar of Flore at that time. The statues of our Lady and St Francis were given by members of the congregation. 

THE CHOIR AND SANCTUARY

The entire chancel was built in 1863. The east window (1864) shows the Good Shepherd, the south window (1863) portrays St Werburgh and King Welfare and there is a Bishop's chair to the north of the altar. The organ was re-built in 1961, the cost of which was born by members of the congregation and the former garrison. It is a memorial to the Military Equitation Schools at Weedon Bec and Saugor, India.

THE VICAR'S VESTRY 

This was added in 1885 and completed the rebuilding work begun in 1823. 

  

IN GENERAL 

The architect at the rebuilding of the nave and chancel was E F Law, agent for James Powell & Sons of White Friars, London; the style is described as 'Batty-Langley Gothic, early 19th century'. This firm also supplied the gresaille diamond-shaped window panes throughout the church that are made of stamped quarry-glass. There is some fine Georgian glass in the north west corner of the church and also above the north door of the Chapter House.

THE SOUTH AISLE

The south porch was added in 1823 and in this aisle are the village War Memorial, several military memorials and memorials to former incumbents. On occasions, the Lady Chapel is used for Holy Communion. The Reserved Sacrement and Consecrated Oil are kept in the aumbry and the Mothers' Union banner is placed nearby. A window of the 1860s portrays Christ and the children, and one above the altar in memory of the Revd Idwal Lewis shows St Peter.

SOME OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST


Above and behind the pulpit is a slate panel that is virtually impossible to read but refers to a vicar from the late 1800s. The
board actually reads:


"TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF GEORGE WILLIAM WATSON FOR THREE YEARS THE ZEALOUS AND MUCH LOVED VICAR OF THE PARISH. THE CHANCEL OF THIS CHURCH WAS RESTORED BY THE PATRON AND PARISHIONERS AND THE FRIENDS, RELATIVES AND WIDOW OF THE DECEASED. HE DIED AT BRIGHTON, MAY 9, 1863 AGED 41. HE WAS BURIED IN HOVE CHURCHYARD"

Note: George William was the third son of James Eyre Watson of Marylebone, London. He graduated at Trinity College, Oxford in 1839 and obtained his MA in 1846. In 1856 he was made Perpetual Curate at Milford, Godalming and installed in Weedon on January 5th 1860. 

THE ORGAN

The organ was built and extended by Nicholsons of Malvern in 1961, incorporating electro-pneumatic actions. During 2009, the whole organ underwent a major overhaul, all the pipes were cleaned, the key contacts replaced, the mechanisms adjusted and after re-assembly and tuning, the organ sounds at its best. The organ has 31 stops, two 61 note manuals and a full RCO 32 note concave/radial pedal board. 









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