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Keysoe Church Alterations and Additions

The church from the south-west February 2016
The church from the south-west February 2016

Most of the structural history of the church can be found in detail in Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Volume number 73 of 1994 Bedfordshire Churches in the Nineteenth Century: Part II Parishes H to R, put together by former County Archivist Chris Pickford from numerous sources some held by Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service and some held elsewhere or published.

 The interior looking east February 2016
The interior looking east February 2016

Two of the church’s bells are dated 1614 and 1615 and others were cast or re-cast in 1683, 1755 and 1772. An altar table has the date 1628 carved on it and the initials HR. In 1674 the “pavement of church and chancel” were out of repair [CRT170/9/1].

Inscription on the west tower February 2016
Inscription on the west tower February 2016

A new clock was installed in the early 18th century and in 1718 the steeple was being re-pointed when William Dickins fell from it but survived, as a plaque on the west face of the church tower attests.

The pulpit February 2016
The pulpit February 2016

About 1810 a pew was erected “for the use of the Psalm Singers” and remains of an ancient coffin lid were used to repair the belfry stairs in 1813. A cracked bell was re-cast in 1840 and a new stove installed in 1842 [P48/25/3]. Estimates for repairing the bellchamber floor, recasting lead used in the north aisle and chancel and renewing the clerestory gutter were obtained in 1843 [P48/8/1]. The pulpit was re-panelled in 1849 and new lectern and candlesticks purchased. 

North aisle west window February 2016
The north aisle west window February 2016

Two stained glass windows were installed in 1851, one with the emblem of the Trinity. In 1868 a stained glass window depicting the Road to Emmaeus was installed in thr north aisle.

 The interior looking west February 2016
The interior looking west February 2016

John Martin was librarian of Woburn Abbey. Either side of the year 1850 he wrote reviews of Bedfordshire churches for the Northampton Mercury. These are good fun – pompous, splenetic and sarcastic in dealing with the ill-use, as he saw it, of church architecture, fixtures and fittings. He wrote under the pseudonym WA. Between 1836 and 1874 the Vicar of Keysoe was William Airy, brother of the Astronomer Royal; more to the point he was a learned and published ecclesiologist, consequently Martin’s review is a lot more favourable than normal, even somewhat sycophantic in tone. It appeared on 25th December 1852: “It was to be expected that this church would furnish a good example of care and good order, so lamentably deficient in most of the other churches of this county”.

View from the north aisle into the nave February 2016
View from the north aisle into the nave February 2016

“The knowledge of ecclesiastical architecture, so frequently displayed, by the reverend incumbent, on various occasions, is well known, and its value highly appreciated. It would have been impossible not to expect that his own church would exhibit his well-known taste, in all that has been done to render it the beautiful example it now exhibits, of a temple fitting the worship of the Most High”.

 Sedilia February 2016
Sedilia February 2016

“We were a little amused on hearing that some blunderer had attributed these hasty sketches to the pen of the incumbent, and not surprised at his being annoyed by such an ignorant imputation”.

 The chancel roof February 2016
The chancel roof February 2016

“The chancel has its open roof in excellent order, apparently very recently attended to, the tiles neat and appropriate; some fair specimens of painted glass; two properly constructed sittings; nothing overdone”.

The west tower arch February 2016
The west tower arch February 2016

“The sittings in the body of the church are very nearly all open, and what were new, have been constructed so as to harmonise with the ancient ones. It was said that the few remaining closed pens would shortly be removed. The belfry arch has been cleared from the timber that formerly obscured it, by the instigation of the vicar. The churchwardens had, we were happy to hear, obeyed the directions of the Archdeacon in removing the wooden worls from the windows, and restring stone mullions”.

The font February 2016
The font February 2016

“The font is a very curious one, and has its lead lining, but apparently no drain”.

 View from the chancel into the north chapel February 2016
View from the chancel into the north chapel February 2016

“A portion of the aisle is taken off for the purpose of a vestry. We believe this tasteless proceeding had no countenance from the incumbent”.

The spire from the south-east February 2016
The spire from the south-east February 2016

The spire was repaired in 1860 following lightning damage. Six months later it was damaged again, this time by a storm. Bedford Poor Law Union, responsible for running the workhouse in Bedford, amongst other things, lent money for the repairs [PUBC2/7 and 2/8].

The organ February 2016
The organ February 2016

In 1870 new heating equipment was installed [P48/2/2/2]. Bryceson Brothers and Morten on London installed a medieval gothic organ in 1873 [P48/2/2/3]. In 1908 this instrument was moved to Bolnhurst church and a new organ installed at Keysoe [[P48/0/12].

The east window February 2016
The east window February 2016

In 1883 the church was restored. This included removing all the plaster from the walls, re-seating and installing a new east window in memory of William Airy [P48/8/1]. In 1897 the bells were re-hung [P48/8/1].

 The north aisle looking west February 2016
The north aisle looking west February 2016

In the 20th century, improvements were made to the chancel in 1937-1938, including renewing the roof and installing a new altar and reredos [P48/0/14]. Electric lighting was introduced in 1951 [P48/2/2/8]. The lead on the north aisle roof was re-cast in 1958. In 1980 repairs were made to the spire and tower [P48/2/2/12].

Grafitti on the south doorway February 2016
Grafitti on the south doorway February 2016