image Winwick Church Northamptonshire

St Michael & All Angels Church, Northamptonshire.

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Friends of Winwick Church.

About & around Winwick 1886 Walk and Field ownership 1778 -

Description of a circular walk from West Haddon to Winwick & back in 1886 by "The Rambler"

The minds of people, like their bodies, are variously constituted, and there are many persons who travel for miles without noticing anything particular about the landscape they are passing over, where others would find something remarkable at almost every turn.

Thus the road from West Haddon to Winwick is not at first sight at all remarkable, and yet it has always possessed to me more interest than all the other country for miles (a)round. Let us, then, start on an imaginary walk between these two villages, and, commencing at West Haddon church, turn up to the left by the old Crown Inn. Quickly traversing a narrow lane which forms the western boundary to the pleasant house and grounds tenanted by one of the village doctors, we almost immediately emerge into a field known by the apparently insane name of “Bye Slays”. Why it should be called by this name, the fact that it is Glebe land does not explain, but I am told by one of the oldest inhabitants of the village that Bye Slays is really a corruption of “Birch Leys”, “Ley”, being a name given to many fields in days gone by, and “Birch” a distinguishing appellative, perhaps deriving its origin from the presence of Birch trees in this particular Ley. An etymologist would of course, scorn the suggestion that the village beadle possibly used to appropriate the field as a whipping ground. It is at any rate certain that many pugilistica encounters have happened there. But we must proceed, so leaving Birch Leys at our back and advancing in a northerly direction, we reach, after a few 100 yards journeying, the edge of the West Haddon Table-land. Right below our feet, the ground sinks away into Winwick valley, down who sides innumerable springs and brooklets tumble, meeting at the bottom of the hill, and running on, continually increasing in volume until, having formed a considerable tributary, they meet the Avon at Catthorpe, thence struggling to the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic Ocean. For West Haddon being on high ground, forms as it were, a watershed between the basins of the Nen and the Avon, and, report has it, that there is a barn hereabouts which, in a shower, sends the water falling on one side to the Nen and on the other to the Avon. But we are digressing and in our wanderings have forgotten that on our left, also at the edge of the table-land referred to, stands a clump of fir trees, in the midst of which the kindly Vicar has placed a true lovers seat. The view from this place is indeed charming, and Commands a stretch of country extending many miles. And now, descending into the valley, the cart road leads us between two banks, until, reaching the bottom of the hill, we branch off to the left along the Winwick footpath, leaving the road to go straight on for about 200 yards to a lodge, its appointed end goal, and to pass on its way thither the “marl pits”, whence, in former years, marl was extracted for the benefits of the adjoining land. Proceeding along the aforesaid footpath only a short distance, we find ourselves on a hill, from whose top we may look across to other rising ground almost facing us. This is “Riot Hill” and takes its name from a battle fought here in days gone by between the West Haddon gleaners who fell out amongst themselves probably upon some point of precedence. We can, in fancy, picture the scene - the scared faces, the fierce shrieks, the dismantled tresses of the gleaners and the terror of the children, contrasting with the blue sky, the harvest scent and the peaceful fields. The fancy, however, is of short duration, for before very long the Haddon Constabulary, probably consisting of some old man hastily roused from his after dinner nap appeared on the scene and in a very brief period the combatants were put on an inglorious rout.

In a field to are left at the bottom of a natural amphitheatre, known as “Took Hill”, a spring comes abruptly out of the ground, without any warning, and after wandering and spreading vaguely among the grass, runs to the hedge, and proceeds more collectively onto the previously mentioned tributary of the Avon. On this spot were formerly to be found nine springs, and although only one is left, the name is still retained. Within a very few yards a large tree - until recently a conspicuous object in the landscape - was last year decapitated by the lightning and grotesquely split down its centre. And now, following the footpath, we crossed two or three fields still veering to the left, until we cut the carriage road from West Haddon, where it crossed the stream to which the spring above-mentioned flows. This now runs almost parallel to the road at a short distance until it widens out and forms a mill-dam, runs over a long shoot, and, joining the road again, finds itself and us in Winwick. In these days the road runs alongside the stream, but in former times vehicles had to splash along the current itself as best they could, while foot passengers picked their precarious way along the banks, the Winwick of today is however much changed from the Winwick of centuries ago. It probably possessed more houses then, and indeed would need to do so to be of any importance, for from the spot where we stand in front of the mill no houses can be seen, if we accept a cottage on the right and three cottage on the left, two of which are connected with the road by a plank bridge. On the left side of the stream but a little further on, several tall trees stood a few years back, and from the roots of one of them a current of freshwater used to issue and splashed down to the brook beneath. These trees as well as some cottages close by, have recently disappeared comma and now the water runs from a modern structure (reached also by a plank bridge), resembling a diminutive pump minus its handle, thus taking from Winwick one of its most charming sides. The name of “The “Winwick ale-house” attaches itself to this fountain, for it is one of the great boasts of the village that it is contaminated by no public-house. And now passing the pretty Rectory on our right we reach a spot where, in former years, the stream spread out into broad shallows, through which carts used to pass taking the road here dividing the stream. it is, however, now crossed by a brick bridge, which serves to confine its waters to their proper channel, thus somewhat preventing the floods that used in rainy weather to be frequent and inundate the cottages in proximity.

