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Wellingborough, St Mary

Wellingborough, St Mary

A thrilling experience: Sir Ninian Comper’s masterpiece built between 1908 and 1930. It is a free essay in the gothic style fearlessly mixed with classical appropriations. Externally the massive iron stone tower which can be seen for miles around provides the vertical thrust against the horizontal of the long nave / chancel. The latter has little to differentiate the spaces externally but it is punctuated with two very different treatments of smaller towers – one with an open arcade the other a needle sharp spire. Internally the clarity of the structure, filled with light is suborned by fantastical decoration especially in the chancel area, and in the vaulted ceiling with it’s plaster pendants (some gilded and painted blue which was intended throughout) in the Jesus Chapel in the north east corner of the church where you will find a floor plaque designed by Comper recording his wife, Grace, her sister Ruth and her husband, Arthur Bucknell, Comper’s architectural partner. Sir Ninian would be buried here as well had he not been buried in the north aisle of Westminster Abbey in 1960. Note the stained glass window above the altar which is a more elaborate memorial to Grace Comper – she is the model for the Virgin Mary – their son, John, for the infant Christ. Cross the chancel the window to the south is another commemorative piece, again by Comper to the first vicar of this church. Here on the floor you will find his memorial to the three Sharman sisters, Harriet, Henrietta and Gertrude. They were the daughters of John Wood Sharman, a successful Wellingborough Solicitor. Henrietta (1841-1926) was the leading light. She and her sisters were all devoted Anglo-Catholics, worshipping when in London at that hotbed of ritualistic form, St Alban’s, Holborn, built by G.F. Bodley and presided over by Father Stanton. It was in that milieu that they met Comper who had designed vestments for that church and became its architect after Bodley’s death. Their memorial here, with its simply rope border may seem almost too discreet when you consider the generosity of these sisters, but in effect the whole church stands as a memorial to their life and faith. Beyond the chancel near the east end of the south aisle is the St. John Chapel where you will find, again in stained glass, a series of memorials to Anglo-Catholic heroes including Sir Thomas More (beheaded by Henry VIII for not taking the oath) Catherine of Aragon, Cardinal Pole, Archbishop Laud, Marian Collet who founded the community at Little Gidding, the tractarian hymnist, J.M. Neale, Pusey (but not Newman who “went over”) and finally Father Stanton, vicar of St Albans, seen here with his cat. Even finer is the stained glass memorial in the north aisle of the nave to the fallen of the Great War. This is Comper’s reworking of those late quattrocento Florentine tondos with St George and the Dragon “replacing” the Madonna and Child.

Please refer to the Glossary for any terms in the text that you are unfamiliar with.

Contact & Opening Times

St Mary’s Vicarage
193 Midland Road
Wellingborough
Northamptonshire
NN8 1NG

Opening Times

 

The church is normally locked so in order to avoid disappointment, please contact us before making a journey, see below for contact details.

 

Contact Details

 

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: Bryan Howlett – 07917 726751 or Jackie Cartwright – 01933 226197

 

Keys are usually obtainable at 29 or 30, St Mary’s Paddock (adjoining the churchyard), or from the Vicarage, 193 Midland Road, Wellingborough, NN8 1NG

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