Warwickshire’s Oldest Church

We had driven past St Peter’s in Wootton Wawen many times, and after saying for ages that we’d go and visit sometime, we finally got round to it today after Sunday lunch at the nearby Navigation Inn. I’ve always found old churches really interesting, not because I’m religious (I’m not), but because they’re so full of history and have hardly changed for centuries. With so many births, marriages and deaths marked there for so many hundreds of years, not to mention everyday worship and other major events in the calendar, I think that an old church has a palpable atmosphere that puts a visitor closely in touch with the past. Shakespeare would have known this one!

St Peter's Church, Wootton Wawen

St Peter’s is Warwickshire’s oldest church, dating back at least to the 10th century if not before (though the present structure has of course been added to and revised many times over the years). Before this, there was a wooden church built around AD 720 – 740, and it’s thought that it may have burned down during Viking raids, after which the stone structure was built. Described on the tourist flyer as the “Saxon Sanctuary” and “a history book in stone”, its notable features include a Saxon transept and a Norman window.

The interior is fairly stark, but evidence of different phases of its history are abundant, as you can see with this old blocked up side door.

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There’s a really interesting exhibition through a door to the right as you go in, which details the history of the church and places it in the context of various historical events such as the storming of Warwickshire by the Vikings in 980.

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The most interesting thing I spotted was the Medieval paintwork towards the back of the church, something you don’t often see. Apparently these are 14th century and depict the lives of the Saints, the Seven Deadly Sins and the Passion of Christ. Hard to tell when you look at them now though!

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In this photo you can see how much later memorial stones have been attached to the old frescoes.

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This prayer board is one of two displayed in the church to remind churchgoers of the Christian texts, and it was put there in 1752.

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This old tomb is that of John Harewell, who died in 1428. The tomb was covered in centuries of graffiti. In the image below you can make out one from 1743.

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I assumed this was St Peter; it certainly looks like him anyway!

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These heads decorate the octagonal font, which dates from the 14th century.

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A rare glimpse of blue sky provided a good backdrop for photographing the exterior.

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The church tower is the earliest part of the church and dates back to at least AD 900.

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I’m sure there was lots of stuff there that we missed; it was so cold in there that we didn’t want to hang round too long. Had the weather been warmer, we could also have explored outside a little more; there are earthworks in the grounds that are all that remains of a later Norman priory.

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Website: http://www.saxonsanctuary.org.uk

Admission: free. Leave a donation for the upkeep if you can afford to.

Opening hours: daily from 8.45am.

2 Comments on Warwickshire’s Oldest Church

  1. Heather McCombie
    February 9, 2014 at 5:03 pm (5 years ago)

    Lovely photos and description of this ancient church. The stained glass window you photographed almost certainly depicts St Peter, as the inscription near the top reads ‘Fisher of Men’. Peter was fishing – in the Sea of Galilee, if I remember rightly – when Jesus called him to be one of his disciples, saying to him: ‘Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men’….

    • Rachel McCombie
      February 9, 2014 at 5:04 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks for this, that’s most interesting! I thought I recognised him from his appearance so it’s good to have that confirmed! :)