Saturday, 21 July 2018

Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge

If King's chapel is the glory of Cambridge then Jesus chapel is surely its jewel. Far and away the most interesting and easily accessible chapel full of interest from Burne-Jones windows, misericords [somewhat dull admittedly], Norman remnants and a fantastic choir. This is without doubt the most rewarding chapel in Cambridge - with the proviso that if flash photography was allowed in King's it would be second best. Definitely my favourite college chapel.

Jesus College was founded by Bishop Alcock of Ely in 1497, who, among other things, was Comptroller of the Works of Henry VII, which proves a special interest in building. He obtained leave from the king to suppress the Benedictine nunnery of St Radegond outside Cambridge, appropriated its buildings and revenues and replaced it by Jesus College. The act sounds like anticipating Henry VIII’s dissolution, but the nunnery had at the time only two nuns, one of them being called infamis.

The following description takes the nunnery church, i.e. the present Chapel first, complete with its later collegiate storey, then briefly the remains of the nunnery as they appear in (mostly private) rooms of the College, and then the College proper including those rooms, as far as they need description.

The CHAPEL is much smaller than the CHURCH had been. It is shorn of part of its nave, both nave aisles and both chancel aisles. As it is now it consists of a short antechapel, the E part of the nunnery nave, the transepts, and the choir. The oldest part is the N TRANSEPT. This has, visible from inside, three completely unmoulded Norman windows, now blocked, whose sill is so high as to make it likely that a one-storeyed monastic room was N of the transept. Above these windows is one blocked smaller Norman window in the Norman gable. In the E wall are two arches, pointed and probably later. They are separated by a very short circular pier and filled with very heavy tracery (put in by Pugin, see below). The arches opened into two chapels. Above them is a Norman wall-passage with, towards the transept, small round-headed arches on slim double piers with transitional capitals. Originally there were windows behind them, as they still appear, blocked up and only partly revealed, on the outside of the W wall of the transept. The date of this transept is probably c. 1150-75.*

The NAVE and aisles followed. The aisle piers on the N side which were walled up in the N wall when the church was converted into a chapel have been uncovered. They are also of c. 1175 and alternately circular and octagonal. The nave was originally much longer. Part of the Master’s Lodge is built into its walls, and traces of the W door with detached shafts of the early C13 were found in the C19 but are not now visible. The church went as far W as the present porch of the Lodge.

Next in order of date comes the CHANCEL, the show-piece of the church, clearly mid C13 in date. The E is a reconstruction by Pugin but sufficiently helped by preserved original fragments to make it trustworthy. Bishop Alcock had replaced it by a wall with a large Perp window. The original arrangement was a group of five lancets, three pierced as windows the other two blank. (Is this confirmed by original evidence?) It is inside a group of five rising arches with manifold mouldings, on slim shafts with shaft-rings. There are three oculus windows in the gable above. To the N are five lancets of even height with groups of three shafts between. The central one rises from a seat along the wall, the others from the window sill. On the S side there are only four windows of the same type, and they have underneath a row of trefoil-headed blank arcades. The two E ones are a DOUBLE SEDILLA with stepped-up seats, and then follows a DOUBLE PISCINA of a type paralleled at St John’s College, Histon and Long Stanton in Carnbridgeshire, and Graveley in Hertfordshire. It has elaborately and ingeniously intersected round arches, forming two pointed ones, and a rectangular frame decorated with dog-tooth. The shafts have shaft-rings and rather schematic stiff-leaf foliage.

Dog-tooth also is the decoration of the big piers of the CROSSING. They differ in details but seem to belong to the same date. They consist of main piers semi-octagonal or semicircular and keeled diagonal shafts with rather later-looking moulded capitals. There is a difficulty here; for the arcading of the upper storey inside the crossing tower looks earlier than these capitals. On the other hand they are identical in style with the openings into the chancel aisles. From the S transept there is only a very wide blocked arch; on the N side, however, the aisle openings into the chancel are preserved, two with a pier of quatrefoil section between. This arcade is definitely later than the lancet windows; for another arch in their style is broken off where the chancel arch begins. The upper storey inside the crossing tower, however, has double openings on each side with pointed arches, simply moulded capitals and in some cases some elementary quatrefoil plate tracery above, of a kind most probably prior to c. 1280. Yet the capitals of the main piers below do not look earlier than the last quarter of the century. Building documents are not explicit. All we know is that in 1277 the church is called ruinous per campanilis sui subversionem et subitam ruinam.

Bishop Alcock altered some side windows, shortened the church, added to the crossing tower the bell-stage with Perp windows, and left it at that. But he furnished his chapel lavishly. Little of that survives. The ceilings of the transepts are his and very fine, and so are some fragments built into the SCREEN AND STALLs which Pugin put up, when he restored the Chapel in 1849-53. They are chiefly figures carved about 1500 and forming the heads of stall-ends. Some are on the front benches of the  antechapel, two more in the stalls. They can easily be distinguished from those by Pugin’s carvers. Pugin designed the Screen completely (preliminary sketch in the Old Library) with solid, not pierced, side panels. The stalls were designed apparently in collaboration with the Dean of the College. Pugin also put down the encaustic TILES in the crossing and the choir, put up the Altar and designed the STAINED GLASS. Thus the 12 parts of Jesus Chapel are a monument to Pugin as much as to the C13. The glass was made by Hardman. The compositions are derived from Chartres, scenes in roundels and in the later windows more complex panels and simpler smaller panels above and below. The S windows were made after Pugin’s death and are noticeably harder in the colours. The scale of Pugin’s work goes well with that of the architecture, and there are none yet of the excesses of pictorial instead of linear technique which came later in the C19. - The LECTERN was copied by Pugin from that at St Mark’s in Venice; he did not know that this is in fact English and not Italian.

In 1864 Bodley was called in for some necessary repairs, and between 1864 and 1867 he did these and also had new CEILINGS put into nave, crossing tower and chancel. All these were designed and carried out by Morris in his most delicate and sensitive style. In 1873-7, moreover, Morris & Co. Re-glazed most of the windows. The new STAINED GLASS was designed entirely by Burne-Jones, except the lower storey scenes in the W window on the S side of the nave and the S window on the E side of the S transept. These are by Ford Madox Brown and markedly different in colour (with clearer red, white, and yellow, and no blue and green). The difference between Morris and Pugin, or 1875 at its best and 1850 at its best, is most instructive. The aesthetic quality of Morris’s work is no doubt higher, and besides it is very much more original. Pugin was satisfied, as he once said himself, to follow the best precedent. Morris looked on the Middle Ages rather for guidance than for actual paradigms. But Pugin is more naive, and there is in Burne-Jones’s figures a touch of self-display which may get tiresome after a while.

