The typical old village church at Helmdon was the subject of our last “guess” picture.
Like most of the churches in South Northamptonshire, it has a squat, embattled tower similar to the one in the neighbouring parish of Lois Weedon where a former vicar, William Losse, shut himself up in the tower and successfully resisted a squad of Parliamentary troops sent to arrest him and to convey him to Northampton during the Civil War.
Stone Coffins Found
The church at Helmdon is dedicated to St Mary and is in the decorated style of architecture. Evidences of an earlier church exist including sedilia and piscina in the south aisle, in a wonderful state of preservation, and, beneath the same aisle, were found two large stone coffins supposed to have been buried in what was a manor chapel.
The church stands on an elevation at the west end of the village which consists of one street a mile long.
In the last century, Helmdon relied chiefly on agriculture supplemented by lace making and quarries of freestone.
Apparently the village was more prosperous then for the population of 656, in 1871, has now declined to 463 with no immediate prospect of recovery.
Had Three Manor Houses
When the Northampton and Banbury junction Railway opened a station at Helmdon, visions arose of the village eventually becoming a rival to Towcester and Brackley.
Alas! for human optimism. The village has lost its station for passenger traffic and also the monthly market for live and dead stock that formerly flourished there.
In medieval days, Helmdon was of sufficient importance to have three manor houses. The principal one, now a farmstead, belonged to the Cistercian Abbey at Biddlesden. After the dissolution, it passed through several hands and was eventually sold to Oxford University in 1552.
The University is still among the largest landowners in that part of the county and its Corpus Christi College also holds the patronage of the living at Helmdon which was presented three years ago, to the Rev.Dr.J.C.Morrice also rector of Stuchbury and Greatworth.
The churchyard at Helmdon has long been noted for a giant yew tree 33 feet in girth, which is claimed to be the largest in the county.
The Northampton Independent – January 2nd 1953