Thursday, 21 June 2018

Prickwillow, Cambridgeshire

I find it strange that St Peter, officially declared redundant in 2011 but abandoned at least three years earlier, hasn't been bought and converted for domestic use, but then again I think to live here you'd need to be a true fenman, because to a soft Essex man Prickwillow is a bleak place.

To be honest I find the fenland area north of Ely to be almost horrific with its awful roads, desolate landscape and unending sky [it's almost as bad as Lincolnshire] but Prickwillow reaches, or sinks, to new depths.

St Peter is architecturally dull and it's interesting to note that Pevsner only mentions the font and even Mee struggles.

ST PETER. 1868. The FONT* comes from Ely Cathedral. According to its inscription it was given by Dean Spencer in 1693. It stands in its exquisite white marble beauty in the church like a gilt goblet on a poor man’s bare boards. The bowl is decorated with large shells and strings of pearls emanating from them and wound round the pretty necks of cherubs. On the base and the rim spreading acanthus leaves. Who may have designed it? No doubt one of the leading London craftsmen. There is, however, no font in any of the City churches which would be similar enough to risk an attribution.

St Peter (2)

PRICKWILLOW. The fens stretch round it like a sea, and in its great fertile fields we found cabbages, rhubarb, and potatoes growing round the church. The 17th century bell hanging in the spire of the central turret once rang in Ely Cathedral, and from that lovely place came also the font elaborately carved in Italian marble from designs by Sir Christopher Wren. The bowl is carved with four great shells, and has four cherubs linked together by small sea-shells and a rope of beads. We understand that the church, like the vicarage, is set on piles, and. we gather that one of the steam engines working here to drain the fens discharges 150 tons a minute into the River Lark.

* Now in Oxford Cathedral.

Chettisham, Cambridgeshire

St Michael & All Angels, locked, keyholder listed, rather surprised me by being my favourite church of the day. I think it was a combination of location, bijouness and the fact it listed a keyholder. The keyholder was out so I didn't get inside but I suspect internally it wouldn't live up to the exterior. [Edit: I know exactly what was so special here - it is so obviously loved that it shines].

ST MICHAEL. Small E.E. chapel, of nave and chancel without structural division. Buttresses with one set-ofl‘; lancet windows, also at the W end, where above the lancet is a sexfoil window in a circle, renewed but, it is said, correctly. - SCULPTURE. In the vestry four Norman pieces of unknown provenance. Two are parts of capitals, of quite a big size, about 10 in.wide in the front. One has chip-carving, the other volutes and a small seated figure. A third, smaller capital, is scalloped. Also a lion from a corbel-table. What did all this belong to? - FONT. Perp, octagonal, with shields in quatrefoils. - PLATE. Cup and Cover of 1569.

St Michael & All Angels (3)

CHETTISHAM. The oldest thing the village has is a grotesque head carved by a Norman sculptor; it is built into the vestry wall of the church which comes from the first days of our English builders 750 years ago. With the head are three small capitals, probably from about the same time, one with scallop carving, and one with stars, the other a quaint little man meditating by a tree, his head on his hand and his legs crossed. Ely, with its great cathedral, is but two miles away, and this small shrine was a chapel of St Mary at Ely, seeming to cling to the skirts of its powerful neighbour. It has a shingled turret and a series of pointed lancets in which are beautiful Madonnas, the archangel Michael in a blue cloak with gold wings, and a fine Good Shepherd with a red and white cloak in memory of a vicar who lived in every decade of the 19th century and in the first decade of ours. There are ancient tiebeams in the roof, and the font is 15th century.

Littleport, Cambridgeshire

St George, locked, no keyholder [but I was expecting this because when researching their postcode I saw on their website that they were open Tues10-1 and Fri 10-12] is a huge and attractive building. I would have liked to have visited on a Tues or Fri morning but was other wise engaged. The reason it's locked is fairly apparent when you note the housing estate and park full of ill looking youths to its South. A shame but at least they make some, meagre, effort to be accessible. Having said that, while I was taking exteriors someone had locked themselves in and was playing the organ but no amount of door rattling alerted them to my presence.

Having found Steve Day's record of the glass here a revisit is required, especially for the Skeat and Webb windows.

