All Saints' Church, Northampton

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All Saints' Church
All Saints' Church Northampton.JPG
All Saints' Church, Northampton
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship High Church
Dedication All Saints
Diocese Peterborough
Province Canterbury
Rector Oliver J Coss
Organist/Director of music Jem Lowther
Churchwarden(s) David White and Robin Sheppard

All Saints' Church, Northampton situated in the centre of Northampton, is a Parish Church of the Church of England and Northampton's Civic Church. It is a Grade I listed building.[1]

Simon de Senlis' church of All Hallows, Northampton, England, lasted with medieval alterations until disaster struck the town on 20 September 1675. Most of the old town was destroyed by the Great Fire of Northampton. The fire began in St Mary's Street, near the castle, and the inhabitants fled to the Market Square, but then were forced to evacuate, leaving the buildings to burn, including All Hallows:

All Hallows Bells jangled their last and doleful Knell, presently after the Chimes had gone Twelve in a more pleasant Tune: And soon after the wind which did flie swifter than Horsemen, carried the Fire near the Dern-Gate, at least half a Mile from the place where it began, and into St Giles-street in the East, and consumed every house therein, save one, whose end-Walls were higher than the Roof, and by them preserved.[2]

The New Church[edit]

All Saints interior

After the fire, Charles II gave a thousand tons of timber for the rebuilding of All Hallows Church, and one tenth of the money collected for the rebuilding of the town was allocated to the rebuilding of All Hallows under the management of the King's Lynn architect, Henry Bell. Bell at the time was resident in Northampton, and he set to rebuild the church in a manner similar to Sir Christopher Wren's designs.

The central medieval tower survived the fire, as did the crypt. The new church of All Saints was built east of the tower in an almost square plan, with a chancel to the east and a north and south narthex flanking the tower.

Visitors enter the church through the existing tower into a barrel vaulted nave. At the centre is a dome, supported on four Ionic columns, which is lit by a lantern above. The barrel vault extends into the aisles from the dome in a Greek-cross form, leaving four flat ceilings in the corners of the church. The church is well lit by plain glass windows in the aisles and originally there was a large east window in the chancel, that is now covered by a reredos. The plasterwork ceiling is finely decorated, and the barrel vaults are lit by elliptical windows.


A statue of King Charles II by John Hunt was erected on the portico parapet of the rebuilt church in 1712

The comparison between this building and Christopher Wren's building of the London churches after the Great Fire of London cannot be ignored.

After the Great Fire of London, the rebuilding of the city churches was initiated by financing of the second Building Act of 1670. Wren, as Surveyor General of the King's Works, undertook this operation, and one of his first churches was St Mary-at-Hill.

The interior space of St Mary-at-Hill is roughly square in plan, and of a similar size to All Saints. To the west is the tower, again flanked by a north and south narthex. Wren spanned the square space by a barrel vault in a Greek-cross plan, with a dome at the centre, supported on four columns. If Henry Bell drew his inspiration from any one of Wren's churches, then this would be the one. The barrel-vaulting though in All Saints is much flatter than in St Mary-at-Hill, which has semi-circular vaulting. The dome in All Saints is more hemi-spherical, and the columns at St Mary-at-Hill are Corinthian with fluting. The Mayoral Seat dominates the pews on the south side, and in the north aisle there is a Consistory Court. Two icons – of Saint Peter and Saint Katharine – are situated at the east end before the steps in to the Quire, and these were written for the church in 2001 to reflect the parish boundaries, which include the site of St Katharine's Church (demolished) and St Peter's Church. St Peter's, which was given to the Churches Conservation Trust in 1998, can lay claim to being the most outstanding Norman church in the county.

The rebuilt church of All Saints was consecrated and opened in 1680. Then in 1701 a large portico was added to the west end, in front of the narthex. As a memorial of Charles II's contribution to its rebuilding, a statue of him was erected above the portico, dressed in a Roman tunic. At noon on Oak Apple Day each year the choir sings a Latin hymn to Charles from the roof as the statue is wreathed in oak leaves; a similar ceremony takes place on Ascension Day at 7:00 am.

In 2008 the narthex, vestries and lavatories were refurbished, and a privately leased coffee shop operates from its north and south areas, and on the space under the portico. The north end of the coffee shop is named the John Clare Lounge, after the poet who sat outside this space, composing his poems. Two years earlier, in 2006, a new chancel organ was installed to accompany the choirs (a west gallery organ is used for regular recitals), and a small organ in the memorial chapel for congregational services) alongside a new ring of ten bells, replacing a heavy set of eight dating from 1782.

All Saints is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm throughout the year, with extended opening on days with choral services.

