Since my school days I’ve been fascinated by Mary Queen of Scots and always hoped to visit Fotheringhay in search of her final days and place of execution. Staying near Peterborough in February gave me the opportunity I’d been hoping for. So, from wet and windy Little Gidding I headed north via windy narrow lanes to the long, but attractive, village of Fotheringhay just over the border in Northamptonshire.
The Church Tower Under Wraps
In Simon Jenkins’s book “England’s Thousand Best Churches” the entry for the three star St Mary, Fotheringhay reads:
“On a warm summer’s day, Fotheringhay is a magic place. The church seems to float above the River Nene, a galleon of Perpendicular on a sea of corn.”
And in the chapter in Candida Lycett-Green’s “England : Travels in a Wrecked Landscape” she introduces Fotheringhay :
“From wherever you approach Fotheringhay, you cannot fail to be startled by the grandeur of its church, St Mary and All Saints, which stands on a slight rise above a small and unassuming limestone village.”
On this wet and wild Wednesday it was disappointing to find that the church was swathed in a sea of plastic and closed to the public. Never mind, I thought, I’ll battle through the elements to at least find the castle. I couldn’t find a carpark nearby so parked safely on the broad street that is Fotheringhay. It was just a little disconcerting to see signs in the cottage windows ‘banning’ parking but I decided to ‘risk’ it for half an hour as it’s a public road and I was causing no danger.
I followed a muddy track past farm buildings to find a grassy mound which a sign indicated was the remains of Fotheringhay Castle. It’s privately owned but you can just climb up the the grassy tump and even in the rain get a 360 degree view over the gentle surrounding landscape.
Below : three views from the former castle site
The River Nene
The Church Tower and Farm Buildings
Descending from the mound, just by the river, are what appear to be the only remains of a wall of the castle. Signs indicate that Richard III had been born at the Castle; that Mary, Queen of Scots had been beheaded in the Great Hall on 8 February 1586 and what looks like a copy of a poem she had written, both French and English versions.
It would be lovely to return to the cosiness of Lynch Lodge so one day I may revisit Fotheringhay and find the work on the church completed and be able to step inside and view its treasures and allegedly stunning architecture.