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Day off – so a chance to visit… another church- this time at Colmworth

A few weeks ago members of the Colmworth Local History Group visited both Little Paxton Church and Great Paxton Church – they were a most friendly and appreciative group. Colmworth is a 20 minute drive from St Neots and in St Albans Diocese.

So, responding to an invitation from one of the group to visit Colmworth Church, I sallied forth on my day off, armed with camera and really enjoyed myself under church member Thelma’s expert guidance. She has  written along with local school children a most excellent guide which I shall  enjoy as bed time reading.Thelma is an artist and her guide is full of her illustrations and expert knowledge.

The church at Colmworth is dedicated to St Denys, the patron saint of France which is quite unusual dedication:

st denys

His motto is:

The distance does not matter, it is the first step that counts”

The legend has it that he was the first Bishop of Paris who was martyred by  having his head chopped off and subsequently walked a league carrying his head. Thelma designed  the banner above which shows him setting out, unphased by his misfortune!

view from gallery taking in rood steps sept 20th

A view of the nave from the gallery, showing the entrance to the former rood loft.

Below are the steps – Im fascinated by rood loft steps – think of all the people who trod those tightly winding steps up to the rood – maybe the village musicians who played from the loft?

stairs to rood loft

Up in the gallery I had a good view of the Royal Coats of Arms dated 1830 – love the Lion’s (is it a lion?) face. Reminds me a bit of Bruce Forsyth…

royall arms sept 20th 09

In 1986 major work was done on re-ordering the nave following  the find of serious death watch beetle in the main purlins on the south east corner of the chancel. The beetle had reached pewing and the pew platforms and dry rot was also found. So, major work was set in hand, including  building a new balcony using  wood from the old pews. A toilet and kitchen area also was constructed ( well done, Colmworth!) .

Before commecning work, an archeological ” dig” was carried out which proved that an earlier church existed on the site as far back as 1187. A burial was found of a woman aged about 45 years in the west doorway – and she may have been a lady with French origins – possibly leading to the St Denys link.

The present church dates to the early 15th century  and was built  between 1426 and 1429 – in an incredible 4 years by Sir Gerard Braybrook – an old and honoured knight. He was pious and a generous benefactor to the canons at Bushmead Priory nearby.  It is built in the perepndicular style .

Above the south porch doorway is a blocked up arch – obviosuly intended as the entrance to a room for a priest – but never built. Sir Gerard died just before the church was finished – maybe then money ran out.

blocked arh doorway over porch sept 20th 09

One of the most noteworthy features of the church is the huge  monument of alabaster and black marble to the Dyer family- on the north wall by the altar.

It was erected by lady Catherine Dyer in 1641 for her husband. She wrote a poem on the death of her husband Sir William and it is the first poetry written by a woman to be recorded in this country:

My Dearest Dust

by Lady Catherine Dyer

My dearest dust, could not thy hasty day
Afford thy drowzy patience leave to stay
One hower longer: so that we might either
Sate up, or gone to bedd together?
But since thy finisht labor hath possest
Thy weary limbs with early rest,
Enjoy it sweetly: and thy widdowe bride
Shall soone repose her by thy slumbring side.
Whose business, now, is only to prepare
My nightly dress, and call to prayre:
Mine eyes wax heavy and ye day growes old.
The dew falls thick, my beloved growes cold.
Draw, draw ye closed curtaynes: and make room:
My dear, my dearest dust; I come, I come.
full view of dyer monument sept 20th 09
A visit is well worth while to enjoy the ceremonial armour of the time and clothing. Sir William has scallop shell emblems on his uniform:
Mr Dyer sept 20th 09
Mrs Dyer sept 20th 09
Mrs Dyer with her neatly laced bodice.
Fianlly, Dyer female siblings:

dyer monument - three daughters sept 20th 09

As well as the girls represented, there are four sons- two dressed as roundheads and two as Royalists – maybe explaining why the daughters all hold large handkerchiefs  and appear to be weeping – over the split in the family? During the civil war, most families were Royalist in the village.

After Cromwell, the church fell into a state of decay.

Jacobean chest sept 20th 09

The Jacobean altar – too small for purpose now.

And finally, outside in the churchyard stands a  wooden  cross in memory of a former vicar’s housekeeper who turned up on his doorstep a vagrant. He had compassion on her and she became a longstanding  servant in his household.

wooden cross of vagrant woman

And deserving a whole  blog devoted to himself  is a former Vicar of Colmworth – Rev Timothy Matthews who died in 1845. Influenced by Charles Simeon at Kings College in Cambridge, he was appointed to the curacies of Colmworth and Bolnhurst. He married a beuatiful lady called Ann Fielding but it was her mother who greatly infleunced him – she persuaded Timothy to adopt the Wesley practice of holding prayer and Class meetings at Colmworth Rectory at 7pm in the evening.

Timothy was  avery tall man, an imposing figure, but he was troubled, constantly searching for God’s will. He had a conversion experience in church one day and ” there fell as it were from his eyes scales of darkness and doubt” . It is said he became a new man – and he felt it was his duty to minister not just to his own people but to ” sinners perishing in the neglected parishes around him”  Henceforth, this large character was to be found preaching around the countryside of Bedford. At the Zion chapel in Ravensden is preserved his bugle – many of his sermons and letters are recorded. He became Chaplain to the House of Industry in Bedford.

Well, a church full of history and well worth a visit.

outside of church

And now, off to see Henry the 8th discover that he doesnt like his latest wife, Ann of Cleaves, one little bit…..

September 18, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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