Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Pakenham, Suffolk

St Mary, open, is, in my limited experience, unusual for Suffolk in that it is a cruciform building - I've not seen one in the county before. It is mostly Victorian rebuild and very over restored, so much so that I thought the font was Victorian when it turns out to be original but re-cut, but is still a fascinating building.

ST MARY. A church with long transepts and crossing tower, something decidedly rare in Suffolk. It is true that only the S transept was built - and re-built in 1849 — and that the N transept was added at that time (by Teulon). The transepts and chancel are E.E., late c 13 (see the window shapes). The upper part of the tower is C14 and turns octagonal. Several survivals of the preceding Norman church, namely the W and S doorways (one order of shafts, scalloped capitals, heavy roll moulding) and the chancel arch (nook-shafts, saltire crosses in the abacus, moulded arch with one hollow and one half-roll). There was another such arch at the E end of the nave which was altered in 1849. So the Norman church was of the type with nave, central space, and chancel. The nave has two windows with plate tracery. - FONT. Exceptionally good Perp piece. Four seated figures against the stem (somewhat re-cut about 1850?), against the bowl the Signs of the four Evangelists, a dragon with a cross-shaft, a lamb, a unicorn, a pelican. - STALLS. Simple, with poppy-heads. - SCREEN. Simple, and not all original. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters, late C17. - PLATE. Cup 1566; Cup and Paten 1817.

Font (2)

Thomas Discipline arms

West door

PAKENHAM. The Stone Age men made here a camp, the Romans had a villa, the Normans built the church on the hill. Nether Hall was built in Queen Anne’s day and is famous for its staircase. In the churchyard is a stone coffin where Walter the Norman builder may have been laid to rest, but he has the church for his memorial. His tower is here, with three arches to the nave and aisles, much of his nave, the chancel arch, and a doorway under the west window. For three centuries after him other builders added to his work, putting here a window and in the tower a belfry.

In front of us as we enter is a superb 14th century font, with sculptured monks to guard its base, its panels filled with the lion, the pelican, the lamb, the unicorn, and the symbols of the Evangelists. The slender pinnacles and buttresses and the bright heraldic shields of a new oak cover rise beautifully above it. By the side of the 13th century chancel, below the Norman arch, is a doorway for the priest with old tombstones standing by it. In the oak screen, with painted shields, 14th century work is mingled with the new, the altar rails are Jacobean, and by the altar is an old chest hollowed from a tree trunk. The roof is painted. An old pew with strange faces for poppyheads stands by the chancel.

Over the priest’s doorway is a lancet with fragments of old glass from the east window, now filled with a modern scene of Christ enthroned among the angels, with the Nativity below. Two other modern windows of the Good Shepherd and the Light of the World are in memory of a curate who was here for 56 years.

Ixworth, Suffolk

I'm afraid St Mary, open, has left very little impression. I liked the exterior and remember it as a large church but of the interior I only really remember that it's highly restored and therefore rather spartan and that there's some good glass in the chancel.

ST MARY. Dec chancel, almost entirely rebuilt. Dec W windows in the aisles, Dec doorway in the S aisle. All the rest Perp. Big W tower with flushwork frieze at the base and flushwork frieze at the top. Flushwork panelled battlements. On the SE buttress panel with the name of Abbot Schot of Bury St Edmunds, that is of 1470-3; also by the W door a tile with inscription: ‘Thome Vyal gaf to the stepil iii £.’ His will is of 1472. Money for the leading of the roof was left in 1533.* - SCREEN. Only the dado remains. - MONUMENT. Richard Codington d. 1567  and wife. Tomb-chest with decorated pilasters and three shields. At the back round arch with exceptionally fine Italian leaf carving. Against the back wall brass effigies. The inscription records that Richard Codington was granted the manor of Ixworth after the Dissolution of the Abbey in exchange for Codington in Surrey, then re-named Nonesuch. The grant was indeed made in 1538.

* The C18 antiquarian Tom Martin noted at the lower part of the S side of the steeple an inscription on a glazed brick to William Dense, Prior of Ixworth from 1467 to c. 1484. Wills of 1458 and 1471 give money to the chancel and to the tower, respectively (ARA).

Richard Codington 1567 (2)

Boldero arms

Grotesque (2)

IXWORTH. We come to it through pleasant lanes well known to Suffolk’s country poet Robert Bloomfield, who got his little learning and a few months of schooling here, charging his mind with rural scenes which were to come back to him in a London garret and take shape in his famous poem, The Farmer’s Boy.

