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Bugbrooke Church from the South East

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The nave looking east

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The east window

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Seating changes in 1828

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St Michael and All Angels Church Bugbrooke

The church is now part of the Junction 16 Benefice, comprising the parishes of Bugbrooke, Harpole, Kislingbury and Rothersthorpe, in the County of Northamptonshire, close to Junction 16 of the M1 motorway.  The Benefice is in the Diocese of Peterborough.

The Priest in charge is

The Revd Stephen French

The Rectory, Church Lane, Bugbrooke NN7 3PB
01604 831621

Go to:


Services and Events at St. Michael and All Angels Church Bugbrooke.


Link Article by Revd Stephen French


The Church Building


The Church Windows


The Churchyard Mosses Survey


Friends of St Michaels and All Angels

The Office for St. Michael and All Angels Bugbrooke, All Saints Harpole, St Luke’s Kislingbury and St Peter and Paul Rothersthorpe is located in the Sunday School Rooms and is open most weekday mornings (except Thursdays) between 9am and 11:30am. The phone number is 01604 830373 and there is an answer phone so you can leave a message and someone will get back to you.



The Church Building

The first documentary evidence for the existence of Bugbrooke is the Domesday Book of 1086, but there is no reference to there being a church then. The first record that suggests that there was a church is when a Rector was instituted in 1220, and this conforms with the architectural evidence. The 750th anniversary of the founding of a church in Bugbrooke was celebrated in 1970.


Originally the church was dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady, later to become St Mary's.  It was not until the 19th century that the dedication of St Michael and All Angels was established.


The church is build of marlstone, a form of sandstone interspersed with ironstone.  It would have looked quite different then with the stone walls covered with brightly coloured paintings on plaster illustrating the scriptures. These would have been whitewashed later as a consequence of the Reformation, and the plaster finally removed during the early twentieth century. (Some surviving fragments of such decoration are found in the church at Ashby St Ledgers). Statues would have been found in abundance, but these also fell victim to the iconoclasts of the Reformation, or if they survived that, of Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth.


Nave and Aisles


The original church was built over an extended period, and this can be seen in the changes of style that vary according to the fashion and the expertise of the craftsmen available at the time. The church, consisted of a broad nave of four bays together with the chancel. An aisle was added to the south side of the nave about 1225. The south aisle piers are round and it is suggested that they may have been reused from another building as they are out of proportion with the arches they support.  One of the arch capitals is a finished example of the stonemason’s work, but its neighbour has only a marked out version of the same design. This is the oldest visible part of the building. The arcade leans outwards, suggesting that the original roof was very heavy.  The steep line of the original nave roof, can be seen on the tower wall from the outside, and on the inner west wall of the nave. The north aisle was built about 50 years later.  Note that the piers are octagonal and are more evenly spaced than those on the south aisle.  The north choir aisle, now the Lady Chapel, was built afterwards as an extension east-wards of the north aisle.  The aisle to the south of the choir was added in the late 19th century.  The tower arch was built in the early 1300s.  The walls of the ringing chamber are 6 feet thick.  Note the tablet for bell ringers discovered under the plaster early this century. 


The seating arrangements have changed during the life of the church. In 1828 the nave was furnished with box pews, which were rented by those who could afford them and wooden benches at the back for those who could not. The chancel was empty except for two box pews for the Rector and his household. The plan on the right shows the before and after arrangement, and shows clearly the 4 pillars which supported the west gallery, with the stairs to gain access. This arrangement lasted until the Victorian restoration of 1890-91.New pews were built and the pulpit installed in the 1890s.  

A new north porch replaced a badly built Victorian one in 1998.




This was probably always the same size as it is now.  The chancel arch was built around 1270.  The roof was designed by E de Wilde Holding, who masterminded the 1890s restoration.  The east window is also his.


Screens and Font


The chancel screen and font were made about the same time, but it is hard to date them.  They are in perpendicular style, which typified architecture from 1335 to 1530.  The font has had its top half replaced with new stone but the base is original. The screen would have looked even more magnificent in the 16th century when it would have been brightly painted and with much gilding.  Although the bottom panels were replaced in the Victorian restoration, the original uprights and carving remain. Originally the screen would probably have had a large crucifix in the centre, and access to the screen would have been by stairs at the right, which can be seen from the nave. 


Further restoration was carried out in the early twentieth century, with a screen to the Lady Chapel being made using fragments from an earlier one, as well as the replacement of the oak roof in the nave and aisles. The belfry screen, which is dedicated to a former Rector, Charles Harrison, was installed in 1978. 


Tower and Bells


The tower was built in the 14th century of marlstone and ironstone in strips.  The pinnacles were added about 1890 and the spire is octagonal.  There is a peal of five bells.  The oldest bell bears the inscription 'God save our Queen and her preserve 1599'. The tenor bell was cast in 1695 and its inscription includes the words 'I to the church the living call and to the Grave doe summon all'.  The others were made in 1863, 1868 and 1813(re-cast 1931).



