A Brief History of the Parish of Werrington
The church is located on an ancient site with a name that probably derives from “the town of the Varini”, a clan mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus.
3rd & 4th Century Roman settlements and farms are recorded as being present in Werrington.
After the Romans left the area was devastated by the Danes.
1013 Werrington was recorded as being one of the five Manors in Paston Parish that belonged to Peterborough Abbey.
1086 Werrington was the only one of the surrounding hamlets to be mentioned in the Domesday Book. At this time Werrington appears to have been more important than the neighbouring village of Paston.
12th Century Mentioned in a charter from the reign of Richard I as a manor and chapel belonging to Peterborough Abbey. Also during this period the land was recorded as being held by the Knighthood and seventeen Socmen or Soke-men.
13th Century Werrington is mentioned together with a monastery in a charter from the reign of Henry III and in 1291. Additionally a mill and court are recorded as being active.
16th Century On the dissolution of the monasteries the manor was granted to the Lord Bishop of Peterborough . The manor was described as a “Capital house and lands”. During this period the Rawlins family owned some land and part of the land was called Puthokes after a 14th century tenant.
1853 An Order in Council of Queen Victoria made the hamlets of Werrington and Walton into a separate parish from Paston to be called Werrington – cum – Walton.
1858 The old workhouse (opposite what is now the Village Centre carpark) became home to the master and mistress of the Werrington National School (built on the existing carpark).
1860 The Manor of Werrington was vested in the Ecclesiastical commissioners.
1863 The Manor of Werrington was transferred to the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough.
1877 Werrington – cum – Walton became a separate parish and the Church became a Parish Church rather than a Chapel of Ease.
1888 The parish of Werrington was formed when Walton was re-annexed by Paston.
1901 Population of Werrington recorded as 724.
1929 Werrington becomes part of the City of Peterborough.
1938 Parish hall built.
1974 The old school was demolished and an extension to Village Centre (formerly the Parish hall) built. The Church lease the Village Centre building to the Council and the Community Association rent it from the Council.
1987 The building of Emmanuel Church and the William Law Church Aided Primary School was completed during the time when Rev John Littlewood was Vicar. Services have been held since then in the Church (the Hall of the School) & the school rooms are used for Children’s Sunday ministry; for evening meetings; our August Holiday Club & various other events during the year. The Bishop of Peterborough dedicated Emmanuel Church on 6th December 1987 while William Law C of E Primary School was officially opened by the Bishop on 24th May 1988.
(L to R) Robert Gregory-Smith (Church Warden), Canon Allen Willett (Honorary Associate Minister), Rev. Chris Strain (Curate), Bishop of Peterborough, William Westwood, Rev. John Littlewood (Vicar), Bill Mowbray (Church Warden)
© Peterborough Evening Telegraph. Used by kind permission
In 2003 another window was put in the Hall and a large oak cross suspended over the ‘stage area’ giving a focal point. This was done by the late John Breeze who also made the baptism font and the large wooden candleholders. Around 350 can be seated in the Hall and it has multi media facilities which are shared with the School. The Church entrance, Parish Office, kitchen and toilets are separate from the school area. Solid screens were added to the large north window to assist in the viewing of multi-media and the hall was redecorated.
The Church of St. John the Baptist
The present building is the result of eight centuries of development, repairs and restoration. It retains both its historical qualities (it is a Grade 1 listed building) as well as trying to meet the needs of a worshipping Christian community in the early 21st century.
The building has a number of interesting features including the following:
The Norman arches are of particular note. One forms the south doorway with its good example of “zig-zag” patterning and one separates the Nave and the Chancel with the latter strengthening the arch on the Chancel side.
The Chancel windows are good examples of their kind and the East window retains its original tracery, albeit restored.
The stained glass window at the north end of the west wall, depicting Elijah, is older than the surrounding stone work and the stained glass window at the south end shows St John the Baptist to whom the church is dedicated.
