Mr. Edward Reid-Smith wrote the following notes on the church and its history in 1953. These notes were produced as a leaflet, which was placed in the church, so that visitors could take a copy and refer to it as they walked around.
St Peter’s Parish Church, Wolfhampcote
The story begins nigh on a thousand years ago when the Saxon inhabitants built for themselves a little wooden church. Our first record of this is in Domesday Book in which we read of there being a priest in “Ulfelmescote” to serve the village population of about 120, and also the neighbouring hamlets of Flecknoe, Nethercote and Sawbridge.
During the centuries immediately after the Norman Conquest of England, the little village of Wolfhampcote prospered slowly, and in the 14th century the church was entirely rebuilt; in the following century the roof was lowered and the clerestory added, and the church was refurnished with oak benches, some of which still remain. Late in the 15th century much of the village was enclosed to make sheep-pens, and many of the houses were deserted and allowed to fall down leaving only the manor and vicarage, and two cottages. However, St Peter’s continued to serve the parish, and the tower was repaired in the 16th century.
In 1848 the church was repaired at the expense of Lady Hood, who was responsible for the erection of the Tibbit’s mausoleum in which lies also the body of the 3rd Viscount Hood. At the end of the century the vicar opened a restoration fund which was continued by his successor, and in 1903 the repairs were complete. In 1910 the church was again closed, but was re-opened two years later at the request of parishioners. Since that time until a few years ago occasional services were held in the church, and there are hopes that these will be continued in the near future.
Entering through the doors of the 14th century porch (on the outside of which there are several mutilated gargoyles,) one sees immediately the ancient stone font which is several centuries old: some say it is Norman, but as it has been cemented over it is difficult to tell. The nave is 14th century too, though the benches are 15th century and have been there since the alterations of that time. The 18th century pulpit is reputed to have come from a nearby church, replacing the one made at the beginning of the present century from wood taken from some of the benches. Note the inscriptions on the floor covering the vaults of members of the Clerke family, that of George Tibbits, and also the vault of the Rev. Thomas Geldar, a former curate and vicar. This latter is at the west end of the nave under the painted canvas on which are the Ten Commandments etc.
Note the Coat of Arms of Queen Anne above the archway. The chancel was rebuilt in 1848, and the choirstalls are modern. The great east window over the Holy Table was once filled with beautiful stained-glass, and like many of the other windows of the church once contained coats of arms of local families. The Tibbits’ family mausoleum is now bricked-up, but tablets on the walls of the chancel give the names of some of those buried there. Note the coats-of-arms of the Tibbits family on the wall, and the old gravestones on the floor. Of special interest is the brass inscription of the wife of Thomas Benyon (vicar of Wolfhampcote), which lady died in 1687.
North Chapel & Aisle
The dividing wooden screen is 14th century wood-work, and in the chapel itself is a trefoil-headed piscina and aumbray of the same date. This chapel has two raised tombs, and on the uneven floor are fragments of tombstones some dating from the 17th century. Unfortunately, the plaster covering the wall is coming off in large patches and is in great need of repair. Note the painted memorial to the Clerke family, and the funereal verses on the walls.
This is a squat, sold-looking construction, and until 1952 contained two melodious bells. The larger bell (weighing 18-19 cwt.) still remains, and was cast in the 15th century. The smaller bell, inscribed “Pack & Chapman of London Fecerunt 1780″, was taken from Wolfhampcote and is now temporarily at Flecknoe nearby*. We know from an old inventory of the church that there were two bells there in 1552, and it is probable that the larger one has been heard at Wolfhampcote since a hundred years before that. The Tower itself was repaired at the end of the 17th century, and some fifty years ago the deal screen was removed from the tower archway. The chamber here was doubtless once used as a vestry, and now contains a wooden chest, and a heavy wooden bier.
South Aisle & Chapel
This has been fitted with a Table in place of the original altar. To the right of it is a plain 13th century piscina, the oldest feature of the church with the exception of the font. Into the floor is let a peculiar shaped slab of stone which might possibly be the lid of a stone coffin. Above the Table is a pedestal on which was once, possibly, a statue of the patron saint of the chapel. Note the windows, now broken but once filled with beautiful stained glass. Fragments of painted glass may yet be seen in the east window, the bottom of which has been partly been blocked with old brickwork.
For over a thousand years the people of Wolfhampcote have worshipped on this sacred spot, and it is the aim of a group of people to make the church live again. It is hoped that services can be held during the summer, and that this ancient edifice can be repaired. Much work has already been done, and the church is regularly cleaned and tidied. Many people from all over the world find their way to this quiet corner of Warwickshire every year, and many have allied themselves with the hopes of the Friends of St Peter’s Church. A descendent of a former Wolfhampcote family (the Rev. T.L. Ivens, vicar of North Owersby, Lincoln,) greatly distressed at the condition of the church , has collected from friends and relations the nucleus of a new fund for repairing the church. The group, together with friends from many parts of England, is determined that this ancient building will be restored to its proper use, and that it will be preserved also for future generations to enjoy.
*Mr. Reid-Smith remarks that only one bell remains in the tower – the small bell has since been returned (read Bells in the Tower for more information)