Bluntisham cum Earith

Pages 17-23

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Huntingdonshire. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1926.

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In this section


(O.S. 6 in. (a)XIX N.E., (b)XIX S.E.)

Bluntisham is a parish 4½ m. E.N.E. of St. Ives; it contains the two villages of Bluntisham and Earith. The principal monuments are the church and Earith bulwark.


a(1). About ¾ m. N. of the village of Earith, in a field called The Meadows, some burnt clay and a small broken arch, which were thought to be the remains of a kiln, were found in 1879. Near by was a rubbish-pit containing numerous Romano-British potsherds, a piece of Samian ware marked CAMPANIO. Around the site much other pottery, querns, etc., and a burial by inhumation, with a bowl, probably of post-Claudian date, have been found. About 700 yards E. of Bluntisham church, near the River Ouse, a small bronze statuette inlaid with silver was discovered about 1814. These discoveries may indicate the site of a fen-village of the Romano - British period. [Reliquary XX (1879) 245; Camb. and Hunts Antiq. Soc. Trans., II, 252 ff; Babbington, Ancient Camb., p. 76; Camb. Antiq. Soc. Comm., III, 231; Proc. Soc. Antiq. (2 Ser.) IV, 498.]


b(2). Parish Church of St. Mary (Plate 20) stands S.E. of the village of Bluntisham. The walls generally are of stone and pebble-rubble with Ketton, Barnack and clunch dressings: the side walls of the chancel are ashlar-faced and there is some brick in the top stage of the tower. The roofs are covered with tiles and lead. The Chancel and North Vestry or Chapel were built c. 1330 and the West Tower c. 1370–80. The Nave and Aisles were re-built c. 1450 and the Porches added, the aisles being extended westwards to the face of the tower and arches pierced in the N. and S. walls of the tower; the chancel-arch was re-built at the same time. The church was restored in the 19th century when the chancel was much altered and repaired, the N. wall being re-built or refaced with ashlar and the N. Vestry partly re-built. The W. tower has been restored in recent years.

Bluntisham, the Parish Church of St Mary

The apsidal end of the chancel is an unusual feature and the nave is a good example of 15th-century work. Among the fittings the paintings on the screen are noteworthy.

Architectural Description—The Chancel (37 ft. by 18 ft.) is of c. 1330 and has a three-sided apse (Plate 20), each face gabled and finished with a modern cross or finial; between the gables are carved gargoyles; in each face is a window of two trefoiled lights with leaf-tracery in a two-centred head and with moulded external splays; the internal angles of the apse have each a modern shaft with a moulded base which may perhaps be ancient. In the N. wall of the chancel is a two-centred arch of two chamfered orders with a modern label; the outer order is continuous and the inner rests on attached shafts with moulded capitals and hollow-chamfered bases; further W. is a window with external splays and of two cinque-foiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head. In the S. wall are three windows all with moulded external splays, the easternmost is of two pointed lights with a plain spandrel in a two-centred head; the mullion is modern; the middle window has a modern mullion and tracery in an opening similar to that of the easternmost window; the westernmost window is entirely modern; below this window is a 'low-side,' set unusually low in the wall and of two square-headed lights with moulded jambs and mullion; it retains its iron bars and stancheons but is now blocked. The 15th-century chancel-arch is two-centred and of two moulded orders with a moulded label; the moulded responds have each three attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases.

The North Vestry or Chapel (9½ ft. by 10½ ft.) is of c. 1330, much restored and mostly re-built. In the E. wall is a window of three trefoiled ogee lights in a segmental-pointed outer order with a modern internal label having old corbel-stops with carved heads, re-set. In the N. wall is a modern window. In the W. wall is a partly restored doorway with jambs and two-centred head of two chamfered orders.

The Nave (51½ ft. by 16½ ft.) has mid 15th-century N. and S. arcades of four bays with two-centred arches of two moulded orders, similar to the chancel-arch; the moulded columns have each four attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases, similar to the chancel-arch responds; the responds have attached half-columns; E. of the N.E. arch is an upper doorway to the rood-loft staircase; it has a rebated W. jamb and square head; cutting into the label of the E. arch on each side of the nave is the socket for the front beam of the former loft; the staircase-turret is now blocked and the lower doorway is not now visible. The clearstorey has on each side four 15th-century windows, each of two cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head and all restored externally. On the E. face of the tower is the weathering of the earlier and lower roof of the nave, before the clearstorey was added.

