St Mary's Church

150th Anniversary of The Great Restoration St Mary’s Church Woodford

18 July 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the reopening of St Mary’s Church, Woodford following the great restoration of 1865/7 carried out under the leadership of Rev Christopher Smyth.

Rev Smyth (a native of Louth, Lincolnshire) became Rector of St Mary’s Church Woodford at Christmas 1856 moving from Great Yarmouth where he had acted as curate. He married Clementina Royds (a “Lancashire lass”) in 1857. Rev Smyth was very influential in the restoration. A survey carried out by the Diocese in the early 1860s revealed a number of issues with the fabric of the church including leaking roofs, crumbling pillars and broken windows. Having already had a revised seating plan approved in December 1862 by the Architectural Society of the Archdeanery of Northamptonshire, in 1865 Rev Smyth obtained a faculty for the “rebuilding, repairing and improving of the Church at a cost of £1,960. Works included underpinning and the construction of a new arch at the east side of the tower, removal of the box pews, re-plastering walls and repairs to windows, introduction of heating, re-hanging of the bells and a new nave roof. The architect for this work was Mr Slater of London. In addition Rev Smyth paid for the complete renovations of the chancel including a new roof, new replacement window in the east wall and raised flooring at a cost of about £200. A number of memorials were moved from the chancel to other parts of the church, and the Trayli effigies moved to their current position and a remodelled pulpit without sounding board. New construction work included a new vestry and organ chamber on the north wall. The architect for the work in the chancel was Mr Fowler of Louth.

During the restoration, the infamous heart wrapped in a cloth was discovered and sealed in to one of the pillars in the north aisle. A time capsule not discovered until during further renovations in 1995, was also secreted in the roof during September 1866.

During the restoration work which had commenced in August 1865 services were held in the National School in Church Street. The works were completed to a certain extent by the summer of 1867. At the conclusion of the renovation the seating in the church was chairs, rather than pews, (the installation of which was completed 28 years later in 1895). The organ, donated by Mr R P Gunnell (once owner of Hill Cottage, later Hill House, now DeCapel House) in memory of his late wife, Frances, was also added following the completion of the restoration.

On 22 June 1867 the Northampton Mercury announced that at Woodford, the Parish Church will be re-opened after the restoration on Thursday 18th July with the following services,

Holy Communion 7.30

Morning Prayer and Sermon 11.00,

Afternoon Prayer and Sermon 3.00

Evening Prayer and Sermon 7.00

On 20th July the Mercury reported on the proceedings noting that with unexpected fine weather, the day commenced with the administration of the sacrament at 7.30am. There followed three further services throughout the day with visiting clergy participating throughout.

Preceding the 11am service, the choir and visiting clergy had processed from the Rectory to the Church singing the processional hymn “Oft in danger, oft in woe” and on reaching the church whilst the congregation took their seats sang the hymn “We love the place O God, wherein thine honour dwells” accompanied by Mr Worley on the harmonium.

The sermon was given by the Venerable Bickersteth of Aylesbury speaking on Revelation ch21 v2.

A shortfall of £300 in meeting the cost of the work existed but offerings at the first two services realised £70 7s 2 1/2d.

The full newspaper reports can be found here


Message from the Past

The following text is from a handwritted letter discovered in 1995 in a roof void above the altar in the chancel, handwritten on velum approximately 18 inches square.

Woodford September 17th 1866

Rector Revd Christopher Smyth 4th son of the Revd Wm Smyth of Elkington Hall, Louth, Lincolnshire

Curate Revd Thomas Stevens

Churchwardens Mr Joseph Walker, farmer-tenant of Glebe Farm

Mr William Linnell, farmer-tenant of Wm Bruce Stopford Esq of Drayton House, Lord of the Manor

Patron Lord St John of Melchbourne Park Kimbolton
Overseers of the Poor Mr Wm Hudson Jervis, farming his own property of about 200 acres, and Sam Allen - Miller

THE LANDED PROPRIETORS Wm Bruce Stopford of Drayton about 600 acres
General Arbuthnot 671 acres Rectory land 360 acres Mr Wm Jervis 167 acres
Daventry Charity 120 acres R P Gunnell 50 acres Woodford Charity 28 acres and numerous small properties

Church Land (repairs) 14 acres Extent of Parish 2133 acres
Gross estimated rental 5615 Rateable Value 4650

We give from 16s to £1 per ton for coal - meat 7d - 8d per pound

A new railroad has been opened from Leicester to Huntingdon giving an outlet for the ironstone which is just begun to be worked in this neighbourhood. The estate of General Arbuthnot in this Parish is being worked but no iron sold at present. The ore is said to be of poor quality - it lies near Twywell station and along the valley towards Cranford.