We pass a watermill on the way and a little round house from the centre of whose thatched roof rises a tall twisted chimney; and we come upon many old houses, one of the most ancient being an inn which was housing wayfarers more than 400 years ago. A more notable relic of antiquity forms part of Ixworth Abbey, a charming modern house on the site of a Norman priory. The old crypt, which has a vaulted roof on massive pillars, carved soon after the Battle of Hastings, is now the hall of the house. In the foundations of the priory were discovered a century ago a body wrapped in a lead shroud, and the remains of a furnace for melting lead. Here is still the coffin stone of an early prior, with two Norman coffins.

Separated from the rectory by the Blackbourne stream, the 14th century flint church is shaded by fine trees, above which rises the tower built by a 15th century abbot of Bury St Edmunds, its parapet and its buttresses adorned with the wheel of St Catherine, the arms of Bury Abbey, and other devices. Old corbels carry the roof of the porch.

The chief feature of the church is the elaborate 16th century canopied tomb of Richard Codington and his wife, whose portrait brasses show them in Tudor costume, with their two children. Two men from Ixworth Abbey, master and servant, are remembered as faithful unto death: a bronze tablet to General Cartwright, who during the Great War was five times mentioned in despatches and awarded the DSO, and one who served him here, William Drake, carpenter at the Abbey for 45 years. The church has a 14th century font, the doorway and stairs of the rood loft, and much of the 15th century hammer-beam nave roof. There is an oak screen in the chancel, an oak pulpit supported by two angels, and an old ironbound almsbox.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Ixworth Thorpe, Suffolk

I drove past All Saints, locked, no keyholder listed, twice before I finally spotted it, so why it's LNK eludes me. This is more annoying than usual for, having peeked through the windows, it contains some very fine bench ends. To rub salt in to the wound I had a look at Simon Knott's Flickr entry.

ALL SAINTS. Outside the village; small and thatched. Weather-boarded bell-turret, nave and chancel. Norman S doorway, very plain. Good brick S porch with stepped gable, and battlements decorated with motifs in flint and brick. Chancel with lancets. In the nave some Dec windows. (The E window has wooden tracery. LG) - PULPIT. Jacobean. - BENCHES. The ends with poppy-heads, the arms with animals and figures, including a mermaid. - COMMUNION RAIL. Three-sided, with late C17 turned balusters. - PLATE. Cup 1676; Paten and Flagon 1678. - MONUMENT. Tablet to John Croft d. 1644. The tablet is called in the inscription ‘Marmoriolum hoc’.

All Saints (3)

IXWORTH THORPE. A tiny place in Robert Bloomfield's country, its lonely church has been here 700 years and has windows from all the great building centuries. Its roof is thatched, and its little tower, beginning in stones and flints, has patches of brick, and ends with a wooden belfry. The doorway for the priest was in use soon after Magna Carta; and just as old is the step of the porch, for it is a coffin lid of those days. The porch has flint ornament on its battlements, old beams, and wooden seats; but the oldest thing on this hilltop is the doorway itself, very small and low and in the simple Norman style. A piscina is nearly as old, and the pulpit and the font cover are Jacobean; but the surprise of the village is its fine little collection of bench-ends carved by a craftsman of 500 years ago to make a wooden zoo. There are 28 of them, dogs and birds, a monkey, a unicorn, a lion, a griffin, and a cat. Some are human, and here we see a mermaid looking into her glass, a jolly little man with a flat cap, and a lady taking her lap-dog for a walk.

Bardwell, Suffolk

SS Peter & Paul, open, is huge and almost impossible to photograph externally - it sits in a smallish, relatively, tree filled churchyard. Truth be told the interior has been massively over restored and as a result is rather aseptic. The best features are the two magnificent medieval nave windows, both full of medieval glass [sadly most of my photographs were crap and had to be deleted, the light was against me] and the wallpaintings. I also found connections to previously unknown distant family members in the Crofts and Read/e memorials.

