St Peter’s Church

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It would be quite easy to miss St Peter’s Church as it is surrounded by trees at the edge of the village. It is a rather uninspiring building with low square tower and long low nave and chancel. This was the last of the churches to be restored by Sir Tatton Sykes II from Sledmere house between 1900-3. The main reason to visit is to see the Norman font brought here from the redundant church of nearby Cottam.

There is little information about the church on the web and we couldn’t find a guide book. Inside it is a pleasant but unexceptional building with arcades of octagonal pillars and pointed arches separating nave and side aisles. A narrow pointed arch leads into the chancel with simple altar below the Kempe stained glass east window. On the south wall is three seater sedilia set under ogee arches with the piscina.

At the back of the nave is a typical C19th font with tall pointed cover similar to that we had seen earlier at St Edith’s Church in Bishop Wilton.

Round the bowl are carvings of saints. On the tall spire cover are the four evangelists and the four doctors of the western church (St Gregory, St Augustine of Hipp, St Jerome and St Ambrose).

The Norman font is in the south west corner of the church by the door. It was brought here in 1950 when the small church at Cottam was declared redundant. Cottam and Langtoft had been in the same parish. For a time it was used in preference to the Sykes font. It still has the original lead lining and marks round the rim where the lid was locked onto the font to prevent holy water being stolen. Traces of the heavy lime wash applied during the Commonwealth to hide the carvings can also be seen.

The font is lit by a single harsh flood light. Coupled with lack of space around the font, photography wasn’t easy.

It is a remarkable piece of work, covered with detailed carvings. The carving everyone wants to see is that of St Andrew on the cross which is the earliest known example of a carving like this in England. On either side of him are his two executioners. Apparently Bede records that St Andrew took two days to die and preached all the time.

Next to St Andrew is a carving of a dragon. This is followed by St Lawrence lying with his hands bound on a grid iron. To complete his agony, his executioner is prodding him with a spear.

Next to him is the dragon swallowing St Margaret of Antioch, but she was so holy that she is seen bursting out of the dragon’s side.

Next is the Tree of Life, followed by the Tree of Knowledge with the serpent tempting Eve with an apple. Both Adam and Eve are holding bunches of leaves to try and hide their nakedness.

The church is reached up a steep lane off the Sledmere road near the crossroads. There is plenty of parking at the end of the road. The church is open daily.

There are more pictures “here.”:

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