St John the Baptist Hellidon

Church History

Although records show that there has been a church in Hellidon since the twelfth century, the present building is mainly a construction of the sixteenth century with considerable nineteenth century restoration. The tower however, is fourteenth century. It is a small building in the early decorated style. The date over the door entrance proclaims 1591 when much of the present church was built.

In 1847 the church was extensively renovated, at a cost of £800 and in 1867 and 1897 it was further extended by the additions to the north aisle and then the vestry, the foundation stone for which can be seen in one of the buttresses at the north east end of the church. This latest extension also commemorated the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria

The 19th century work represents one of the first of many such church restorations undertaken in the country during that period. It was carried out by the eminent architect William Butterfield and this is a somewhat uncharacteristically restrained example of his work.

The Porch was probably built in 1591 at the same time as the main building, see the date over the entrance door. According to Baker’s History of Northamptonshire written in 1826,”the porch was supposedly used as a resting place for the priest and from whence it is possible he might give absolution to such penitents as had been guilty of public and notorious crimes. For that such penitents were sometimes absolved before the porch doors of the church”

The deep grooves in the stone work of the porch are popularly believed to have been made by Parliamentarian soldiers sharpening their swords on their way to the Battle of Edgehill in October 1642.

The Tower, which is embattled, dates back to 1350. The pinnacles on each corner of the tower were removed during the earliest 20th century. The bell chamber houses a peel of five bells. The original four were cast by Hugh Watts, a well-known bellfounder and are dated 1615 and 1635. The fifth bell was added when the bells were rehung in 1993.

During the Second World War when the bells were silent, bees made one hundredweight of honey in the clockworks. The clock was dedicated to Eleanor Amy Attenborough of Catesby House and was installed in 1920, replacing an earlier one.

The Nave contains a memorial window, on the right hand side of the entrance door, which depicts the four men from the village whom it commemorates as having given their lives in the service of their country, during the First World War. They are dressed in shining armour but their faces were copied from contemporary photographs, and are said, by those who knew them, to be very good likenesses.

The oak pulpit was made by William Watson in 1855. The design is based in part on that of the pulpit originally in Priors Marston church, which is now in the parish of Southam in Warwickshire. The oak lectern was presented by the parishioners in 1867 when the church was reopened after redecoration and enlargement by the addition of the North aisle.

The Chancel contains a two manual organ which were built by Mr Pease of London at a cost of £150 in 1896. Its acquisition was due mainly to the exertions of the vicar, Mr Charles Wray and his sister. It was moved to its present position in 1898 after the extension of the vestry. The credence table of oak, was presented to the church by the Reverend G F L Davies who was Curate from 1868 to 1877 The Reredos is of white freestone inlaid with marble

Two stained glass windows commemorate Fanny Lee who died in 1876. She was the matron at the small preparatory school for boys which was conducted in the vicarage during the second half of the 19th century

The polychrome window arches as typical of the work of the architect William Butterfield as too are the decorations on the ceiling beams.

The East window was executed by Preedy in 1867. The Alpha and Omega symbols from it were copied onto mugs and glassware which commemorated the Millennium in the year 2000

The Belfry window, which depicts the church's Patron Saint, John the Baptist, is the work of Alexander Gibbs of Bloomsbury, and was installed in 1870

The Churchyard covers 1033 acres and contains some 220 gravestones and monuments, including an unusual metal one. The ground was extended in 1863 to its present size, by the addition of 1 rood of land from the Reverend John Storer of Leam House. Three Wellingtonias, a variety of sequoia tree, named after the first Duke, were planted on the North boundary in December 1865 Of the originals, one died and was replaced in February 1867 They were all just 18 inches high when planted.

A gravestone against the western boundary of the churchyard is dedicated to Levi Watkins, and tells the story of the heroism of this Hellidon youth who drowned whilst saving a young child from the waters of the village spring.

The tall monument in the front of a churchyard was paid for and erected by parishioners in the commemoration of the Reverend Charles Scrafton HoltHouse, Vicar of Hellidon from 1845 to 1881, who has arguably achieved more for the Parish than any other Vicar, before or since. On his arrival in the village, and finding no Vicarage house, he purchased property for this purpose and then subsequently went on to found a small preparatory school for boys which he established in his home. At the same time he undertook extensive renovations on the church building also creating a north aisle. He was assisted in these projects by the architect William Butterfield.

Holthouse was also responsible for rebuilding the village school in 1854

The parish registers date from 1571 and the churchwardens’ accounts from 1793. A record of Vicars of Hellidon begins in 1607 and a recently compiled list of churchwardens serving the Parish dates from 1574

The Living was under private patronage until 1950 in which year it was vested by the Bishop of Peterborough, when it became the united benefice of Catesby, Hellidon and Staverton.

Forty years later this benefits became part of the Daventry Team Ministry under the clerical leadership of the Rector of Daventry.

Further Information about the church and the village of Hellidon can be found in Three Ells in Hellidon by Jenny Fell, which is available to purchase from the village post office


Powered by Church Edit