PAINTINGS; In choir Last Supper, Venetian late C16 (ought to be cleaned). - In nave: Presentation in the Temple, Venetian C18, a little like Bazzani. - Some Burne-Jones cartoons for the windows. - ORGAN CASES. N side of chancel by Pugin 1849, W end by Bodley c. 1890 to match the Pugin case. - MONUMENTS. Fragments of C13 lids and fragment of effigy of the later C13 under canopy; both in the S transept. - Tobias Rustat d. 1695, excellent monument against W wall, with portrait in oval medallion, two asymmetrically placed putti holding up draperies and garlands below the inscription. It might well be by Catterns (see Chapel Christ’s College). - E. D. Clarke d, 1825, by Flaxman, with profile in roundel (nave N wall).

* One small Norman window appears in the crossing tower just above the angle between S transept and chancel. So the lowest part of the tower must be Norman in some of its masonry also.

Gillian Kaufman Pieta 1955 bronze cast in 2011

Nave ceiling

Barry Flanagan San Marco Horse 1983

It is secluded from the highway, but from the common by the lower river and the boathouses its red brick buildings, old and new, are plainly seen. Its foundation as a college was in 1496, but the coming of the college for masters and scholars was the end of the Nunnery of St Radegund, which had existed since the 12th century. It was Bishop Alcock who rescued it from decay and adapted the buildings and the beautiful church to the needs of a college, though leaving it in form a monastery, the only one in the University, with a cloister quadrangle entered from an outer court.

The way to it is by a high-walled passage called the Chimney, leading from the pillared gateway with fine iron gates (in Jesus Lane) to Bishop Alcock’s gateway-tower, its stepped battlements rising above the old front, which was altered in the 18th century and is dominated by the tower of the nuns’ church at the east end. In a beautiful niche on the front of his gateway the bishop stands with his hand upraised, and over the archway are coloured coats-of-arms. The panelled oak roof of the archway, with shields in floral bosses, is modern, but the fine linenfold door is old, opening to a spacious west court where brick buildings with rows of stone windows look on to lawn and cobbles. The north range of the court is 17th century. Through a narrow opening in the east side of this court we come to the cloister court. The old refectory of the nuns became the college hall; the Prioress’s lodging and the guest house became the Master’s Lodge and the library; and the old dormitories were made into chambers for the scholars. The entrance to the destroyed chapter house below them was blocked up, its great beauty lost to the world till it was found in 1893. Coming from the close of the 12th century, it has three bays with richly moulded arches on clusters of detached shafts - the middle one the doorway, the others each containing a window. The tracery of one of the windows and some of the capitals are richly carved.

In its conversion to the college chapel the nunnery church lost its south aisle and more than half its nave, and the north aisle was destroyed to make the court bigger. Some new windows were inserted, and the tower was given its top storey; rising from the middle of a cross, it has a fine lantern and rests on four lofty and impressive arches. The north transept, where the earliest work remains, has three round-headed arches blocked in the north wall which once led to the dormitories, and an arch above them which led to the infirmary. High in the east wall is a gallery with round-arched arcading, approached by a spiral stair; and below the gallery are two pointed old arches which were filled with tracery last century to give support to the tower, having once led to an older chapel. There are two windows under a blocked arch in the south transept, and four pillars seen in the outside wall, facing the cloister, tell of the vanished north aisle.

The windows of the long chancel have richly moulded arches on clustered shafts, the east filled with a bright mosaic of colour. At the east end of the trefoiled arcading on the south wall is a charming 12th century piscina with interlacing arches. By the nave doorway is a stoup under a canopy of rich tracery. In the spacious south transept are fragments of old coffin lids, part of a battered figure with a canopy over the head, and a coped stone with a cross and inscription to one of the nuns. An alabaster wall-monument has the head of Archbishop Cranmer, who was a Fellow here, and a tribute to Samuel Taylor Coleridge (a scholar of Jesus), has lines from the Ancient Mariner.

The windows of nave and transepts have William Morris’s rich glass (designed chiefly by Burne-Jones and partly by Ford Madox Brown) showing the Virtues, prophets and saints, and Old Testament figures. One has a company of angels and archangels, saints, and a portrait of John Alcock. Hanging in the nave are sketches by Burne-Jones and a sketch by Morris for the angels painted in the borders of the nave’s panelled roof.

Some of Bishop Alcock’s beautiful stall-work is still here, adorned with tracery and poppyheads of angels, fleurs-de-lys, a pelican, eagles, seated and standing figures. There are four bench-ends in the nave, and a double Litany desk long lost in a lumber room.

The hall is a stately place with a fine oak roof of stout timbers and arched beams. The beautiful bay window by the high table has glass shining with heraldry, and in the window facing are fragments of old glass including shields and the head of a priest. Fluted pilasters adorn the panelling by the high table, and over it is a great coloured coat-of-arms. Here is the portrait of the bishop, a man with a refined scholarly face and a firm mouth. At one side of him is Henry the Eighth, on the other is Archbishop Cranmer. Other portraits are of Tobias Rustat (by Peter Lely) and Richard Sterne, Master in 1634 and Archbishop of York thirty years later; Laurence Sterne was his great-grandson. On a windowsill is a huge bronze cock which was brought from West Africa by George William Neville and presented to his college as a fit emblem of the founder. Over the screen is a fine little oriel window with a bishop’s mitre carved under it.

Pleached limes border one of the greens of the great Chapel Court, of which the fine eastern range of brick and stone is 19th century.

Magdalene College Chapel, Cambridge

Magdalene, bizarrely pronounced maudlin, was my first college chapel visit and at the time I loved it - it seemed to me the quintessential college chapel and the college itself is superb. But then came Jesus and St John's and Christ's and Queen's and retrospect I think it's a mid range chapel, not without interest but not exceptional.

Contemporary with these early ranges of chambers seems to have been the erection of the CHAPEL. A doorway now no longer in its original form was regarded by Willis as the earliest looking at the college. The Chapel is much altered, inside and out, but the roof, though restored, is essentially original, and probably of the C15. Otherwise a renovation of 1733-55 and another of 1847-50 (by Buckler) have deprived the chapel of most of its original details. The only items worth noting are the four charming canopied niches at the E end. The window tracery belongs to the mid C19. So does the STAINED GLASS. The E window was designed by Pugin and carried out by Hardman. It is in a Latest-Gothic German style, rich and busy, and completely different from Pugin’s earlier, chaster, East-Anglian-looking glass. The E window on the SE side is uncommonly attractive in its modest conservatism. It reflects the accepted type of glass panelling of ten or twenty years before, with small figures in medallions, and is pale and timid in the execution. The design is by Miss Cleaver who was assisted by the President and some Undergraduates. The date is 1851. The other windows are a little later, also by Hardman and entirely mid-Victorian routine work.


Henry VI

N aisle window (15)

The hall and the chapel are where they stood when the college was a hostel for the monks. The chapel was altered in the 18th century and restored in the 19th, but it keeps its old roof. The rich screen has an entrance with floral bosses in its panelled roof. The stalls have  traceried panels, and in fine niches near the altar are figures of Henry the Sixth with orb and sceptre, Mary Magdalene with her box of spikenard, Etheldreda with a model of her abbey, and Benedict with a staff and a book.