The Choirs[edit]

The choirs of All Saints' Church

The choir of All Saints' Church was formed in the Middle Ages and consists of boys and men and more recently, girls. The boys choir, the last of its kind singing in Northamptonshire, range from 8 to 14 years old and the girls from 12 to 18. The men consist of choral scholars with an age range of 15 to 18, most of them having previously sung in the treble line, and lay clerks. These choirs sing at least three fully choral services a week: Mass on Sundays mornings, and evensong on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6pm. At Mass the choir sings a full Mass Setting (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei), an offertory anthem and various other pieces of liturgical music, as well as leading the hymns. At Evensong the choirs sing an anthem, a canticle setting (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis), responses, and a psalm.

In recent years the choir has toured the United States of America (three times), France (twice), Canada, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Poland, where the senior choristers sang Britten's War Requiem in a televised performance marking the seventieth anniversary of the invasion in 1939. In May 2010 they visited Paris, singing at the Église Saint-Sulpice and at Notre Dame de Paris. In August 2010 they sang in residence at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. They have sung in many English cathedrals, most recently Chester Cathedral, Ely Cathedral, Lichfield Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. In 2010 they sang for the first time at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle and King's College Chapel, Cambridge and in September 2011 they sang at St Paul's Cathedral. In February 2012 the boys' choir sang Evensong at St Edmundsbury Cathedral and toured Belgium, Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands. In the same month the Girls and Men sang Matins at St Alban's Abbey. In 2012 and 2013 they sang at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, Ely Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral, King's College Chapel, Cambridge, Peterborough Cathedral and York Minster. Over the New Year 2013/14 the Choir of Girls and Men sang in Austria and Germany.

In recent years they have performed in concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Henryk Wieniawski Orchestra of Lublin, members of Queens' Park Sinfonia, Fiori Musicali, and the Stephen Petronio Company in a performance of Rufus Wainwright's Bloom. They gave their first full performance of Handel's Messiah in 2008, and in recent years have given concert performances of Monteverdi's Vespers, J. S. Bach's Cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140, Haydn's Nelson Mass, Vaughan Williams' "Five mystical songs", Britten's "War Requiem", "Friday Afternoons" and "Ceremony of Carols", and Requiems by Bednall, Duruflé, Fauré and Rutter. In March 2010 they performed J. S. Bach's St Matthew Passion alongside the Northampton Bach Choir and the period orchestra Charivari Agréable, and the Choral Scholars and Lay Clerks's joined the Northampton Bach Choir to perform Rachmaninoff's Vespers in November 2010. In January 2011 they sang again alongside the Northampton Bach Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of Requiem (Fauré) and Handel's Zadok the Priest; in March 2011 they gave a concert performance of Franz Schubert's choral works with the Tyburn String Quartet; in July 2012 they gave a concert performance of the Coronation and Sparrow Masses by Mozart. In February 2014 they performed Mozart's Requiem with the Northampton Bach Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and in December 2015 they performed a Christmas concert with the Northampton Symphony Orchestra, including the première performance of a number of carols by Dan Forrest, Jr., whose music has been championed by the choir.

Their liturgical repertoire is unusually varied and wide, and for a number of years they have performed Viennese Masses with orchestral accompaniment on Christmas Day, and Puccini's "Messa di Gloria" alongside Mascagni's "Easter Hymn" on Easter Day. Masses by Bruckner (in E minor), Dvořák (in D major), Gretchaninov (Missa Festiva), Haydn (St Nicholas, Little Organ), Langlais (Messe solennelle, Missa in simplicitate, Missa Dona nobis pacem), Mozart (Coronation, Sparrow, in D, in F), Schubert (in G), Stravinsky, and Vierne, also regularly feature on Sunday mornings, as part of the music department's continued commitment to providing the choristers with the widest possible musical education.

They have a considerable catalogue of recordings: all three choirs recorded a disc of their commissions – Omnes Sancti – in St Mary's Church, Wellingborough in July 2010; in 2011 all three choirs recorded their fourth CD of Christmas carols, Carol of Joy, and in 2012 the girls' released Notre Père, featuring French music for upper voices. In April 2014 they joined the Northampton Bach Choir to record their fifth new carol disc Be Merry! featuring a wide selection of sacred and secular carols with piano accompaniment from the United States and Canada. There are two CDs available of the gallery organ, one of three organs in the building; they also have grand piano given to the church by Sir Clifford Curzon.

The Church has produced many successful musicians, including Lay Clerks and Organists who hold or recently held positions at Blackburn Cathedral, Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair, Guildford Cathedral, Nativity Cathedral, Bethlehem PA, Magdalen College, Oxford, New College, Oxford, Peterborough Cathedral, Robinson College, Cambridge, St Albans Cathedral, St Paul's Cathedral, St George's Chapel, Windsor, The Royal Academy of Music, The Royal College of Music, Wells Cathedral and York Minster.