Speaking of which, when Simon Knott visited in 2008 he recorded the seven children mentioned by Pevsner:


Ten years later the boys have disappeared:

Thomas Read 1652 (2)

An oddly out of place building and overly air brushed but for all that magnificent. As a last thought this is the most distant Hertfordshire spike I've seen to date.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. The biggest church in this neighbourhood. Tall Perp W tower with spike. Fine, tall Perp S porch with the arms of Sir William Berdewell who died in 1434.* Good flushwork decoration, chequerboard and panelling. Entrance with two orders of fleurons. Three niches around it. Side windows with fine tracery. Lofty nave with tall two-light Dec windows. Chancel of 1553. Excellent hammerbeam roof. Thin arched braces. Arched braces also below the ridge. No collar-beams. Of the angel figures which originally held the roof only four remain, one with the date 1421 on the opened pages of a book. Original colouring, including the charming trails on the rafters. - SCREEN. Four panels of a finely traceried dado. - STAINED GLASS. Three kneeling early C15 figures, the largest no doubt Sir William Berdewell. Also some C15 figures, including a German Pieta. - The chancel windows are by O’C0nnor, with dates in the 1860s. - PLATE. Two Cups and a Paten 1650; two Flagons 1678. - MONUMENT. Thomas Read and wife, dated 1652. Kneeling figures facing each other. In the ‘predella' seven children, one lying on its side, two next to it forming a pretty little group.

* A will of 1460 leaves 2s to the repair of the porch (ARA).

Thomas Read 1652 (1)

Wallpainting (2)

C15th glass (9)

BARDWELL. We can see its church from Ixworth Thorpe, and its old houses and fine trees make a pleasant picture by the spacious Green. There is a bridge over the Blackbourne stream, an old watermill on the foundation of one mentioned in Domesday Book, and a windmill that has lost its sails. Here too are the broken walls of a ruined house built a century before Agincourt, the home of the Bardwells, whose joy it was to enrich the church. Wyken Hall in its park of 100 acres is mostly modern, but fragments of it are thought to be 13th century; and on the road to Ixworth is a gabled Tudor house, Bardwell Hall, with black bricks patterning its walls and twisted chimneys. It contains an ancient chapel.

Rather quaint is a gracious old building now used as almshouses, but once the Guildhall built by the Guild of St Peter in the 15th century. It is an old friend of the church on a little hill a stone’s throw away, one of the noblest churches to be seen for miles, with flint walls strengthened by fine buttresses, a handsome west door, and a great tower of which any village might be proud. It is crowned by a rather foolish little spire, the only undignified thing about it.

Remarkable even among the famous porches of Suffolk is the porch Sir William Bardwell built here more than 500 years ago, its walls imposing with stone panels filled by flints, its arch enriched by three fine niches and the arms of the builder. It is the rare work of a mason who may also have helped to build the porch at Honington, and is a splendid shelter for a grand old door. There is a big chancel arch with a peephole on each side, and a door to the rood stairs; but the things Bardwell cherishes most are in the imposing nave, with its ten lofty and finely traceried windows. They are the roof, the glass in the windows, and the old pictures under plaster on the walls.

The magnificent hammerbeam roof was the gift of Sir William Bardwell a year or two after Agincourt, and though many of its splendid angels have gone, a few are still here, one of them with an open book showing the date 1421, when the work was done. The great wooden beams rest on queer stone faces, and the rich carving must have delighted Sir William whenever he came to pray.

We see the sort of man he was in a window in the north wall, where a portrait shows him kneeling on a stool, his bare head ornamented with a chaplet. He has a moustache and a long beard, and is in armour with golden spurs. His sword is at his side, and hanging on the wall near by is the actual sword he carried when riding at the head of his company of archers. Among other fragments of old glass are portraits of the Drurys, a knight and his wife, he in armour and she in a short coat, a gown of white and gold, and a long purple train. Above are shields of great Suffolk families, their brilliant colours beautiful indeed. The 15th century glass in the west window includes birds and fruit and a Madonna with Our Lord.

The invisible treasures of Bardwell, its priceless old pictures on the nave walls, were seen for a little while in 1853 and then covered over again with plaster. Among them are a curious picture of the King of Terrors, a Last Judgment, and a St Christopher, painted about 1500. Three 14th century scenes show minstrels, the deadly sins, and the story of St Catherine.

Among many memories of the Reades in this place is a lovely monument in alabaster showing Thomas Reade of 1657 and his wife, kneeling at an altar with a white cloth heavily fringed. Surely carved by one who knew them in life, they have beautiful smiling faces; and just as lovely are their six children below - two little girls holding hands, their baby sister fast asleep, and others at a prayer desk holding red roses.


