Layers of remarkable ancient history are being uncovered as part of an extensive programme of modernisation by St Peter’s Church in Oundle.
The work is part of a series of six building phases – costing approximately £200,000 – which is designed to develop, improve and enhance the church building as a place of worship but also as a major venue for local events.
A fascinating glimpse into its past is also being unearthed which has shed greater light on the town’s former residents and the history of local schools.
A medieval room believed to have been constructed in the 1480s is being restored. The room deteriorated steadily across the centuries and had been completely mothballed owing to its instability.
A church spokesman said: “The tiny door to the staircase is so cute - like an opening into Narnia. The stairs themselves are so narrow and steep that it must be assumed that its users over the centuries, including the priests, have been young, fit and thin!”
Tree specialists have even been able to trace the local woodland from which the room’s timbers were originally felled. Ancient graffiti has also been revealed. It is widely accepted that local lad William Laxton was educated in the room during the 1500s before, in classic Dick Whittington fashion, he headed south to become Lord Mayor of London.
The work currently in progress in the church involves the building of new toilets, a crèche and a special choir balcony.
Other recent building work includes new wrought iron gates, the transformation of the main entrance with automatic glass doors and new disabled access.
The Friends of the Parish Church have donated funds for this current project as have East Northamptonshire District Council both of whose vital contributions underline the recognition of St Peter’s as a growing and significant community space.
It is hoped that new kitchen facilities may also be installed in the future.
The Rev Stephen Webster said: “To be a church which welcomes everyone is at the heart of who we want to be at St Peter’s,
“This is what drives our desire to ensure that our building meets the needs of people in the 21st century; a building which helps us to serve everyone in our community, including those in our steadily growing church family.”