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Dedication : St Peter    Simon Jenkins: ***                                                             Principal Features : Superb Norman Chancel; First Rank Norman Chancel Arch    

Tickencote lies just 3 miles north-west of Stamford, very close to the A1. It has a special place in our hearts because Tickencote with its glorious Norman chancel arch was where Diana’s passing interest in churches became a passion. If you are haring up the A1 I can’t think of a better place to interrupt your journey and chill out for half an hour.

The chancel arch is perhaps the finest single feature in any Rutland church and its Norman chancel is one of the most perfect in England. The exterior suggests perfection throughout but much of it was sympathetically restored in 1792 - when the “terror” of the French Revolution was at its height - by one Eliza Wingfield who is commemorated above the church door. This restoration apparently saved the church from ruin and appears from contemporary documents to have preserved the general original outline of the church.

The church is known, as is so frequently the case, to have replaced a Saxon structure but no trace remains. The present church is believed to date from around 1130-1150.

The celebrated chancel arch has 6 orders of decoration and its size seems somewhat too large for the church! The decorations are elaborate and include many examples of the delightful semi-pagan imagery of bears, cats and monsters that typify this period.

The chancel itself is a delight. It has sex-partite stone vaulting and is almost unique in England and is believed to pre-date similar work at Canterbury and Lincoln.The ribs are decorated with zig-zag moulding. At the centre of the ribs is a stone boss, again a great rarity, showing a monk’s head and two muzzled bears. Others exist at Iffley, Elkstone and Kilpeck.

The font too is Norman, albeit some 70 years later than the main structure, impinging into the Transitional and Early English periods. Its blind arcading is, however, unmistakably Norman in origin. The base of the font has small pillars and it is claimed in the church guidebook that these had been cut into the original base much later as an “improvement”. The British History website suggests that the base is actually much later and looking again at the photograph below I can’t help felling that they are probably right

The nave dates entirely from the 1792 restoration but it is sufficiently sympathetic that we can imagine ourselves in an entirely Norman church.

The 6 stage chancel arch. The doors to left and right are parts of the 1792 restoration.

Looking westwards from the chancel showing the much less spectacular reverse of the chancel arch.

An unusual perspective on the chancel arch revealing the multi-layered decoration. Note particularly the “monsters” (third from top) and “beakheads” (fifth from top)

The extraordinary sex-partite chancel. Note the central roof boss.

The font with blind arcading and “improved” base.

Two of the deeply-splayed and beautifully decorated chancel windows.

Stone chancel roof boss with a monk and two bears.

Fantastic figures from the chancel arch.

Detail from the chancel arch decoration

Chancel arch capitals, south west side.

The rather eccentric, but nevertheless sympathetically re-styled exterior. The upper windows have foliate decorations that appear moorish. The blind arcading is somewhat freelance and geometrically irregular. I would love to know whether the restorer was given a free hand to vent his “creativity” or whether it was “designed by committee”!