Population in 1851 about 720, in 1861 - 912. This increase caused by the building of 50 new houses in 1859 and 1860 in the upper part of the valley forming a block of buildings called New Town. This addition to the population has by no means improved the Character of the Parish. It invited the refuse of neighbouring close parishes to seek a home here. The houses were mostly built with money borrowed from a Building Society at Wellingborough, and the builders not being able to pay the interest of the money borrowed have in some cases had to sell their cottages at a great loss.

The rent of cottages runs from 1 shilling a week to £6 a year.

The trade of the village is that of shoemaking, about 200 in all working for the Army and foreign trade. A good shoemaker with his boy will sometimes earn 22 or 23 shillings a week. The agricultural labourer 10 or 11 shillings except at harvest. Lacemaking has nearly passed away from us. The Anabaptist form of dissent alone is strong in the Parish. It lives by opposition to the Church and her wholesome teaching – However, they soon grow weary of their preachers whom they change on average every 2 years and they are constantly quarrelling about Calvinism – May the Almighty God in his own good time bring these wandering sheep home from the fold from which they have strayed - and grant that they who are against us on earth may be with us in Heaven through the merit of a Blessed Saviour. AMEN.

What will be the form of Religious Belief prevailing here, when this Parchment next sees the light of day, God only knows. The present generation and many after us will probably have been gathered to our fathers - to that world of spirits awaiting the sentence of the judgment. And then we shall clearly see what at present is inscrutable and dark. This we know and feel that the future is in God's hands and therefore the future of England's glorious Church. Her enemies are many who would rob her of her ancient heritage but God will protect her so long as she does His work in His way - When she ceases to do this and not before will her Candlestick be removed out of its place.

Meanwhile God give me and my brother ministers of the Holy Gospel, Bishops priests and deacons to labour faithfully in that branch portion of the Lord's Vineyard to which we have been called by the Grace of God.

I entered upon the living about Christmas 1856. The previous incumbent having died early in November. The old Rectory pulled down nearly 50 years ago stood at the NE corner of the Churchyard. A cellar of the old house still remains adjoining the old farmhouse occupied by Mr Walker. The present rectory is plain outside but commodious. It is not however substantially built and will I doubt not soon give way to a better structure.
In July 1857 I married Clementina daughter of Clement Royds Esq. of Rochdale and the following year (God having given us the means) we built a National School for the use of the Parish as a thank offering for our happiness. The first stone was laid on July 1 1858. The School was opened on Jan 3 1859. The Masters have been Mr Tregear, Mr Thomas Knights and Mr Albert Harding.

The original design of the Church in which this document is placed in all probability consisted of a Tower, Nave with three half circular arches and one pointed on each side, two aisles and a Chancel with two half circular arches on each side separating it from Chancel Aisles. The Chancel divided off from the Nave by half circular arch. Date about 1170.

On AD 1206 Woodford was divided into two moieties (Bridges History of Northamptonshire) The Church was made to serve for both by adding a second Chancel the old Chancel being thrown into the Nave. The old Chancel Arch was then taken down and a new one built to correspond with that further East and in order to make the pier smaller the abutting arches East of Nave and West of Chancel made of wider span preserving the half circular form.

To form the second or Western Church the arches on S side taken down and a new arcade of three pointed arches erected, the old Columns being reused. The Western Church divided by a Screen from the Eastern Church. The aisles at the same time rebuilt (W window of N Aisle being of this date) also probably a transept with E and W

Aisles on S side.
Roof of transept and Porch high pitched and transept arches erected across the S aisle to support these roofs AD 1400-24. S arcade of original Chancel or Eastern Church taken down and two pointed arches built on the old Columns. Rood Screen and Staircase and clerestory to this part of the Church only.