King's College Chapel, Cambridge

Strictly speaking the college chapels have no place here, but since I can access them relatively easily I have decided to include them. It also seems to me to complete Cambridgeshire.

Historically photography was banned in King's so whilst I have visited several times over the years I have no internals. Nowadays they have succumbed to modern times and allow you to take  "photographs as a tourist in those areas of the College where tourists are allowed. Please note that: tripods must not be used and flash photography is not permitted in the Chapel". This effectively reduces internals to stained glass only and I'm not sure I'm prepared to fork out £10 for limited [albeit the glass is spectacular] access.

As in contrast to other Cambridge Colleges the Chapel of King’s was built in complete isolation from the Old Court and remains separate from Gibbs’s Building, it can be treated on its own, and as it is one of the major monuments of English medieval architecture it deserves such treatment.

The foundation stone of the chapel was laid on 25 July, 1446. It is 289 ft long, 94 ft high (interior height 80 ft) and 40 ft wide. These dimensions are almost exactly those given in Henry VI’s so-called Will of I448. So the plan is primarily his and perhaps that of his resident master mason Reginald Ely, though it may also be his London master mason’s, who at the time was Robert Westerby, or any experienced adviser’s of his, such as William Waynfleze, Bishop of Winchester. In its tall narrow proportions and its front flanked by turrets it carries on a tradition of royal chapels set by St Stephen’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster which was begun in 1291 and built during the first half of the C14.

The chapel was completed only in 1515, owing to long breaks in the execution. The first phase goes from 1446 to the change of dynasty in 1462, the second from about 1477 to about 1484, the third from 1508 to 1515. A good deal of careful research chiefly by Willis and Sir G. G. Scott, has produced a convincing picture of the building history in most of its complicated details. The results can here be summed up as follows:

The first phase 1448-c. 1462 used a white Magnesian limestone from Yorkshire, and the joints between that stone and the buff oolitic limestone from Weldon used later can be seen outside. The extent to which they are visible depends a little on the weather, but on the N side one can nearly always detect it. The joints then run as follows 2 E buttress and E bay to height of moulding above the window, third and fourth buttresses to a point between the second and third set-offs of the buttresses, fifth buttress below second set-off, sixth buttress to height of parapet over side-chapels. The walls of the side-chapels are entirely of Magnesian limestone up to here, but W of this point only to the window-sills. So the whole chapel was set out from the beginning, but then work proceeded from the E to the W as usual.

Another feature of the exterior which tells of the different phases is the very evident change in the buttresses which from the seventh from the E onwards are decorated with badges, supporters etc., a definite departure from Henry’s desire for restraint in decoration. The other exterior elements are continued all the way through. The E window is very tall and wide, four-centred of nine lights divided into three times three lights with the two main mullions pushing right through to the main arch. The tracery is conventional Perp, a feature to be remembered being the ‘daggers’ on the tops of lights 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9. The side windows appear even taller, owing to their steeply pointed two-centred arches. They are of five lights each with even plainer panelled tracery ending right at the top in one pointed quatre-foil. The tracery of the four-light windows of the low side chapels (two windows between each pair of buttresses) is more original. Two patterns alternate in apparently haphazard fashion: A has panelling similar to that of the main windows (with the same daggers), B has a diagonally set quatrelobed centre like a four-petalled flower. The N chapels from the E have AB, AB, BA, BA, BA, AA, AA, AA, AA. The S chapels also from the E have: AA, BB, AB, BA, BB, AA, BB, BB, BB. The cornices of the chapels are decorated with fleurons and fleuron-like badges. The parapet is pierced and ingeniously decorated with triangles and lozenges. To the W the 9th chapels are followed by the N and S porches, with tall two-centred arches with ogee gables and blank tracery in the spandrels; especially large roundels with arms and supporters. The porches are fan-vaulted inside. They belong entirely to the third phase, as the arms of Henry VIII show.

Of this phase (1508-15) we know most. Contracts are preserved. The master mason was john Wastell who had been at Canterbury in the 90s and to whom Mr Harvey attributes the fan-vaulted E end of Peterborough built c. 1500. He made the great vault, the pinnacles of the buttresses, the angle turrets, the porches and several vaults in the W side chapels. The master carver was Thomas Stockton. The W window also belongs to this last phase. It is also of nine lights, but wider than that in the E, and in its tracery it shows ogee tops to three of the nine lights which do not occur in the earlier work. The transom is embattled. The W doorway is relatively simple, with three orders of thin colonnettes and big fleurons in the inner jambs and voussoirs.

The effect of the INTERIOR is superb. The room seems very long and very high and at the same time perfectly clear and crisp in its dimensions. It appears rich, thanks especially to the surging-up form of the conoids of the fan-vaults, but not fantastic, because most of the decoration takes the elementary form of panels. There is little solid wall, only enough on each side of the shafts to have one tall narrow panel. The uprights of these panels of the shafts which run many-spliced up to the vault, and of the mullions of the windows dominate insistently, especially in the perspective view from the W. The fan-vaults are held down by the strong emphasis on the four-centred transverse arches, an emphasis which the most important fan-vault before King’s College did not attempt: Sherborne Minster, Dorset. So the sight above one’s head is magnificent but is not without weight; it does not lose touch with the earth below.

The side chapels which fill the space between the buttresses do not form part of the internal picture at all. In the choir they are separated by the wall against which the choir-stalls are placed, and in the nave or antechapel they are screened off. These screens may be a reminiscence of that fountain-head of the Perp style, Gloucester Choir, or they may simply be in the accepted tradition of chantry chapels. In any case they compress the visual effect into the narrow confines of the nave.

We must now return to the building history. In the interior there are quite a number of noticeable differences between E and W. In the chancel the vaulting shafts cannot go down to the ground because of the choir-stalls. They start alternately from nodding ogee arches and demi-figures of angels. The thin frames of the panels to the l. and r. of the shafts start lower down from smaller angel-corbels, four to each bay. In each window jamb of the E parts is a little tabernacle for a figure standing on an excessively long thick shaft. In the W part there are two such niches above each other, the lower with a crocketed finial. The panels to the l. and r. of the shafts are decorated with carved badges and emblems. Altogether Stockton’s carving is superb. The crowns almost completely detached from the wall should be specially noted. Above the W chapels with their screens and above the doors to the porches also there is an immense amount of sharp, precise carving, again heraldic. This sumptuous display of decoration cannot be compared with the E parts. Here for example the doors to the vestries are also ornamented, but their ogee gables and shields (N) or even small figures  (S; defaced) are infinitely less ambitious. Henry VIII was more swagger than Henry VI, here as everywhere.

