Church Micro 2259... Yaxley - St Peters
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A 35mm pot
St Peters Yaxley
A tall church tower topped by a decorated spire and elegant flying buttresses, some brickyard chimneys and a sprawl of new houses. This will be all some people see of Yaxley as the train flashes by on its way to London or the north, but Yaxley is a place that well repays some closer attention.
The landmark spire sits on top of St Peter's church, one of the most distinguished churches in the area. Architecturally it is of great interest, for it contains work in all the medieval styles after the Normans. It is a very large church with a wide nave and aisles and wide spreading transepts, which were built in about 1250 and are thus the oldest part of the church. There are many fine windows, not famous here for their stained glass but for a great deal of very beautiful 14th century stone tracery. The main body of the church was built between 1250 & 1340 to replace the old Anglo Saxon church, which like the village is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Between 1485 & 1540 the building was much altered and our landmark spire and beautiful windows added. There are many other interesting features, including the remains of several medieval wall paintings, which are now sadly fading away.
Yaxley belonged to the Benedictine monks of Thorney from 980 to 1539, the church and manor having been one of the earliest and most important endowments of the Abbey. The abbot had 'tumbrels and a pillory' and also a gallows there! This connection with Thorney may account for a most remarkable monument in the church - The heart burial.
During some restoration work in 1842 a stone carved with two hands holding a heart was removed from a wall in the north transept. Behind it a cylindrical wooden box 4.1/2 x 4" (9 x 8cm) was found. The box contained a heart, but as soon as it was exposed to the air it disintegrated. There is nothing to identify the heart; but it is believed to have belonged to William de Yaxley, Abbot of Thorney 1261-1293 who directed that his body was to be buried in the abbey but his heart at Yaxley. The heart box may be seen in its original recess, now covered with glass.
In 1552, after the Dissolution of the monasteries, and the consequent break with Thorney, the church was stripped of almost all of its interior fittings and adapted to a very austere type of Protestant worship. After this all seems to have remained peaceful for almost a hundred years, but with the coming of the Civil War Yaxley became one of the scenes of local vandalism. In 1643 some Cromwellian troops are supposed to have broken in and baptised a foal in a mock ceremony. There are also musket shot marks on the church wall, again attributed to Cromwell's men. However the church guide book says that these are more likely the result of a prank by local Tudor or Stuart militia whose arms were stored at the base of the church tower.
Yaxley next appears in history at the time of the Napoleonic Wars when the great prison of war camp at nearby Normans Cross housed several hundred thousand* (* more likely several thousand)
French prisoners of war for some 17 years at the beginning of the 19th century. Two large stones by the churchyard gate come from the prison, and there is a memorial in the church to Captain Draper, who was on the staff of the prison camp. It was paid for solely by the prisoners themselves ' for his humane attention to their comforts'.
The church registers date from 1653, 10 years after the Cromwellian episode, the earlier ones having been lost in a fire in 1735. Some of the entries provide scope for the imagination, for example
'1695 6 Jul Ann Thompson bur in linn or wools'. By Acts of Parliament of 1666 and 1678 intended for the encouragement of woollen manufacture in England, corpses were not allowed to be buried " in any suit, sheet or shroud" made of anything but wool, nor was the coffin to be lined with any other material. One cannot but wonder why poor Ann was denied the benefit of either a legal or illegal shroud!.
"1754 1st June. Henry Jordain, Cordwainer. He cut his throat with a razor, and was brought in dy ye jury a lunatik; and orders were given by ye Coroner for him to have a Christian burial
Cordwainer was the old name for a shoemaker. Many other occupations mentioned in the registers are old Fenland trades, now largely forgotten. Who now remembers the Sedge Merchant, the Fellmonger, the Thatch-Thread maker, the Turf Man or the Tinker Woman.
But these occupations and similar ones are only to be expected, for Yaxley is, or was, a Fen edge village. Long and thin as most of them are spread out along the higher drier ground overlooking the Fens. The church has seen many great changes in the course of its long life - the draining of the Fens and the transformation that followed. From the traditional fishing and fowling way of life to the great agricultural region of today; the development of the brick industry with its chimneys and knot holes, and now in the last decade of the 20th century the possibility of perhaps becoming part of a new township on the south side of Peterborough. Hopefully the great crocketed spire of St Peter's will still be a landmark for the region as it has been for the last 700 years.
The cache is a 35mm pot. Gz is a short walk from the church due to another cache location
“If anybody would like to expand to this series please do, I would just ask that you could let Sadexploration know first so he can keep track of the Church numbers and names to avoid duplication.
There is also a Church Micro Stats page found via the Bookmark list”
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