Joanna Lumley reveals Oundle church as spires photography competition winner
7th December 2015

A photograph of St Peter’s Church in Oundle, Northamptonshire, taken by French teacher, William Gunson, a Deputy House Master at Oundle School, has won the National Churches Trust’s ‘Save our Spires’ photography competition.

The winning photograph was revealed by Joanna Lumley at an evening event held for the Friends of the National Churches Trust at St Mary le Strand church in Central London on Tuesday 1st December 2015.

William Gunson said, “I am delighted to have won the National Churches Trusts’ ‘Save our Spires’ photography competition. St Peter's Church stands in the middle of the ancient market town of Oundle and has the highest spire in Northamptonshire, standing proud at 210 feet above the town and its public school. 

As well as being a church with a long and distinguished history, it is also home to a thriving local community, features traditional and modern worship, hosts Remembrance Day services, Oundle School lunchtime concerts and other community activities. The spire is also a landmark for our pupils at Oundle School, who have passed it every day on their way to lessons for almost 500 years. The slender spire towers over the central cloisters of the School, where I teach, and can be seen for miles around as a point for navigation when the pupils are out and about around the countryside on expeditions and CCF exercises.  From certain angles and villages around Oundle, the lancet windows of the spire align and you can see straight through the structure. Pupils also study its architecture as part of the School’s Trivium course, and the church often features in pupils' artwork, as well as being home to regular musical offerings to the town by our pupils. The photograph is taken from the School grounds, by the Great Hall.” 

William Gunson receives a cash prize of £125 and the St Peter’s Church also receives a £125 cash prize.


St Peter’s Church in Oundle, Northamptonshire taken by William Gunson

 The photography competition is part of the charity’s campaign to highlight the plight of the UK’s church spires. Soaring high above their surroundings, church spires were built as an attempt to get as close to Heaven as possible.  Sadly, these days many are in danger of going in the other direction.

Since 2013, the National Churches Trust has funded repairs to 17 spires in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, investing over £370,000 in their future. However, last year Historic England’s 'Heritage at Risk' register showed that over 40 churches required urgent attention to their spires.  And many church spires in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also in need of major repair. The National Churches Trust is seeking to raise another £250,000 to help safeguard the future of more church spires. You can see a video about ‘Save our Spires’ at

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said, “Church spires are amazing architectural achievements. It’s no surprise that many people’s favourite churches have spires, including Joanna Lumley OBE, whose favourite church is St Bride’s in the City of London, the inspiration for tiered wedding cakes and Michael Palin, one of whose favourite churches is St John’s Church in Ranmoor which has the tallest spire in Sheffield.

We’re delighted to have had so many excellent entries for our ‘Save our Spires’ photography competition and would like to thank everyone who took part.  The winning entries show just why church spires are key features of our landscape and remind us why it is so important that they are kept in good repair so that they can be enjoyed by our children and children’s children.”

 The photography competition shows why spires are such an important part of the UK’s visual landscape. The winning entries were judged to be the most visually appealing and for their originality. 82 photographs were submitted. Judges for the competition were: The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, Christopher Jonas CBE and Sara de Rohan, Secretary, Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust.

 More details at

About the National Churches Trust

The National Churches Trust is the national independent charity concerned with the protection and welfare of churches, chapels and meeting houses throughout the United Kingdom.

We aim to:

a)         Provide grants for the repair, maintenance and modernisation of church buildings

b)         Act as a catalyst to improve and bring more resources to the management of church buildings

c)         Promote the value of church buildings to the community at large 


Background Information on Oundle School

Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.

The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports MasterPlan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion which opened in April 2015 and new astroturfs due to be completed this year.  

There are currently 1110 pupils on roll at Oundle School, with 860 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day school for children aged 4 to 11. 

You may also be interested in ...