For this easily recognizable difference between E and W is one of mid C15 as against early C16, i.e. of first as against third building phase. To notice the second phase is harder. The following are the salient facts. One of the side chapels was ready in 1469, another in 1470. In 1476-7 one of the main N windows was ready for glazing. A window in one of the chapels was glazed at the same time. In 1480 a second main N window was ready. Then came five on the S side. In 1484 glass was bought for the E window. Roofing also went on (as usual before the vaulting). So we can take it that the upper parts of the E sections were complete by 1484. Now there is a small but important anomaly in the elevation which Sir G. G. Scott first spotted. The shafts in the W parts, where they start right from the ground, have seven members, whereas a fan-vault only requires five. Therefore two of the seven disappear at the top rather awkwardly into the capital. This proves that the first phase, Reginald Ely’s, did not intend a fan-vault - nor could it have done, because no wide span had been vaulted in this way, it seems, before Sherborne (c. 147 5 or later). The vault originally contemplated was probably a complex lierne vault. Scott pointed to the much earlier Ely Lady Chapel and stressed that the late C15 master mason of Ely John Wolrich was master mason of King’s College Chapel in 1476.

But Scott attributes the change to fan-vaults to Wolrich. He shows that the vaulting shafts on the corbels in the E parts are not of seven but of five members, i.e. intended for the fan-vault and not the lieme-vault. Now the lowest courses of the W shafts must belong to Ely’s time, but the parts of the E above the corbels must be Wolrich’s. They cannot be earlier; for the windows at the E end were evidently up to the top, when the alteration came. These windows belong to the first phase (see the Yorkshire stone). The designer of the fan-vault had to overcome a discrepancy between the shape of the windows and the shape, of his proposed vault with transverse arches of depressed four-centred form. To keep to the total height intended at a time when the steeper pitch of the window arches would have found its natural continuation in a vault of equal pitch, he raised the spring of his vault and put in some dead wall above the windows, which he panelled - a somewhat disappointing expedient.

So the building history of the principal features, nave and chancel, is now clear. Introduction of the idea of fan-vaulting c. 1480, the vault itself 1512-15. Now what information can we gain from examining the low side chapels? The findings of the nave and chancel are, it seems, borne out by their vaults. The two easternmost chapels on the N side which served as a vestry and were ready, as we know, by 1470, i.e. nine years after Ely’s last will and six before Wolrich’s first appearance in the records (as they happen to be preserved*) have complex lierne-vaults making very handsome star shapes. Chapels 3, 4, 5 from the E on the N side, and I to 6 on the S side have simpler lierne-vaults, the rest have fan-vaults. The Yorkshire stone was used for the chapel walls on the N to exactly the place where the lierne-vaults stop. So these parts still belong to the first phase.

FURNISHINGS AND FITMENTS (from E to W, first choir, then N Chapels, then S Chapels): REREDOS and PANELLING of Altar Space by Detmar Blow, & Billerey 1911 in the style of 1700. – ALTAR PAINTING now on the N side: Deposition of Christ by Daniele da Volterra, presented by the Earl of Carlisle in 1780. - LARGE BRASS CANDLESTICKS 1882 by G. G. Scott, jnr. - PANELLING between Choir Stalls and Blow’s panelling: 1678 by Cornelius Austin. - DOORS from Choir to Vestries on N and chapels on S of the same style as the Screen and Stalls (see below), i.e. c. 1535. – LECTERN: a magnificent piece of c. 1515, given by Provost Hacumblen (see below) with engraved ornament on both book rests, openwork cresting, and a crowning statuette of Henry VI. Probably by the same artists who did the screen round Henry VII’s tomb at Westminster Abbey.

SCREENS AND STALLS: The Screen and Choir Stalls of King’s College Chapel are the purest work in the Early Renaissance style in England. Their quality is not excelled in any contemporary wood carving anywhere N of the Alps. Yet we do not know either who designed or who made them, or indeed when precisely they were made. The date can be fixed within very narrow limits; for the cyphers H.R. and A.B. appear in many places, and Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn in 1531 and had her executed in 1536. It  has always been said that the carving is too competent in the handling of the Italian idiom to be possibly by the hand of English workmen. That is true; but the universal attribution to Italians is not thereby justified. The style of all the figure work is characteristic French Mannerism and connected with the craftsmen of the French Court; and the ornamental parts certainly do not contradict this. - The Screen is divided towards the nave of the chapel into four arched bays on each side of the equally arched doorway. Each of the side bays is subdivided into two panels with one tympanum above the two. The vertical division is by ornamented pilasters. The frieze and the spandrels of the tympana are equally delicately ornamented. In some spandrels heads in roundels occur, a motif which in this form is more typical of France and the Netherlands than of C16 Italy. Coving leads to the parapet which has delightful balusters and arched panels between. Plinth and frieze are decorated, and from the plinth pendants hang down. The main tympana on the lower floor are decorated with shields, with the exception of one on the S side on which the Descent of the Rebel Angels is carved. The elongated figures in their distorted movements repeat in the figure work on the E side of the Screen. To reach it one passes through the thickness of the Screen which is roomy enough to carry the organ above. It has doors to W, N, and S. The N and S doors lead on to the rood-loft or organ-loft, that in the W part is part of the Screen front just described. The woodwork here, partly pierced, is of an especially high order, and the detail is entirely in accordance with the side panels. Yet the door carries the cypher C.R. and the date 1636, and Woodroffe, the carver, was indeed paid £32 ‘pro novis valvis chori’. Have we here then an extremely early case of period imitation? Or did Woodroffe only repair the doors? The entry in the accounts and the large sum of money make that impossible. - The ceiling of the passage through the Screen is carved with a pattern of four-lobed squares connected by crosses, a pattern very similar to those which became current with later Tudor plasterers. The occurrence here is memorably early (cf. Hampton Court). The E side of the Screen to the l. and r. has the return stalls, four on each side. The other stalls along the N and S walls of the Chapel number sixty upper and fifty lower. With the eight return stalls that makes a total of one hundred and eighteen. The system is this: The stalls have open fronts with balusters, the upper and lower halves of which are identical. The upper stalls have, more-over, misericords under the seats. These must be English work, as they do not share in the general Italianism of all the rest. Between the stalls are tall, elegantly curved, slim balusters carrying the cornice on arches. On the backs of the N and S side stalls above the seat backs are large coats of arms, one to each two seats. These, and also the balusters and cornice, were added in 1633. They were carved by William Fells - another case of astonishing period accuracy. The Provost’s Stall, one of the return stalls, the one just N of the passage, is singled out by figure work: a roundel with St George and the Dragon (it should be noted how the mantle of the Saint is blown across the frame of the roundel), below a recumbent figure and above two semi-reclining allegorical figures, all very Mannerist. In the tympanum is a bust of Christ. More small figures appear here on the balusters supporting the canopies and also on the stall desks themselves. The style of all this work is so distinctive that it must cause surprise that the same hand has not as yet been found anywhere else in England. Maybe the artist left the country once the work had been finished.

The ORGAN was built in 1605 by Thomas Dallam, the case by Chapman & Hartop. The organ was enlarged and altered in 1661, 1675, 1686-8 (by Renatus Harris), 1700, 1804 etc. The organ case incorporates fragments (relief of King David, caryatid satyr) which seem to date from the time of Henry VIII, and the rest looks mostly late C17.

