Saturday, 6 May 2017

Tadlow, Cambridgshire

Once I'd found St Giles, open, which was harder done than said, I loved its location surrounded by woods and, despite being on the busy main road it was tranquil, almost idyllic. But the building is on its last legs with cracks in the tower, the south west nave pews cordoned off with DANGER FALLING PLASTER signs and a general sense of imminent collapse; I think the main reason I found it open is that the south door will no longer shut. Sadly I don't think there's enough interest here to make it a candidate for a CCT rescue despite it being Grade II* listed.

The Historic England Heritage at Risk assessment is as follows:

Parish church. C13 nave and chancel and C14 west tower. Restored c1860 under supervision of W Butterfield. Fieldstone, clunch rubble with limestone and clunch dressing. Plain tiled roof. West tower of three stages. Crack to second stage of tower on east face. Some displacement and cracking to buttress on north wall adjacent to infilled north door. Further crack to north side of east gable. Cracking to stonework and extensive ivy growth reported, deterioration continues.

I really liked Butterfield's interior, which is strange as I'd normally run a mile from a Victorian re-gloss and even stranger, really liked the contemporary, to the restoration, Alexander Gibbs windows which normally I'd write off as crass. I suppose the sense of imminently losing it all played a part, and perhaps the loss of Wendy, but I'll remember this church long after she falls [the ruin will be spectacular].

ST GILES. Pleasantly placed, in a leafy position. Nave, chancel, and W tower. The chancel and nave are both datable C13 by their lancert windows. The W tower must be Perp, see e.g. the W doorway, W window and arch towards the nave. The S doorway is the only piece of more ambitious designing; two orders of colonnettes, fine arch moulding with one keeled and one unkeeled roll. The S porch is C19.

SW nave Alexander Gibbs glass (5)

St Giles (1)


TADLOW. It is only a step into Bedfordshire from this scattered little place, with a moated farm called Tadlow Bridge and a small cobbled stone church with two cedars overtopping its 500-year-old tower. A block of stone with a socket hole set in the walls of a farm is all that is left of its ancient cross. In the 13th century church is another stone with traces of the lost portrait of Margaret Broggrife, whom they laid to rest here in 1493. Only a few lines of her skirt are left, but a drawing in the church shows us the outline of Margaret’s figure and the picture of her six children before they were trodden away by many feet.

I feel rather smug that I spotted this without being sure that it was an inscribed ledger stone, it was one of those is it or isn't it moments:

Margaret Brogriffe 1493 (2)

Wendy, Cambridgeshire

Oh dear, I really should research my visits. All Saints was demolished in the early 1950s and all that remains is the churchyard and footings. The replacement church is down the road and at first glance I thought it was the village hall - not an inspiring building!

ALL SAINTS. By Rowe 1867. Recently had to be pulled down as unsafe. A new church is to be built. In the same unfortunate district the church of CLOPTON nearby has disappeared and is now only represented by a long low mound in the fields, and SHINGAY was demolished in 1697. Of the Preceptory of Knights Hospitallers at Shingay nothing remains either.

Old All Saints

All Saints (2)

WENDY. It shelters off the Roman Ermine Street, a cluster of cottages and a church of last century overtopped by a cedar. It has for a neighbour the once important place of Shingay, an old home of the Knights Hospitallers of which nothing is now left but a dry moat and a row of limes which led to it. The arms from Shingay’s vanished chapel are over the doorway of Wendy’s church. It is a simple aisleless place with floral paintings covering its walls from floor to ceiling, and the best thing it has is the fine hammerbeam roof of the nave with tracery in the spandrels; it was brought from an old church in Cambridge.

In the churchyard we hear the splash of a natural fountain in the vicarage garden, one of the many springs in the neighbourhood.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Newton, Cambridgeshire

I visited St Margaret back in March but obviously either forgot to write it up or lost the blog entry before I published it. Anyway it was undergoing restoration and a notice by the door said that the church was inaccessible from Mon-Fri whilst work was ongoing which implies, to me at least, that it is accessible at weekends and, hopefully, always once the work is complete. So a revisit is required [revisited last Friday and found it firmly locked with no keyholder listed].

