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St Peter, Preston Deanery, Northamptonshire

(52°11′38″N, 0°50′54″W)
Preston Deanery
SP 788 557
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Northamptonshire
now Northamptonshire
medieval St Peter
now St Paul and St Peter
  • Kathryn Morrison

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Feature Sets

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.


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.


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

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.

RCHME Report, uncatalogued.
Victoria County History: Northamptonshire, IV (1937), 281f.
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.