Saturday, 24th November 2018 – Towcester
I was having a mooch around the town at lunchtime, and had for once taken my phone with me. As a result I was able to take a batch of photos around the church, where the Armistice Day displays were about to be taken down, and around the new development that has sprung up around the Moat area.
I set off from Waitrose supermarket’s car park, along the Richmond Road side of the small green and then down Meeting Lane (which is built above part of the Roman town wall of Lactodorum), passing the Saint Thomas More church. The church started out as an independent chapel in 1845, but then became a congregational church, and was finally taken over by the Roman Catholic Church in 1976, replacing the former Catholic chapel, Saint George’s, and taking over many of its furnishings. It’s a good looking building, and I’d like to take a look inside one of these days. It never seems to be open just for looking around though. I’m guessing it’s because it’s basically down an alley and is not in full view of the world, so they’re worried about vandalism.
I crossed the main road (the A5, Watling Street) and headed towards Saint Lawrence’s Church to take a look at their Armistice Day decorations which were due to be taken down at the start of the next working week. The church has a 12th-century Norman transitional ground plan and foundation, which probably hides a 10th century Saxon stone building. There are suggestions that the establishment of a church on the site may date back to Roman times when St Lawrence was patron saint of the Roman legions, and as there seems to have been quite a substantial Roman presence in the town this seems very likely. Certainly recent roadworks have thrown up more Roman drainage systems, and a lot of other finds, and there are claims that part of the main structure of the church contains a section of Anglo-Saxon stonework, and that outside there is a small Roman pillar section.
The building was reconstructed in the perpendicular style between 1480 and 85 when the church tower was added. Permission to quarry stone was granted by Edward IV and later confirmed by Richard III on his way towards Bosworth, which endears the place to me even more, despite me not exactly being what you’d call religious. Wikipedia tells me that the church contains the table tomb of Archdeacon Sponne, who was Rector between 1422 and 1448 and who founded the second oldest grammar school in the UK. There are also claims that Pope Boniface VIII was a rector of the church before becoming pope.
The outside of the church was festooned with poppies, and looked rather lovely.
There was even a garden of remembrance set up in a corner of the churchyard.
It was rather impressive. I was even more impressed by the silhouettes inside the church, presumably meant to represent fallen soldiers.
I spent while looking at the historical records displayed in the church, and reflecting that, given the way politics is going in the UK (and other places) right now, we do not seem to have learned a damn thing. On that depressing note, I wandered back outside and walked past the new housing development that has sprung up along Moat Lane in the last couple of years. It’s actually nicely done, though the houses seem ridiculously small. I do like the way they have kept to the local architectural vernacular so that in a decade or so, provided the houses do not fall apart in the way of poor quality new builds, they will look as if they have been here for a long time.
I decided to walk up to the top of Bury Mount, the motte castle that stands next to the River Tove and overlooks both the new library and council offices and the water meadows beyond. The path that has been built there that enables you to walk up to the top by a circular route has a number of slabs laid across it that have major dates in the town’s history engraved on them, starting with the earliest at the bottom.
It finishes with the most recent event, the restoration of the actual mound in 2010.
It’s not the highest structure you could imagine, but the views are lovely. You can look back over the new development, and the church to one side.
On the other is the new building occupied by the council offices and the library.
The town’s medieval and Georgian rooftops are clearly visible from up there.
And then there are the water meadows, the river, and the mill. Towcester Mill has been there for a very long time and there is a mill on the site, in Chantry Lane, listed in the Domesday Book (1086), although the existing building is only around two hundred years old. The mill fell into disuse, was renovated in the 1990s, and in the last decade has been brought back into use as the Towcester Mill and Brewery. It’s a fine brewery, producing some great beers, and they’ve done an excellent job in breathing new life into the place.
I walked back down again, this time taking the stairs, which is a more direct way of getting back down on the ground.
I took the opportunity to walk along the nicely refurbished Whitton’s Lane, which leads away from the mound and back towards the A5 and what is in effect Towcester’s high street.
And from there I headed home, past the town hall…
… and then through White Horse Yard and back to the car park at Waitrose.