The North Aisle (11¾ ft. wide) is of c. 1450 and has in the E. wall a window of three pointed lights in a four-centred head with casement-moulded jambs and moulded label; the mullions and heads of the lights have been restored. In the N. wall are four windows each of three trefoiled lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head with a moulded label; the mullions and tracery of the two easternmost windows are modern; each window is set in an internal wall-recess with moulded jambs, two-centred arch and plinth; the N. doorway has moulded and shafted jambs, two-centred arch and moulded label; W. of it is a doorway to a turret-staircase, with chamfered jambs and two-centred head. In the W. wall is a window and wall-recess similar to those in the N. wall but the window is partly restored and has a four-centred head to the recess.

The South Aisle (11¾ ft. wide) is of c. 1450 and has in the E. wall a window of three tall four-centred lights, formerly cusped, and with a four-centred head, sunk-chamfered jambs and a moulded label. In the S. wall are four windows and recesses all uniform to the corresponding windows in the N. aisle and all partly restored; the S. doorway is uniform with the N. doorway. In the W. wall is a window and recess uniform with that in the W. wall of the N. aisle.

The West Tower (13¼ ft. by 12 ft.) is of c. 1370–80, and of three stages with a moulded plinth and an embattled parapet of ashlar; the parapet-string has carved paterae and faces. The stair-turret, in the N.E. angle, is finished with a stone vault supported on chamfered cross-ribs. The E. tower-arch is two-centred and of three chamfered orders, the two outer continuous and the inner springing from attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases all of Barnack stone. The 15th-century N. and S. arches of the tower are two-centred and of two wave-moulded orders, the two outer die on to a large wave-moulded order of the responds and the inner springs from attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases, all of clunch repaired in modern Ketton-stone. The doorway of the stair-turret has chamfered jambs and two-centred arch of Barnack stone. The 15th-century W. doorway has partly restored moulded and shafted jambs, two-centred arch and moulded label; the W. window, of the same date, is of three lights, two cinque-foiled and the middle one trefoiled, with modern mullions and tracery in a two-centred head. The second stage has in each face a single pointed light, that on the S. altered. The bell-chamber has in each wall a window of two restored trefoiled and transomed lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head with a moulded label, continued along the wall-face. The octagonal spire is of ashlar and has three ranges of spire-lights, four in each range and the ranges set alternately in the cardinal and intermediate faces of the spire. The windows of the two lower ranges are each of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head set in a gable; the windows of the top range are each of one trefoiled light in a gabled head.

The North Porch is of c. 1450 and was formerly of two storeys, but now of one only and reduced in height. The outer archway has moulded jambs and two-centred arch in a segmental-pointed head with a moulded label and foliated spandrels; the inner order of the arch is cinque-foiled and sub-cusped with foliated spandrels. The angle-buttresses are finished with gargoyles and the string-course above is pierced for downpipes. The side walls have each a window of two cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label. High up in the W. wall, internally, are remains of the lower part of the doorway from the turret-staircase to the room above the porch. The turret is finished with a pyramidal capping above the aisle-parapet.

The South Porch is of c. 1450 and has an outer archway with moulded jambs, two-centred arch and label. The side walls have each a window of two cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label.

The Roof of the nave is of the 15th century and of four bays with moulded tie-beams, wall-posts, curved braces with traceried spandrels, embattled wall-plates, partly modern, queen-posts from which spring four-centred arched braces supporting the ridge, and chamfered purlins and ridge; the ridge has carved foliage-bosses in the middle of each bay, one of which is missing; the wall-posts stand on well carved stone corbels with figures as follows—N. side, (a) bearded man with scroll; (b) angel with shield; (c) angel with pipe or flute; (d) angel with lute; (e) man in mid 15th-century civil costume; S. side, (a) modern; (b) angel with shield; (c) angel with zither; (d and e) modern. The 15th-century roof of the N. aisle is of flat pitch with hollow-chamfered principals and purlin, wall-posts and curved braces; the stone corbels on the N. wall are carved with an angel holding a crown, the bust of a bearded man, etc.

