St Bartholomew's Church Furtho

Furtho Church

This church, named for St Bartholomew, is small and compact but has existed in its rural setting for at least 800 years, It is built of local limestone. Furtho village became deserted when the main Northampton to Old Stratford road was diverted away from it. The design of the church is similar to many English churches in that the chancel probably stood on its own to start with and the rest of the church would have been added later. The earliest Rector at Furtho was listed in 1226. The parish register begins in 1696.

From the Outside

The Chancel is mostly medieval and it now has a tiled roof – although it may have started with thatch. We know this because the chancel roof is more steeply pitched than the rest of the church.

In the south wall are two double square headed windows from the late 14th or early 15th century. Between them is the oldest feature in the church - a priest’s doorway - which has two medieval faces on the rounded hood mould – these may have been renewed at a later date. Underneath the window at the south west is a rectangular “low-side” window, now blocked. This would originally have had a shutter which would be opened during Mass services. This would allow the ringing of the Communion bell to be heard by people working in the fields so that they could stop and say their own prayers.

There are no openings at all on the outside of the north chancel wall.

On the east chancel wall, slightly off centre, is a three-light window which has a reticulated (net like) tracery design from around 1330. Parts of the stonework have been renewed but it is a fine design for a rural church.

The Nave is built with stone parapets. In the southern parapet is a shield which would once have had a Coat of Arms, possibly for Edward Furtho who had the Nave and Tower rebuilt in 1620. At this time the three-light Gothic windows of the nave were typical. Also from 1620 is a doorway in the north nave wall, now blocked, the doorway in the south wall which is now the main door, and the finial on the roof of the nave where it joins the chancel.

At some point the walls of the nave have been extended to the west and wrap around the bottom of the tower. This and a two-light window in the south tower chamber all make the nave look longer on the outside than it really is on the inside.

The Tower is lower than neighbouring churches, and is also in a distinctive design of around 1620, with diagonal buttresses supporting the western corners. It has a three-light west window and a two-light belfry window in the style of the rest of the nave. There are battlements around the top of the tower which are taller in proportion than the rest of the tower and hide a tiled pyramid roofline inside them. Below the western parapet are two stone waterspouts, one of which has foliage carving.

On the Inside

On the left at the back, is the Furtho Chalice dated 1601.
Now in the Peterborough Museum.

Although Furtho church is only used for a few services each year it has a cosy, light filled atmosphere inside. There is no electricity, so candles are used for evening services. The walls have exposed masonry although they may have been stripped of plaster in the 19th century. The floor has old flagstones with parts concreted where seating has been standing

The windows and doorways have wooden lintels which were worked in the 1620 rebuild and are now quite unusual. The tower and chancel arches are also uncommon, being rounded and supported by half-octagonal responds, with moulded capitals and bases. These are in a simple “Perpendicular survival” style.

At the foot of the tower are lobby chambers each side which are the extra spaces from the exterior nave wall extensions. There are bell holes to the tower – the small bell which was once used here was recast in around 1870 and was later taken to Potterspury church. Also in the tower base is a small octagonal font with a concave sided cover and acorn finial, installed in the 1620 rebuild.

In the nave roof, with its shallower pitch, can be seen tie beams and short king posts, also from the 1620 period. There is a false roof with a steeper pitch, moulded tie beams, purlins and ridge.

In 1843 a new Rector, John Williams Mason, arrived and began to organise a restoration project. In 1848 the archdeacon applied to the Arnold Trustees for help to repair the pews, floors, roof and bell. He noted that all were in a very bad state, but with a little expense Furtho might be made 'one of the nicest little churches in the archdeaconry'. The trustees turned it down, taking the view that they could not use their income for such a purpose. They did, however, find about a third of the total cost of £100 to carry out fairly extensive repairs. In 1870, John Bird, who was the Churchwarden and lived at Manor Farm, took charge, possibly with E. F. Law, a Northampton architect who worked on other local churches. At this time the pulpit was installed, made of Bath stone with a circular shaft of red marble. During the same restoration Furtho’s old box pews were replaced by deal benches, some of which remain, and John Bird donated a harmonium, which does not survive.

Almost as long as the nave, the chancel is slightly at an angle to the north and its walls lean outwards. It has a single tie beam which might once have held a central king post. The ceiling above is plastered. In the south west can be seen the inside of the low-side window with a seat where the person who rang the sanctus bell could sit. On the north side is a blocked single window with a trefoil head, which may also have allowed the bell to be heard.

In the chancel is a low arched tomb recess. Many years ago, and gone by 1791, a marble slab is recorded with brass effigies of a man and his two wives, with an inscription and four shields. This was probably one of the de Forthos, maybe Anthony Furtho, who was married twice and died in 1558.

On the south chancel wall is a stone piscina with a trefoil headed arch from the early 1300s. Under it is a drain which is where water used for Communion was poured. There was a credence-shelf, where the communion vessels were placed, and the remains of the shelf can still be seen. In the east wall are stone corbels which may have held statues.

