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Archbishop of Canterbury visits Franklin’s Gardens

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, was welcomed to Franklin’s Gardens today as part of a three-day visit to the Diocese of Peterborough.

Archbishop Justin was given a tour of the stadium and playing facilities, before joining several Saints players and staff for a Bible reading and prayer.

The senior Bishop and principal leader of the Church of England was accompanied on his visit by the Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd Donald Allister, and Revd Canon Tim Alban Jones, the Bishop’s Chaplain for the Diocese of Peterborough.

“We trace our origins back to a clergyman, Revd Wigg, and we firmly believe that the Club still has a crucial role to play in bringing people together and community cohesion.”

Jez Safford, Northampton Saints chaplain

During his visit, Archbishop Justin swapped his robes for a Saints shirt and was given some insight into the Club’s historic links with the local church.   

“It is a huge privilege for us to host Archbishop Justin at Franklin’s Gardens today and show him the role we play within the local community,” said Northampton Saints chaplain Jez Safford.

“Saints is unique for how it was founded and how it has remained close to its religious roots since the Club’s inception almost 140 years ago.

“We trace our origins back to a clergyman, Revd Wigg, and we firmly believe that the Club still has a crucial role to play in bringing people together and community cohesion.

“There are number of players and members of staff at Saints who are practicing Christians, so it was a real thrill for many of them to meet Archbishop Justin today and listen to him speak.”

Saints’ close connection with the local diocese was formed at the time of the Club’s foundation in 1880 by Reverend Samuel Wathan Wigg – a local clergyman and curate of St. James Church in Northampton.

Revd Wigg set up a team made up of the area’s ‘high-spirited’ boys as a way for them to let off steam without getting into trouble on the streets of the town.

The youngsters took to the game well, and from those humble beginnings the Club went quickly from strength to strength, with Revd Wigg enjoying watching the side quickly develop into one of the most successful clubs in England.

Commenting on the visit, the Rt Revd Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough, said, “It has been a pleasure to visit the Saints today with Archbishop Justin, to recall the club's strong Christian roots, and to see something of its current involvement with the local community.”