AD 1500-1550 Clerestory extended Flat roofs and new Aisle Windows and transepts pulled down with its roof and roof of Porch. The aisle roofs made of uniform height and pitch and probably two transverse arches abutting on the Central Arch between E and Western Church pulled down AD 1640 S Aisle reroofed.

The Church being in a delapidated condition Mr Slater of London Architect was called in to examine it. It was determined by the vestry to underpin the foundations of the E wall of tower with Masonry, remove the broken arch and reconstruct it raising the piers about one foot six inches - repair tower - new block - rehanging the bells - glass louvers etc to cost about £300.

S Aisle. Rebuild west end portion of wall on new foundations - take down and rebuild Clerestory arches and pillars of W Church on that side - repair roof at E end and two western bays £300

Nave roof in oak - deal boarding - old beams made good where possible –
new lead stack piping etc £300
North aisle. New roof-lead etc £220
Vestry - none having existed before £200

Besides this the church to be newly plastered, floored, seated (alike for rich and poor) warmed, at the entire cost of about £2000. Independently of this, (the) Chancel which my dear wife and I dedicate with the little sum we have laid out in rebuilding the East wall with the triple lancet in place of the vile flatheaded decorated (?) of the very worst style. New N and S windows. New roof and tiles floor with reredos to the eternal glory of God who has given us so many blessings - would we could render it more worthy of Him.

Of the £200 for the body of the Church half is raised by rate and half by subscription.
The organ is given by R P Gunnell Esq as a memorial to his wife who died in the Spring.
During the progress of the works a human heart was found wrapped in a cloth together with box enclosing it in the soffit of the half circular arch on North side of Nave and 4th arch from the tower. Also earthen pot or urn in N Aisle - a bodkin of white metal and a few coins mostly Nuremburg tokens.

The recumbent figures in the church are supposed to be those of Sir Walter de Trailly and Alianora his wife.

Divine Service has been held in the School Room during the church Restoration which began in August 1865 - we do not expect to have a formal opening until our feast week, the second week in July 1867.

The cattle plague has raged here in England for about a year - one in twenty have died. None lost in this Parish. The Cholera too is present chiefly in London.

This record has been deposited with the hope and conviction that it may be of interest to those who shall in ages perhaps come to repair the roof of the chancel. It may be like a voice from the dead.

May God through Jesus Christ pardon all our shortcomings. AMEN.

Christopher Smyth Rector
William Linnell
Joseph Walker Churchwardens

The Bell Refurbishment 1912/13

L-R Bert Perrett, William Hayo, William Wilson, Thomas Wilson, Rev G M Davison, Benjamin Green, John Bunning, Alfred Jeffs

The five bells from St Mary’s Church, Woodford were removed in December 1912, (photo) and taken to John Taylor’s Bell Foundry at Loughborough for refurbishment. On Monday 30th December the Rector, Churchwardens and Bell Ringers went to Loughborough to view the casting of a sixth bell. Cyril Wilson (Bell ringing son of William Wilson) recalled that the thirteen men sat down to a seven-course lunch at the foundry. One of the group joked that thirteen sitting down for a meal was “bad luck”.

Just a few days later, one of those who had travelled to Loughborough, Bertie Perrett, was crushed by two runaway wagons on 2nd January at the Islip Furnaces. He was moved to Kettering Hospital but died of his injuries later that evening.  The inquest on 4th January heard that he had been working at the wagon dock for twelve years but it was not known why the deceased had jumped to the side of the track in the loading bay. One wagon passed him, but the second wagon had an open side door which cause the fatal injuries. He was 36 years of age, married to Annie Maria (nee Tiney) with three sons.

Probate for Bert Perrett of Myrtle Cottage Woodford, Northamptonshire, a pig lifter died 2 January 1913 at Kettering Northamptonshire Probate – Peterborough 22 February was awarded to Cyril Tiney labourer and Bartlett Tiney Innkeeper. Effects £292 2s 7d.

On Monday 24th February 1913 the Church Bells were rededicated by Archdeacon Moore (of Oakham). After the service the bells were rung, a retiring collection for school funds was made and tea was served in the Reading Room.

Nearly ninety years later two additional bells were cast by Taylors, and installed, making a ring of eight bells.