An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Huntingdonshire. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1926.
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19. CONINGTON (C.c.).
Conington is a parish and small village, 10 m. N.N.W. of Huntingdon. The church and Conington Castle are the principal monuments, and are of special interest as the burial place and home of the family of Sir Robert Cotton.
b(1). Parish Church of All Saints (Plate 39) stands near the middle of the parish. The walls are of cornbrash-rubble with dressings of Barnack and Ketton stone; the roofs are covered with lead and stone slates. The church, consisting of Chancel, North and South Chapels, Nave, North and South Aisles, West Tower and North and South Porches was entirely re-built c. 1500. The embattled parapets were restored or added by Sir Thomas Cotton in 1638. It has been restored in modern times.
The church is interesting as a complete example of its period; among the fittings the early 14th-century effigy (2) and the later monuments are noteworthy, not only for themselves but as memorials erected by Sir Robert Cotton to his ancestors.
Architectural Description—All the details not otherwise described are of c. 1500. The Chancel (27 ft. by 14¼ ft.) has an embattled parapet with a pierced gable-cross. The E. window is modern except for the segmental-pointed head, label parts of the jambs and the rear-arch and splays. In the N. wall is a two-centred arch of two moulded orders, the outer continuous and the inner resting on attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases; further E. is a window of three lights with modern tracery in a segmental-pointed head with a moulded label; the internal recess is carried down to form a seat. The S. wall has an arch and window similar to those in the N. wall. The two-centred chancel-arch is similar in detail to the arches in the side walls; the capitals and bases have been partly cut away for a former screen; the gable above is finished with a shaped gable-cross.
The North Chapel (16½ ft. by 13¼ ft.) has in the E. wall a five-light window with modern tracery in a four-centred head with moulded jambs and label. In the N. wall is a window similar to that in the E. wall, but of four lights. In the W. wall is an arch similar to that opening into the chancel. In the N.W. angle is the rood-loft staircase; it is carried up, in an octagonal turret, above the parapet of the aisle and is finished with a small octagonal spire and finial; the lower doorway has moulded jambs and four-centred head.
The South Chapel (12½ ft. by 13½ ft.) has windows in the E. and S. walls similar to those in the N. chapel, except that the S. window is blocked. In the W. wall is an arch uniform with the corresponding arch in the N. chapel. In the S.W. angle is a rood-loft stair-turret similar to that on the N. side of the church but with no access to the roof of the aisle; the lower doorway is blocked but there is an external doorway in the S.E. face with moulded jambs and four-centred arch.
The Nave (55¾ ft. by 16 ft.) has an embattled parapet with decayed gargoyles. The N. and S. arcades are each of four bays, the three easternmost with two-centred arches and the wider westernmost bay with a four-centred arch, all of two moulded orders, the outer continuous and the inner springing from triple attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases; the N. and S. faces of each pier and respond have attached shafts carried up to support the roof-principals. In the side walls, E. of the arcade, are low recesses or openings at the former rood-loft level each with moulded jambs and four-centred head; they are now blocked. The clearstorey has on each side four windows, the three easternmost of three cinque-foiled lights and the westernmost of five cinque-foiled lights, all with four-centred heads, moulded jambs, labels and rear-arches.
The North Aisle (10½ ft. wide) has two gargoyles to the parapet-string. In the N. wall are three windows similar to that in the N. wall of the N. chapel; between the bays are attached shafts carried up to support the roof-trusses; the N. doorway has moulded jambs and four-centred arch; the rear-arch is also moulded.