Church Music

Today we naturally associate music and worship, but that was not always the tradition. However music had come to Bugbrooke church by 1723. The evidence for the West gallery can still be seen on the walls today. Here musicians and singers would sit during services and lead the congregation in the hymns. It is probable that the musicians would have been the same ones to play for secular occasions too, and quite often they used the same tunes for both occasions, but with different words!  The gallery and its musicians were superseded by the installation of an organ in 1875.  A contemporary account of the impact of the changing musical fashion is to be found in Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree, and makes interesting reading.  The organ was built by Bishop and Son of London in 1844, was moved from St Peter in the East, Oxford to Bugbrooke in 1879. The font now occupies the original position of the organ, and it was moved first to the Lady Chapel and then in 1911 re-sited in its present position.


Church Records

The parish records of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials are continuous since 1556, and are available to study at Northamptonshire County Record Office.


Compiled from A Brief History and Architectural Description of the Parish Church of St. Michael and All Angels at Bugbrooke in the Diocese of Peterborough, written by David Peet, and  Bugbrooke 2000BC to 2000AD an Illustrated history- ancient and modern - Bugbrooke History Society

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The Church Windows

The stained glass windows are relatively modern and mainly date from the first 20 years of the twentieth century. As with other aspects of the church building there has been a process of continuity and change, which began soon after the first stage of construction was completed. There was a west window that was lost with the building of the tower in the fourteenth century. Soon after this the clerestory was built which would have made the building considerably lighter.  The present window openings are consistent with the plan of 1828, except that the extension to the south aisle was not in place at that time. It is probable that the early windows were simply removed and used in the extension. The final change to the windows was during the Victorian restoration of the late nineteenth century when the whole of the east end was rebuilt and a new east window installed. All the windows, except those in the west wall, are dedicated to the memory of people who were associated with Bugbrooke.

 The East Window.

This is by far the largest window in the church and it depicts the Biblical account of the Ascension (Acts 1:9-12). It is a traditional depiction of the scene with Christ being raised to heaven in a mandorla, an almond-shaped frame borne by angels that represents the “cloud which took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Either side of the ascending Christ are the “two men in white robes” who hold inscriptions of their words to the cowering disciples, “This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven” on the left, and “shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven“ on the right. The eleven disciples look heavenwards and are shown in various attitudes of shock and fear. (Acts 1:11). 

St. Peter is in the central panel beneath Christ and is the most easily recognised of the apostles. He is depicted traditionally as an older man with short grey curly hair with a curly beard. The colours of his clothes are characteristic. His cloak is blue and his tunic gold, a variation to the norm when his cloak is gold and his tunic blue. 

St John is the only other easily recognised apostle. He is shown in the panel to the left of centre. In contrast to the other disciples he is young and beardless with long hair. 

Above the ascending Christ there are angels and at the apex of the window a Christ in majesty.

 The window is dedicated to members of the Harrison family, patrons and erstwhile rectors of the church.

 The North Side from the east

Saints Peter and John healing a lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple (Acts 3:1-8)

The window is in the style of a diptych (a two panelled altarpiece). To the right Peter and John stand regarding a beggar in the left “panel”. Peter is wearing his traditional blue and gold and is an older man with grey beard and hair. Peter’s principle attribute, the crossed keys, is shown above. John is behind and to the right of Peter. Peter is reaching out to the man before he “took him by the right hand and raised him up”(Acts 3:7). Onlookers crowd round to see this act of Peter’s healing, which subsequently led to tension between the disciples and the Jewish authorities.

 The window is dedicated to Gertrude Rose Salmon, the daughter of Revd James Harwood Harrison, who died in 1906

 Christ carrying the cross to Calvary (Matt 27:21; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26-32; John 19:17)

This is a small panel set in the centre of an otherwise undecorated window. Christ is shown dressed in blue and wearing the crown of thorns. The rope tied around his waist and trailing on the ground is probably a reference to Christ being led by a Roman soldier to the place of execution. There is no procession and no bystanders in the pane, where Christ bears his cross alone, symbolising the burden and suffering of the Christian life.

 There is no dedication. 

St Michael and David

This is the newest of the windows and was installed in 1956. The warrior theme of the association of the archangel Michael and David is appropriate as the window is dedicated to Ernest William Harrison “who gave his life for freedom at Hazebrouck May 1940”. The two are juxtaposed to illustrate the spiritual and earthly battles that the Christian soldier encounters, and suits the diptych style of the window. The images are of two soldiers for God who are taken from the New and Old Testaments, (St Michael and David respectively), intimating a continuity of which E. W. Harrison was part. On the left, St. Michael, as the symbol of the church militant, wears a coat of mail and is armed with a sword. He has wings that help to differentiate him from St George (see belfry window), and carries a pair of scales that he uses to weigh the souls of the dead at judgment. To the right, David carries a sword, a sling and pouch, and is shown as a young man as Ernest Harrison was at his death. His association with the Roadmender Club of Northampton is shown both in the dedication and its emblem, the lantern, depicted above David. The motto Miseris Succurrere Disco is a quotation from Virgil, and is translated as I endeavour to succour the unfortunate, and is possibly a reference to charitable works. However it is also the motto of the Clan Macmillan and as it is coupled with the rampant lion, which is the emblem of Scotland, there may be some significance there. If anyone has any ideas it would be interesting to hear.