STAINED GLASS:** The glass of King’s College Chapel is as important as its Stalls. It is the most complete set of church windows surviving from the time of Henry VIII, and contracts remain to tell of its makers. The first was Bernard Flower, born ‘ in Alemania ’, in England in 1496 or before, made King’s Glazier in or before 1505 and probably the maker of the lost windows in Henry VII’s Chapel at Westminster Abbey. He began work in King’s College Chapel in 1515 and died in 1517. Attributed to him is N 11 (from the E, i.e. the window above the N door) which has still Gothic canopies, but also the earliest Renaissance details in Cambridge, swags, shells, and some Roman letters. Early also, and even more Gothic are N 7 (from the E) which is dated 1517, N 4 lower half r., N 3 lower half. Mr Harrison attributes N 7 and N 4 and 3 to Galyon Hone whose name appears in the next contract. This contract dates only from 1526, and it seems as if between 1517 and 1526 work on the glass stopped. There are two contracts of 1526, one with Galyon Hone, King’s Glazier, Richard Bond, Thomas Reve, and James Nicholson for eighteen windows, including the E and W windows, to be carried out in five years, the other with Francis Williamson and Symond Symondes for two N and two S windows, also to be done in five years. Galyon Hone came from Holland or Flanders, was made master in the gild at Antwerp in 1492, and appears at Eton Chapel in 1517. He may then well have worked at King’s just a little earlier. James Nicholson was of German extraction. He was employed at Great St Mary’s in 1518-19 and at Christ Church Oxford in 1528-9. He became a printer later and printed the Coverdale Bible. Bond was a Londoner, Francis Williamzoen was a Fleming. Of Reve and Symond Symondes, or Simenon we know nothing.

Mr Harrison assigns to Hone, on the strength of the E window which he, as King’s Glazier, no doubt reserved for himself, also windows N 9 (from the E) and S 7, 8, and 1o (from the E). For his work, including that of 1515-17, heavy painting and wild hair and beards are characteristic. The two plus two Williamson and Symondes windows are probably N 10 and 12 and S 11 and 12 with extravagant architectural motifs and a particular type of plump female figure. N 12 is dated 1527. Less certain is the attribution of N 6 and 8 to Nicholson on the strength of their German or Swiss style. They are delicately drawn and the figures have small elegant faces. N 1 could be by Bond because of its conservative style. That would leave for Reve the group N 5, S 2-6, N 2 (upper half) N 4 (lower half l.), S 1 (lower half; the upper half is by Hedgeland, 1845).

All this refers to the glass painters. But they were by no means necessarily the designers. The designs have been attributed to Dirk Vellert, a Fleming who entered the gild at Antwerp in 1511, and was its dean in 1518 and 1526. The case can be regarded as proven for the E window and S 7. In all probability also Vellert’s are the other designs carried out by Hone (N 9, S 7-10). According to Mr Harrison Vellert was responsible in addition for N 2 (upper half), N 5, S 1 (lower half), S 2-6. N 1 may be his too. Comparison with Vellert’s earliest preserved glass (at Brussels, 1517) seems to indicate that he could also have designed N 7 and the upper halves of N 3 and 4. Mr Harrison finds the nearest parallels to the group N 10 and 12 and S 11 and 12 at Liege, to N 6 and 8 in Holbein’s designs for glass. Finally N 2 (lower half) and N 4 (lower half l.) are again Flemish and similar to Pieter Coecke.

The iconographical scheme of the King’s College windows is instructive too. It is still, in the medieval tradition, a case of parallels between Old and New Testament, the Old Testament scenes being chosen for their typological meaning, i.e. as pointing to the New.

The design of the glass and the making do not help to clarify, and it is difficult without a guidebook to recognize what is represented, or how it is represented. Medieval glass had its salient parts isolated by lead bars. Here so much was only painted on the glass, and the leads cut across so confusingly that all that those in the chapel can enjoy is the general decorative effect of strong colour and busy action. The colour in spite of its strength does not seem to obscure the chapel materially. The window areas are too large for that, and so the impression inside King’s College Chapel is as a rule emphatically not one of ‘dim religious light’.

NORTH CHAPELS (from E to W): No. 1. Baptism of Christ, oil study by Roger Fry. Some remains of the oldest STAINED GLASS in the Chapel, yellow and white figures of mid C15 style, but probably as late as c. 1480-90. - No. 2. BRASS to Dr Towne d. 1494. - In Nos 3 and 4 stacked C17 cresting of STALLS.  No. 7. Two SEATS perhaps from St John Zachary C16. - No. 8. Virgin in Glory, Altar PAINTING of c. 1480 from Ursuline Convent at Soest in Westphalia; two fine early C16 PEDESTALS from Chapel No. 9. - No. 9. PANELLING of 1678 from the altar space; adjusted and altered. Fragments of C16 STAINED GLASS excellently restored and completed by W. Jay Bolton (1816-84) a Fellow of Caius College.

SOUTH CHAPELS (from E to W): No. 1. Made into a War Memorial Chapel by T. H. Lyon. The STAINED GLASS of the Holy Hunt is Rhenish or Flemish of c. 1530 and comes from Wilkins’s house in Lensfield Road. In the same window a Tudor rose in a Renaissance border. This comes from Belhus, Aveley, Essex and is a very early example of Renaissance motifs in glass (but see above). - No. 2. STAINED GLASS from various sources. The earliest is early C15, some C15, some from the original chapel windows, and some Flemish c. 1500 and later. - No. 3. Bronze CANDLESTICK 1934 by Benno Elkan. - Nos 4-6 with C17 BOOKCASES, partly 1659 (marked NH), partly by C. Austin 1677-80 (marked TC). The differences in the top cartouches are slight but noticeable. Remains of the Library seat-ends in seats in the nave. - No. 7. BRASS to Robert Brassie d. 1558 ; MONUMENT to Charles Rodrick, Etonae Gymnasiarchus d. 1712, a pretty cartouche with light garlands. Most of the late C15 fragments remaining of the STAINED GLASS of the easternmost chapels at the N side are assembled here (cf. N Chapels No. 1). - No. 8. PROVOST HACUMBLEN’S CHANTRY, with his BRASS d. 1528, and the door from the nave and the panelling of the W wall also early C16. Much original STAINED GLASS, restored by Constable in 1857. The figures show the transition from Gothic to Renaissance. - MONUMENT to John Churchill d. 1702, the Duke of Marlborough’s only son who died while studying at King’s College, a big free-standing white sarcophagus crowned by an urn. The motif is original and vigorous curved fluting on the top proves that the monument is by the same hand as that of Dr Gostling at Caius.

* But Wolrich was master-mason at King’s Hall in 1468.
** For details of the Stained Glass in King’s College Chapel see M. R. James and E. Milner-White: A Guide to the Windows of King’s College Chapel, third edition, 1951; K. Harrison: An Illustrated Guide to the Windows of King’s College Chapel, 1952; and K. Harrison’s book: The Windows of Kings College Chapel Cambridge, 1952.

