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Trail: St. Mary Magdalene

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St Mary Magdalene The church of St Mary Magdalene in Helmdon built of Helmdon stone, and situated on the highest ground in the village, has been a landmark for more than seven hundred years and there was probably a church on that spot long before that. The present church dates mainly from the 13th and 14th centuries. Before the Reformation it was dedicated to St Nicholas and around that time was changed to St Mary Magdalene. It has been restored more than once and after a lightning strike the tower was rebuilt in 1823.

 

The chancel's two quite different styles were both in use between 1295 and 1320. The interwoven tracery of the big east window arises from the simple Early English arch form and the more elaborate decorated style of the other windows to the early fourteenth century. Both styles of window have the same kind of hood mouldings of about 1310 so it may well be that all the chancel work was achieved in only a few years.

 

The Piscina The oldest item in the church is the Early English piscina which is near the north door. It was found during the restoration of some old pews and was placed in the wall near to where it was found.


The sedilia in the chancel is fourteenth-century and is probably the work of William Campin, the stone mason, who is commemorated on the Campiun window

 

There are six bells in the church tower of which the oldest is dated 1679, and over the centuries they have been rung to call people to services, as well as in times of war, peace and celebration. The communion table and reredos were presented to the village by James Fairbrother, Esq.

 

The old yew tree The oldest thing in the churchyard is the yew tree at the east end which was first estimated to be over a thousand years old. However, a persuasive case has been made recently for most old yews to be much younger than has been believed. The Helmdon tree has grown 2 inches in girth in the last nine years. By working out an average from such a rate of growth, it can be calculated that it was planted in about 1309. At that date it is very probable that church's chancel was being built. The yew stands just east of it.

The churches of Helmdon with Stutchbury and Radstone, Syresham with Whitfield, Lois Weedon with Weston and Plumpton, and Wappenham, are in the cure of the Revd Will Adams, in the Deanery of Brackley.


The inscriptions in the churchyard and the memorials in the church and also the inscriptions in the Baptist chapel, war memorial and elsewhere in the village have been recorded by the WEA.


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