ST GEORGE. A large church thanks to the addition in 1857 of a second (N) nave and a new N aisle. The architect was Teulon. The old parts are entirely Perp except for the  respond and W first pier of the nave N arcade which is octagonal and Dec. The rest of the arcade has the usual slim generally lozenge-shaped piers with capitals only to the shafts towards the arches and many-moulded arches; the S arcade is identical. The chancel arch is similar and the arch from the chancel to the S chancel chapel too. The chancel projects and has a C19 E window and C19 untraceried three-light N and S windows. The same windows along. the S aisle. The W tower is uncommonly tall, of four stages with a former N-S passage, angle buttresses and later brick battlements. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp with quatre-foils. - BENCHES. A few with poppy-heads. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1570.

St George (3)

LITTLEPORT. This busy little town beside the River Ouse, where sea plants grow and cockle shells are found six feet below the peat, was a very different place before the fens were drained. So inaccessible it was that men declared in those days that it was as rare to see a coach in Littleport as a ship in Newmarket; and bitterly the fenmen opposed the change, for the draining of the marshes meant the enclosure of common land and the cutting down of their food supply of fish and wildfowl. Here at Littleport their smouldering discontent took flame, they sacked the houses of the well-to-do, extracted money with violent threats, and then, made bold by success, marched on to Ely and held it to ransom at the point of punt guns mounted on a waggon. But the troops were called out, 70 fenmen were sent to prison, five were transported, and five were hanged. But none would lend a cart to take them to the gallows, and the bishop of Ely (who then governed these parts with heart as hard as Pharaoh's) had to pay five guineas for one. 

An opening in the church tower once led through to a footpath above the floods which frosts now sometimes tum into an ideal place for skating. High above fens and floods rises the splendid tower, a landmark for miles, the finest possession of the spacious church which has little to show within its crazy stone walls except attractive pictures in two windows. In both we see St George slaying the dragon, one in the delicate colouring of Christopher Webb, the other above a richly glowing scene at Emmaus by Martin Travers, who also shows us St Crispin cobbling shoes while his brother Crispian attends to a customer. Two fine records are on the walls, that of Frances Wise who taught in the Sunday School for over 60 years, while Benjamin Arber was completing his 60 years as bellringer. We read that he and his wife died the same year; she went in the height of- summer; he when the leaves were turning.


Manea, Cambridgeshire

St Nicholas, locked, no keyholder, is another somewhat drab Victorian build but I did like the yew topiary bushes - three yellow and three green. The graveyard to the south has recently, or is currently being, been cleared but there's little of interest here either.

Parish Church. 1875. By James Ruddle of Peterborough. Coursed limestone rubble and limestone dressings. Slate roofs. Thirteenth century style. Nave and transept with main entrance in north aisle. Three foiled round clerestory windows, two two-light aisle windows in two-centred arches and transept window of three cinquefoil-lights. Main entrance with moulded two-centred arch. Interior walls brick faced. Neo-Gothic decoration to arcade of three bays and chancel and crossing arches. Nave roof of nine bays braced collar-beam construction; chancel roof arch braced with corbels of carved stone angels supporting wall posts. Memorial glass by Mayer and Co, London, 1892. Church rebuilt on old site.


Another one Mee missed - that's three in this, not very large, area.

Doddington, Cambridgeshire

Given its location in the heart of the village, and surrounded as it is by houses, I was certain St Mary, locked, no keyholder, would be open or, if not, a keyholder was sure to be listed; how disappointing, then, to find it firmly locked. Rather than ranting about how disgraceful keeping this building locked is I will refer you to Simon Knott's comment on Flickr.

Setting aside my outrage, it has to be said that this is a fascinating exterior surrounded by a fantastic collection of headstones and mausolea.