Fittings—Bells: eight, 4th by Miles Graye, 1632; the bell-frame is old. Brackets: In N. porch— over N. doorway, three, moulded, one broken off, 15th-century. Brass Indents: In nave—(1) of inscription-plate; (2) of rectangular plate and inscription-plate; (3) of civilian and wife and inscription-plate, c. 1460. Communion Table: At W. end of S. aisle, of oak, with four turned legs and plain rail, early 17th-century. Doors: To S. doorway, of oak, with two-centred head and in five panels on battens with moulded ribs; hung on two wrought-iron strap-hinges with foliated ends, early 16th-century, partly renewed. To doorway to ringing chamber, of oak, nail-studded, of two vertical planks on horizontal planks with one moulded rib; hung on two strap - hinges. Font: (Plate 9) octagonal bowl of Barnack stone with quatrefoil panel on each face and underside panelled and carved on each face with grotesque faces, conventional leaves and flowers; stem of clunch with shafted angles with moulded bases and each face panelled with 'window-tracery' of two cinque-foiled 'lights' with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head with foliated spandrels; moulded base, stem decayed, c. 1500. Monuments and Floor-slabs: Monuments: In chancel—on N. wall, (1) to Samuel Saywell, S.T.P., rector of the parish, 1708, and Sara his sister, wife of Andrew Mieres, 1720, slate slab with stone frame, cornice, apron and shield-of-arms. In churchyard—N. of chancel, (2) to Adrian Lucas, 1672, brick table-tomb, with heavy stone slab, inscription re-cut. Floor-slabs: Under tower—(1) with traces of incised cross; (2) part only, with stem and base of incised cross, both 14th- or 15th-century. Niches: In S. aisle—in E. wall, two, flanking window, rough with rounded and plastered heads; in S. wall, shallow recess with cinque-foiled ogee head, moulded, crocketed and finialed label, with head-stops; late 14th- or 15th-century; below last, small with chamfered jambs and four-centred head, probably for lamp, 15th-century. On N. porch—with moulded pedestal and bowed, cinque-foiled and crocketed ogee canopy, with vaulted soffit, 15th-century. In N. porch—over N. doorway, rough recess with rounded head. On S. porch— similar to niche on N. porch but much weathered. In S. porch—over S. doorway, rough recess with rounded head. Paintings: In N. aisle—over N. doorway, traces of paintings. In S. aisle, on S.E. respond, patch of rough brocade-pattern in red line, 16th-century. See also Screen. Panelling: In chancel—back of stalls, two lengths of late 16th- or early 17th-century panelling. Piscina: In S. aisle —at E. end of S. wall, with moulded jambs and cinque-foiled ogee head and quatre-foiled drain, 15th-century. Plate: includes a cup and cover-paten of 1569 with incised ornament round rim of cup and egg and dart pattern round base; a stand-paten of 1693, inscribed; an inscribed plate of 1702 or 1711; an inscribed flagon of 1705 and a plain unmarked salver. Pulpit: modern but with old ogee trumpet-stem with moulded ribs at angles. Recess: In chancel—in N. wall at W. end, with chamfered jambs and round head, date and purpose uncertain. Screen: In W. tower, two bays and return end of lower part of former rood-screen, with moulded styles and rail and bays divided on outside by small buttresses; outer sides with cinque-foiled sub-cusped panels with foliated spandrels; inside panels originally with cinque-foiled sub-cusped tracery now all gone; panels (Plate 19) of two main bays painted—(a) St. John the Baptist with Lamb, on top of an earlier painting of which head of figure remains; background of black, spotted with flowers. The Baptist wears a red robe and has a nimbus and holds the 'Agnus Dei' in his left arm; behind the figure, scroll with 'black-letter' inscription "Ecce Agnus Dei"; (b) St. George and Dragon on red background spotted with white flowers. The saint is bearded and wears a plumed head-dress and armour; he is mounted on a white horse, holds a lance in his right hand and on his breast is a red cross; the horse has red harness. The painting is superimposed upon an earlier painting apparently of the same subject, and an earlier red lance is still visible. Screen and earlier paintings, 15th-century, later paintings, early 16th-century. Seating: In N. aisle—bench with shaped ends, panelled back and modern seat, 16th-century. At W. end of N. aisle—bench with shaped ends, one broken slightly, panelled back and modern seat, 16th-century. Pews: in E. end of N. aisle, with front divided into three bays by fluted Doric pilasters with rectangular panel in middle bay and round-headed panels in side bays with fluted pilasters; also two side-panels, early 17th-century. Stoup: In N. porch—E. of N. doorway, cemains of round bowl, recessed in wall, 15th-century. Tiles: In S. aisle—at E. end, small square tiles with remains of glaze, mediæval. Miscellanea: In chancel—modern kneeling-stool with front of trefoil-headed sub-cusped panel, of oak, with foliated spandrels, 15th-century.