The north aisle was an extension to the original building and the pillars separating it from the nave are of a different style to those separating the south aisle. The modern vestry has replaced the old Chantry chapel.
The site possibly had a Saxon church built on it, however there is no archaeological evidence reported that relates to this period. The original, Norman, building consisted of a Chancel, Nave and South Aisle. The Nave and South Aisle were the same size as the present building, but the Chancel was originally shorter. The Chancel arch, the inner archway of the South porch and part of the west wall of the Nave are the only surviving parts of the Norman fabric.
A Bell Cote was added above the East wall of the Nave and the Chancel arch was strengthened (thickened) to take the weight. Before they were removed in 1930 (one is now at John Taylor of Loughborough, the bellfounders) they were listed as the only bells in the Diocese of Peterborough that had been cast before 1300.
The South arcade of the Nave has been rebuilt. A Chantry Chapel was added onto the North side of the Chancel. The North wall was replaced by an arcade and the North Aisle. The font dates from this period. The Chancel was rebuilt and the South porch added.
The windows date from the 14th century (the East window from 1330) as does the wooden door in the South porch.
During the 16th century a third Sanctus bell was in use.
Later the West end of the the North Aisle and the Chantry Chapel became derelict and part of the Nave was exposed to the weather. These were repaired and a stone in the west wall, dated 1680, records these repairs under the chuchwardens Robert West and John Holden. The South porch has a date stone of 1665. A pewter flagon bread holder and a silver chalice and paten are from this date, but for security reasons are no longer kept in the church.
There are tenders dated 1834 for building a new fire engine house in the Chapel yard together with a bill dated 1888 for 26 buckets, lettering, engine box lining and fastening, engine door and lettering for a cost of 8s 6d.
In 1877 a large Bible was given to the church by the rector of Paston when the first vicar of Werrington appointed. At this time the church was described as being “in a bad state of repair and the external appearance is not promising” (Historical and Architectural notes of 1859 and 1868). During the restoration that followed the Nave was restored and the West end of the North Aisle was demolished, repaired and a new arch provided. The roof was repaired, the floor raised, heating apparatus installed, the box pews and choir gallery removed and new seating added. During this reordering the font was moved to its present position. Despite the population being less than 1000 people the costs of about £1000 were met from the parish Church Restoration Fund. Cottages located just to the North of the church, in what is now the church yard, were demolished during this restoration. This date added to the stone in West wall recording 1680 repairs. Before 1884 the floor of the church was strewn on the Feast Day of St John the Baptist (24th June) with grass or hay from a local meadow (east of Car Dyke). The South porch has a date stone of 1892.
In the late 19th century the churchyard was extended on land given by Edward Peach. The Eastern end was marked by line of elm trees. Until this time churchyard did not extend North of the building. Cottages to the West of the church were demolished at about this time and the land taken into the churchyard. The earliest date on a memorial in churchyard is 1851. Prior to this most burials were probably in Paston. All burial records up to 1853 are kept at Paston church.
The Chancel was again restored in 1901/2 using original materials and the low side window was opened up. Two new bells, cast by John Taylor and Co., were used to replace the older bells. The churchyard was further extended in 1932 and new softwood pews were installed at this time. A new pipe organ was installed in 1975 and replaced by an electronic Johannus organ in1986.
In 2001 an extension was added to the north west corner of the church to provide toilet facilities and a new heating system was installed.
In January 2012 an internal re-ordering was undertaken. The pews were replaced with 150 wooden chairs with beige upholstery. These give more flexibility in use of the space in the nave and also the lighting, sound and multimedia systems were upgraded. A sink was also put into the back vestry lobby for use by the flower arrangers. The pulpit has been re-used to be the surround for the multimedia and p.a. desk. Small coffee tables are brought in for the weekly Tuesday Drop In for coffee event & are used for other meetings and courses such as Marriage and Parenting courses.