St Peter and St Paul, Preston Deanery, Northamptonshire
- Site Location
- Preston Deanery
- National Grid Reference
- SP 788 557
now: Peterborough from 1539
now (or name of monument): St Peter and St Paul 1415
- Type of building/monument
- Parish church
II General Description
This small church is now looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust (formerly Redundant Churches Fund), and a cowshed has been built at the W end. It has a 12thc. W tower with a central pilaster-buttress on each face, a single nave, and a square-ended chancel. The chancel arch is Romanesque, and its extended W imposts are carved with figural motifs.
IV Interior Features
a. Chancel arch/Apse arches
(i) Chancel arch
The plain, round-headed chancel arch, now rendered, has whitewashed impost blocks, which continue along the W face of the wall. Within the arch itself, and on the inner blocks on the W wall, to both N and S, the tall uprights of these impost blocks are carved with a double row of sawtooth. Beyond that, on the S, is a snake, its body twisted into a figure-of-eight and decorated with dots (circular holes). Its tail and its tongue continue to form the two separate strands of a lozenge pattern, which is interrupted by the nave wall. The design on the N is less clear. From S to N it appears to be carved with a bird, which faces N, then a creature, which has been identified as another bird and (by Friendship-Taylor) as 'an indeterminate animal', but is probably a dragon. Again, the design becomes a lozenge pattern, but the relationship with the dragon and bird is less clear.
In 1086 the small settlement of Preston Deanery was effectively held by Winemar, who held 1 hide from the Bishop of Coutances and 3 virgates from Countess Judith. No church was noted at this time, but the place name (priest-tun) suggests one. Preston deanery was originally part of the estate of Yardley Hastings, and some of the land there was still under the soke of Yardley Hastings in 1086. The church was given to St Andrew's Priory, Northampton in 1155-66, by Gilbert de Preston, then lord of the manor. Piddington may have begun as a daughter parish of Preston, but had certainly become an independent parish by 1204, when the lord of Piddington gave the advowson to St John's Hospital, Northampton. It fell into disuse after the reformation, but was restored in 1620. Further restorations followed, in 1901 and 1976, when it came into the care of the Redundant Churches Fund. The carving on the chancel arch was uncovered by the Upper Nene Archaeological Society when recording the church.
The Redundant Churches Fund guidebook (1987) dates the carving on the chancel arch imposts to 'the late 10th or early 11th century', and suggests that they 'represent fragments of a churchyard cross'. The inconvenient presence of sawtooth has been explained thus: 'the Norman builders, when reusing the stone, completed the frieze with further lengths of limestone shaped to match and added to the decoration with rows of simple chevron'. The form of the imposts - their narrowness and chamfered lower edges - together with the inclusion of lozenge motifs (closely related to the earlier saltire cross motif, but not chip-carved), indicate that such an early date is impossible: the imposts in their entirety must date from the late 11thc. or early 12thc., a period in which the (admittedly crude) animal carving finds numerous parallels. The suggestion that the carvings are from a churchyard cross is difficult to substantiate.
- J. Bridges, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire, Compiled from the manuscript collections of the late learned antiquary J.Bridges, Esq., by the Rev. Peter Whalley, Oxford, 1791, I, 381-83.
- D. E. Friendship-Taylor, St Peter and St Paul, Preston Deanery, Northamptonshire, Redundant Churches Fund, 1987.
- N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire, Harmondsworth, 1961, rev. by B. Cherry, 1973, 379.
- RCHME Report, uncatalogued.
- Victoria County History: Northamptonshire, IV (1937), 281f.