Monday, 15 October 2018

Honington, Suffolk

I found All Saints open but a funeral service had just been held so it may not always be so. That said, however, three of the next churches were open so I've listed it as open. I need to revisit anyway as somehow I missed the poppyheads in the chancel. This is a gem of a church, even if the interior is a little stark, and the font, porch and Norman south door are outstanding.

ALL SAINTS. Norman S doorway with two orders of shafts. They are decorated with zigzag, and the r. one in addition with three square blocks or bands, also decorated. Hood-moulds on beasts heads. Norman chancel arch. Imposts with nook-shafts, simple, all well preserved. The S side of the nave seems early C14, the N side remodelled Perp. Dec W tower with a stair-turret of brick. Dec chancel. Perp S porch with flushwork panelling; initials etc. Entrance with shields and leaf-motifs. Three niches above the entrance. - FONT. Octagonal, Dec. Panelled stem. On the bowl Dec tracery including three blank rose windows (one High Gothic, one with six mouchettes), and a Crucifixion. - BENCHES. With poppy-heads, and animals in the arms. - WALL PAINTINGS. On the S wall, very faint. Described as Martyrdom of St Thomas Becket and Legend of St Nicholas *.- PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Flagon 1735. - (MONUMENT. Robert Rushbrooke d. 1753. Simple, but with exquisite italic lettering.)

* No longer extant.

Font (2)

S porch

S door (2)

HONINGTON. With miles of woods and meadows round about, and elms and willows by the Blackbourne stream, it is a gracious little place of which all Suffolk is proud, for it gave England a farmer’s boy who wrote a poem which has been read for over a century.

There are two things to see in this hollow where life goes slowly by, a cottage birthplace, and a charming little church whose simple tower with a quaint stair turret watches over fields and lanes that the village poet loved. The splendid medieval porch has panels of flint, a beautiful parapet enriched with monograms, and an archway under graceful niches; and in it is a Norman doorway with two pairs of ornamented shafts and a stone face.

The interior of the church has not the charm of unplastered walls, but the 14th century chancel has an exquisite piscina, and there is a Norman chancel arch only about six feet wide. Among some traces of old paintings are a Madonna and child, and figures of knights in armour, all fading away on the walls. The font was carved six centuries ago and is remarkable for its bold ornaments and a panel of the Crucifixion with figures of Mary and John. There are bench-ends with fine poppyheads and very queer carvings of a monkey, a man with bagpipes, and a dog scratching itself; and one of the best possessions of all is a brass portrait of George Duke wearing the embroidered doublet and ruff of which he must have been very proud in Elizabethan England.

But of nothing is the village itself more proud than of its poet, Robert Bloomfield, to whom there is an inscription in the nave. The cottage where he was born in 1766 is close to the church, though the rebuilding of it some years ago has left little of a home Suffolk should have kept. It is not certain which room Robert was born in, but we can see the garden where he played as a little fellow, and the fields going down to the river he loved all his life. He never forgot the charms of Honington, where his mother had kept the village school, and from where he had set off to work on William Austin’s farm at Sapiston; and when his Farmer’s Boy poem made him famous he came back to look at these scenes of his childhood. Some of his love of this place came out when he wrote:

My heart was roused, and Fancy on the wing
Thus heard the language of enchanting spring:
“Come to thy native groves and fruitful fields!
Thou knowest the fragrance that the wildflower yields:
Inhale the breeze that bends the purple bud
And play along the margin of the wood.”

His success was only shortlived, and he died in poverty at Shefford in Bedfordshire, sleeping at Campton in that county.

Fakenham Magna, Suffolk

I always think you can tell a lot about a church's open status by the state of its notice board and gates [if any]. Here at St Peter, locked, no keyholder, the notice board is dilapidated and the gate broken, so I was fairly sure I'd find it locked but was disappointed nevertheless. In general it felt unloved and uncared for.

ST PETER. The E angles of the nave with long and short work prove the Saxon origin of this part of the church. Norman one blocked N and one blocked S window, the latter just W of the porch gable. In the chancel a pair of C13 lancet windows. W tower, nave windows, and most chancel windows Dec. - SCREEN. Much restored; with one-Light divisions. - PLATE. Cup 1629; Paten 1703.

St Peter (1)

FAKENHAM MAGNA. It should be the last place in England to have a ghost story, but it has one with a very pleasant ending. Tucked away near Euston Park among some of the finest woods in Suffolk, it has a stream with a tiny bridge from which we get the best view of its thatched cottages and its church with a grey tower where a bell has been ringing since Queen Elizabeth’s time.

