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Holy Trinity, Rothwell, Northamptonshire

(52°25′21″N, 0°48′5″W)
SP 816 812
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Northamptonshire
now Northamptonshire
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

Rothwell is a small town towards the N of the county, 3 miles W of Kettering on the A14, where it crosses the A6 to Market Harborough and Leicester. The church is in the centre of town, and is the longest in the county at 173 feet. Its building history is a complex one and can only be sketched here. The Norman church was cruciform, and the size of the crossing piers indicates that there was once a central tower. The nave is now of four bays, with early 13thc. arcades which have been heightened, possibly when the aisles were widened. The W tower arch, of c.1280-1300, suggests that this was done before that date. The W tower itself is earlier, c.1170-80 in its lower parts, and this includes the arch of the W doorway, re-set on early 13thc. embrasures. The tower was raised by a storey, and a spire added but this fell in 1660, taking with it (according to Bridges) six bays of the church. The tower is now capped by a low pyramid roof with a spike. The Norman chancel wall survives on the S, with a corbel table marking the original height and three round-headed windows below it. Four-bay chapels were added on either side, perhaps in the 13thc., but the two easternmost S chapels have been removed. Further chapels have been removed from the S walls of the S transept, and of the remaining S chapels. The church was lengthened eastwards in the 15thc., and at the same time a clerestorey added to the nave and transept. Construction is of ironstone. The church was extensively restored at the expense of the parish between 1900 and 1906.


In 1086 the royal manor of Rothwell also included Orton and land in Loddington, Glendon, Draughton, Arthingworth, Desborough, Kelmarsh, Great Oxenden, Clipston, Great Cransley and Broughton. Henry I presented the manor to Eudo de Haschull, and it passed by marriage to Roger de Clare. In 1133 the church was given to Cirencester abbey while the manor remained with the Clares (later earls of Gloucester). It was recorded as a borough in 1173x76; a market existed by 1202, when its day was changed, and a fair was granted by King John in 1204. Both were held by Richard, Earl of Clare in 1204. After 1536, when Cirencester was dissolved, Rothwell began to decline, and in 1570 it was apparently full of holes, like a dovecote. A small house of Austin nuns was founded at Rothwell in the 13thc. It is known to have been on high ground on the Desborough side of the town (i.e. the N), but its exact site is uncertain.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

The corbels are too worn for any dating or comparison to be of much value, although the trefoil cusping of the table suggests the second half of the 12thc. The spectacular chevron decoration found on the W doorway finds no local comparison. Centripetal chevron appears at Great Addington, Pilton, Little Harrowden and Castle Ashby but not with this degree of sophistication.

RCHME Report, uncatalogued.
Victoria County History: Northamptonshire. II (1906), 137-38 (on Rothwell nunnery).
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, II, 62-66.
S. Hawkins, Holy Trinity Rothwell: A Guide, Rothwell 1999.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire, Harmondsworth 1961, rev. B. Cherry 1973, 390-93.