All Saints, Odell

The church of All Saints in Odell is situated on a hill on the north side of the High Street through the village.
Church Warden:
Jill Cheadle Tel 01234 720261
Midweek activities:
Monday Club for 5-8 year olds during term time
Pilgrims, an informal group that meets fortnightly to share issues of faith together.
Amblers, 3rd Saturday of the month 9.45am outside The Bell public house for a walk and lunch.
Further information is available from the  Bedfordshire Parish Churches website

The history of the Church

Sitting on a man-made hill, the beautiful church of All Saints’ Odell is probably built on the site of an earlier church, since records of incumbents date back to 1220.  It is a fifteenth century building of Northamptonshire Limestone, in the Perpendicular Style.

The church was repaired and beautified in the years 1686 and 1687, and in December 1820 a church clock was put in the tower.  In 1868 and 1869 more restoration work was carried out.

In 2009-2010, a screened area that had served as a vestry was replaced by a new oak screen, providing space for a disabled toilet, a refreshment point and storage.  This has enabled the church to host regular Café-in-the-Tower events, concerts and exhibitions, which contribute to the community life of the village.  This was funded by generous donations from local people and supplemented by grants, in particular from the National Churches Trust.

There are many interesting features in the church.  The flooring of the nave and aisles is stone and has diamond patterns within straight borders.  The pews are old, though there is some dispute as to their ages.  The original rood screen is in a good state of preservation.  The panels on the lower part of the screen are painted alternately in red and black and some old stencil work can just be seen.  The doorway above the rood screen is the opening from the rood stairs originally leading to the rood loft, a gallery above the screen.

Medieval stained glass has been restored and can be seen in the top part of the east window in the south aisle.  Depicting the Trinity, in this case ‘The Father’ it also contained four and a half cherubim, St.Thomas of Canterbury (to the left) and St.Matthew (below) and other fragments.  ‘The Son’ and ‘The Holy Spirit’ fragments remain in windows in the chancel and the west aisle.

The octagonal font dates back to the time when the church was built and the Jacobean pulpit is said to have been brought from another church in the 1650’s. A coffin lid in the corner of the south aisle is of thirteenth century origin and, therefore, predates the church. There are various, memorials, hatchments and some wall niches, not all of whose purposes are known.

The western tower contains a ring of six bells, the treble bell having been added to the five seventeenth century bells in 1958.  The people of Concord, USA, joined with the people of Odell at that time in paying for the restoration of the church bells.

The most famous of the Rectors of Odell is Peter Bulkeley who, as a non-conformist, was unable to accept the ‘Laudian Discipline’. He admitted that he did not wear a surplice or make the sign of the cross, and this resulted in his suspension.  In April 1635 he married his second wife, Grace Chetwood, daughter of Sir Richard Chetwood, Lord of the Manor of Odell.  On 9th May they sailed for America with three children from his previous marriage, taking several families from the village with them. After a short stay in Cambridge, Massachussetts, Peter took a number of planters with him, moved further into the woods where a colony was formed.  He gave the new settlement the name of Concord and became the first minister there.  In 1651 he published his book, ‘The Gospel Covenants’ (aka as ‘The Covenant of Grace Opened’ or simply ‘The Covenant of Love’) which can be viewed on the internet today.  Among his descendents are Ralph Waldo Emerson the famous philosopher, and George W. Bush!

In 1983 a large group came over from Concord to celebrate 200 years of peace with England since the end of the War  of Independence.  They included members of a re-enactment society, the Concord Minutement. The original Minutemen were members of the local militia brought together during that war, their name implying they were ready for war in a minute’s notice.

The “non-conformist” Peter Bulkley, Rector of Odell who emigrated to the American Colony in 1635 and became the first minister of Concord, Massachusetts.