Externally it's rather nice and the location is good too.

ST MARGARET. Built of clunch. W tower, plastered, Perp. Nave with two-bay arcade of octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches - i.e. C14. Of the same design the arches from the aisles into the transepts. No chancel arch. The chancel too much re-done to be of value. The transepts earlier than the aisles. In the S transept a lancet window and some C13 wall painting of red scrolls. The N transept E window nook-shafted inside. - FONT. Square, on five circular supports. Octagonal bowl with, in the diagonals, two volutes meeting at the angles of the square below; C13. - STAINED GLASS. Chancel E and S transept S window 1854 and 1855, and characteristic of the date. - MONUMENTS mostly to members of the Pemberton family: Francis d. 1809 and Mrs Anne d. 1815, both by Rossi, simple designs, one with a sarcophagus, the other with an urn. William d. 1828, by the younger Westmacott, just a tablet without much enrichment. - Christopher d. 1850, by Physick, with Charity and Justice, small relief figures l. and r. of the inscription. - Christopher d. 1870 (as a reporter at the battle of  Sedan), by Noble, with a standing allegorical female. - Mrs Montagu d. 1871, by Boehm, also with a female figure, rising to heaven. - William Ward d. 1900, brass repoussé, a fine period piece of the Art Nouveau - rare in churches. - In the churchyard MAUSOLEUM in an Antique style, 1922 by Sir Ambrose Poynter.

St Margaret (3)

NEWTON. It is recorded that one summer’s day in 1746 a fire here burnt down most of the village and roasted the apples as they hung on the trees. Today it has a few cottages at the cross roads, a pleasant village hall and handsome farmhouses, a great house in Georgian style, leafy lanes, and green pastures.

Great chestnuts spread themselves against the 14th century tower of the little cross-shaped church. Here is something from four of our building centuries, a fine font from the 12th, transept arches from the 13th, a nave arcade of the 14th, and a clerestory of the 15th, when the old timbers were set in the roof. Perhaps the best thing of all is the graceful tower arch, with continuous moulding.

Here are two memorials of the last great wars in Europe. One is to Christopher Peach Pemberton, who witnessed the most terrible day in the modern history of France, for he was at Sedan. He was there to record the events of the war, and fell towards the close of the battle while advancing with the staff of the Crown Prince of Saxony. The other memorial is to Alexander Rogers, a devoted friend of the village who gave his life for his country in 1915. The name of Rogers comes 12 times on the peace memorial among those who served, all 12 related, and three of them did not come back. By the plain pillar to their memory is a drinking trough.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Swavesey, Cambridgeshire

The last church of the day St Andrew, open, turned out to be my church of the day, not so much for its furnishings, this is a stripped back interior, but for their diversity. There are some great original poppyheads in the north aisle and modern ones throughout the nave and south aisle [some good ones mixed in with some not so good], two good Francis Skeat windows - a 1967 Jesse tree in the Lady chapel and a 1930's Christ in majesty east window, as well as good glass in the north and south east aisle windows and chancel misericords. There is also a good monument to Anne Kempe Lady Cutts.

Unfortunately, or not as I'll have to back, a combination of both aisle benches being used to display Easter flower exhibits and my flash continuously failing [I took almost 900 pictures on the day and my battery was running low] many of my images didn't come out as well as I'd like and some not at all.