It is a simple church, but so old that there are still fragments of Saxon work in the chancel. There are two little Norman windows in walls mostly 13th and 14th century, fine buttresses with canopies, a porch with an ancient stoup, and a door notable for its long hinges and a remarkable knocker - rather like the face Scrooge saw on Christmas Eve. The chancel has an ancient piscina, and a 15th century screen restored with new faces to watch over the old woodwork below. The font has been in use since the time when Chaucer was a child. Some fragments of old glass show angels and frogs and a demon ; and among the memorials is one to the Taylors of Henry the Eighth’s day.

Facing the church is the thatched cottage where Robert Bloomfield’s mother was born. We know from his poems that Robert Bloomfield often came to Fakenham, and we think it must have been from his mother that he first heard the tale of the Fakenham ghost, the story of a woman who was crossing Euston Park one night when she heard something behind her and ran home too terrified to look round at the dreadful shape. They say she fainted when she reached her doorstep; yet the poor ghost was nothing more than an ass’s foal, and the end of the tale is told in one of Bloomfield’s poems:

No goblin he, no imp of sin,
No crimes has ever known;
They took the shaggy stranger in
And reared him as their own.
His little hoofs would rattle round
Upon the cottage floor;
The matron learned to love the sound
That frightened her before

Rushford, Norfolk

I rather liked St John the Evangelist, locked, no keyholder, [excepting the hideous apsed chancel] but was bewildered to find it LNK as it is in the heart of the village. It doesn't sound as if I missed much inside. Of more interest, perhaps, is its neighbouring house which is the former college founded by Edmund Gonville in 1342.

ST JOHN EVANGELIST. This was the church of the College founded in 1342 by Edmund Gonville, founder of Gonville and Caius College Cambridge. While that would explain the size which the church had before its chancel - 59 ft long - was pulled down and replaced by a miserable apsed chancel, the fact is that the chancel arch and the two arches which led into former transepts, and the angle shafts close to them indicative of former vaults, all seem earlier than 1342. Their mouldings tell of a date about 1300, and the nave lancet windows and the W tower with its windows all bear out such a date. The nave incidentally has wall-arches inside. But perhaps 1342 must be accepted? In that case, how conservative even a major church was! The S porch of knapped flint and brick with some flush-work decoration is Perp, probably of c.1500. Early in the C20 the interior received the full Victorian treatment, with wall stencilling etc. - PLATE. Elizabethan Chalice and Paten; London-made Plate, 1751.

COLLEGE. The former College (see above) lies S of the church. It is built of flint. It originally had four ranges round a court. Only two survive, and the N facade was heavily restored by the Buxtons. For accurate details, i.e. cusped, straight-headed windows and doorways with continuous mouldings, one must study the inner (E) side of the W range. The facade has a porch not to be relied upon, and to its r. a cross-gable and beneath it a large window with stepped lights, up the centre light a stylized tree in relief, a blank quatrefoil frieze at the foot, and a blank frieze of reticulation units transom-wise across. The window lies relatively high up, and there are indeed no ground-floor windows to the N, although the main ground-floor hall, to the l. of the porch, has a fine ceiling with moulded beams. It receives its light from the court.

St John the Evengelist (2)

S porch

Rushford college (1)

RUSHFORD. It is only small, but the Little Ouse flowing through divides it between Norfolk and Suffolk. The mounds on its heath across the border take its story back to Saxon days, for they are said to be where Edmund was defeated by the Danes. In a beautiful park between the village and the River Thet is the fine modern house called Shadwell Court, taking its name from St Chad’s Well close by, once a shrine for pilgrims. The group scene from the lychgate is a charming picture, made by the church with its thatched nave and medieval tower, and the old rectory with flint walls. Of the original cross-shaped church only the nave and tower are left. Huge buttresses strengthen the tower, which has stood firm for 600 years, having apparently been a tower of refuge in time of raids. It has only two slits of windows for 50 feet from the ground, and a doorway opening to the nave. In the nave are remains of slender arches on the walls. The porch of brick and flint is built of fragments of the old church and an old college. The treasure here is a small and oddly shaped oak chest, wider at the top than at the base, with a handle to carry it by. Its sides are latticed with iron bands, and the top is a mass of ironwork scrolls ending in heads.