Churches - St Mary's, Carlton

The church of St Mary the Virgin, Carlton is situated about 0.5 miles south west of the village of Carlton on the north side of the Turvey Road.

Church Wardens:
Elspeth Cameron, Tel 01234 720872
Martin Barratt, Tel 01234 720756

Church Secretary:
Margaret Linggood, Tel 01234 720780

Further information is available from the  Bedfordshire Parish Churches website

The History of the Church

Carlton Church is first mentioned in 1206, when Gerinus de Leigh held the right to appoint the priest. By that time the church had already been standing for 250 years.

The building was begun around 950, and originally consisted of a nave with a short chancel. By 1100 the west tower had been added. Evidence of the Saxon origin of the church can be seen in the exterior of the north wall of the chancel and lower windows in the tower.

In 1275 the south aisle was built, and in 1310 the north aisle and doorway were added. In 1330 the chancel was lengthened and the south chapel built. This chapel was later taken down and the windows re-used in the east wall of the south aisle and the south wall of the chancel, where the blocked up arch is visible. At this time also a chamber with a lean-to roof was built at the south-west corner against the tower and the wall of the south aisle. This was probably a priest’s house and the remains of a chimney can be seen at first floor level outside.

The 15th century saw more alterations to the church. A half-arch was made in the north arcade near the organ. This may have been a ‘squint’ allowing a better view from the north aisle. The clerestory was added, and also at this time the belfry stage of the tower was rebuilt. Diagonal buttresses were added and the spiral staircase inserted in the north-west corner. The present porch was rebuilt and replaces one that was a little to the east. The rood screen, also 15th century,would have supported a loft. The loft has been destroyed, but the chuch building as we see it now was complete.

Later centuries have seen changes only in furniture and fittings.Most of the nave pews were installed in the 16th century and the pulpit is 17th century, but on a modern base. The fine stained glass in the 14th century east window was made by F. X. Zettler of Munich in 1904. The organ dates from 1920. There is a story that local men serving in France during the First World War ran a lucrative pig farm in their spare time, and that the organ was purchased with the proceeds!

The tower contains six bells; the treble and second were cast by Taylors of Loughborough in 1997 and 1994 respectively; the third by Hugh Watts, 1602, and inscribed ‘Praise the Lorde’; the fourth by Taylors in 1868; the fifth was recast by Gillett and Johnston in 1920 and retains the old inscription ‘S. Marthe’. The tenor is now believed to have been cast by John Mitchel of Wokingham c.1490; it is dedicated to St. John and carries the inscription’ In multis annis resonet campana Johannis’. The bells are rung every Sunday before morning worship.

Recently extensive restoration work has been carried out on the exterior stonework. The north and south aisle roofs have been re-covered and work on the roof timbers can be seen from inside. The two windows that were formerly in the old south chapel have been restored as memorials.

The benefice of St Mary, Carlton with Chellington was combined with that of St Peter, Harrold in 1964.