King's College (4)

One great thing did the most unhappy man among our kings: out of the misery of his times he wrought one of the noblest things in England, King’s College Chapel. He was Henry the Sixth, who lived through half of our most famous building century, his pitiful reign beginning in the very year that Joan of Arc shed her lustre over France. The Wars of the Roses forbade that he should see the fulfilment of his dream, but his chapel is as he planned it and today it is the glory of Cambridge, the finest example of English building in the prime of its Golden Age. Milton’s words were all unequal to it: Wordsworth could only say:

They dreamt not of a perishable home
Who thus could build. Be mine, in hours of fear
Or grovelling thought, to seek a refuge here.

Henry the Seventh carried on the work, finding the lower walls built and the five eastern bays of the chapel roofed with timber. By 1515 the fabric was complete, with all the glory of its stone vault; by 1531 the great windows were shining in the first splendour of the glass we see today; and a little later much of the handsome woodwork was in its place, resplendent in Tudor arms and badges inside and out, and there is no greater Tudor monument than this noble chapel, arresting outside with its corner turrets soaring to lantern tops with leafy domes, great buttresses rising between the windows and stepping to beautiful parapets with rich pinnacles, and rare doorways adorned with a profusion of heraldry and roses, crowns and niches. Of truly regal magnificence is the south entrance, with a pendant rose in its vaulted roof.

The founder may have thought to build a college to match it, though that would seem hardly possible, and after five centuries the vision of King’s is that of its chapel, and the collegiate buildings are a vestibule to it, though lacking neither dignity nor beauty. Most often we approach from King’s Parade, entering the college and the great court through a magnificent gateway with twelve pinnacles and a cupola, designed by William Wilkins last century and flanked by his charming screen-wall with window-tracery. Yet we see the chapel at its best from the edge of the great lawn by the river, or, better still, from the college meadow. The great buttresses are stepped right up and many of them are carved with roses, crowns, and grotesques, ending in finials. Under the parapet in each bay are three great corbels. On each wall nine chantries are neatly packed into the space between the buttresses so that they are hardly noticed, save for their long line of windows, each divided into 20 or 30 compartments with a string of corbels over them, 63 corbels on each side. Altogether there are 180 corbels outside the walls. The west doorway has remarkable carving all round it.

The interior is so spaced that it looks more than its height of 80 feet, its length of 289 feet, and its span of about 40; but its spaciousness is only part of its nobility. It is a marvel of engineering skill as well as of architectural genius, ascribed firstly perhaps to Reginald of Ely, the master mason, followed by John Wolrich. But the vision of this roof, an idea which sprang from an English brain, submerges all speculation in a deep satisfaction that anywhere there should exist a thing so wonderful.

It sets us thinking, of course, of the roofs of Henry the Seventh’s Chapel at Westminster and St George’s Chapel at Windsor, and we found it in the hands of the restorers as those two roofs have been, so that the delicate beauty of this lace-like stonework will soon be revealed in all its purity after the passing of the centuries. There are 13 fans on each side, and each fan has 12 compartments, divided by cross-pieces into four groups. Each compartment is packed with arches of varying size, 62 arches in each fan, and along the delicate cross-pieces (thin ribbons of stone) run rows of fleurs-de-lys. It is an almost incredible mass of ingenuity worked out with an infinite sense of harmony. Linking the whole scheme together are about two miles of thinly ribbed stone, and within the compartments of the fans are over 5000 arches, trefoils, and little fleurs-dc-lys.

This marvellous roof is 80 feet above us as we look at it, and the handles of the fans are in two styles. In the nave the handles begin from the ground, rising in the moulded splay of the bays, nine mouldings for each handle. In each case there is provision for a statuette on a slender pedestal by the side of the handles, with a delightful little canopy for the figure, and the happy idea occurred to the craftsman to let the upper pedestal grow out of the lower canopy, so that as we run our eyes upward the design looks like a great candlestick. In the choir the fan handles begin high up between the two windows, at the transom. There are great stone bosses in each bay at the meeting of the fans, the Tudor rose alternating with the portcullis of the Beauforts.

When we take our eyes from the great roof, so interwoven in curves like repeated melodies, it is to seek the glow of harmonious colour in the windows, described as the “finest series in the world of pictures in glass on a large scale.” Wonderfully preserved, they were begun by Barnard Flower, the king’s glazier, and the bulk of it is English workmanship and Flemish design. Flower had been brought over from the Low Countries by Henry the Seventh, who stipulated that the windows should represent the “old Lawe and the new,” after the model of the windows in his chapel in Westminster Abbey.

The walls and windows of the chapel are set out in a harmonious scheme, the sculptured panels of the lower tier of each bay fitting the size of the two tiers of windows above. The fans of the roof fit into the bays so that the bays are complete designs in themselves; each bay has three tiers, two huge windows above reaching to the roof and below these the front of the chantry sculptured in five great upright panels, with 14 arches and 12 quatrefoils surmounted by the rose and crown of the Tudors.

In the tracery of the 24 side windows are the arms of Henry the Seventh encircled by the Garter, the red rose of Lancaster, and a thorn-bush, recording that Henry found Richard Crookback’s crown in a thorn-bush on Bosworth Field. There are Tudor roses, red and white, a white rose in a sun for York, and the initials of Tudor kings and their queens. There are nearly 400 Tudor badges in all. In the central light of each side window are four angels or prophets holding scrolls. Four of these pictures are in every window, two above and two below the transom, and each picture occupies two lights. With one or two exceptions, the pictures of the lower tier illustrate the life of Our Lord and His Mother, and those of the upper tier have scenes to correspond or contrast with the subject below. There are 100 of these great pictures.

One window shows Naaman washing in the Jordan, so typifying the lower scene of Christ’s baptism in the river; and Jacob tempting Esau to sell his birthright, above the Temptation of Our Lord. The next window has Elisha raising the Shunamite’s son, above a picture of Christ raising Lazarus; and David entering in triumph with the head of Goliath is above Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. The plan of the windows is perfect in that of Job tormented by devils while his wife mocks him, and Christ scourged by command of Pilate; Solomon crowned among the daughters of Zion, and Christ crowned with thorns. Elijah being carried up to heaven matches the Ascension, and Moses receiving the tables of the law corresponds with the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Three windows have scenes from the Acts of the Apostles; another has four scenes relating to the Birth of the Madonna - the high priest rejecting the offering of Joachim and Anne, the Angel bidding Joachim return to Jerusalem to meet his wife at the golden gate of the Temple, the meeting at the gate, and the birth of Mary to this childless couple. The next window begins with a curious legendary subject of the presentation of the golden table in the Temple of the Sun, the offering typifying the presentation of the Madonna in the Temple of God; the picture of her actual presentation is below, and to the right are two marriages (Tobias and Sarah, and Joseph and Mary). The window south of the altar with Moses and the brazen serpent (after Rubens) was put in nearly a century ago, and the old glass below it shows Naomi and Ruth and Orpah lamenting, and Christ mourned by Mary and the holy women. The east window has the arms of Henry the Seventh held by a dragon, and six scenes of the Passion. The glass of the west window, showing the Last Judgment, comes from 1879, and is remarkably effective with the sun shining through.

