23 March 2023

Crick in Northamptonshire
retains its character as
a pretty rural village

Crick is close to Northampton and Rugby but has managed to retain its character as a village off the beaten track (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

I have spent a number of afternoons in recent weeks in some of the pretty villages in the Northamptonshire countryside, including Watford and Yelverton, where I was exploring links with the Comberford family, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

These villages between Rugby and Northampton are close to the M1 and the Watford Gap, but not being a driver means taking long bus journeys through countryside and villages that I might not otherwise visit.

Crick is one of those village in West Northamptonshire, close to the border with Warwickshire and 10 km east of Rugby and 23 km north-west of Northampton. The nearest railway station is in Rugby, but the proposed Rugby Parkway will be nearer, 4.5 km east.

Villages like Crick and West Haddon have kept their character in recent years in part because their railway stations have been closed, and because they were by-passed by the A428 main road from Rugby to Northampton when the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT) was built in 1996.

Crick, with a population of almost 2,000, takes its name from the Brittonic Celtic word cruc, meaning ‘hill.’ There are many similar examples across Wales, including Crughywel, Crug Mawr and Crickadarn.

Crack’s Hill is about 1.5 km north-east of the village, next to the canal, and from the top there are good views of Crick, Yelvertoft, West Haddon and Rugby. Crack’s Hill was created during the last ice age, when melted water deposited material underneath the ice. Once the ice sheet retreated, it left this pile of silt and rock behind, and the hill is properly called a moraine.

The Church of Saint Margaret of Antioch on Church Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

There has been a settlement in the village since the Iron Age in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE. Worked flints from the Neolithic period have been found on Crack’s Hill and it is believed that the Romans used the hill as a sentry point.

There is evidence of Roman finds at Crack’s Hill, and the most positive evidence of a Roman presence is Watling Street, the Roman Road to the west of the village that linked London with North Wales.

The Church of Saint Margaret of Antioch on Church Street may well have existed before the stone building of 1077, and Crick was recorded in the Domesday Book.

Saint Margaret’s Church was rebuilt in the perpendicular style in the 14th and 15th centuries, incorporating some 12th-century work. It includes a nave, two aisles, north sacristy, south porch and west tower. The walls are built of coursed ironstone and limestone rubble, with coursed ironstone and sandstone in the tower. The roofs are of tile and lead.

The Romanesque sandstone font has a base consists of three crouching figures. The church was restored in 1840 by the architect Richard Charles Hussey (1806-1887) and has a number of elements from that era.

Saint John’s College, Oxford, is the ‘Lord of the Manor’ in Crick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The manor of Crick was divided in the 16th century, one third of its income being given as a founding gift to Saint John’s College, Oxford, in 1555. The college remains the ‘Lord of the Manor’ to this day, although in name only.

This connection with Saint John’s explains why William Laud (1573-1645), who became Archbishop of Canterbury, was the Rector of Crick in 1619-1621. He was born in Reading, the son of a cloth merchant, and was educated at Saint John’s College Oxford. He was ordained in 1601, and was the President of Saint John’s from 1611 to 1621. During those years, he was also Prebendary of Buckden in Lincoln Cathedral (1614), Archdeacon of Huntingdon (1615), Dean of Gloucester (1616), and a canon of Westminster Abbey (1621-1628). Laud as Bishop of St David’s before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to 1645.

Laud was beheaded for treason by the Parliamentarians on 10 January 1645 by the Parliamentarians. It is said that the fabric of Saint Margaret’s suffered later that year at the hands of Parliamentary troops on their way to the Battle of Naseby.

A later rector of Crick, Stephen Fowler, was ejected as a Puritan from Saint Margaret’s and from his fellowship at Saint John’s College in 1662, and became a Presbyterian minister in Newbury, Berkshire, although his brother became Bishop of Gloucester.

Crick has almost nearly 50 listed buildings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Crick has almost nearly 50 listed buildings, a high number for a village such as this. Saint Margaret’s Church has a Grade I listing and 47 buildings in Crick have Grade II listing.

Saint Margaret of Antioch Church continues to undergo repairs and restoration work. The Elliot organ in the church was restored in 2011 and was 200 years old in 2019, when the 200th anniversary was celebrated with a concert of organ recitals.

The Ex-Servicemen’s Club on Church Street was built in a Gothic Revival style in 1847 as a school with a teacher’s house attached. The walls are of red and blue brick with ironstone dressings, and it retains an octagonal bell turret with a small spire.

Vyntner’s Manor on Watford Road has a datestone that may read 1694. It is built of coursed squared ironwork, with a tile roof and brick and stone stacks. The bay window on the left-hand side has a datestone reading 1925, when extensions and internal remodelling took place.

Crick also has a United Reformed Church, a Post Office, a Co-Op shop and three pubs, the Royal Oak, the Wheatsheaf and the Red Lion.

The Grand Union Canal came to Crick in 1814, and prospered for over 100 years. The wharf supplied coal and lime for Crick and surrounding villages from the Midlands and other goods from London. Crick canal tunnel, close to the south-east of the village, is 1,397 metres long and was 200 years old in 2014.

The Crick Boat Show and Waterways Festival takes place at Crick Marina on the last Bank Holiday weekend in May each year. Over 200 exhibitors showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services, from boats, engines and chandlery to holidays, brokerage and insurance. The programme includes family entertainment, boat trips, live music, children’s activities, arts and crafts stands, food and drink stalls, competitions and seminars on boat owning, boat buying and living afloat.

Crick remained an agricultural community into the mid-20th century. Today it is home for many industry and service workers in the region, and in recent years there has been a substantial number of housing developments.

The Wheatsheaf … one of three pubs in Crick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

A journey through Lent 2023
with Samuel Johnson (30)

A stone marks the entrance to Johnson’s Court, off Fleet Street, London, and the houses where Samuel Johnson lived while he was working on his ‘Dictionary’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on words by Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield-born lexicographer and writer who compiled the first authoritative English-language dictionary.

In Lent 1762 [28 March 1762], Johnson wrote what reads like a list of Lenten resolutions followed by a Lenten prayer:

God grant that I may from this day.
Return to my studies.
Labour diligently.
Rise early.
Live temperately.
Read the Bible.
Go to church.

O God, Giver and Preserver of all life, by whose power I was created, and by whose providence I am sustained, look down upon me [with] tenderness and mercy, grant that I may not have been created to be finally destroyed, that I may not be preserved to add wickedness to wickedness; but may so repent me of my sins, and so order my life to come, that when I shall be called hence like the wife whom thou hast taken from me, I may dye in peace and in thy favour, and be received into thine everlasting kingdom through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ thine only Son our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow