The Parish Church of Yardley Hastings
Although Yardley (or Gerdelai) was, according to the Doomsday Book , a fairly substantial village, there is no evidence to suggest that there was an Anglo-Saxon church.The present church is dedicated to St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. This perhaps gives some clue to the origin of the building, for the lordship of the manor of Yardley was owned by the Scottish royal family between 1114 and 1237. Indeed, David, younger brother of king William “The Lion” died in Yardley in 1219.
This fits nicely with the probable date of the tower - which is the oldest part of the church - of about 1200. The rounded Norman style windows in the tower appear to be original, but unusually they do not carry through to the inside where the window frames are in the Early English style.In 1237 the Lordship of the manor passed to the Hastings family, (hence the “Hastings” in the village name), who were ennobled in 1290 and created Earls of Pembroke in 1339.
The archaeological evidence suggests that the 14th century Manor House to the North of the church was one ofthe most important seats of the Hastings family if not the most important. The main body of the church was originally built in about 1320/40, very much the same date as the fragment of the medieval hall to the North of the church. Although the church as it exists today was re-built in the 1880s with considerable re-use of medieval material, the ground plan does not appear to have been changed significantly during this reconstruction. The original 14th century building would therefore have been a large one for a village church.
The church nevertheless contains some high quality 14th century survivals. The main, South dooris particularly noteworthy with its fine carving of flowers at the points of the scalloped reliefs at the edge, which are further developed in a crossboard on the door itself. The door is still secured by its original medieval bolt.
The very wide nave has arcades of four arches on each side with clerestory windows. There are traces of medieval red scroll work on the towerdoorwayin the nave. On the South wall (to the left ofthis doorway) are traces ofthe entrance to a gallery where the village choir would have sung. The plain medieval font is almost impossible to date accurately - but the 17th century cover is worth noting.
In the South Aisle there are two statue brackets, one in a well executed (if fairly standard) “Green Man” design. The other represents the head of a Queen and may date back to the time when the tower was built.
By the organ is a corbelwith the bust of a man with his fingers in his mouth. Known locally as “toothache”, his gesture may illustrate this condition but was more probably some sort of obscene challenge!
The magnificent sweep of the chancel archwith its inscription painted on a tin base frames the beauty of the 14th century traceried East window, which has good modern glass depicting the Birth, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord.
Within the chancel are several monuments.
John Wilson, (on the East wall) was rector for most of the second half of the 17th Century and managed to continue to minister to his flock in the village during the Commonwealth and Restoration as well as the Revolution which set William III on the throne.
His successor,Humphrey Betty, is commemorated in the other monument on that wall. He was a Cornishman and a chaplain to Viscount Gallway during the latter’s embassy to the court of Turin in 1694. He returned to become rector of Yardley Hastings in 1696 and embarked on the re-building of the Old Rectory which is date-stoned 1701. His grave is below the altar.
Edward Lye (North wall), who also lies in the chancel, was rectorbetween 1750 and 1767. His monument is by the Northampton sculptor William Coxandhas a quill pen in a black inkpot resting on a white marble book on a shelf below the inscription. Lye was a famous antiquary who gave much of his life to studying Anglo-Saxon and in producing an Anglo-Saxon dictionary. He was only able to have 30 pages of this printed before he died but the dictionary was completed by his friend Owen Manning and published in 1772.
George Rooke(South wall) was rector during the first half of the 19th century. His hatchmentis hung with those of the Royal Family and the Marquess ofNorthampton on the tower wall at the other end of the nave.
The legs of the altar table are 17th century and were probably originally part of an altar rail. The top is modern. The prayer desksdate from 1898 and were made by the local carpenter Jonathan Berril of timber from Yardley Chase. The triple sediliaand the piscinaare modern.
Restoration of the church.
The patron of the church is still the Marquess of Northampton. In common with most of the other churches on his estates, St Andrew’s was restored in the late 19th century when the work was supervised by the estate’s clerk of works, George Sutherland, in 1883-6. The faculty for this work still exists and it is clear that almost all of the nave was rebuilt although the outer walls of the chancel were not disturbed. The nave’s clerestory windowsand roof date from this time and are splendid examples of their period. The pews date from the 1890s. The original box pews were re-used as panelling , chiefly on the South wall.
The lych gate was built in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII.
The brass chandelier hanging in the nave was made by Cocks and Son, Birmingham and was presented to the church by Rev. George Rooke in 1808 shortly after he became rector. The ten branches are arranged in two tiers. The smaller one in the South aisle, with a similar rise and fall mechanism was probably part of the same gift.
The organ was first installed in the choir loft in 1862 but was moved to its present position and enlarged in 1892/3 by Martin and Coate of Oxford, as is evidenced by the inscription above the top keyboard.
The Bell Tower
As previously stated, the bell tower dates from about 1200. The existing bells were cast (or perhaps recast from an earlier set) in 1723, see below. Whether as a result of their installation or, more likely, of subsidence,the tower almost collapsed in 1787. In order to support it a large buttress was built on the South-West corner and the West wall reinforced with additional stonework, which necessitated the blocking up of the West door. In the middle of the West wall there is a further buttress supporting the new stonework. Nevertheless the tower still has a curious zigzag shape when viewed from the South. The battlements are part of the 1880’s restoration.
The bells form a peal of six and were originally cast by Henry Penn of Peterborough in 1723. Each bears the arms of George, fourth Earl of Northampton and are inscribed:
Treble Fear God Honour the King Henry Penn Founder 1723
1 Obey them that have rule over you in the Lord 1723
2 Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing 1723
3 Praise god in the beauty of holiness 1723
4 Be no wise in your own conceits 1723
Tenor The righteous hath hope in His death 1723
The Tenor bell, on which the clock strikes the hours, is at the approximate pitch of F# and weighs 11 cwt. The fourth bell was recast by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough in 1885 and the peal rehung with new fittings in the existing frame. This frame of oak dates from 1723 or earlier. It was reinforced with steel girders in the 1960s
The first recorded peal by the Yardley ringers was a peal of Grandshire Doubles on 23 December 1922, conducted by B. Burge; the 5040 changes taking 3hr 7min. The second was on 8 November 1958 when a similar peal, conducted by H. Wooding, was accomplished in 3hr 10 min. The third occasion with the same conductor on 25 April 1959 took 3hr 5min. Ringing was suspended during 1960-62 while repairs to the fabric of the tower were carried out. Subsequently ringing was resumed but only for a limited period owing to the condition of the frame.
By the early 1990s it was becoming increasingly clear that the fittings were becoming worn out; the gudgeon pins were working loose, the bearings very worn and the headstocks badly shaken. It was therefore decided to rehang the bells. They were removed from their frame with local help and sent to Taylors of Loughborough who refurbished and rehung them in their original frame using ball bearings and modern canon retaining headstocks. All the fittings are therefore new with the exception of the wheels which are those made in 1885. The bells are rung each week for the Sunday service and the band practices on Wednesday at 7.30 p.m.