The dark woodwork, panelled and carved, is a striking contrast to the richly-coloured glass. The windows tell the story of the seed of Abraham and the Son of God; the carving is the emblem of the magnificence of earthly kings, and tells, in arms and badges and monograms, something of their history. The lower part of the stalls in the choir (with figures of men and beasts) and the eight canopies facing east, were the gift of Henry the Eighth. There are 70 stalls in all. The other canopies, and the panelling reaching the new work at the east end, come from 1678. The 17th century wainscoting has heraldry carved in elm-wood.

All this woodwork, though ample and fine, is surpassed in impressiveness by the great screen, a creation of the re-birth of art in the 16th century, declared by a great expert to be the finest piece of woodwork on this side of the Alps. It is the masterpiece of Italian craftsmen brought over by Henry the Eighth, and bears in many panels his arms and initials. Among the emblems are those of Anne Boleyn in whose time the work was done. The gates of the screen, bearing the arms of Charles the First, are 1636; the fine little organ crowning the screen was put here after the Restoration. Its long and varied history began when Elizabeth was queen, and it seems likely that when it was rebuilt by Renatus Harris in 1688 he used portions of the older woodwork. Christopher Tye, the Elizabethan composer, knew it, and Orlando Gibbons played on it. It has two gilded trumpeters with wings.

The eighteen chantry chapels formed by the roofing-in of the space between the buttresses are distributed along the sides. All are vaulted, some have old panelling, fine old doors and ironwork, and old glass - this often fragmentary, but sufficient to be accounted treasure in any place not so rich as this. One has a lovely Tudor door, embroidery of six scenes in Christ’s life, and a Genoese tapestry in a frame supported on four little wood figures. The south-west chantry is that of Martin Freeman. Next to it is that of Provost Hacomblen, who gave the brass lectern with the figure of Henry the Sixth. In the glass we see St Christopher, St Ursula, the Angel Gabriel, the Madonna, St Anne, John the Baptist, Henry the Sixth, the Four Latin Doctors, arms and badges and heraldic beasts, and the red dragon and greyhound of Henry the Seventh. Here too is the brass of Provost Hacomblen himself, and the tomb of John Churchill, the great Duke of Marlborough’s only son, who died at the college as a student. The next chantry is that of Robert Brassie, Provost in Mary Tudor’s time, whose name is on a traceried window. In the outside window are eight figures in glass believed to be 15th century, though much restored about 80 years ago; among them are Peter and Philip, bishops, a doctor, David, and St James with a scallop shell. Provost Brassie is here in brass.

The first of the chantries on the north side of the ante-chapel is that of Benjamin Whichcote, Provost under the Commonwealth. Its woodwork is 1678, and its glass is of unusual interest, for, besides the old royal quarries of Tudor kings and queens, including Catherine of Aragon’s pomegranate, there is some beautiful work by William Bolton who revived glass painting in the 19th century. Some of it is a copy of older glass; a delightful peacock is his own. Next to Whichcote’s chantry is the Founder’s chantry, furnished in memory of Henry the Sixth and Henry the Seventh. It has a pendant rose boss in its lovely roof, a small coloured figure of Henry the Sixth crowned in a scarlet robe and ermine mantle, a Spanish altar frontal, a processional cross by Bainbridge Reynolds, and a picture of the Madonna and Child for the reredos, painted about 1480 and brought from a convent in Westphalia; it shows the Madonna offering cherries to the Child, and was given to the chapel by Mr C. R. Ashbee, the well-known architect.

Rich stone doorways open to the two eastern chantries, Edward the Confessor’s on the north side, and All Souls on the south. The Confessor’s has a fine medley of old glass, some old chairs, and a Genoese altar frontal richly embroidered early in the 18th century. All Souls Chapel, now dedicated to the King’s men who fell in the Great War, was that of Provost Argentein; his brass portrait of 1508 is on the floor and the names of the Fallen are on the walls. There is a delightful wooden figure of St Nicholas with uplifted hand, and at his feet are the three children he miraculously rescued from the boiling cauldron. In the old glass we see a Jesse Tree, a ship, saints and donors, and a unicorn resting its head in the Madonna’s lap, a medieval symbolism. In the chantry joining the Confessor’s is the oak pulpit from which Hugh Latimer preached the Reformation in St Edward’s church, Cambridge; from it the University sermon is preached in the chapel every year on Lady Day. On the marble altar are beautiful crosses, and the fine bronze candlesticks are over ten feet high.

But this recital of so much that makes King’s Chapel famous does not exhaust its treasures, nor can we convey a just idea of its splendour. King’s Chapel is King’s to the world. To the University it is the unique ornament of Cambridge, and of a college which has striven to preserve it and to make itself and its surroundings worthy of this proud possession. The first design of its founder for a college of which the chapel was to be a complementary part was never carried out, nor was the later design by James Gibbs (the architect of the Senate House in the 18th century) for a four-sided court. The spreading lawn of the Great Court, with the fountain crowned by Henry Hugh Armstead’s bronze statue of Henry the Sixth, is only second in extent to the immense lawn sloping down to the river and the bridge. Facing the chapel are the 19th century buildings, where the ornament follows the Tudor model with the kingly arms and crests. Lofty and spacious, the hall is splendid with its stone screen and the roof with great pendant bosses in colour and gold, walls panelled with linenfold, windows panelled in oak, and portraits of the college’s famous men - among them Sir Robert Walpole, Horace Walpole, Henry Bradshaw (by Herkomer), Thomas Ashton (by Sir Joshua Reynolds), and Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s master spy. Behind the hall and towards the river are newer buildings and courts.

The earliest buildings of King’s, known as the Old Court, stood north of the Chapel, and served as the home of the college till 1829, when they were sold to the University, their remains being absorbed into what are known now as the Old Schools. A splendid fragment of the Old Court which has survived the many changes of time is the gateway-tower of Henry the Sixth.


Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Southery, Norfolk

Old St Mary, ruin, is one of the poorest ruined churches I've come across. Ivy clad and blocked off with an ugly chain link fence, little remains of the nave - a disappointment.

St Mary, locked, keyholder listed, I found, rather against my better judgement, strangely attractive, but not enough to go in search of the key.

ST MARY. NE of the present church is the ruin of the old one. Nave and chancel. The walls stand up, but there are no details. When Ladbroke drew about 1823, the church was still complete. It had a wooden bell-turret. The new church is of 1858 and was designed by Higham & Robinson (GR). It is a neat building of small brown stones with a broach spire. - PLATE. Elizabethan Chalice.

Old St Mary (1)

St Mary (2)

Another one Mee missed.