ST ANDREW. The church lies immediately S of the site of Swavesey PRIORY, a house of Benedictines founded later in the C11 as a cell of St Serge at Angers. Later in the Middle Ages it was Carthusian. All that can be seen of it is some slight traces in the rough grass. The parish church is today reached by short avenues of splendid cedars and larch trees. It is a large church and one apparently built with some ambition. The exterior seen from the S is unusually fine. It dates evidently from the early C14. It is of a buff stone, the windows are tall and separated by tall, slim buttresses. The top of the walls has a parapet instead of battlements. The windows are of three lights, with tracery of much variety but all prior to the excesses of flowing tracery. The motifs are intersection, intersection of ogees etc. The N aisle windows have transoms and very delicately cusped tracery below them. The S door with its five orders of fine shafts etc. is something special (the porch is Perp). The rest of the exterior seems partly earlier, partly later. Earlier the bottom stages of the W tower with arches to the (embracing) aisles,* and to the nave and the windows higher up. The tower top with the tall pairs of two-light bell-openings and the battlements is Perp. Behind the battlements appears a later spike. Perp also the chancel windows - that at the E end of five lights - and the N windows. The interior is a little dry but not without interest. The nave walls are designed to an interesting system. The six bays have piers with four shafts and four long shallow diagonal hollows without capitals. From these rise circular shafts coming quite inorganically out of the hood-moulds of the arcade arches. They are met at right angles by a round horizontal moulding below the clerestory windows - a somewhat hard framework. Other interior details worth noting are the circular pier of the S chancel chapel, the thin shafts of the (new) E window of this chapel, the fine Dec Piscina and Sedilia in the chancel (the walls of which therefore must be at least contemporary with the S aisle scheme), and the roofs of nave, chancel, and N aisle. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with traceried stem and underside of the bowl and cusped panels on the sides of the bowl. - BENCHES. Many of them; with a dog, a lion, a pelican, birds, demi-figures etc. - a wide variety. - MONUMENT. Anne Kempe Lady Cutt d. 1631. By Edward Marshall, perhaps to a design of Nicholas Stone (Mrs Esdaile). Centre inscription with open segmental pediment. To the l. and r. stand beautifully carved life-size angels holding two stone doors of the inscription tablet open, as if it were a shrine.

* The choir vestry at the W end of the N aisle was added in 1916.

Poppyhead (26)

Francis Skeat 1967 Lady chapel Jesse tree (40)

Chancel poppyhead (7)

SWAVESEY. Every Cambridge student knows Swavesey, for here the fens hold out their first invitation, and when Lent term begins with frost here is excellent skating. But for those who come in summertime there is the charm of thatch and cottage gardens, and opposite the old manor house is one of the handsomest medieval churches in the county, an amazing collection of creatures new and old sitting on its array of benches.

Of the priory founded by Alan de la Zouche only a few banks and ditches are left, and it is the church which now dominates the long straggling village, its warm-tinted stone shown to perfection by the dark cedars. The imposing tower has three 13th century arches  inside, but is mostly of the 15th century. A great porch has sheltered for 700 years the richly moulded entrance into the spacious interior, where stately arcades divide the clerestoried nave from its aisles, some of their arch mouldings resting on slender shafts, others continuing to the floor.

Though the wonderful bench-ends all look old, most of them are skillful 19th century copies, and only the block in the north aisle is medieval, so low that these old seats seem to have been made for children. Both old and new ends have edges carved with flowers and all have striking poppyheads, no less than 154 in all, with animals, saints, and angels among them. Some of the animals are fighting, angels are playing fiddles; there is a dragon with two heads, a snake attacking a lion, a pelican swallowing a fish, a boar with its baby, an owl with a mouse in its beak. Passing through the 13th century chancel arch we find more entrancing stalls, again new and old, with men and animals on the arm-rests and poppyheads, one delightful poppyhead showing Aesop’s stork filling the pitcher with stones so that Master Fox can lap the overflowing water.

There is also exquisite stonework in the sedilia and piscinas of the chancel and south chapel, the heads of a 14th century man and woman by the canopies of those in the chancel, and still daintier 15th century carving elaborating the arches over those in the chapel. The graceful traceried font is 500 years old. There is a medieval stone altar with the old consecration crosses, several coffin lids, and one stone coffin. All the oak screens are modern, but one of the altar tables is Jacobean, and much old woodwork is left in the roofs, six small angels bearing up the chancel beams and two men doing the same in the south chapel. The big chest was a thankoffering from the villagers for help when floods in 1876 threatened to drown them all. A big monument of 1631 to the wife of Sir John Cutts shows two women opening a door and boasts a long genealogical inscription in which John Kempe, Cardinal Archbishop of York, figures.