A little distance beyond the bridge is a field containing many curious mounds and depressions, which may or may not have been in former times sites of water-mills. Of these there is no recollection in the minds of even the oldest inhabitants, but in some old documents still extant, mention is made of some four or five water mills, as well as of a large tract of land underwater. the confirmation of the land near would seem to give some colour to this. Of dovecotes also there were a goodly number. And now turning to the right by the village school we reach the church, standing on a slight eminence, dedicated to St. Michael and All Angels, and built in the shape of a cross. At the West End is a square tower containing 3 bells which are got at by a winding stone staircase of about 50 steps. Formerly the belfry was open to the church, but is now separated from it by an oak screen, erected by one J.A. Jeremie, who was in his day Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, sub-dean of Lincoln, and Rector of Winwick. The curiosities found in the said belfry are, or were steel helmet, gloves, and an old wooden clock.

Before leaving the church we notice numerous marble tablets four to the memory of the Lovell family, on one of which is a coat of arms; One to the memory of a Mrs Pepperell, wife of a former Rector of Winwick; and two, especially fine ones, in the northern wing of the church, to the memory of Sir William Craven and his wife, both of whom lie buried immediately in front of the chancel. The inscriptions, which are very long, are both written in Latin and are in excellent preservation. In the opposite recess, too, may be found a stained-glass window, erected to the memory of Joseph Simons of Rugby who died October the 10th 1884 aged 31. Also another one at the East End of the church, recently elected to the honoured and revered memory of the late Rev. Canon and Mrs Broomhead. At its base is the following inscription :- “ to the glory of God and in the memory of the Rev. Canon Broomhead and Susan, his wife who lived and laboured in this parish 28 years, this window is dedicated, June 1886” hard by the church (which was renovated in 1856) is the old Manor House, the ancient seat of the Craven family, but owing to considerable alterations having taken place, part of its ancient structure has disappeared. The ancient gateway in front, however, is still standing, is very interesting and unique, and bears upon it the Craven Insignia and coat of arms. it is, I presume, built in queen Anne's style. the old conduit, too, still remains, way to the left, which supplies the Manor house with water.

Now, returning through the churchyard, well lie buried the Re. Canon Broomhead, “the good Rector”, and his wife, numerous Elkinses (from Elkington), Walpoles, and others, we pass through another field, covered with mounds and hollows, such as nature alone could scarcely be responsible for. these, an old villager told me, are supposed to contain the remains of old houses long lost sight of; or, taking the village name as of Saxon origin and meaning “a dwelling for war”, may not these and other marks hereabouts be indicative of some fierce conflict of which history is silent? But being at length on our homeward journey, we crossed the road which leads to Guilsborough, Cold Ashby and Elkington, and enter a garden belonging to the village clerk, through which the footpath we are traversing runs, so joining the road where our friend the stream, crosses it. here decide to take the carriage road to West Haddon, and, passing through one field, we reach an open grass Meadow on the ascent, known to some as “Churtle-thorn”. An old crooked thorn tree first gave it its name, but last year, after standing for over 100 years, it succumbed to the combined influences of wind and weather. We are still ascending the hill, and to our left the ground slopes down, forming another amphitheatre, at whose bottom a spring, with waters possessing chalybeate properties, rises from the ground to quench the thirst of the cattle, and then immediately disappears. But we have again wondered from the road and returning thither we at every step rise higher and higher until we reach a small enclosure on our left containing a grassy mound, on whose summit there stood until last year windmill, of the true old fashioned style. The view from this knoll is splendid, probably embracing on a clear day Coventry Spires, 20 miles off. the windmill after serving as a landmark for many years, has, however, now being pulled down, and we look longingly but in vain for its well remembered peculiarities.

This spot we now leave behind us, and, hastening on, the next turning to the left brings us again into West Haddon, after a walk ( to behold what we have seen) off some 3 miles or more. To the old command, “He that has ears to hear let him hear”, we would add as a rider, “Make use of your eyes, ye that can see, and of your understanding, ye that possess one”. RAMBLER

Copied from a 1778 drawing of field ownership in 1778

18th century fields, Northamptonshire