The West Wall

There are two windows either side of the Belfry screen. Appropriately they are each dedicated to the patron saints with which the church has historically been associated. To the left: 

St Michael vanquishing the Devil (Revelation 12:7-9)

As the church is dedicated to St Michael, it would be expected that a window of this kind would be found. It shows when “war broke out in heaven: Michael …fought against the dragon…. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil”. The whole image has a dynamic that reflects the text from which it was taken, with the winged Michael at the moment of victory raising his sword to the human featured dragon, which is being trodden under foot. Early Christians adopted the dragon as a symbol for evil, and it occurs frequently in Christian art.

The Virgin and Child

To the right of the belfry screen is an image of Mary holding the infant Jesus. The inscription beneath “Hail highly favoured” makes it explicit that Mary is to be venerated not in any narrative context but as the mother of God. The vase with three lilies is a traditional symbol of purity.

 Her dress is traditional. She wears a blue cloak that symbolises heaven, and refers to her role as Queen of Heaven. Her dress is red and she wears a veil. Behind her is the heavenly host which frame the light coming from heaven signifying the blessing from God. The Child is holding a sword that reaches to earth and which signifies His authority on earth. Mary may be seen as the link between heaven and earth through which Christ was made man.

 The Belfry window- St George and Peace.

The belfry window is in diptych form with St George to the left and Peace to the right. The pairing of the two may be seen as being complementary, with the soldier representing war contrasting with the other side of the coin, Peace. However, Peace is an image borrowed from secular art, which often appears in the context of allegories associated with good governance.

St George is portrayed as the patron saint of England, which he became in 1222. The armoured George holds the flag of St George and brandishes his sword. He is standing on the slain dragon that personifies evil, especially the evil of paganism, and is thus an allusion to the victory of the Christian faith. The fusing of the two elements, the personification of England and the defeat of evil suggests the idea of the just war. To avoid any confusion his name is written in the halo.

Peace is also named in the halo. In secular art the female figure of Peace celebrates the end of war, and in this example it is made clear by the weapons of war being trodden underfoot. The wings are traditional for an image of Peace, and this makes the figure slightly confusing when seen in a devotional context, as we normally associate wings with angels. Peace is holding a crown which is an unusual attribute for her, but it may symbolise the Christian martyr. The dove shown above centre is rather ambiguous as it can be interpreted either as the dove of peace, an attribute of the personification of Peace, or as it is in a church, as the Holy Spirit. The window is dedicated to Colonel Rocke and his daughter Edith, which may suggest another rather personalised explanation for the choice of imagery. Perhaps St George represents the father and Peace the daughter.

 The South side from the East.

The Bluebelle window.

This is probably the most unusual window in the church. It is dedicated to Bluebelle, an eleven-year-old girl who was killed in an accident. 

The form differs from the other windows being in triptych form (a three panelled altarpiece). It is a personalised variation of Christ blessing little children and is appropriately placed by the children’s altar. Jesus said, “suffer the little children to come unto me” (Matt 19:14), and the central scene shows Him blessing a child whom He holds in His arms. The side panels may or may not show a scene of family portraiture, but certainly the child Bluebelle is shown in both. She looks straight out at the viewer and is dressed in a rich blue tunic. The details of her features suggest that they were copied from photographs. The three saints in the right panel are traditionally Peter, John and James who tried to deny the children’s access to Jesus, but it is difficult to be certain, as they are not identified by their normal attributes or by dress. However, the central figure is probably John, as he is young and clean-shaven.

Christ receiving E. W. Harrison

This window is to commemorate the death of the former rector Ernest Wivelsfield Harrison who died in 1920.

 It is in diptych form with the risen Christ raising his hand in blessing to the left and the kneeling figure of Revd Harrison to the right. Angels are in attendance who are presenting him and interceding on his behalf. The inscription above “Alleluia Jesus Christ is risen today Alleluia” is a statement of faith and hope for the dead man. It is likely that it is a portrait as it does bear resemblance to contemporary photographs.

The Remembrance Window

This again is in diptych form, and it is a poignant image showing a sailor and soldier of the First World War before the crucified Christ. It is set in the trenches and in the background can be seen burning houses and the devastation brought by the conflict.

Above is the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God signifying Christ in his sacrificial role. The implication is that the fallen sailors and soldiers have been sacrificed for the greater good. The poppies, which have become a modern symbol of sacrifice, appear to the upper right and left.


references:  Hall's Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art .  Bugbrooke 2000BC to 2000AD


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