Commissioning of New Music[edit]

The choirs of All Saints pride themselves on performing a diverse repertoire and have, since 2002, commissioned new works for choir and organ. On 22 November 2013 they gave the first performance of their 2013 commission, a Festival Anthem by Jonathan Dove lasting nearly twenty minutes. In 2014 a competition was held to compose an anthem to mark the sesquicentennial anniversary of the death of the poet John Clare, and in 2015 Paul Spicer was commissioned to write the first carol commission since Sir Richard Rodney Bennett's ("The Holly and the Ivy" and "The Shepherd's Carol") in 2010.

Principal commissions are listed in bold.

2015: The All Saints' Carol, SATB a capella, Paul Spicer

2014: With a glorious eye, SATB+org, Ivan Božičević

  • 2014: Bring all Heaven before mine eyes, SATB+org, Francis Jackson
  • 2014: A Song to David, SATB+org, Anthony Fort
  • 2014: Preces & Responses, SSS a capella, Ashley Grote
  • 2014: A Prayer of Saint Julian of Norwich, SSS+Jazz Trio, Robert Busiakiewicz
  • 2014: Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in B minor, SS+org, Laurence Caldecote
  • 2014: In the Cross of Christ I glory, SS+org, Tim Noon
  • 2014: Cantare amantis est, SATB+org, Bruce Neswick

2013: Out of the Whirlwind, A solo, STB verses, SATB+(2)org, Jonathan Dove

  • 2013: Missa Placare Christe servulis, SS+org, Adrian Self
  • 2013: Three Anthems (Hymn to Saint Katharine) SATB+org, (Formam Columbae Caelitus) SATB+org, (When morning gilds the skies) S+org, Laurence Caldecote
  • 2013: Hymn to Saint Joseph, SATB+org, Vernon Hoyle
  • 2013: The Lord's Prayer, ATB a capella, Robert McCormick (for extant setting of Preces & Responses)
  • 2013: The All Saints' Service, ATB+org, Andrew Parnell

2012: Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (Third Service), S+org, Michael Finnissy

  • 2012: Three short motets (Lov og tak og evig ære ske dig, Skriv dig, Jesus, på mit hjerte, Som hønen klukker mindelig), S+org, Adrian Self
  • 2012: Preces & Responses, S+org, Ronald Watson
  • 2012: O sing unto the Lord a new song, SATB+org, Malcolm Archer
  • 2012: Holy is the true light, S+org, Vernon Hoyle
  • 2012: Nunc dimittis, SSA a capella, Robert Rice

2011: Messe pour Saint-Sulpice, S+SATB+(2)org, David Briggs

  • 2011: Ecce sacerdos magnus, SSATB John Caldwell
  • 2011: O Jesu, blessèd Lord, to Thee (O Jesu! søde Jesu, dig), S+org, Humphrey Clucas
  • 2011: Sussex Carol, SATB+org, Alan Spedding after an incomplete score by Trevor Hold
  • 2011: God be in my head, SATB+org, Philip Moore

2010: Two Carols (The Holly and the Ivy; The Shepherd's Carol), SATB (with divisions), Sir Richard Rodney Bennett

  • 2010: Jubilate Deo in E, SATB+org, Gordon Lawson
  • 2010: Two Benediction Hymns (O salutaris hostia; Tantum ergo), S+org, Norman Caplin
  • 2010: Dei virgo Catharina, S+org, George Haynes
  • 2010: Rhapsody, org, Gordon Lawson

2009: Ave Maria, SATB+org, James MacMillan

The choirs of All Saints' Church premièring James MacMillan in St George's Chapel, Windsor
  • 2009: Little Mass of All Saints, SS+org; Ave verum Corpus, SS+org; Preces & Responses, SS+org, Adrian Self
  • 2009: Man be merry, SATB, Barry Ferguson
  • 2009: Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (The Northampton Service), SS+org, Gordon Lawson
  • 2009: Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous, SS+org, Andrew Bryden

2008: The Passion according to Saint Matthew, S+SATB+(2)org, David Bednall

  • 2008: O soft self-wounding Pelican! S+pf/org, Stephen Hough
  • 2008: Prelude and fugue on 'Kingsfold', org, Richard White
  • 2008: Make here a little quiet, SATB; Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (The All Saints' Service), S+org, Barry Ferguson

2007: Two anthems (Ecce sacerdos magnus, SSAATTBB; O living bread, SATB+org) Ian Colson

