Welcome!  Press the arrow on the left.   The sound of  Fotheringhay Bells.                The recording was made in the ringing chamber.

   A brief view of items on this site.

Fotheringhay bells.mp3

Michael has worked his way through to retirement from 1948 when, as an apprentice electrician, he started work with 'BTH' Peterborough.  In 1962 he became self employed in the same trade. In even later years he became a church bell hanger and restorer of ancient turret clocks.  He has worked in some wonderful places such as Peterborough Cathedral, Burghley House Stamford and Fotheringhay Church where a project to restore the bells and associated  fabric took him 10 years , which he continues to maintain.                                                                                                       

This complete website has a line of connections with his first research into the life and works of Henry Penn, Peterborough Bellfounder(1685-1729).  John Watts Stamford Clockmaker, followed as he was found to be his contemporary making many types of clocks between the years 1670-1707.   Early research led to the Stamford Mercury where one of its very early advertisements of 1716 led eventually to John Hill who was educated at 'King's' Peterborough. Hill later became a famous London apothecary and botanist.    

                                                                          Wood Sorrel from John Hill's Family Herbal.

A very interesting investigation followed looking into early devices that would be capable of lifting and weighing a Penn bell over one and a half tons. One early mention of such a device was at Yardley Hastings,Northamptonshire where in 1722 a man was sent to the next village to fetch a beam to weight the bells. This work led to the King’s Lynn. Norwich, Woodbridge, Yarmouth and  Soham steelyards.     

                                                     Below drawing of the beam. Part of King's Lynn steelyard.

Henry Penn cast just one bell for Kings  Cliffe Church in Northamptonshire.  A memorial near to the steps which accessed the bells led to an investigation into the Thorp family. Thomas, great grandfather. Thomas, grandfather, Thomas father,  free-mason who built Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire (Shown Below). His son John (a great friend of Henry Peacham first master of Kimbolton School,  Huntingdon).

                                John Thorp became Surveyor to General Queen Elizabeth I.                                                                                      

The story of Fotheringhay Church starts Here. One of the greater loves of the writer.

William Horwood, left, was an architect, free-mason.  His  mason's mark is cut into the stone of the church many times.  It is one of the few that form an anagram shown here a letter h with half the w at the top and the other at the bottom. this makes it  easily recognisable. Other masons marks are clearly visible.

The multiple photograph (below) gives a good idea of the beauty of this medieval structure.  Photographs of the gargoyles surround it.  Built in 1434 by free-mason architect William Horwood who can be seen above leaning against his drawing board and the first gargoyle in the group.  He is at the extreme north-east and is the first to see the sunrise.  Next to him is his dog Blaster.  The green man who surrounds us all is next.   At his right is the Duchess of York and  then Richard the third Duke.   Then comes William Woolston squire, who drew up the contract for the Duke of York, then living in the nearby castle.  He is followed by Thomas Pecham clerk of the works. As you can see he is a pig.  Beside him is the master mason and warden on the extreme west on the north side.  

What looks like the Black Death follows (on the south side) and it is best that you shut your eyes now. But if you are an adult you can look at the next, a bum.  The village gossip is next  holding her mouth open and we all have a village idiot.  

A copy of the  Contract (to the left) is on display in the church.  It has the very early use of the word freemason and is thought to be the only document of its type to exist.

In 1990 a secret room (shown on the next Fotheringhay page) was found beneath the entrance porch.  The stonework used in the walls  has the master masons marks and displays many decorative blocks of stone of the Norman church that once stood on the site. It is thought that this is a statement by these masons and the large chamber was used as their masons lodge.  Recently a group of   free-masons from local Masonic lodges gave a substantial sum of money for restoration at Fotheringhay and a copy of the contract was given to the Northampton branch for display. 

Although Cecily Neville wife of Richard Third Duke  is displayed on the north side of the church as a gargoyle. She was known to be a beautiful woman.  On the south-east corner of the lantern tower she is depicted in this way' a lovely face looks down.  If one looks carefully at the lantern or the photograph left she has a period head dress.It is possible that she was very disappointed with her gargoyle and got the masons to rectify this in this way.