Over, Cambridgeshire

St Mary, open, is a huge stone built building with a suitably large tower and spire and, as Pevsner says, is "a remarkably ornate church" both inside and out. Despite having had a remarkably successful run through Huntingdon, and having visited some remarkable churches, for the half hour or so I was here this was my church of the day. And then I went to Swavesey!

ST MARY. A remarkably ornate church, perhaps because it belonged to Ramsey Abbey. Dec and Perp parts of equal distinction. Dec first; the magnificent S aisle and S porch exterior - all built at one go c. 1320-30 and to the same plan. The windows have depressed segmental arches and either reticulated tracery or tracery of two intersected ogee arches. Above runs a frieze of ball-flower and other flowers strung up along tendrils etc. Fat gargoyles and battlements. Frieze and battlements are taken right round the S porch, and this is the most splendid piece of architecture of the church. The sides have each two two-light openings differing in design. The front has at the angles broad buttresses almost like turrets and ending like turrets in polygonal pinnacles. The buttresses are keel-shafted. Outer and inner doorway are both characteristic of their date (without capitals). In the N aisle also some early C14 windows. The W tower of the same period too (the W doorway and W window Perp insertions). Angle buttresses, and windows lower down typically early C14, higher up (bell-openings) perhaps c. 1330 (with transoms). Then again a frieze with ball-flower, heads etc., and a spire with three tiers of dormers on alternate sides. The spire is connected with the tower by solid angle buttresses, a compromise between flying buttresses and broaches. Now for the chancel. This is obviously Perp, and not too late - see the five-light E Window and the long three-light side windows with handsomely traceried transoms. The E window also has a similar effect. There is one transom, but the sill is treated as a second, and the mullions descend below it into a blank-panelled zone. The interior is as lively as the exterior. Blank shafts and arches round the windows characterize the aisle walls. The shafts rise on stone seats along the walls. The arches have hood-moulds with head-corbels. The chancel walls use the same system, but the shafts here have intermediate capitals half-way up which are castellated. The arcade (of six bays) also must be Early Perp. The piers have semi-octagonal shafts and double-hollows in the diagonals separated by a ridge. Only the shafts have capitals, and these are thickly embattled. The arches are steep and have complex mouldings. The nave roof has as corbels for the principals niches with small standing figures. The niches on their part rest on demi-figures. The roof itself is of the tiebeam and king-post type. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with blank arches containing shields. - ROOD SCREEN. Not well preserved, but with that rare survival a ribbed coving (on the E side only). Single-light divisions and plain arches with Perp tracery above. - CHANCEL STALLS. Six with Misericords with mostly carvings of heads; said to come from Ramsey Abbey. - PULPIT. Jacobean with an ogee-dome as a tester, a shape more familiar from font covers.

Grotesque (2)

Chancel S misericord (1)

S aisle Glass (4)

OVER. It lies among the orchards, but the fishermen know it well, for the wayward Ouse broadens out where the ferry takes us over the border to a delightful little inn. But Over will not let us hurry away, for it has a handsome church which the centuries have filled with interest without and within. Its sanctus bell has hung in the bellcote for 600 years, and all that time the spire has been pointing the village folk the way to Heaven. The tower is older still, a landmark in this valley since the 13th century. Its fine west doorway has a niche at each side, and above it a sculpture of Our Lord in Glory.

It is the 14th century porch by which we come in, through a splendid entrance archway with deep mouldings and shafts. The porch has beautiful open windows at each side, fine buttresses with embattled cresting from which rise tall pinnacles, and under the battlements trailing ballflowers which run along the aisle with a fine array of gargoyles. Among these is an owl, a lion, men with great heads and open mouths, and a woman emptying a pitcher.