Hilgay, Norfolk

If I had not looked up All Saints, locked, no keyholder, on Google earth before visiting I don't think I would have found it hidden away behind a long, and cooling, avenue of lime trees. The setting is delightful, full of interesting headstones, but the building less so. It's possibly the hardest to photograph church I've visited, surrounded by mature trees, Not only is it padlocked shut, it has an uncared for and unloved feel about it.

ALL SAINTS. An avenue of lime trees leads to the church. This consists of a medieval body severely restored by Street in 1869-70 and a grey-brick tower of 1794. The body of the church is of small brown stone and was low in Ladbrooke’s time (c.1825). Street gave the nave a steep-pitched roof dwarfing the tower (which perhaps he intended to replace later). At the E end he added a chancel extending as far E as earlier foundations went. That early chancel must however have been abolished early; for inside, where Street left what he had found, there is a two-bay arcade of relatively low and narrow arches towards a former S chapel and a wide and tall two-bay arcade towards a former S aisle. But the (very wide) Perp aisle, as it is, runs to the E end of the S chapel. It has its original roof to that extent, a coarse roof with arched braces and some tracery above the inner brace. The arcade seems to be of the C14, the remodelling of the C15. - PULPIT. Of stone, probably by Street. - SCREEN. Simple, of one-light divisions, now in the tower arch. - MONUMENT. Henry Hawe d. 1592. Tablet with small kneeling figures.

Lych gate

Headstone (8)

Headstone (3)

HILGAY. The Fens are at its doorstep, but its narrow street climbs the hill from the River Wissey flowing to the Ouse. Into its view across the river comes the 17th-century Snowre Hall, fascinating with secret chambers, and having a link with Charles Stuart, who is said to have sheltered here before his surrender at Newark.

A lovely avenue of 60 tall limes with holly trees and holly hedges, and a lych gate at each end, brings us to the churchyard. The stumpy brick tower just topping the nave comes from the 18th century, and from it George Manby is said to have practised firing his life-line. The 14th-century nave has a leaning arcade of two tall and two low arches, and the chancel is made new. The modern chancel screen has a vine cornice, and old tracery remains in the screen of the chapel where, on a fine little alabaster wall monument, Henry Hawe is kneeling with his wife and daughter at a prayer desk. Henry was lord of the manor and died in 1592. One of the 17th-century rectors was Phineas Fletcher, who wrote The Purple Island (Isle of Man), in imitation of Spenser’s Faery Queene. The poem is an allegory surveying the vices and virtues of Man; it represents the body as an island, with the bones as foundations, the veins as books, and so on. Some of it has power, but it is forgotten.

Wood Hall, the one fine old house here, was once a grange of the abbots of Ramsey, but we remember it best as the home of one whose  invention was an inestimable boon to mankind. He was George William Manby, a school friend of Nelson, and inventor of the rocket apparatus for saving life from shipwreck. Born at Denver close by, he came here to live when his father became lord of the manor, and when he died (at his house at Yarmouth) they brought him to rest in this churchyard. On the stone marking his grave are carved a ship, an anchor, and his mortar for firing a line to a wreck. His memorial, next to one to his parents, says that his is a name to be remembered as long as there can be a stranded ship, and the inscription ends with the curious words, The public should have paid this tribute.

The Manbys were a martial family. The father, who had served in the marines, died a captain of Welsh Fusiliers. William’s brother Thomas was a naval captain with a thrilling career, during which he experienced the vicissitudes of the tropics and the Arctic and wrecked his constitution.

George William was at school with Nelson. A versatile and scholarly man, he wrote on antiquarian and topographical subjects, but a pamphlet on the expected invasion of Napoleon attracted the notice of Whitehall, and he was made master of the barracks at Yarmouth. Here he was shocked by the wreck of a Government ship close in shore, with scores of men perishing before his eyes. There existed no means by which those looking on could save them, and the tragedy set Manby thinking. He had known his subject for years, for as a boy he had fired a rope over Downham Church, and he now adapted his schoolboy idea by rocketing a rope to a ship. Within a year the life-line was first fired in earnest for the assistance of the wrecked brig Elizabeth, and the device was widely adopted. Manby introduced improvements into the building of lifeboats. Trained to war and the destroying of life, he excelled in saving it.

Fordham, Norfolk

St Mary, open, is, despite being in terrible internal condition, a delight. If it hadn't been for the sign promoting a service in September, I'd have guessed that it was either redundant or close to being so.

ST MARY. Of carstone. Nave and chancel and C19 bellcote. A W tower seems to have been demolished. The S aisle also was pulled down, but the arcade can still be seen. It looks Dec.

Chancel arch (2)


Poppyhead (2)

Mee missed it.

Denver, Norfolk

I'm fairly sure that St Mary is normally kept locked with no keyholder listed [my only evidence for this supposition is the notice welcoming us to drop in for tea/coffee every Wednesday morning 10.015 til 11.15am, the yale lock and a general air of lockedness] but when I visited the last person in hadn't shut the door properly. To be honest I wouldn't have missed much had the door been shut.

ST MARY. Of carstone. Late C13 W tower, the bell-openings with Y-tracery. On the S side Y-tracery as well, but also large straight-headed Perp windows. Perp chancel arch with concave-sided polygonal responds, the outer details of the chancel all renewed. Niches l. and r. of the E window. Angle piscina inside a S window. N arcade and N aisle of 1868. Nave roof with fine heraldic cresting along the wall-plates. - STALLS. Some bench ends with poppy-heads re-used. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, 1690; Paten and Flagon, 1702.


Samuel Agger 1803

Monument (1)

DENVER. The Fens are very near it. A rough road past the windmill points the way to them and leads to Denver Sluice, where the waters of this powerful and unaccommodating neighbour are kept in check. Sir John Rennie who built Waterloo Bridge constructed the powerful lock after weaker ones had failed, and, though it is not beautiful like the bridge, the bridge is gone while the Sluice endures. It is capable of discharging the waters from 800,000 acres of land in time of flood.

Denver Hall has a claim to beauty and to fame, for in the fine old brick house, with quaint patterned chimneys, turrets, stepped gables, dormers, and a many-windowed front, was born Captain George Manby, who went to school with Nelson and long survived him. Three years after Trafalgar he invented the rocket apparatus for use between ship and shore which has saved more sailors from wrecks than were lost in the battle. He sleeps in Hilgay churchyard. This is not the only gift that has come out of Denver, for Dr Robert Brady, Court Physician to Charles the Second, was born here, and bequeathed all his Denver estates to Gonville and Caius Colleges at Cambridge, of which he had been forty years Master.

A stone commemorates him in the church which stands near the hall. Its walls of dark rough stone are broken by the grey of 15th-century windows, and the 13th and 14th-century tower has had no spire since the great gale of 1895. The porch, like the rest of the old work, comes from late in the 15th century, but the sedilia and the piscina are 600 years old. On the small green outside is a cross in memory of the men who did not come back.