The altar table is from the 19th century and was brought from All Saints, Little Wenham in Suffolk in 1993. The original Furtho altar was taken to Potterspury church in 1920 and was disposed of in 1968.

Edmund Arnold

In the floor of the sanctuary is a ledger-slab. The inscriptions reads

Hic Jacet Edmundus Arnold Arm. Quondam Dominus (Sub Deo) Hujus Manerii. Qui Obit 27 Marti 1676

[Here lies Edmund Arnold, once Lord (under God) of this Manor, who died 27th March 1676]

Arnold was a lawyer from London who left the income from his Manor at Furtho in a charity, which is still operating in 2014.

Edmund was a member of Doctors' Commons, the association or college of ecclesiastical lawyers founded in 1511 and situated in Knightrider Street, London, was dissolved following the Court of Probate Act, 1857.

St Bartholomew’s ceased to be a parish church in 1920. In 1937 the vicar was asked by the Arnold Trustees to repair the churchyard wall to safeguard their tenant's stock; on this occasion the diocesan registrar emphasised that both church and churchyard remained open and that the P.C.C. was responsible for their upkeep, however few services were held there.

During the Second World War the church was used for storage of the archives of the Northampton Record Society, and during that time all the windows were destroyed by a bomb.

Furtho came closest to demolition in 1956, when the county surveyor agreed to a request from the diocese to take down the building at no cost in return for the use of the materials. The proposal was not carried out and in 1972 the Friends of Friendless Churches, in collaboration with the Arnold Trust, restored the church and improved public access to the site. Restoration was completed in 1975 and the first public services for over forty years held in 1977.

The church was declared redundant on 16 May 1989, and was vested in the Churches Conservation Trust on 7 June 1990. The setting of the church was improved as part of a wider landscaping scheme involving the dovecote and farm buildings, carried out by the Arnold trustees in the late 1990s. It is designated by English heritage as a Grade II listed building.

Wolverton Express 12th June 1914


On Trinity Sunday, the Rector, the Rev R S Myine, BCL, preached a special sermon on behalf of the Welsh Church, and also used special prayers recommended by the Archbishop of Canterbury on this occasion. The collection taken for the Welsh Church amounted to £2.

Wolverton Express 11th September 1914


Special services of Intercession have been held in this ancient church on behalf of the troops engaged in the war, and the Rector, Rev R S Myine BCT preached special sermons on this all important subject. The lessons were read by the Churchwarden, Arthur ___________, the music was excellent, and Mr Warren presided at the harmonium. The Rector has been able to send £3 3s to Buckingham Palace for the Prince of Wales Fund.

Wolverton Express 16th October 1914


The Harvest festival for this parish was held on Oct 10 and 11, and the services were well attended, especially on Sunday afternoon, when thirty people were compelled to stand all through the time of the service in the churchyard owing to the crowded state of the church. The choir of St Mary Wolverton sang very well, rendering valuable help under the direction of Mr H E Smith. The anthem was “Sing unto the Lord,” written by the Rev Dr Mansell. The church was very tastefully decorated by Miss Hobbs, Miss Smith and Mrs and Miss Rook. The Rector preached an eloquent sermon, making allusion to the harvest and also to the war. Mr Warren played the harmonium and the hymns were heartily sung. The collection came to £4 14s. Mr Arthur Smith read the lessons.

Wolverton Express 5th May 1916


Mr Arthur Smith, of Yardley, and Mt William James Hobbs, of the Manor Farm, Furtho, were elected Churchwardens. The receipts for the year came to £16 1s 6d, and the expenditure was the same. The sum of £4 10s had been sent to the relief of the wounded soldiers. The Rector presided.

Wolverton Express 13th October 1916


At the Harvest Festival there was the usual large congregation at the 3 pm service on Sunday, when the choir of St Mary, Wolverton, kindly rendered the musical portion of the service in a very efficient manner. The Rector preached from II Chron, 36, 21, and spoke of the lessons of the harvest and the war; how the land was now desolate in many places. The church was very beautifully decorated with fruit and flowers, and a huge loaf in the form of five little loaves and two small fishes. Mrs Hobbs and Mrs Kirk, Miss Hilda Smith, Misses Kathleen Powell, Hobbs and Kirk executed the work. The Churchwarden Arthur Smith read the lessons in a clear and distinct voice. The collections came to £5. There was a celebration of the Holy Communion at the morning service at 11 am. The rector of Furtho was appointed to preach in the Cathedral church of St David in South Wales at the morning service on Sunday September 3rd.

Wolverton Express 13th July 1917

The Lords of the Manor of Furtho have repaired the old dovecot tower, where an old bayonet was found, during the month of June. The tower was erected by Sir E Furtho in 1620 and besieged by Oliver Cromwell during the great rebellion, when E Arnold escaped and joined Charles I, and going to France, returned with Charles II and founded the charity so beneficial to so many local parishes. He erected the dovecot about 1670.