In 1981 the writer surveyed the bells and fittings at St. Mary and All Saints Church and found that the bellframe support beam ends had rotted away in the position where they entered the walls.  The bells had not been rung in living memory until one day under the pretence of just looking in the bellchamber a group of so called ringers fitted some ropes on the decrepit bellwheels and rang them at the very high risk of being killed.  The photograph (left) was taken by these ringers and published.

 In 1988 the go-ahead was given to remove the bells and rotting timbers and on the 5th of December of that year Nicholas Meadwell, Chris Higgings, the writer and other helpers lowered these four ancient bells to the ground floor.  At one time there were five bells as one bell pit at the bottom of the photograph can be seen to be empty. It is thought that the bell was cast by Henry Penn.  It was recast in 1817 and now sits on a window ledge in the ringing chamber.  It weighs about 3.5 hundredweight.                                                                

Major restoration took place to repair spiral steps and two floors, sound outlets and much more before the four ancient bells (the earliest dated and signed PRAISE GOD+HB+WW+1595) were rehung with two new treble (smallest) bells dated 1989, the year the work was completed.  The two trebles were inscribed FAITH HOPE AND LOVE 1989.  AND PEACE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD 1989.   There was talk of new life and a voice being brought back to the medieval church.  This is the case as the bells are not only rung for service but also for weddings of which 14 have taken place in 2012.  Photographs by Christopher Puddephatt.  (left) show the six bells in a new metal frame with ringers below.  The R.S.J. beams were set into 12 tons of concrete.   


The ringing chamber is 22 feet square and retains its medieval timber ceiling. Ringers stand a few feet above the vaulted ceiling (under the tower in the church) seen heading this page. 

The views from the three windows in the chamber are quite spectacular.  One in particular exposes a fine panoramic view of the River Nene as it flows east to Peterborough and the sea and upstream towards Northampton.

The bells are open to visiting ringers and also to touring non-ringers who wish to have a look around this very interesting section of the lantern tower.   

                   Our Vicar is The Rev. Anne Hindle.

Two small pictures left.  Robert Wyatt cut his name into the wall of the ringing chamber.  He also carves the date and that he rings 2 bell  (the second bell).   Robert was a soldier in the Napoleonic War.  Digging near the moat of Fotheringhay Castle he found a ring said to belong to Mary Queen of Scots.

Photograph (left) a medieval wall painting at the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Leodegarius, Ashby St. Ledgers, Northamptonshire. 

A skeleton is depicted as a sexton on the west wall under the tower. The figure of Death holds a spade and pick.

Similar fragment (right) of a medieval painting again on the west wall under the tower at Fotheringhay.   Visitors often ask what this painting depicts. A visiting vicar said 'this is what you will turn into if you fail to come to church.

Details below may offer a clue.

Old Scarlet, sexton is depicted on the west wall of Peterborough Cathedral. His first royal funeral duty came in 1536, when he buried Katherine of Aragon.                                                 

 On Monday 31st July 1587 he buried Mary Queen of Scots who had been sadly executed in the castle hall here at Fotheringhay.  

Note that the positions of the spade an shovel are similar to Ashby St. Ledgers.

Vaulted ceiling.  Look up under the tower at the exquisite fan vaulted ceiling. Four small angels holding shields support the central ribs of each fan.  The vaulting spreads out from a circular access with the badge of York.  Around the circumference forty small finials point towards the centre. The four fans have six tapering bays with upper and lower trefoil arches, as if they were windows to the sky.  Each of the upper arches has two finials at the base, all of which are unique in design consisting  mainly York Badges.     Two of the angels  right and left.  The angels in the S.W. and N.W. corner have the mason’s mark of the Horwood family (who built the church in 1434) on the bottom right section of the each shield.  The other two shields look blank.  Are these the four angels of the most high God?

 'They shall write on all the shields of the towers: on the first, Michael, on the second, Gabriel, on the third Sariel, and on the fourth, Raphael.   Michael and Gabriel shall stand on the right, and Sariel and Raphael on the left'  The Dead Sea Scrolls in English  By Geza Vermes.   

The one in the N.W. corner has medieval letters and figures at the base.  They have been deciphered as - Alpha  and Omeg  Anno Domini Glory to God in the Highest in the highest part of the church..

Strictly copyright. Please note that all items on this site are strictly copyright. Any request for their use must be made to Michael Lee pennhenry@rocketmail.com