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 is 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
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.
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 1876]
Arnold was a lawyer from London who left the income from his Manor at Furtho in a charity, which is still operating in 2014.
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.