ST MARY. Of mid C13 date the chancel and the E end of the N aisle, see the hood-moulds on heads of the chancel windows, and, in the aisle, the clasping buttress at the E end and the window W of it which is of two lights and has plate tracery. Otherwise the church is in the main later C14, that is the W tower with its W window, E arch (no capitals) and recessed spire lit by two rows of dormer windows, the nave arcades on octagonal piers with two-centred arches in a double-wave moulding, the clerestory windows, and the chancel arch. The S porch was added in the early C15, and of the same period, though much renewed, is the nave roof with tiebeams on arched braces and tracery in the spandrels and above the beams. Carved demi-figures of angels on the tiebeams. The best piece of architecture at Doddington is the chancel, not so much on account of its C13 masonry, but because of the C15 windows ( but the E window is C19). The N and S windows are of three lights, with an embattled transom. The chancel arch starts with a straight piece on each side which dies into the arch. - ROOD SCREEN. One-light divisions, the arches of ogee-shape, tracery above them and a simple straight cresting. — RELIEF. Small wooden relief of Christ and the Samaritan Woman; Dutch? C18. - ROYAL ARMS, carved. - STAINED GLASS N aisle E window, early William Morris, given to the church in 1923. - GRAVE-STONES. A good group of carved C18 gravestones in the churchyard E of the S porch. - CROSS N of the churchyard. Base and lower part of shaft; C14.

Tushery (1)

Headstone (1)


DODDINGTON. It has known great days, for here was the palace of the bishops of Ely, and it was once the biggest parish in the county, with 40,000 acres and the wealthiest rectory in the kingdom. In those days one of its rectors was Christopher Tye, a famous musician in four reigns. He wrote masses when Henry the Eighth was king, composed Protestant hymns under Edward the Sixth, was music master under Mary Tudor, and was probably organist to Queen Elizabeth. He is said to have been rebuked by Elizabeth for playing out of tune, and to have told her majesty that her ears were out of tune. He has been called the Father of the Anthem, and he wrote a tune that is known to every English boy and girl, While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night. We may be sure that Christopher Tye would have been delighted with the story we heard from the rector. For years he had longed for a new organ, but his people were too small a flock to buy one, and Mr Ridge, the hopeful parson, inserted an appealing advertisement in the personal column of The Times with a result equal to all expectations, for the appeal touched the generous heart of somebody unknown who presented Doddington church with a brand new organ.

Doddington is great no more, but a quiet place set in the fens like an island in the sea, the fens being now all green with patchwork fields. It has a black timber windmill a century old, and its church, just off the busy road, has a few things to show us of medieval days. The tower and spire and the lofty arcades are five or six centuries old; the porch, with its pinnacles and battlements, is 15th century, the chancel arch is 13th, and in it is a 15th century oak screen. The modern roof rests on corbel heads of men and women and is adorned with angels. One of the windows is by William Morris, a Calvary, with the Madonna and three saints at the foot of the Cross; it was brought here from London in memory of a rector who had come from the East End for his health’s sake, and it was dedicated by the hero * of Kut, Sir Charles Townshend. It was his last public act. Another window is to a churchwarden for 66 years, and there is a tablet to Algernon Peyton who was rector last century for 57 years.

*  Historian Christopher Catherwood has called the siege "the worst defeat of the Allies in World War I" so quite why he's the hero of Kut I don't know.

Christchurch, Cambridgeshire

The Church of Christ, locked, no keyholder, is a run of the mill Victorian build with no merit that I could see [and I doubt inside would be any better].

CHRIST CHURCH. 1864. The architect was John Giles (GR). Brick with lancet windows. Circular bell-cote between nave and apsed chancel.

The church of Christ (3)

Mee missed it.

Wimblington, Cambridgeshire

I had one of the most frustrating days yesterday finishing off the remaining 7 churches to the north of Ely, revisiting SS Peter & Paul Wisbech to photograph the misericords, which I'd originally missed, redo the medieval glass which hadn't worked last time and to find the de Braunstone brass which I had likewise missed [it turns out that the brass is hidden away under an unremoveable carpet].

5 of the churches were lnk, one had a keyholder who was out and the last one was redundant.

St Peter, locked, no keyholder [but for what it's worth, not much, it is open every Tuesday between 0900 and 12am for tea-coffee-chat], is an astonishingly ugly Victorian building: a hodgepodge of styles, building materials and a God awful tower. I can't imagine the interior would be an improvement.

ST PETER. By Thomas Henry Wyatt, 1874. ‘Geometrical’, of grey coursed rubble with stripes of buff stone. Heavy tower over the crossing with short spire. Polygonal apse, no aisles.

St Peter (3)

Mee, perhaps deliberately, missed it.