The West Tower (14¼ ft. square) is of four stages, the third stage being divided into two storeys. The tower is ashlar-faced and has a moulded plinth with a band of quatre-foiled panels and an embattled parapet with a band of trefoiled-headed panels below; the buttresses and stair-turrets are octagonal and have panelled faces finishing with trefoiled heads and simple tracery below the string-courses dividing the stages of the tower; the buttresses or turrets are finished with lofty panelled and crocketed pinnacles rising above the parapet. The ground-stage has an E. wall inserted between the responds of the tower-arch, this forms a narrow lobby, between the tower and the nave, with passages to the N. and S. communicating with the stair-turrets. The doorway to the nave has moulded jambs and four-centred head. The lobby itself has a plain segmental-pointed barrel-vault; the doorways on the N. and S. have chamfered jambs and four-centred heads and are flanked by the attached shafts of the responds of the tower-arch in the stage above. The ground-stage of the tower has an ashlar vault, all modern except the springers and also apparently inserted as an afterthought; the vault springs from angle-shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The opening in the E. wall, to the lobby, has stop-chamfered jambs carried up into the vault. The N. and S. walls have each a window of two cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with moulded jambs and label; the heads of the lights in the N. window are modern. The W. doorway has jambs and two-centred arch of two moulded orders with a moulded label; the inner face has moulded jambs and rear-arch. The second stage has in the E. wall a two-centred tower-arch of one chamfered order with two chamfered ribs on the soffit, springing from semi-octagonal shafts with moulded capitals; between the respondshafts on the N. side is a doorway from the stair-turret, with chamfered jambs and four-centred head. The W. window is of five cinque-foiled and transomed lights in a four-centred head with moulded jambs and modern label; the mullions and transom are modern. The second stage has a modern plaster vault. The third stage is divided into two storeys internally; the lower storey has in the E. wall a doorway with chamfered jambs and four-centred head, opening on to the nave-roof. The N., S. and W. walls have each a window of two trefoiled lights in a square head, with moulded jambs and label. The upper storey has in the N. and S. walls a round multifoiled window, surrounded by an architrave with round raised panels and a continuous moulded label. In the W. wall is a modern clock-face. The bell-chamber has in each wall a window of four trefoiled lights, with tracery in a four-centred head, with moulded jambs and label; there is a second range of trefoiled heads below the embattled transom.
The North Porch has an outer archway with responds and four-centred arch of two moulded orders with a moulded label. In the W. wall is a modern window. The porch has a barrel-vaulted stone roof with a moulded ridge-rib and moulded and embattled cornices at the springing-level.
The Roof of the chancel is modern except for the stone corbels in the western corners. The modern roof of the S. chapel incorporates some old timbers. The posts, on the E. side of the N. chapel, rest on moulded stone corbels. The corbel, in the N.E. angle of the S. chapel, is carved with an owl. The nave has a low-pitched tie-beam roof of five main bays, the two end bays being sub-divided by a subsidiary tie-beam; the main timbers are moulded and the main tie-beams have curved braces and wall-posts standing on the stone wallshafts already described; at the W. end are foliated brackets; the roof has been extensively restored. The roofs of the two aisles are generally similar to that of the nave; there are no shafts on the outer walls below the westernmost tie-beam, the wall-post of which is supported on corbels carved with the heads of a queen and king respectively; the roof of the N. aisle is, very largely, a modern restoration.
Fittings—Brackets: In N. chapel—in N.E. angle, semi-octagonal moulded shelf with panelled tapering soffit and rectangular moulded projection on each side, 15th-century. In nave—over chancel-arch, three small moulded brackets, carved with flowers, 15th-century. Brass Indent: In tower— broken Purbeck-slab with indents of crucifix, shield-of-arms, parts of two figures with scrolls and marginal inscription, 15th-century. Chair: (Plate 40) In chancel—called Queen Mary's Chair, high back with moulded side-posts finished with headless, seated figures, moulded and embattled top rail with cinque-foiled and sub-cusped arched head below it, having main spandrels carved with the Annunciation and small spandrels carved with swans and doves, curved and buttressed arms with small figures of angels, two on each arm, early 16th-century, now painted, front and seat modern. Chest: (Plate 146) In S. aisle— of hutch-type with plain iron-bound sides and ends, three staples, shaped brackets to front and plain lid, 17th-century. Communion Table: with turned legs, plain rails and shaped brackets to top rail, mid 17th-century. Doors: In N. doorway—of keeled battens with moulded fillets. In S. doorway—similar to N. doorway. In exterior doorway to S. turret-staircase to rood-loft—of three nail-studded battens with chamfered fillet round edge, all late 15th-century. Font: octagonal bowl with continuous interlacing arcade of pointed arches springing from attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases, moulded upper and chamfered lower edge, mid 13th-century, partly restored, stem and base modern. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In N. chapel—in S.E. angle, (1) of John Cotton, 1702, white and veined marble tablet with gadrooned shelf supporting cartouche with bust in relief, draped and enriched apron below, one shield-of-arms. In S. chapel—on floor, (2) Purbeck-marble slab with recumbent effigy of man (Plate 115) in long habit with cowl and knotted cord at waist, mail coif and sleeves show under cowl and at wrists, head on two cushions, feet mutilated, late 13th- or early 14th-century; perhaps to a member of the third order of St. Francis; in S.E. angle, (3) of Sir Thomas Cotton, 1662, white veined marble wall-monument (Plate 45) with bust of man in round recess, bay-leaf swag below and scrolled pediment above, plain inscribed apron, cartouche and two shields-of-arms; in S.W. angle, (4) of Sir Robert Cotton, 1631, wall-monument (Plate 45) generally similar to (3) with cartouche and two shields-of-arms, both monuments (3 and 4) erected by Sir John Cotton. In N. aisle—against N. wall, (5) to [David, King of Scotland and Earl of Huntingdon] large wall - monument (Plate 45) of Ketton stone in two stages, lower of two bays divided and flanked by Corinthian columns, standing on an enriched base with eight shields-of-arms, and supporting an enriched entablature; upper stage with central arched niche containing a large crown and flanked by Composite columns supporting an entablature with strap-work cresting and a large shield-of-arms; flanking centre-piece, two large seated unicorns, facing outwards, monument erected, c. 1600; further W. (6) to Prince Henry of Scotland, wall-monument (Plate 45) of Ketton stone, with plain recessed panel, flanked by fluted Corinthian columns standing on shaped brackets and supporting an entablature, strapwork, cartouche and shield-of-arms, monument erected c. 1600; at W. end, (7) of Elizabeth (Honywood) second wife of Sir John Cotton, 1702, tablet generally similar to (1) but with bust of woman and shield-of-arms. In S. aisle—in S.E. angle, (8) to Thomas Cotton , and Lucy (Harvey) his wife, and to Thomas Cotton M.P., and Elizabeth (Shirley) his wife, wall-monument (Plate 45) of Ketton stone with two round-headed recesses, divided and flanked by enriched Corinthian columns standing on bracketed pedestals and supporting an entablature, achievement and seven shields-of-arms, monument erected c. 1600; further W. (9) to Thomas Cotton, 1519, and Joan (Paris) his wife, wall-monument of Ketton stone with recess flanked by Corinthian columns, supporting an entablature, cartouche and two shields-of-arms, monument erected c. 1600. Floor-slabs: In chancel—(1) to John Cotton, 1635; (2) to Henry Harris, M.A., vicar of the parish, 1698. In N. chapel—(3) to D. C. [Lady D. Cotton], 1662–3; (4) to John Cotton . In S. chapel—(5) to Sir T. C. [Thomas Cotton], 1662; (6) to Sir R. C. [Robert Cotton], 1631; (7) to M. C. [Lady M. Cotton], 1621–2; (8) to Catherine, infant daughter of Sir John Cotton, Bart., 1714. In N. aisle— (9) to Isaac Johnson, A.M., Curate of Holme, 1670–1; (10) to —ay wife of Thomas Sibley, 1704; (11) to Kenelm Collins, 1681. In S. aisle—(12) illegible; (13) to Ishmael Sibley, 1705. In tower— (14) to Mary Bray, late 17th- or early 18th-century; (15) to H.H., 1674. Niche: In nave—over doorway to tower, moulded bracket, recess with trefoiled head, flanked by shafts supporting a moulded ogee label with crockets and finial, c. 1500. Painting: In S. aisle—over S. doorway, remains of painting in red and yellow, perhaps of St. George and the dragon, early 16th-century. Piscinae: In chancel—recess (Plate 141) with moulded jambs and cinque-foiled arch in a square embattled head with foliated spandrels, projecting sill on a grotesque head, septfoiled drain and plain shelf, c. 1500. In N. chapel—in S. wall, recess with moulded jambs and four-centred head, projecting sill, square drain with carved flower at bottom and chamfered shelf, c. 1500. In S. chapel—in S. wall, generally similar to that in N. chapel. Plate: includes cup of 1711 with baluster-stem and stand-paten of 1702. Scratchings: The masonry of the chancel-arch, chapels, nave and aisles has a number of masons' marks. In tower—in second stage, many scratched names and initials, 16th- and 17th-century. Screens: In N. chapel—under W. arch, of three bays, (Plate 41) including doorway, with moulded posts and rail with carved twisted foliage, close lower panels with cusped heads and foliated spandrels, open upper panels to doors with trefoiled and sub-cusped heads, foliated spandrels and embattled cornice, early 16th-century. In S. chapel—under W. arch, of three bays including doorway, bays divided by attached shafts with moulded capitals, moulded posts, head and rails, side bays with trefoiled ogee heads and tracery, close lower panels with sub-cusped heads and foliated spandrels, doors with two trefoiled and traceried heads to open upper panels, plain close lower panels, early 16th-century, now painted. Sedilia: In chancel—recess (Plate 141) with moulded and buttressed standards at sides, canopy of three bays of cinque-foiled arches with trefoiled spandrels and pendants, embattled cornice, soffit of canopy with ribbed vault springing from carved heads, plain seat with front enriched with flowing cusped panelling of Ketton stone and clunch, early 16th-century. Miscellanea: Altar-frontal of modern material incorporating portions of four stoles or maniples, two with conventional foliage in silver thread and two with later embroidery on modern silk, 17th-century, Italian. In rectory garden—various worked and moulded stones including portions of window-jambs and mullions, tracery, bases, arcading, piscina and a panelled fragment with a shield bearing checky on a bend three water-bougets.
