I have been neglecting my blogging lately due an extended visit to England and a side trip to Turkey (even full time travellers need a holiday now and again!).
Now back home in Malaysia, I’ll post a few blogs relating to my trip.
Just a few miles from my parents’ place in Northamptonshire is a delightful church in the tiny parish of Fawsley.
The present building dates from 1209 and, although it has been partially restored and embellished over the centuries, it still has an ancient feel to it.
The church’s magnificent wooden ceiling was built in the 15th century. It had to be faithfully restored during the 1960’s due to death watch beetle infestation.
Fawsley has some superb medieval stained glass windows,the oldest of which date from the 13th century. American visitors to the church might be interested to see a glass window depicting the coat of arms of the Washington family which includes a stars and stripes motif and no doubt influenced the design of the US flag.
Most of the monuments, memorials and inscriptions in the church relate to members of the powerful Knightley family who acquired the Fawsley estate in 1316 and it remained in family hands until 1932. Sir Edmund Knightley commissioned the construction of the nearby Fawsley Hall in the 1530’s. It has been expanded over the past 150 years and is now a luxury hotel and spa and a popular venue for weddings, conferences and other posh events.
As for the village which the church was built to serve, it has more or less disappeared without trace. The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded 17 families working the land and by 1377 there were 90 men over the age of 14 engaged in arable farming in the community. By 1524 however there were only 7 people listed. Perhaps the Knightley family found that keeping sheep was more profitable and less troublesome than collecting rent from impoverished peasants. The land was enclosed for sheep farming and the farm labourers presumably drifted away. The village was depopulated and its remains disappeared, possibly under the ornamental lakes which were designed by Capability Brown to enhance the beauty of the estate.
Among the oak trees of Fawsley Park lie the ruins of a Tudor stately home called Dower House, reputed to be the oldest brick building in Northamptonshire. Tourists looking for a creepy experience should venture there at midnight on Christmas Eve when the ghost of a headless horseman is said to emerge from its walls!
More details on Fawsley Church can be found in A Brief History of Fawsley Church and Park by Ron Wilson and published by Wild Boar Books. A pamphlet can be obtained inside the church.