Wolverton Express 13th July 1917


On last Sunday there was a special war service at Furtho Church, attended by the choir of St Mary Wolverton. The singing was excellent, the boys taking great pains. Mr Smith, the organist, played extremely well. Mr Arthur Smith, of Yardley, read the lessons in an impressive manner. The Rev R S Mylne, BCL, Rector, preached from Rev xiii 5, “Forty-two months”, and showed how the duration of the war was in all likelihood foretold in these words of Holy Scripture. If this were so, we might look for the end soon after Christmas. The collection on behalf of the sick and wounded soldiers came to £2 15s.

Wolverton Express 19th October 1917


The harvest festival was held on October 14th. At 11 am and 3pm there were very good congregations and 16 communicants. About 140 attended at 3pm and about a dozen stood in the churchyard because there was no more accommodation in the church. The lessons were well read by Mr Churchwarden Arthur Smith, and Mr Warren played in the morning and Mr Smith in the afternoon, when the choir of St Mary Wolverton attended and sang remarkably well. The anthem was “Dwell in the Land” by Sir John Stainer.

The Church was tastefully decorated by Mrs Hobbs, of the Manor Farm, and Miss Hobbs and Mrs Kirk and Miss Kirk. There were three symbolical representations of the Cross of Christ, representing the Trinity, and a striking sickle wrought in flowers representing the harvest of the earth. The collection was £8 5s 8d.

The Rector (the Rev R Mylne, BCR, FSA) preached on “Christian Unity” from Neh viii 1. He said “All the people as one man”. How unlike the religious ideas of the 20th century. How very little is heard in these latter days of godly union and concord. How very much is heard of ungodly hatred and discord. Yet just look at the picture here presented. An humble and repentant people, purified through affliction and reproach, turning to the Lord their God, listening to their esteemed priest Ezra showing the way that leadeth to everlasting life. We se a people obedient to the law of the Lord. What a wonderful contrast to the former state of things; to the confusion and distrust that prevailed during the last days of the Kings in Judah and Israel. With the Church we have to do today “All the people as one man”. When the war is over some solid re-construction must take place. There must be more unity amongst Christian people. The ordination of Wesleyan ministers, if they so desire, should be brought about without friction and without controversy. Religious acerbity should be a thing of the past. Hereafter earthly things must pass away. Christians must prepare for a new heaven and a new earth. In that land of promise all will be of one mind and one heart, united in one holy bond of peace and love, glorifying God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, set your affection on heavenly things. Seek those things wheich are above. Rest in the Lord.

The dovecote tower has lately been very well restored by the Lords of the Manor. An interesting bayonet was found which had been used in the wars of the Great Rebellion.

The Rector of Furtho was appointed to preach in St David’s Cathedral, South Wales, on the first Sunday in September last.

Wolverton Express 28th April 1950

The Future of Furtho Church - Discussed at Potterspury Church Meeting

Furtho Parish Church, lying secluded in the fields between the villages of Potterspury and Old Stratford, has only had one service conducted in it during the past ten years.  Now it is thought that may never be another service there.  The last occasion was for a harvest thanksgiving service conducted by the late Canon Keysall.

The church is surrounded by a burial ground which has been fenced in to prevent cattle from straying her, but the fence has been broken down recently.  During the war the church was used for storing books.

Speaking at the Potterspury Parochial Church Council meeting, which authority has the oversight of Furtho church, Mr. J K Soper, people’s warden, said that during the last war a lot of valuable books were stored in the church for which rent was paid, and there was a sum of £116 credit standing to the accounts of that Church.

The Rev. J R Richards, vicar, said he did not know whether the money should be devoted to preserving the church as an historical place.  Mr. G R Tapp thought the place required attention. 

The Vicar : There is a graveyard there and the church is our freehold.

Dr. Hugh Grierson: It is an interesting point as to what is going to happen about the church; the Bishop is interested in it because he asked about it when he was last year.

The Vicar: I can’t see any possibilities of it being used again.

Dr. Grierson: I think we should know what is to be done with it; whether it is going to remain as a monument.

The Vicar: I’m quite sure the churchyard will have to be kept open.

Mr G. Tapp: That was one of the questions brought up at the last meeting.  The cattle had broken into the cemetery, and it was suggested that the wardens see what could be done in this matter.

Mr. Soper: We went and saw the wall was down and the barbed wire was put up to keep cattle out.

The Vicar: If we can only satisfy the powers that be that we do a reasonable amount of repair work then I see no reason why we can’t transfer the money into our own church.

Miss Faux said it was interesting to read in the local press that Old Stratford talked about Furtho church coming into their parish.

The Vicar: They can suggest, but they must consult the Vicar first.  As regards boundaries, probably there is a lot to commend itself for the parish being put into Old Stratford.

On the suggestion of Mr. Tapp that it was agreed that the Vicar and wardens ascertain the obligations of Furtho Church to Potterspury, and report back.