St John the Baptist, Upton, Soke of Peterborough

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Feature Sets (2)


Upton is a small village in the Soke of Peterborough, 5 miles W of the centre of Peterborough and 1½ miles NW of Castor. The village clusters around lanes on the N side of the A47, with the church at its E end, now isolated in a field used for grazing. The manor house, now part of Manor Farm, stands to the SE of the church. St John's is 12thc in origin and consists of a chancel with a N vestry, nave and N aisle. The building was rebuilt in the 17thc, and the chancel rebuilt in 1842.  From the W the facade is triple gabled, aptly described as 'intensely domestic' by Pevsner, the S gable representing the nave, the N the separately-roofed aisle and the centre a bell-cote with louvred openings either side of a buttress. Construction is of ashlar and dressed stone with Collyweston stone and slate roofs. Inside, the chancel arch jambs and N arcade piers and capitals are 12thc but of different phases, and in both the cases the arches are later, presumably 17thc. The most striking feature is the N aisle which has its floor raised by 4 steps and elaborate balustrades flanking the staircase and between the arcade piers, converting it into a chapel for the spectacular Barnack stone and terracotta tomb of Sir William Dove (d.1633) and his 2 wives,


Upton is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey, and might be included with Castor. Early in the 12thc a landowner named Godwin of Upton held 3 virgates there. By the mid-12thc the Watervilles held land in Upton, the earliest reference being to Ascelin de Waterville in 1146.  The Watervilles briefly lost Upton as a result of a rebellion against Henry II in 1174, but it was recovered by Asceline de Waterville in 1190. She had 2 daughters, Asceline and Maud, the former inheriting most of the Upton estate. When the younger Asceline married she brought Upton as part of her dowry, hence the manor passed to her Torpel husband and thence to her daughter who married Ralph Camoys. Their son John sold the manor to Eleanor of Castile, Queen of Edward I. The later history of this fascinating manor, which passed at one stage to Edward II's favourite Piers Gaveston, will be found in VCH.

The chapel, with its mother house of Castor, was confirmed to Peterborough Abbey by Richard I and Henry III, but the Lords of the Manor retained some rights over it, including the advowson which was shared between the sisters Asceline and Maud in the 13thc.They ultimately gave their shares to the nunnery of St Michael, near Stamford, founded by William de Waterville, Abbot of Peterborough. The dedication is somewhat confusing. In 1521 John Strete oif Upton made a bequest to the Chapel of St Helen at Upton, suggesting either that the dedication has changed since then, or that there was a chapel within the church dedicated to St Helen. VCH (484 and notes) refers to the church as St Helen's, but notes that Bacon (1786) gives St John the Baptist as the dedication.  In 1851 the chapel became the parish church of Upton. 


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch

Round headed and originally of 2 orders to the W and 1 to the E. The 2nd order only survives on the N jambe, and everything above the imposts blocks is 17thc replacement in a medievalising style. The loss of the 2nd order S jamb may be attributed to the installation of a fine early-17thc pulpit.

1st order (shared)

Paired engaged half-columns on roll/ hollow/ chamfer bases, with major losses carry cushion capitals, one to each shaft, The shields of all caspitals are raised slightly and the neckings are thin rolls. The S shields are uncarved, but those on the N jamb are more elaborate, the W and S shileds surrounded by double rolls and each of the S facing shields carved with a single palmette in relief.The E capital on the N jamb is baldly scraped, the damage covering more than half of the face on the W side. All imposts are quirked chamfered and retooled.

2nd order W face

On the N jamb only is a detached en-delit nook-shaft on an inverted cushion base, carrying a cushion capital, its shield again slightly raised, on an impost as the 1st order


N nave arcade

The arcade is of 2 bays with a cylindrical pier and engaged half-column responds at the  E and W ends. As with the chancel arch, all above the imposts is 17thc, and indeed the arch profile is identical for both features. The 12thc capitals are circular in plan, but their Greek cross imposts indicate that their arches were originally of 2 orders. These imposts are quirked hollow chamfered with the quirk overhanging the hollow.  Capitals are described below.

E respond capital

A badly damaged crocket capital with a major loss covering the W face and the upper part of the S face of the bell.

Pier 1 capital

A crocket capital with  crockets on each angle and on the centre of each face.

W respond capital

A multi-stiffleaf capital with tall vertical stems terminating in trilobed leaves, slightly windblown.


The simple, heavy treatment of the chancel arch capitals points to a date in the 1st half of the 12thc, while the crocket and stiff leaf on the arcade indicate that it was added c.1200.


  • Anon, The Church of St John the Baptist at Upton, Church Guide revised WB September 2006.

  • J. Ecton and J. Bacon, Liber Regis vel Thesaurus Rerum Ecclesiasticarum, (1786 ed), 832.

  • Historic England Listed Building, English Heritage Legacy ID: 50464

  • C. O’Brien and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough, New Haven and London 2014, 710-11.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Bedfordshire and the County of Huntingdon and Peterborough, Harmondsworth 1968, 358-59.

  • Victoria County History: Northamptonshire. II (1906), 483-85.

Exterior from SW
Interior to E


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TF 110 006 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Soke of Peterborough
now: Peterborough
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Peterborough
now: St John the Baptist
Type of building/monument
Parish church, formerly chapel of ease  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
07 June 2019