Suzie Doncaster has added this wonderful early green man to our current entry in the gazetteer for St Peter’s Church in Marefair Northampton. The finely carved Anglo Saxon grave slab dates to the 10-11th Century and shows beasts and birds entwined in some incredible foliage all sprouting from the mouth of a Green Man. It is thought that the grave slab would have been in an earlier church that stood on the same site. The stone was found in a nearby ditch and was used as a door lintel and a mantel piece before finding its way back to the church.
The slab has been attributed to St Ragener an Anglo Saxon prince who was slain by the Vikings in 870. His grave had been forgotten until the mid 11th Century when visions of an elderley man drew a priest of Edward the Confessor to the burial site. Many miracles were said to have taken place at the church and the king had a shrine erected there decorated with gold, silver and precious stones. Sadly nothing of the great shrine remains.
Although the grave slab has been cut down by 3cm on one side the carving is remarkably intact and it is one of the erarliest carved stones in Northampton. St Peters Church is now a redundant Anglican Church and has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building, it is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. It is considered to be the most outstanding Norman church in the county.