Touching Place

ST MARY THE VIRGIN, TITCHMARSH

 

F. J. Allen described it as the finest parish church tower in England outside Somerset; it has typical 15th c. Somerset features, including statues in niches on the west front, and the use of a quatrefoil frieze in the basecourse. So why is this tower (built c.1474) in the extreme north-east corner of Northamptonshire, not in Somerset? For two hundred years, the Lovells were Lords of the Manor here and also had extensive West Country estates; the last of the Lovells, Francis (1454-87), might well have imported an architect from the west.

The first and only Viscount Lovell was Chamberlain to Richard III, celebrated in the doggerel 'The Rat, the Cat, and Lovel the dog/Rule all England under the Hog.'

No interior could hope to match such a tower, but in the north transept there is Dryden family monument which records that John Dryden 'was bred and had his first learning here'. Born in the next village of Aldwinkle in 1631, he lived here in Titchmarsh as a boy. Brought up in a Puritan household, he was a King's Scholar at the royalist Westminster School, and completed his spiritual odyssey when he became a Roman Catholic in 1686. Charles II appointed John Dryden to be Poet Laureate, an office he held from 1670 to 1688 until, like the Anglican Nonjurors, he followed his conscience by refusing to take the oath of allegiance to William III.

Reflect: 'Must all tradition then be set aside?/This to affirm were ignorance, or pride./Are there not many points, some needful sure/ To saving faith, that Scripture leaves obscure?' [John Dryden, Religio Laici, 1682].

Ask yourself: what sacrifices would I make for my faith?

Grid ref. TL025794

Simon Cotton

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