St Dunstan's, Bolnhurst

The church at Little Staughton has close ties with the church in the neighbouring village of Bolnhurst. Bolnhurst is situated about seven miles out of Bedford on the road to Kimbolton (B660). The church is located away from the village on the road to Thurleigh. Its isolated position is the result of the medieval village of Bolnhurst being wiped out by the Black Death in 1348.

The church is dedicated to St Dunstan who was a major figure in religious life at the end of the 10th century being Bishop of Worcester and London before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury in 960. He died in 988 and became one of England's most popular saints. The dedication of the church to St Dunstan is probably the result of the manor of Bolnhurst being held until the Dissolution by the monastery of Thorney with which St Dunstan was closely connected.

Entry to the church is by the south porch. Like that at Little Staughton, its stone benches are well worn. The inner doorway is elaborate with pinnacled buttresses on either side. There are stone carved faces on either side of door. The wooden door is old and has a good drop handle.

Passing through the door into the nave, which dates from 15th century, one sees a church which makes an interesting comparison with that of Little Staughton. The walls of St Dunstan's are stone with all plasterwork removed apart from one portion opposite the door on the north wall. On this portion is a medieval wall painting of St Christopher and the Christ Child, the top of which was unfortunately damaged in 1660 when the nave roof was repaired. Although the painting has faded over the years, it provides an interesting illustration of the sort of paintings which would have covered the walls of all medieval churches.

There are also a number of Victorian and later stain glass windows including a fine East Window which is a memorial to Sarah Josephine Wade Gery whose husband was vicar of the parish.

On the north wall to the east of the wall painting is the War Memorial which bears the following names:

Ronald M D Harvey
William H Harper
Harold J Hawkins
Walter Hawkins
Arthur Johnson
James Johnson
Charles F Parrott
Norman C Steward
Alec A Whitmore

Further details can be obtained from:

If one looks to the east, one sees another marked difference from Little Staughton; St Dunstan's managed to retain its 15th century chancel screen and holes on the top of the screen show that carved figures of the Crucifixon would have stood there. Some of the nave pews are also thought to be 15th century. As one approaches the chancel one passes the 17th century pulpit on the north side. Like the church at Little Staughton a window has been placed in the wall to give light to the pulpit. On the south-east side of the nave is a large imposing marble monument to Sir John Francklin 1707 and on the opposite side of the window is a smaller similar to Dame Dorothy Francklin 1727. The Francklin family came from Yorkshire but had associations with Bolnhurst from 1483 until 1944.

Passing through the screen into the chancel, one finds handsome choir stalls. These however are a 19th century addition and are likely to acquired from some church on the continent probably by the Reverend F M Harvey who, whilst he was Rector, spent a lot amount of his own money on the church. Under the south-east window of the chancel is a plain stone seat or sedila which would have been used by priests during services. A little beyond is a piscine with two trefoiled arches and a central shaft of Purbeck marble with a drain on one side only, the other being used to hold the cruets. On the south side is the organ, with painted doors covering the pipes, which was made by Bryceson Bros and Morten. The organ case was designed by Rev F H Sutton, the younger brother of Sir John Sutton the author of "A Short Account of Organs built in England" and is described as "Medieval Gothic". It was originally purchased in 1873 by the Rev William Airy, Rector of Keysoe from 1836-1974 for use in St Mary's Church Keysoe but passed to St Dunstan's Bolnhurst in 1908. The original specification was:

(Medieval Gothic Organ…constructed from designs by Revd F H Sutton, Theddingworth Rugby.) Open Diapason Bass (12 pipes) Open Diapason (from tc), Viola (tc) Dulciana (CC) and Principal (CC), one octave of pedals.

For further information, see Research Notes, BIOS Reporter April 2002 Vol XXVI No 2.

At the west end of the nave is a plain octagonal font with a Jacobean cover.

The tower is 15th century and about half way up the stairs is a priest's room. The tower has a ring of four bells which were re-hung by Alfred Bowell of Ipswich in 1907.

Treble: Recast by Alfred Bowell

2 and 3 were made by John Dier in 1587

Tenor: Inscribed "Praise the Lord, 1618".

All Saints' Church, Little Staughton, Bedfordshire, Interior
Interior (click to enlarge)
Wall Painting
Wall Painting (click to enlarge)
South Side
South side (click to enlarge)
Organ (click to enlarge)