Condition—Generally good, but the stonework of the tower is cracked in places and some of the window-stonework is much damaged.


a (3). The Bulwark, Earith, stands in low marshy ground, about 150 yards N. of Earith Bridge over the New Bedford River. The work, which covers 4¾ acres, exclusive of the outwork, consists of a nearly rectangular fort of 80 yards on each side, with bastions, and has a continuous rampart, a ditch and an outer bank with glacis and covered way, the latter being developed in the middle of each face into a re-entering place-of-arms or platform, covered by a small salient or flêche. An outer ditch surrounds the whole work except on the N.W. where a slight rectangular outwork, 50 yards wide, projects for 110 yards and possibly covered an entrance (though this work is not given on a plan in Stowe MSS. 1025, p. 55, where the enceinte is shown as continuous). The inner rampart, where best preserved, is 9½ ft. and the outer 7½ ft. above the inner ditch. There are no signs of any gun-platforms or cavaliers. The form of the earthwork indicates a 17th-century date, and it was probably thrown up during the Civil War.

The Bulwark-Earith.

Condition—Fairly good, except at S. angle.

Monuments (4–11).

The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled or thatched. Some of the buildings have original chimney-stacks and exposed ceiling-beams.

Condition—Good or fairly good, unless noted.


b(4). Cottage, on the W. side of the road, 600 yards W.N.W. of the church, has an original central chimney-stack with the date 1690.

b(5). House (Plate 149), three tenements, on the S. side of the road, at East End, 600 yards N.W. of the church, was built late in the 17th or early in the 18th century on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the N. and E. The walls are mostly of brick and the front has a brick band between the storeys and a modillioned eaves-cornice. Some of the windows are original and have solid frames, mullions and transoms. Inside the building, the S.W. room has a moulded panel over the fireplace and a half-round recess with a plastered half-dome to the W. of the fireplace. A room on the first floor has an original moulded architrave to the fireplace, and a moulded panel and cornice over it.

The Bulwark at Earith Huntingdonshire.

a(6). Cottage, W. of (5).

a(7). Rose and Crown Inn, on the W. side of the road, 20 yards N.W. of (6), was built early in the 16th century, probably with a central block and cross-wings at the E. and W. ends. The roofs are now all ridged from N. to S. and the house has been much altered. Inside the building, the room in the central block has an original moulded ceiling-beam.

a(8). House, range of three tenements, on the E. side of the road, 60 yards N.N.E. of (7), has a later addition at the S. end. The original central chimney-stack has four square grouped shafts. Inside the building, one room on the ground-floor has a late 17th- or early 18th-century corner-cupboard.


b(9). Cottage, on the S. side of the road, 600 yards W. of Seven Holes Bridge, was built late in the 17th or early in the 18th century.

b(10). House, now shop and tenements, 100 yards E. of (9), was built probably early in the 18th century on an L-shaped plan, with the wings extending towards the W. and S. The walls are partly of brick.

b(11). George Inn, on the N. side of the road, opposite (10), is of L-shaped plan, with the wings extending towards the W. and N. The N. wing has 18th-century extensions. The original central chimney-stack has four detached shafts, set diagonally on a square base. Inside the building, three of the ground-floor rooms have original moulded ceiling-beams; the middle room of the W. wing is lined with original panelling and retains parts of a frieze with arabesque-ornament; the cornice is of early 18th-century date as is the fire-place, with a moulded architrave, cornice and overmantel; the overmantel has a large panel in the middle, flanked by panelled pilasters with carved swags. The N. room of the same wing is lined with early 18th-century panelling, with a moulded cornice and dado-rail and a moulded architrave to the fireplace-opening. The room at the angle of the building has an early 18th-century corner-cupboard and there are several panelled doors of the same date.