The church is full of light, and old stone seats run round the walls (so that the weakest went to the wall), and the arcades and clerestories have stood 600 years. Between the arches are kings, bishops, and people, and from the mouldings of the capitals peep out little heads, one of them with three faces. Above it all is an old roof with kingposts supported by 14 oak figures in niches. A 13th century arch leads us into the 15th century chancel, through the original oak screen, which has lost its vaulting on the west but keeps it on the east. The chancel windows are set under arches, and the piscina has a pretty drain with six holes and a rose in the middle. Some of the stalls are old, with seats carved with grotesque animals, flowers, and heads, while on the arm-rests are quaint carvings among which we noticed a horse with a head like a hippopotamus, a little bearded man wearing a kilt and a big hat, a griffin with a pig in its claws, and a dragon eating a man. The fine Jacobean pulpit stands on a 600-year-old pedestal, and has a richly carved and vaulted canopy. The 15th century font has angels round the bowl, the old chest has a gabled lid, and there are traces of wall-painting in which a kneeling figure can be seen.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

New targets

Having moved 11 miles north to Saffron Walden I recently reconfigured my Google Earth 'How Far Can I Travel Map' and have added a further 294 churches to be visited [I'd already decided to cover 127 Huntingdon & the Soke of Peterborough churches, visits of which can be found here].

A move of 11 miles opens up 105 in Bedfordshire, 62 in Cambridgeshire [actually a few are further than 50 minutes drive but it seems daft not to complete the county if I can], 42 in Norfolk, 16 in Northamptonshire and 69 in Suffolk.

For the moment I'm going to carry on with the Huntingdon/Peterborough area, of which I have 83 left to visit and will probably then move on to Cambridgeshire.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Chatteris, Cambridgeshire

SS Peter & Paul is a largish rather splendid building set in a jewel of a churchyard full of interesting C18th headstones. When I arrived a funeral was about to start so I didn't get inside but I'm fairly sure that its normal status is LNK; a quick Google shows that Chatteris doesn't have the most reputable reputation. Reading Pevsner I don't think it contains much of interest.

SS PETER AND PAUL. Mostly by Sir Arthur Blomfield’s firm in 1909-10. But the nave arcades and the comparatively small W tower are of the C14. The arcades are of six bays, with tall octagonal piers and fine heads as stops of the hood-moulds of the arches. The W tower has diagonal buttresses, a doorway with a triple-chamfered surround without capitals and a lancet window above. The later top is embattled and carries a recessed lead spire. - PLATE. Paten given in 1708; Chalice and Flagon given in 1728; Paten marked 1744.

Chickenwire gardener

Headstone (8)

Headstone (1)

CHATTERIS. Lying on a busy road in the fenlands, it has a very old story, for here bones of extinct animals have been found, a. bronze sword has been brought to light in a dugout canoe, and the plough has turned up an urn with a thousand Roman coins. An Elizabethan manor house hiding behind a wall stands on the site of a vanished convent founded by the wife of Earl Athelstan the Saxon. The Vermuyden Drain near the town recalls the draining of the fens by the great Dutch engineer in Cromwell’s century, and Honey Farm keeps green the memory of Huna, the faithful chaplain of St Etheldreda, who lived here as a hermit after her death.

The medieval church has been refashioned by the generosity of a sexton’s son who made a fortune in America and spent much of it on the church his father had cared for. It is spacious, with the tower and its lead spire, the lofty arcades and the font, all from the 14th century. Between two of the arches is a sculpture of an old man sitting cross legged, and there are figures of two bishops among the heads looking down. One is a bishop of our own day, and looking across the nave at him is the vicar who restored this church in the first quarter of our century. He was Henry Bagshaw; the fine oak screen is his memorial.

The beautiful pulpit with St Edmund and St George is in memory of his son, who fell in Flanders. The heroes of the village are remembered by a cross with a lantern head in a wayside garden, and also in the east window of the church, which shows Our Lord with a great company of saints and apostles, prophets and martyrs, and the armed knights of the Allies carrying their flags.

Among the 158 men of Chatteris who died for peace was one who has a window to his memory, George William Clare. He was a choirboy here, and won the VC by carrying wounded men to the dressing station during heavy bombing. When the garrison of a detached post had all fallen he crossed a space of 150 yards swept by heavy fire, dressed all the cases, and manned the post single-handed. He carried one man to cover through intense fire. Learning that the enemy was using gas, and that the wind was blowing it towards the trenches and shell-holes, he personally warned every post of the danger, being all the time under shell and rifle fire. He died a very gallant gentleman, killed by a shell, and it is good to know that the street from which he went out to the war is named after him.