Church  The Wormleighton Survey       Church

Introduction                                                               Day One         Day Two       Day Three       Day Four



Not only is St. Peter’s Church a remarkable building in its own right it is also part of a landscape which reflects over a thousand years of occupation and development. To the south lie the impressive remnants of the great sixteenth-century manor of the Spencer family whilst to the north-west are the extensive earthwork remains of the medieval village and later park and garden. The deserted medieval village of Wormleighton is well known to archaeologists yet the whole complex of manor, church and village has never been subject to detailed archaeological investigation. Furthermore the area, tucked away as it is from the main road past the village, remains largely unknown to the wider public, both locals and those who may be attracted to the area by its proximity to Oxford, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Warwick.

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The Church of St. Peter, tower and north aisle, view looking south east.
Surviving block of the Spencer mansion view looking south east.


In connection with an application for HLF money a proposal was put forward to generate materials to support St. Peter’s Church as a venue to which groups may be brought for educational purposes and which may also be used to inform visits by the general public. As part of developing a wider understanding of the church and its community a graveyard survey was also suggested. In both cases the involvement of  the local community as expressed in the Bridges Group of Parishes and other heritage groups based in Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire as well as local schools was considered as essential.

The plan therefore is to research, publish and distribute an education pack mainly targeted at pupils aged 7 to 11 which as well as providing factual information about the church and its surroundings also makes detailed suggestions for a range of practical activities which support all aspects of the curriculum from art through to science. A further outcome of this will be the production of other materials for adult visitors to enhance and expand the existing range of leaflets available in the church. Field work will be undertaken around the village to clarify aspects of its historical development, questions of access and to gather illustrative material.

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LIDAR view of part of the medieval village and later park. The large rectangular pool refilling? View looking north west.

It has become widely recognised over the years that the graveyards of our parish churches are valuable repositories of historic information regarding earlier populations. Furthermore because of the inevitable processes of erosion and decay this record, as preserved on gravestone inscriptions and decorations, is a fragile one. This understanding has lead to many local history groups carrying out graveyard surveys to preserve this information, a process which has not been undertaken at Wormleighton. The graveyard at St. Peters contains in the region of 120 historic stones from the seventeenth century onwards. Five of them are listed and an initial visual inspection suggests that the overall condition of the monuments in general is poor. In addition the churchyard has a number of historic trees and some significant earthwork features. The proposal is to carry out a detailed archaeological survey of the graveyard and its immediate environs including the exact position, dimensions and orientation of all surviving stones and other features. This would then be used as a key to identify each stone which would then be recorded on an individual pro forma which would take  in information on dimensions, materials, inscriptions, decorative details and condition. All of this work is carried out by teams of volunteers with professional support. Subsequent to this a limited amount of analysis would be carried out to report on any archaeological or historic findings which may emerge and the materials gathered together to create an archive that would then be deposited with the appropriate authorities.


One of several lonely looking pegs scattered round the churchyard.

A few days earlier I'd spent some time in the churchyard with Mark's assistance and measured in a whole series of what we called fixed points, wooden pegs accurately located within the plot which can then be used to attach tapes to for all our measuring requirements. So it was was when, on the first full day of work in the churchyard, we needed to start on the master plan everything was ready to go. We had an excellent turn out, nine volunteers in all and after a certain amount of head scratching ended up with two teams of three doing sterling service each in their own quadrant of the churchyard. The plan was to survey by offsets, this is essentially surveying by co-ordinates so that positions are fixed by measuring along a tape and then out from it at right angles. In order to fit everything in we opted for quite a small scale of 1 to 100 which meant that 1m on the ground was worth 1cm on our plan. People soon mastered the arcane art of swinging the tape and we made brilliant progress.

Yard Yard
 Team 1 do a little gentle trimming and weeding to uncover the limits of a kerbed plot...
... whilst team 2 cope with the problems of measuring tilted gravestones


Strimmer to the rescue.

The sheep who are there to keep the grass down had clearly been lying down on the job, literally, so it was some relief that we were able to make way for one of our volunteers with his strimmer. As well as plotting the features of the churchyard in two dimensions we also needed data on heights so a third team was formed who worked with an optical level, a staff and a measuring tape to measure up for a couple of profiles: the first running east to west just north of the church and the second running north south to the east of the church.

Yard Yard
We make a start on drawing  profiles of the humps and bumps within the church yard.
   And we don't forget to measure in the location of the church itself.

Bad weather had been forecast for later in the day with heavy rain from around 3.00 p.m. and for once they were spot on, we managed to clear all the equipment into the church before the first raindrops hit us and hopefully everyone was able to get home in a reasonably dry state. Despite a late start we got loads done so many thanks to the groups of enthusiastic and newly skilled volunteers who helped get the show on the road.


Here's an early result, this is the transect measured running north south to the east of the church. It shows how the land falls away to the north but also the broad low bank which defines the ancient churchyard along its southern edge. Could this be a remnant of a former fortification associated with the early church as we see in so many villages, especially in south Northamptonshire.


The second day some old faces, some new, but continuing to work around the east end of the church locating both gravestones and taking levels and the sun shone.

Yard Yard
Back to the beginning to check the base-line.
   And now venturing in a south easterly direction.


Team work to the fore.


Having extended the base line to the north of the church we were able to work our way round  past the west tower and once more volunteers arrived Helen and I walked up the road a pace to find a spot height so we could level back to our temporary site datum and establish exactly how high it was above sea level. We also spent a lot of time admiring the west tower both inside and out to the point where I was feeling confident about making a tentative suggestion about the date for the tower. there are many features which we will no doubt enumerate as we go through the project that make me think it was constructed in the 11th. century. If we can demonstrate that this is the case it goes some way towards re-writing the history of the building... we'll see.

Yard Yard
Helen helps taking levels through the south door and out of the north.
   Nearly done, the south west quadrant had few tombs but loads of grass.


No local volunteers this time but a Belgian student, Sarah, who is over on work experience, and I did the last few graves in the old part of the cemetery getting entangled with the thorns and brambles. We also pressed on with a more detailed plan of the inside of the church which I think will help understand the phasing of the different periods of construction more effectively. We also took the opportunity to revisit a few measurements and make sure that the plans drawn previously matched what we saw on the ground... sorry folks, just checking.


As I often say a day in the field means a couple of days in the office processing the data and what have you. In this case it meant scanning in the individual plans drawn  in the churchyard, matching them up and superimposing them on the OS map the drawing in the individual gravestones and numbering them.

Yard Yard
One of the field drawings scanned in.
   Beginning to put it all together, stones plotted but more to do.