It was early afternoon in deep winter when I pulled up to the church of St. Mary and All Saints in Fotheringhay, the sun was already low in the sky and frost remained on the ground. I was lucky enough to explore the church on my own, and it is a remarkable place.
(For those keen on finding out about the history of the church, I wrote about it here)
Entry to the church is along a tree lined pathway, and the skeletal trees and silence made it an eerie approach into the church via the North porch.
However I shouldn’t have worried, the light was golden and flowing through the windows on the South side of the church, and it was bright and welcoming.
The Tower and Nave
Whilst the Octagonal tower looks impressive from the outside, the inside is just as lovely.
Beneath there is beautiful fan vaulting surrounding a painting of the York Falcon and Fetterlock.
There is also some reading material set out by the Friends of Fotheringhay
based around the York dynasty and a copy of the original charter for the church created during Richard, 3rd Duke of York’s continued building work.
Something else of note is the 15th century font in the center of the Nave.
It has some interesting carvings and the wooden font cover was made from a misericord that was originally in the destroyed choir.
One thing I missed was a 15th century pulpit which was given by Edward IV. Knowing me, I probably spotted it, thought it modern as it is brightly painted and walked straight past!
The painting is not original, however it was restored to its original glory based on knowledge of how it originally looked.
It features the royal arms of Edward IV, a bull representing George, Duke of Clarence and the white boar for Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III)
Altar and East End
Sadly, there is no east end or choir due to it’s destruction after the reformation, however, the identical tombs of the York family, re-interred by Elizabeth I flank the altar and remain in remarkable condition
The Chapel of All Souls (York Chapel)
At the end of the South aisle is a the Chapel of All Souls and it is a memorial to the House of York.
There is a simple altar, and it features a large stained glass window, which was gifted by the Richard III society in 1975. It stands out in a church that is sadly devoid of stained glass.
Center: The Royal Arms of England of King Richard III, with his badge of the white boar below.
Below Center: The arms of Richard Nevile, The Kingmaker, father of Queen Anne Nevile, Richard III’s wife
Top Left: Arms of the 1st Duke of York, Edmund
Left Center: The Arms of the 2nd Duke of York, Edward with the arms of his wife Phillipa
Bottom Left: Yorkist Badge of the Falcon and Fetterlock
Top Right: Arms of the Earl of Cambridge, brother to Edward, 2nd Duke of York
Right Center: Arms of Richard, 3rd Duke of York and his wife Cecily Nevile
Bottom Right: The White Lion of Mortimer
I found the altar the most affecting, due to the simplicity and the sight of a single white rose starting to wilt.
It was easy to picture the care of the person that had placed it there and I found it touching to think of others that remember and acknowledge the House of York over 500 years after the Battle of Bosworth.
Due to the position of the church in the middle of the countryside, it is a serene place. The churchyard seems to blend into the surrounding fields and is peaceful and timeless. I could imagine spending more time exploring the graves and learning the names of the local people.
The church of St Mary and All Saints is an English treasure regardless of its affinity to the House of York. It is unique in appearance, is light, peaceful and in a gorgeous village with beautiful countryside.
However, if you are a follower of the House of York or a Ricardian, it is a must see as it is so touching and atmospheric to be in a place that the members of the York dynasty knew and founded.
It is easy to put yourself in a place where you can imagine the church in the 15 century and observe the re-interment of Richard III’s father and brother, and imagine the young Duke of Gloucester showing reverent respect.
Englishmonarchs.co.uk has some excellent photos of the 15 c pulpit given by Edward IV
For all the photos from my visit to Fotheringhay, please visit my flickr