The Benefice of the Orwell

St Nicholas Arrington around 1890

St Nicholas Arrington around 1890 digitally enhanced from a paper photographic print.
� St Nicholas Archive.


This page will keep you up to date with the various conservation challenges that St Nicholas has to handle.



The Spire at Arrington was built by John Ratford in 1750. We know this because during the rehanging of the bell in 2013 we discovered John Ratworth’s signature prominently carved into the spire mast along with a date. John Ratworth was one of the very few important workers or artificers that were local, and who were allowed to work on the rebuilding of Wimpole Hall. His relationship with St Nicholas is almost certainly due to the Yorke families involvement with the parish just as prior to the Yorke's the Harley’s and Chicheley’s were also involved.

This rebuilding of the spire must have been to clearly locate the position of the church from the Park and the House at Wimpole. Something that was started earlier by the Chicheley family and continued by the York family while they were at Wimpole. Consequently both Repton and Capability Brown thinned the tree cover to allow views of the church.

It has been said that the spire of St Nicholas is medieval in origin but clearly this is now completely wrong. However there may have been a spire previous to the John Ratford spire although the question is then raised, why take it down and rebuild it and not simply repair it?

Some of this claim that a medieval spire existed appears to down to a painting by John Wootton of 1716 where a hunting party is shown with the spire of Arrington church in the background. However Wootton was not particularly concerned with the accuracy of such details, unlike his concern with the primary subject, the owners and the bloodstock. Another painting by Wootton of a scene in Wimpole shows buildings that in no way accord to what is known about the development of Wimpole Hall, and other paintings by him from Newmarket show similar difficulties in the details.

It is then quite possible that St Nicholas in Arrington simply had a small pricket rather like Barrington and Croydon churches today, and Wootton romanticised the scene.

Ten years ago we had emergency repair work carried out on the spire but last year the remaining leadwork slipped in places by as much as 2 or 3”. We applied for a roofing grant last year in 2015 but were unsuccessful but this year in 2016 we have been successful. We have been awarded some £31.800 by the Governments Listed Buildings of Worship Scheme - Roof Repair Fund and this logo acknowledges our gratitude for this source of funding.

The work on the roof started on Monday 8th May with the scaffolding starting to go up. The first inspection should occur in the week following and then we should have an idea of how much additional work is needed.

We intend to film the work so that you all have an opportunity to see this historic event even if you cannot get there.


John Ratford or Radford as his will spells his name was the son of William among the first local craftsman to be noted in the rebuilding of Wimpole Hall under Lord Harley. William was described as a carpenter and was buried in 1771. John his son was christened in Wimpole in 1730 and from this record we know his mother’s name was Susanna who had died in 1747 and William, his father is confirmed as a carpenter.

John was also to become a carpenter like his father and he is similarly employed on the Wimpole estate, certainly between 1742 -1790 which is a working life from the age of twelve years through to his retirement at the age of sixty. John died some six years later in 1795. These dates mean he was employed on the Wimpole estate but working for the Yorke family (Earls of Hardwicke) at the same time he built the spire at Arrington. Building a spire is something more than a carpenters role and his expertise in other areas is reflected in his description at his death as being a shopkeeper and his name on the spire confirms he could read and write. John married a Mary but not in Wimpole and they had two daughters Sarah and Anna in Wimpole which is an unusually small family for the time

To read all the conservation notes to date download the PDF below.not currently available

This page updated 08.05.17

click to download the conservation notes archive PDF

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