Parish of the Six Saints circa Holt
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St. Andrew's Great Easton - History

This is basically a 13th century church and was probably started about the year 1250. It was likely to have been a small Norman church consisting of nave and chancel only. Two lengths of herringbone walling on the north-west exterior wall of the nave are typical of the early Norman period.

The north aisle, and probably the south aisle too, would originally have had small windows. The clerestory windows above the arches were included when the nave roof was raised and may well date from the early 14th century.

The coat of arms on the board above the door into the tower is that of King William III and dates from between 27th December 1694 when Queen Mary II died, and 8th March 1702 when William himself died. It is unusual in being a rare instance of William without Mary.

Above the pillars of the northern nave arcade are a series of small carved stone faces. There are more on both sides of the nave where they probably formed supports for the timbers of the nave roof before it was raised to insert the clerestory windows. The faces high on the nave walls appear to be those of six ladies, each wearing the medieval wimple head-dress. Another face is wearing a mitre and is believed to be a representation of St. Thomas a Becket.

A small pointed alcove in the east wall, to the right of the present altar in the north aisle, is a piscina. It has a small drain hole and was used for rinsing the holy vessels after Mass and so demonstrates that an altar stood here in pre-Reformation days.

The two stained glass windows in the north aisle are both to members of the Greaves family who lived in the village in the 19th century. The head of the family, Thomas Ley Greaves, was the village doctor for many years. His memorial is the narrow, lancet east window. Around the edge are the Latin words, “Maerens, Sperans, Amans, Pater Orbatus Lumen Illuminatum Dedicavit”. This, translated, is “A grieving, hoping, loving father, bereft, dedicated an illuminated window.”

The other stained glass window is at the east end of the north wall of the aisle. The two-light window depicts scenes from the Gospels: firstly, the raising of the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, with the text, “She is not dead, but sleepeth”, and, secondly, the wise virgin, with the text “Be ye also ready” taken from another parable. This window is in memory of Julia Sibella Greaves, the youngest daughter of Thomas Ley Greaves, who died on 4th December 1856, aged only fifteen.

There are two stained glass windows in the south aisle. The one to the west commemorates John Holland and his wife, Mary Anne, the other is to the memory of Rebecca Wignell.

When the eastwards extensions were built in 1536 a chantry chapel was created. In pre-Reformation days chantries were established by wealthy people, primarily as an endowment to provide a stipend for a chaplain who said Mass daily for the soul of the founder of the chantry and his family. The Great Easton chantry was founded by Thomas Waldram, the bailiff for the Abbot of Peterborough in Great Easton and occupier of Rectory Farm to the east of the church. It was in memory of his wife, Dorothy. (The organ now occupies most of the former chantry chapel).

The stained glass in the east window was given in 1889 by Canon Whyley, the Vicar between 1874 and 1893, and his wife, Florence. There are rows of plain glass at the bottom of the centre panel as that part of the window would have been obscured by the top of the reredos, hence the Canon obviously did not consider it justified being filled by expensive stained glass. He could not foresee that the reredos would ever be removed!

Inside the sanctuary there is a much-mutilated stone effigy lying on a stone slab. This is believed to be the effigy of Richard de Sprydlington, Rector of Bringhurst from 1359 to 1382. On the south wall are four memorial wall tablets. Two of them are to the daughters of Edward Ireson (vicar from 1772-1824): Mary, the elder daughter, died in 1798 and Rebecca in 1811. The memorial to the latter was erected by William Wignell, to whom she appears to have been engaged to be married. He survived her by 37 years and is commemorated on another of the tablets. The final tablet is to John Wignell, who is the first recorded village doctor.

The belfry houses six bells with a tenor weight of 9cwt. and a new treble bell was added in 1997.