  • 2007: Fünf geistliche Lieder, SSS+org, Lee Dunleavy

2006: O praise God in his holiness, SATB+org, David Bednall

  • 2006: Berceuse, org, David Briggs
  • 2006: Quam Dilecta, SSSAA, Simon Whiteley

2005: Missa 'Omnes Sancti', SATB+(2)org, Malcolm Archer

  • 2005: Dominus illuminatio mea, SATTBB+org, Matthew Martin

2004: For Remembrance, SATTB, Robert Walker

2003: Two anthems (Drop, drop, slow tears; The Bethlehem Star), SATB+org, Robert Walker

2002: O where can I go from your spirit?, SATB+org, Malcolm Archer

  • 1998: Father, we thank Thee, S+org, David Sanger
  • 1996: Bread of the World, SATB+org, John Hoyle
  • 1995: The Song of Saint Francis, SS+rock band, Kendal Kirkland
  • 1993: May the road rise up to meet you, SATB+org, Russell Jackson
  • 1844: Psalm 150 (O praise God in his holiness), SATB+org, Charles McKorkell

Directors of Music[edit]

  • 2015–pres: Jem Lowther BA (Hons), ARCO (Corpus Christi College, Oxford)
  • 2006–2014: Lee Dunleavy MA (Oxon), FRCO (DipCHD), ACertCM (Hertford College, Oxford, York Minster)
  • 2002–2006: Edward Whiting MA (Oxon), FRCO (The Queen's College, Oxford, Norwich & Wells Cathedrals)
  • 1998–2001: Simon Johnson FRCO (St Albans Abbey, Norwich & St Paul's Cathedrals)
  • 1993–1998: Richard Tanner MA (Oxon), FRCO, ARAM, Hon FGCM (Exeter College, Oxford, St Albans Abbey, Blackburn Cathedral)
  • 1991–1993: Russell Jackson FLCM (Nativity Cathedral, Bethlehem PA, USA)
  • 1981–1991: Ian Clarke MA (Cantab), Mus.B, ARCO, ARCM (Trinity College, Cambridge)
  • 1973–1981: Jeremy Suter MA (Oxon), FRCO (Magdalen College, Oxford, Chichester & Carlisle Cathedrals)
  • 1972–1973: Gary Sieling MA, BMus., FRCO (Peterborough Cathedral, Dunstable Priory)
  • 1962–1972: Graham Mayo MA (Cantab), FRCO (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)
  • 1960–1962: George Millar FRCO
  • 1920–1960: Ralph Richardson Jones FRCO, FTCL (St James Chapel Royal)
  • 1914–1920: Albert Charles Tysoe Mus.D (Leeds Minster, St Albans Abbey)
  • 1898–1914: Brook Sampson Mus.B (Oxon), FRCO
  • 1878–1898: Ebenezer Law
  • 1836–1878: Charles McKorkell
  • 1774–1836: John Barrett (son of William)
  • 1743–1774: William Barrett
  • 1706–1743: Mr Morris
  • Mid–16th century: William Cockin

Assistant Organists[edit]

  • 2018–pres: Laurence Caldecote BA (Hons)
  • 1992–2013: Roger Palmer FTCL, FLCM, ARCO
  • ?-? Ron Gates

Departure of Fr David McConkey[edit]

On 30 August 2015, The Revd. David McConkey, SSC, Parish Priest resigned from his post as Parish Priest due to "animadversion, rancour, and vilification experienced at All Saints, Northampton." Stating in his weekly newsletter that "There are some in this congregation, including some of its lay leadership, who ought to—and perhaps do—feel heartily ashamed of their behaviour."[3] This was commented on by the Revd. Richard Coles on his Public Facebook.[4]

Appointment of New Rector[edit]

On 13 March 2016 it was announced that Fr. Oliver Coss has been appointed Rector of All Saints' with St Katherine and St Peter, Northampton. In his letter to the people of All Saints' he "acknowledged how challenging the recent past has been for the people of All Saints’ Church" and "how very good it was to hear about the enthusiasm that greeted the announcement of his appointment, and to receive some warm messages of welcome from members of the congregation, individuals, and future colleagues in the area."


  1. ^ Historic England. "Church of All Saints (1372129)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 25 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Northampton (1675) A True And Faithful Relation Of The Late Dreadful Fire At Northampton,... Printed for J. Coniers, Duck Lane, London.
  3. ^ "Head priest of All Saints Church in Northampton announces intention to resign in emotional letter". 
  4. ^ "Richard Coles - A colleague's final word in his church... - Facebook". 


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°14′13″N 0°53′48″W / 52.23694°N 0.89667°W / 52.23694; -0.89667