Parish of Exning with Landwade

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During 2009, major refurbishments have taken place at St Martin's
[Photo: John Saville] [Photo: John Saville]
[Photo: John Saville] [Photo: Marion Roberts]
[Photo: John Saville] [Photo: John Saville]
[Photo: Marion Roberts] [Photo: Marion Roberts]
The kitchen area has been completely replaced [Photos: Marion Roberts]
[Photo: Marion Roberts] [Photo: Marion Roberts]


A report on Clive Payne Again ~ Friday 6th July 2012 

Clive Payne gave us an illuminating and enjoyable insight into the foundation of our present church and its alterations over 700 years. 

Historians have determined that there was a Christian site at Exning in the 7th C. founded by St. Felix. It is likely that the present building is on that site.  The Saxon church is not mentioned in Domesday Book, though Exning appears in the Cambridgeshire section, but is listed in a ‘Book of Cambridge’ later on.

The church, together with 180 acres of tithe land, was given to the Benedictine Abbey at Battle after its founding in 1071 and became our patron until The Reformation, at which time patronage passed to Canterbury.  The original building was in Crucifix form - that is a single aisle with a Crossing, a short Chancel and two short Transepts.  There was a central tower above the Crossing.

 Crucifix form churches were known as “Minster Churches” because they formed the centre of Christian ministry to local communities. More famous than Exning are York, Southwell, Wimbourne etc!  The dedication to St.Martin, the popular saint of monasticism, is very early.  There are many churches with this dedication in Great Britain and over 4,000 in France!

 In the 13th C. the church was enlarged by adding two side aisles, lengthening the transepts to provide chapels, and lengthening the Chancel.  To achieve this, arches were formed where the original walls were and the perpendicular of the roof lowered. The porch was also added.

 The tower was removed from the crossing and rebuilt where it is today. Looking up the tower one can clearly see demarkation where the tower was extended with different stone to a height of 75 feet (the length of the nave). Also two sets of windows show that this happened in a later period since windows are usually in the upper chamber only.  

The Chancel was under the ownership and control of the Abbey which was responsible for its upkeep and decoration. It would have been highly decorated with images to aid the understanding and worship by the congregation. A rood screen separated it from the body of the church and in the Roman Church the Chancel was reserved for the priest and clergy. Beside the altar would have been two large statues raised up in the wall. That on the right was the Virgin Mary, and on the left was St Martin.  These were removed along with all other “idolatry” at The Reformation.  The decorated and gilded rood (crucifix) screen was also removed since it would have been topped by a crucifix with Mary and St. John on either side of the crucifix and candles which were lit by the priest at the angelus.  Access to the top of the screen was by a doorway and steps cut into a pillar on the left of the Chancel. The door can be seen beside the organ and vestiges of steps are visible behind the central-heating header-tank.              

Clive explained that there is also some evidence of stairs to the right of the position of the rood screen.  The priest would ascend from left and descend to the right.

The priest’s door into the Chancel right-hand side is usual, but a similar door on the left is unusual.  Removal of the render on the north wall of the chancel has uncovered two earlier doorways and it is difficult to understand why these were there and then bricked up.  Lady Alice Cotton’s tomb placed as near the altar as possible on the inside of this wall in 1493 to serve as the Easter Sepulchre may have caused the taller door to be covered over and the smaller door, seen from outside to the right, put through beside the tomb

To the rear of the south aisle wall evidence of a doorway has been uncovered. This would have opened to steps upwards to a Parvis Room where the priest could lock away church plate and other valuables with safety.  At some time this has been reversed and the Parvis Room can now only be accessed externally!

 The Victorians made many changes to existing churches as well as building hundreds more. Clearly the original gothic windows did not suit, and all were replaced with their modern, pointed gothic interpretation between 1860 and 1880.  It can be seen from the exterior stonework that these were sometimes made smaller, in particular the Chancel east window which is now the only one to have stained glass in a pattern which may be replicated in other churches.  The Reredos is also a Victorian addition.

 In order not to repeat too much information this resume should be read in conjunction with ‘The Exning Story’, copies of which are at the back of the church.                                                                                Derek Nicholson


Exning Church Community Hall has also had some improvements [Photo: John Saville] [Photo: Marion Roberts]


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