The ancient ironstone church of St Edmund, King and Martyr has been at the heart of Hardingstone’s community for nearly 1000 years. Although the earliest parts of the building still standing today date back to the 13th century it is clear from records that there was a village church here at Hardingstone some 200 years before that.
When Earl Simon of Northampton founded the Cluniac Priory of St Andrews it was endowed with lands in village along with the church (and its tithe income) itself and the church of St Edmund would continue to be connected with the Priory and nearby Cluniac nunnery St Mary de la Pre until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538/9.
The 14th century medieval church consisted of a chancel, aisled nave, north porch and tower (the lower part of the tower may be part of an earlier structure and in the early 15th century the chapel, containing the highly decorative alabaster marble monuments to the Harvey family, was added to the south side of the chancel along with a new entrance porch way built on the southern side – now housing the kitchen and toilet.
Inside the nave south and north aisles are marked by five pointed arches with octagonal pillars and decorated style leaded light windows to the south and north walls. The upper part of the nave or clerestory is lit by plain square headed windows on both sides. The square tower at the west end is of two stages – with the lower possibly being of even earlier date – with much inserted windows and topped with a battlement parapet.
A modern entrance in the north wall of the tower now serves as an entrance to the church.
Extension repairs and alterations in first the 18th century and then the mid-Victorian period have left their mark on the church fabric. During works in the mid-1700s – an inscription of 1764 found on the lead roof gives an indication of the date of these actions - there was extensive rebuilding of much of the chancel, north, east and south walls with the rough dressed ironstone being faced with ashlar and quoin stones. The leaded roof and low east gable were topped by Gothic cross.
In 1868 – 69 further extensive alterations took place with all the 18th century fittings being removed, the tower arch opened, new aisle windows and a new east window as well as the installation of a new church organ in the wall between the chancel and the Harvey Chapel.
The church contains a number of highly decorative monuments dedicated to local families of importance including the magnificent monument to Bartholomew Clarke, grandfather of Edward Bouverie of nearby Delapre Abbey, created by the famous 18th century sculptor Thomas Rysback, a the remains of a table tomb surmounted with the Tate family crest and the two late 16th / early 17th century marble monuments to the Harvey family in the south chapel along with many other fine marble plaques on the walls of the chancel and north and south aisles.
More information about the church and its history can be found in the church, with a small display, QR code trail highlighting some of its interesting features and a tour leaflet (downloadable here).
A newly created St. Edmund's guidebook to the church and souvenir postcards are also available for purchase – with all profits supporting the church.