Saturday, 10 November 2012

St Mary & All Saints, Fotheringhay

Fotheringhay's magnificent perpendicular parish church stands on the banks of the Nene, like a ship about to set sail from the hills of Northamptonshire through the fens, with its octagonal lantern and flying buttresses. It is in fact just a relic of the days when Fotheringhay was a royal manor. The mighty but long demolished castle was a stronghold of the Yorkists, birthplace of Richard III, and most famously the site of the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. 

The church as we see it today is the surviving nave of a much larger collegiate foundation. It was built mostly in the 1430s by Edward III and is remarkably all as one piece, something rare in English ecclesiastical architecture. The bright and elegant perpendicular tracery abruptly ends in a flat wall where once the building continued to form the chancel. To the south were the associated buildings for the college of canons, and today this is visible from the blocked arches in the South East corner of the church. The entire ensemble was intended as a great monument to the House of York. Despite being constructed of beautiful local limestone, it was originally rendered and painted white which would have given it an even more striking appearance.

The church has a wonderful collection of gargoyles along the outside of the clerestory including one of a squatting man exposing his bum!

After the Dissolution, its college was closed and demolished. Eventually the chancel collapsed and Elizabeth I had memorials to her ancestors moved into the nave. The castle experienced a steady decline through the 17th Century and today only the mound exists. The village, which has other remains of mediaeval buildings, went from Royal Town to sleepy hamlet, with less than 200 inhabitants today.

The Fan Vault in the West Tower

No comments:

Post a Comment