b(4). Conington Castle, house 70 yards S.W. of the church, is of three storeys; the walls are of cornbrash, Ketton and some Barnack stone; the roofs are covered with slates. The house is of irregular L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the E. and S. The S. wing is probably of mid 16th-century date. The E. wing was built at the beginning of the 17th century by Sir Robert Cotton who also refaced the E. side of the S. wing. It is said that he had a grant of materials from the destroyed castle buildings of Fotheringhay. In the 19th century the house was extensively altered and partly re-built, the porch was removed from the E. side of the house and re-erected on the W. side, a storey was added to the S. wing, the E. wing re-constructed internally and the upper part re-built, and additions made in the angle between the wings.
Elevations—The S. wing (Plate 42) has in the middle of the W. face a semi-octagonal projecting stair-turret, said to have been added in 1880, and lit by square-headed windows; the remainder of the range has two or three-light windows with moulded jambs and mullions and square heads, except to the ground-floor on the E. side, where the windows are of early 17th-century date and have transoms and moulded cornices; these windows are of two, three or four lights. The W. end of the E. wing has a reconstructed porch, probably of late 16th-century date. It has a round outer archway, with moulded imposts and archivolt, and is flanked by fluted Ionic columns, standing on pedestals and supporting an entablature. The side walls of the porch are pierced by plain round-headed openings. Flanking the porch and set in the main wall of the building are two round arches each of two moulded orders with a moulded label; the moulded responds have each an attached shaft with moulded and embattled capital and moulded base; these arches are probably of early 16th-century date and are said to have come from Fotheringhay Castle, though it is difficult to say to what part of the castle they could have belonged. The N. front of the E. wing incorporates nine similar arches, three of which are set in a semi-octagonal projecting bay. All these arches, with those on the W. front, are blocked and have modern windows in the blocking. The two return faces of the bay have each a round-headed niche.
b(5). The Old Rectory, house two tenements, 700 yards W.N.W. of the church, is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. It was built early in the 17th century on a T-shaped plan with the cross-wing at the W. end. Inside the building there is some exposed timber-framing and the staircase on the N. side has some original shaped balusters, square panelled newels and moulded rails. The first floor has cambered tie-beams and shaped wall-posts.
b(6). Cottage, two tenements, 260 yards E. of (5), is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are thatched. It was built late in the 17th century and has a modern addition on the N. side. There are several original battened doors with strap - hinges. Inside the building some original ceiling-beams are exposed. In the garden are some fragments of worked and moulded stone including a piece of 15th-century window-tracery.
b(7). Conington Round Hill stands 1¼ m. W.S.W. of the church, on an eastern spur of a ridge running nearly parallel to and on the W. of the Ermine Street, at a height of about 150 ft. above O.D., the ground falling steeply in all directions except the S.W. The work forms a pentagonal enclosure with a partially wet moat and an inner bank on the N., N.E. and S.E. faces, each about 180 yards long. The N.W. and S.W. faces, 75 yards and 100 yards long, have traces of a shallow ditch with slight inner and outer banks and join a symmetrical ogee-shaped annexe which lies axially with the main work and has also remains of a small ditch. The eastern rampart, where best preserved, is from 9 to 12 ft. high above the moat. The whole work covers an area of 17½ acres. There is a small pond within the main enclosure but no sign of foundations. The unusual and symmetrical plan and the boldness of profile on the E., compared with the slight defences on the W., make it difficult to assign a purpose or period to the work.