725/14/4 ABINGTON PARK
19-JAN-52 ABINGTON PARK
CHURCH OF SAINT PETER AND SAINT PAUL
The oldest surviving fabric is the late C12 tower, but little remains of the nave to which it was attached, as the nave, aisles and much of the east end were taken down and rebuilt in 1823 following a collapse during a storm in 1821. A late C12 doorway is reset in the present S wall, but it is unclear if the former S aisle was also late C12. The chancel was lengthened in the C13, by which time the church also had aisles. Further work was done in the C15, probably including rebuilding the aisles and work on the chancel. The church was refurnished in the late C17 or very early C18, and retains several pieces from that date. It was substantially rebuilt in 1823, and restored in 1874. Many of the other furnishings, including the W gallery, date to the early C20.
Coursed and uncoursed limestone rubble. The 1823 windows are, unusually, of timber. Interior is partly plastered, partly stripped.
Very wide (44'), unaisled nave with N and S porches, W tower and N vestry. Chancel with chapels to N and S of differing lengths, neither extending the full length of the chancel. West gallery in nave. The unusual plan is the result of an 1823 rebuilding on older foundations of a formerly aisled nave. The aisles were removed and the nave roofed in a single span, but the former widths of the aisles are preserved in the chancel chapels
The embattled, unbuttressed W tower of 4 stages, with 2 light windows in the bell stage and blocked C12 lancets in the stage below. An inscription records repair in 1957. Small, segmental headed W doorway below 2-light Decorated W window below a large sundial. The single, wide roof of the nave gives the exterior a somewhat squat appearance. The nave windows are of 3 lights with intersecting Y-tracery made of timber, an interesting and unusual survival of the sort of "churchwardens' gothic" which was once common. S porch with double chamfered outer doorway, probably a survival from the medieval church. Inner doorway of c.1200, with a pointed arch of 3 square orders on moulded imposts. The SE chapel has a 3-light medieval south window with cusped lights, but no E window. The NE chapel has a late Perpendicular E window. The E wall of the NE chapel preserves the scar of an earlier low-pitched roof. The chancel has square-headed Perpendicular windows on its N and S faces. The E wall was rebuilt in 1823 and has a Y-tracery window like those in the nave. The E gable wall has coped merlons projecting above the roofline, creating an embattled effect. The 1938 vestries on the N side of the nave have shouldered-headed E and W doorways and a plain parapet.
Wide, hollow-chamfered C15 chancel arch on moulded capitals and polygonal responds. Lower, narrower flanking arches of similar design from the nave into the chancel chapels. Tower arch of two plain, square orders with a hood mould, now framed by a rectangular area of stripped stonework in an otherwise plastered and painted nave. W gallery of 1922 with a fielded panelled front on square columns. The nave ceiling has a decorative plaster roundel. The N wall of the chancel, now internal, has a splayed lancet window. In the S wall, there is a late Perpendicular sedilia. The chancel has an early C20 panelled dado, and a flat, plastered ceiling of 1823 with a coved cornice. The S chancel chapel is dominated by the large monument to Judge William Thursby (d.1700), which occupies almost the entire E wall.
Three-seat, late Perpendicular sedilia in the chancel with trefoiled heads on finely moulded shafts. It was exposed during restoration in 1874, seemingly almost entirely unrestored. There is also a piscina. C15 octagonal font, the bowl carved with roses, leaves, shields and quatrefoils on an octagonal stem with blind tracery. Royal arms of c.1660 over the tower arch. Fine Gibbons style pulpit of c.1700 with a very large tester. Hexagonal pulpit has fielded panels and cherubs with swags of fruit, flowers and corn. Matching tester has cartouches under arched pediments. Turned altar rails also c.1700. Painted timber Gothic Revival reredos with a crucifixion, dated 1921. Elaborate timber Gothic Revival lectern of 1916. Stained glass includes the E window of 1862 by Heaton, Butler and Bayne. The E window of the N chapel is by John Piper, installed 1981.
Numerous monuments. In the chancel the remains of a brass to William Mayle d.1536 and Margaret his wife d.1567, which formerly had figures of husband and wife, ten sons, and three daughters. In the NE chapel, two chest tombs to Sir Edmund Hampden, d.1627 and his wife, Elinor, d. 1634. The SE chapel is filled with monuments to the Thursbys, including two large, white marble wall monuments, both by Samuel Cox, that commemorate Richard Thursby and his father Downhall, d. 1733, the latter with a tablet with an open pediment and a bust. The largest and most ambitious is to Judge William Thursby, d. 1730, by Samuel Cox I. A standing figure in barrister's robes is flanked by Ionic pilasters with a baldicchino and drapery swags. Elizabeth, Lady Bernard, Shakespeare's granddaughter is reputed to be buried in the vault below the chapel. Her name was added to her husband's ledger slab, d. 1673, in 1902.
The churchyard wall towards the road, which has piers with Gothic tracery and lower walling topped by cast-iron railings, appears to be contemporary with the 1820s rebuilding. The church stands immediately to the SE of Abington Museum (q.v.), and forms a group with it.
Abington was subsumed into Northampton in 1900, but continues to function as an independent ecclesiastical parish. The church at Abington is first mentioned in the C13, but the tower and S door are C12, and the double-square plan of the former nave suggests that the core of the church dates to the Norman period. The church now stands in isolation next to Abington Museum (formerly the manor house), but this does not reflect its medieval history as the medieval village was depopulated and enclosed in the C17 to create a better setting for the house. The church reflects its close links to the manor in the post-medieval period, especially in the fine collection of tombs related to the families who lived at Abington Park, notably the Hampdens and Thursbys.
Pevsner, N and Cherry, B, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire (2nd ed, 1973), 343-4.
Salzman, L F, ed, The Victoria County History of Northamptonshire, vol 4 (1937), 65-9.
Jo Cox advice notes and photos
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
The church of St Peter and St Paul, Abington Park, should be designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* The church combines good fabric of c.1200 with an interesting and unusual rebuilding of the 1820s.
* Excellent fittings, including the C15 font and sedilia and the superb pulpit of c.1700.
* Very good monuments, which also reflect the close link between the church and the adjacent manor house.
* The wooden tracery in the nave windows is an exceptional survival of 'churchwardens' gothic' that was often replaced elsewhere.