A brief history of St. Mary’s Church

The present building was erected in 1843 on the site of a medieval church. The original structure had deteriorated to such an extent that it was felt that it was impossible to repair, so despite some controversy from a few villagers it was demolished and rebuilt in the Decorated style. This provided the opportunity to add a north transept and vestry. The old church had a steeple at its west end but the new one has an impressive tower containing a belfry at its centre.

The tall tower, a local landmark, was surmounted by a parapet and pinnacles. However, in 1971 these were judged unsafe and had to be lowered by 10 feet making the new height 90 feet. Parts of the removed stone work can be seen in several houses and gardens around the village.  The tower clock was given by the villagers to commemorate Queeen Victoria’s Diamond Juilee. The original mechanism is still being used today.

The belfry, which is reached by a spiral staircase accessed from the churchyard, contains six well-maintained bells. These are rung to announce services as well as to celebrate weddings and other occasions for rejoicing. Three of the bells, the 2nd, 3rd and Tenor, are contemporary with the church. In 1919, the old 4th bell was recast as a thanksgiving for peace after the First World War and the 1843 bells were re-tuned and re-hung in the original oak frame.

In 1993, as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations, a further bell was added to make a ring of six and the 4th (the original third) was recast. Of course being rung from the upstairs ringing room, the work of the ringers is only ever heard and never seen, but visitors to the tower on Tuesday practice night are always welcome.

Details of the bells are:

Treble 5-2-8 cwts in D (Taylors 1993)

2nd 4-3-25 cwts in C (Whitechapel 1843)

3rd 6-0-8 cwts in Bb (Whitechapel 1843)

4th 7-2-14 cwts in A (Taylors 2000)

5th 8-0-12 cwts in G (Gillett & Johnston 1919)

Tenor 10-2-18 cwts in F (Whitechapel 1843)

A question about the bells that has never been satisfactorily answered even by the foundry that cast it, is why the inscription on the 2nd bell says ‘God Save The King’ but is dated some 5 years after Queen Victoria ascended the Throne!

The organ, which is dedicated to the Revd. Hugh Tupholme, was installed in 1956 and replaced one that had been used for over 50 years. Prior to that music was provided by an harmonium. Over the years many gifts have been given to the church and these are listed in an album in the Young Chapel.  When the church was rebuilt many old memorials were saved and reinstalled in the new building. In a recess there is an alabaster effigy of the a knight inscribed “I H C Nazareni”. He is reputed to be Jock of Badsaddle, a deserted village west of Orlingbury, who is said to have killed the last wolf (or boar) in England.

On the wall opposite is a small brass plaque, inscribed in Latin, to the memory of John May, father of the rector, who died August 2nd 1400. Beside the vestry door is a diamond shaped memorial to Elizabeth, Countess Watersleban, who was born in Cracow, Prussia in 1764. Her second husband was John Whitehouse, Rector of Orlingbury until 1807 and sometime chaplain to H.R.H the Duke of York.

The ornate angel topped altar surround was made by Frank Knight who lived in the Old Rectory. He was a renowned gold and silversmith with premises in Wellingborough.

In the south transept are many wall inscriptions in commemoration to members of the Young family. It was A.A. Young of Orlingbury Hall (just across the green from the church) who contributed £1200 towards the cost of the rebuilding which was £4,500.  The small chapel bears the family name.

In the corner of this chapel is an octagonal font, possibly Norman, and presumably from the old church, that was discovered in the grounds of The Hall and retrurned here.

Set in the floor of the chapel are small brasses which were formerly on a tomb which was 3ft. high. These show William Lane who died in 1502 and his wife, Elizabeth. They lived in the old Orlingbury Hall.

The stunning chancel windows, paid for by the Rector, Revd. Hilton, shows important events in the life of Christ. In the 1920’s the glass in the beautiful rose window behind the altar was installed as the original had perished. The window shows Saint Peter at the top and Mary at the bottom with the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John looking on.

Two other windows in the nave commemorate the lives of local people. The one beside the war memorial showing St. Christopher remembers John Jacques, the son of a former rector. There is a further memorial remembering those local men who died in the 2nd World War in the Village Hall.

The window opposite was given by the Ormerod family in 1993 in memory of Dr. June Ormerod, a well loved and respected villager. The scrap book contains an article which describes its contents. There is also the original design draft for the window displayed in the Young Chapel.

An unusual feature of the church is to be found in the placing of the pulpit on the south wall when tradition places the pulpit on the North, the reason for this positioning is unknown.

In 2005 the benfice of Orlingbury and Great with Little Harrowden united with those of Isham and Pytchley. This is a simlar arrangement to that which was in place 1947 to 1952 when the village of Hardwick was also included. This was known as “The Isham Group” and functioned under one priest who was aided by two curates, today we all share one parish priest and one curate!

Why not then sit and rest a while and remember to whom this church was built and maybe to offer a prayer for yourself and those in need.

Today Orlingbury is a thriving village church with weekly Sunday services usually at 11am. If you are in the area why not drop in and join us.

This information was compiled with help from Jenny Cole and Tim Samson to whom we are much indebited.


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