St Matthew’s Church is most unusual as it located on a tiny peninsular of rocks on the edge of Rutland Water – a major reservoir in the tiny county of Rutland. Parts of the church are actually below the waterline which were filled with rock and rubble when the lake was built in order to save the building.
It is now a museum. The skeleton of an Anglo Saxon man as well as dinosaur fossils are on show. During the early 1970’s it became obvious that a new reservoir was needed to provide drinking water for the expanding population of South East Britain. Surveyors and government finally decided that best location would be the Gwash valley in the County of Rutland. Unfortunately this meant that a substantial part of the parish of Empingham would be submerged underwater. Both the villages of Middle Hambleton and Nether Hambleton were cleared. As the valley was flooded it became obvious that the high-water level would partially submerge St Matthews Church, a private chapel that had once been part of the Normanton Estate. The church had narrowly avoided being demolished as part of the valley clearance but now faced the prospect of destruction again as the rising waters would slowly erode its foundations and lower walls. A trust was quickly formed to save it for the future. Various proposals were evaluated but in the end it was decided to fill the lower level with a mixture of concrete and stone to secure its base. This would reach as high as the window ledges and be approximately 60 cm above the high-water mark. As the church would become a mini-island a causeway was constructed from a nearby slope. This was then extended to become a bank of clay that completely surrounded the building. Once in place a defensive layer of boulders were positioned to provide a breakwater.
The project was successful and has created an unusual landmark that has become a fascinating destination for anyone interested in the more curious aspects of the British countryside. When the reservoir is full St. Matthews appears to float serenely on the surface of the lake and when the water is lower it confuses the eye as it becomes clear that half of the church appears to have sunk into the ground.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Hardwick Road, Eynesbury, St Neots
Cambridgeshire, England, PE19 2PR
+44 (0)1480 474 404
- Address: Normanton Park Road, Normanton, Rutland, England, United Kingdom, LE15 8RP
- GPS: 52.646194,-0.623017
- Phone: 0044 (0)1780 686 800
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: LE15 8RP
- Entrance Fees: Only to the museum inside the church
- Disabled Access: Good - Fair distance from nearest car park
- Visibility from Road: Poor