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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Cambridgeshire

by Peter Kessler, 2 December 2009

 

 

Peterborough Part 3: Churches of Glinton & Peakirk

St Benedict's Church, Glinton

St Benedict's Church is on the High Street in the village of Glinton, immediately to the north of Werrington in Peterborough. A church was established here by the Middle Angles, although the date is unknown. Early writings show that the Manor of Glintone had a chapel which was subject to the Abbot of St Pega's Monastery. Of the early Saxon church, which was probably a simple rectangular building built using split tree trunks, wattle and clay, nothing remains.

St Benedict's Church, Glinton

That early church probably stood on the same site as the current building since this is the highest local knoll of land. It was replaced by the current Norman building in around the twelfth century and this, with its tall slender spire, can be seen for miles around. It is considered to be one of the finest needle spires in the country. The church also features a gargoyle on the south side of the roof taking aim at Peterborough Cathedral, the work of an underpaid mason.

St Benedict's Church, Glinton

The earliest date for parish records is 1567, and the same records show that in the 1690s the six church bells were rung at 4.00am and 8.00pm from Michelmas to Lady Day and a Mr John Haines was paid 1/7/6 (in pounds, shillings and pence) per annum to ring the bell and a further pound to maintain them. However, St Benedict's remained a chapel of ease for Peakirk and was served by curates until 1875, at which date a parson was finally appointed.

St Pega's Church, Peakirk

St Pega's Church is in Peakirk, about a kilometre and-a-half (one mile) east of Glinton. The village is small and well kept, with some lovely old cottages, and its church is named after St Pega, the sister of Guthlac, who set up a hermitage in the Peterborough fens. Pega built her hermitage in imitation of her brother, both of whom were from one of the great noble Anglian families, and it may be that the current church at Peakirk is built on the site of Pega's retreat.

St Pega's Church, Peakirk

The current church was built in the eleventh century, and the dedication to St Pega is unique. A north aisle was added in 1170, with a south aisle added about fifty years later. This church is nationally famous for a series of wall paintings, mainly to be found on the north aisle. Wall paintings were common in churches before stained glass windows and were used to teach morality in an age in which few people could read or write, and these were discovered by accident.

St Pega's Church, Peakirk

In 1945 traces of colour were seen when a bracket was inserted in to the wall of the north aisle in order that a curtain pole could be fixed. This removed some limewash and it was evident that a wall painting had been covered over, almost certainly during the English Reformation, when Catholic images were replaced with basic Bible texts or painted out completely. By 1950, a whole series of wall paintings had been uncovered depicting the Passion Cycle.

All photos on this page contributed by M Kessler.

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