Friday, 31 March 2017

Marholm and Castor II

Just a couple of miles south, and in the valley of the Nene is Castor, a large stone built village, that being quite so close to Peterborough has a slight urban feel to it.  There are however some very attractive houses.  We, though, were there for the church, and a rather special it is.  Firstly it has what must be one of the finest, most satisfying Norman towers in the country.  Superlative.  Secondly it has a fascinating early history: St Kyneburga is built within the remains of a massive Late Roman structure - 'palace' and 'praetorium' are banded about by historians. Before you get too excited there really isn't that much Roman to be seen, just the odd sizable junk of masonry.  Anyway a convent was founded here in the 7th century by the Merican Princess Kyneburga, her sister Kyneswitha and their kinswoman Tibba who later became a hermit at Ryhall between Bourne and Stamford. The coming of the Vikings put pay to the monastery and later Castor like Ryhall became a place of pilgrimage, one of many small shrines that dotted the country before the Reformation.
History lesson over. The church is charming.  The outside has lots texture from the rubble walls (re-used Roman materials) and a couple of ancient carvings over the porch, Christ in majesty, and the priest's door on the south side of the chancel recording the consecration of the church.  Inside there are all sorts of cross vistas to be had as this is a cruciform building. The aisled nave contains an altar dedicated to St Kyneburga.  The crossing piers are stout Norman work with wonderful carved cushion capitals - the vault is a late medieval insertion and suitably robust.  The chancel is long and, when we were there, light filled.  The north transept which is Norman, is filled with the organ, but the south transept is early Decorated and austerely elegant and spacious.  But, alas, the furnishings are commensurate with the architecture, and is a little cluttered in places.

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