Karin Johnstone took advantage of Heritage Open Day to discover more about a church made with stones from Northampton Castle…
It’s a gloomy day in Northampton town centre but Rebecca Jayne’s crystal-clear voice singing ‘We’ll meet again, don’t know where don’t know when…’ lifts my spirits.
It’s Northampton’s Heritage weekend when you can hop on a vintage double decker bus to visit historical buildings of interest in Northampton and outlying villages.
I visited Castle Hill United Reformed Church because as a child I was sent to Sunday School at Abington Avenue United Reformed Church.
The name of Dr. Phillip Doddridge had been talked about so frequently that I thought he had only just passed away.
I was surprised to learn from knowledgeable Fred Bird, a member of the congregation at Castle Hill since Dame Vera sang for the troops, that Doddrige was a preacher in this church from 1729 until he died in 1751.
The sandstone church, apparently built with some of the stone from the nearby Castle, is hidden behind Vue Cinema.
Inside there are box pews and galleries where the congregation would have sat over two centuries ago learning the hymns by rote that Doddridge had written.
He stood at the front teaching them line by line, since many of them could not read. The church is a real surprise with the closed in box pews and the lectern of Doddridge at the front of the church. He would carry this round with him when he preached elsewhere.
But the overwhelming part of my visit was the atmosphere walking in to his sparse study, seeing the table where he penned his sermons and hymns and peeking in the wooden cabinet where he would file his sermons.
The great thing about Heritage open days is that you can discover gems like this church even having lived in the town for years.
It really is worth a visit to bring back Northampton memories and ghosts of the likes of Doddridge, Crusader Simon De Senlis (Church of the Holy Sepulchre) and Eleanor of Castile (Queen Eleanor Cross).