Monday, 24 May 2010

The Swaffhams, Cambridgeshire, Pt 2

Having had an orgiastic photo session at St Mary I was returning to the main road when I spotted a silver spire and decided to have a quick look at Swaffham Prior - which was a slight mistake but only in terms of making me late home for my youngest's return from school.

As I drew closer I became convinced that I was looking at a water tower rather than a church but carried on in order to ascertain and record what the church, if any, was like. The village is pretty but the jewel is the two churches of St Mary, and of St Cyriac and St Julitta - both have octagonal towers which was new to me, as was two churches built cheek by jowl in the same location. St Cyriac is redundant, and locked, with a spartan interior whilst St Mary is in use, open and full of interest. Monuments, brasses, hatchments, floor tablets removed to the walls and lovely glass.

I am so glad I followed a whim and discovered a site with two such wonderful churches.

Two large churches stand here in one churchyard, both dramatically raised above the present street. One is complete except for the upper part of the tower, the other has only a complete medieval tower, and the rest is post-medieval and derelict.

ST MARY. The thrill and the surprise of the church is its tower, Norman clearly in its lower square as well as its first upper stage which is octagonal. So there was an octagonal tower in Cambridgeshire long before the Ely Octagon was designed. The shafted windows in the main axes with roll-mouldings in the arches are unmistakably Norman. So is the enormously deep tower arch inside into the nave. The W porch is, needless to say, a Perp addition. It had originally a fan-vault. The exterior of the tower is specially impressive, because it is continued in an E.E. octagonal stage with lancet windows (with surrounds of two slight chamfers), and then goes sixteen-sided instead of eight-sided in an upper stage the top parts of which are in ruins. The tower looks fine with its ragged skyline. It was struck by lightning in the C18. Inside, owing to that calamity, the tower is even more dramatic, open right to the top roof. One can see that the Norman octagon was reached by means of squinches. What is puzzling in the tower is the two pointed arches N and S, cut by the heavy Norman E arch, and the springing of two separate C13 ribs on corbels from the SE corner. So there must have been quite a low entrance room. - The nave arcades of four bays are Perp of a general lozenge shape with shafts towards the arches carrying castellated capitals, and otherwise mouldings without capitals. Above the arches runs a castellated frieze, and thin shafts reach up between the clerestory windows. The clerestory is also Perp and externally of flint, while the aisles are built of a brown stone in small blocks of brick size. The chancel is of flint and stone and almost entirely by Sir Arthur Blomfield (1878). - STAINED GLASS. A queer series from St Cyriac, designed by T. F. Curtis and made by Ward & Hughes c. 1910-20. Many smallish scenes under Gothic canopies. Amongst them Mount Pilatus in Switzerland, Wicken Fen, a trench from the First World War, and the Statue of Liberty. - BRASSES. None of special interest. Richard Wates d. 1515 and wife (18 in. figures); William Wates d. 1521 and wife (21 in. figures); Husband and wife, c. 1530 (17 in. figures); Robert Chambers d. 1638, in top boots; John Tothyll d. 1645 and wife (13 in. figures).

ST CYRIAC. Perp W tower. The rest of the church was rebuilt 1809-11 in yellow brick and in the Gothic style. That building however, has been given up and is left to decay as best it can. The Perp tower, however, remains: diagonal buttresses, W window with four-centred head and intersected tracery; then the tower turns into an octagonal shape with buttresses on corbels. Flushwork parapet.

St Mary
St Cyriac and St Jullita

SWAFFHAM PRIOR. It has two windmills and two churches. One windmill is working, the other has done with work; one church has a nave but no steeple, the other has a tower but no people. The two churches stand in one churchyard, side by side. The 18th century nave of the church of St Cyriac and his mother Julitta is derelict, but its 15th century tower still stands, its top with eight sides seeming to overhang the square base, an illusion arising from the fact that the pilasters rise from carved corbels. St Cyriac's serves as a place of worship no more, but its bells call the people to St Mary's, whose nave has been in ruins but is now itself again. St Mary's own tower, once the model for St Cyriac's, begins square, rises to an octagon and then to a lantern with 16 sides. The lower part is Norman lit by round-headed windows, the top stage is 13th century with pointed lancets, and then comes an abrupt end where the steeple was pulled down after being struck by lightning. From inside its arch, six feet thick, we can see that the tower is now but a shell, with a quaint turret stair and a medley of medieval glass in one window. The medieval arcades and their embattled capitate have been patched up. The old font has been brought back from a garden rockery. Some coffin stones have found sanctuary here, and five portrait brasses have survived from three centuries. The oldest shows John Tothyll of 1463, with his wife and dog. Next comes Richard Water with his wife; then William Water and his wife and seven sons; then a charming couple of 1530; and last Robert Chambers, in the top boots and long cloak fashionable in Charles Stuart's days.

Belonging to our own day is the pleasant chancel screen with a vaulted loft and the charming gallery of stained glass, every window with six scenes, original in conception and softly coloured. Two windows sing the hymn of praise in scenes of all Creation, the volcano and the glacier, light and darkness, the shadow of the Moon eclipsing the Sun, and the sea with whales. Some may recognise among the scenes Sedge Fen at Wicken, others Mount Pilatus. Edward the Seventh is here among a group of natives. The windows in the north aisle tell the story of the war, the Zeppelins and the aeroplanes, tanks and guns, men fighting and dying, munition makers and ambulance men, and peace at last, with the men back at their work in the countryside. Two swords hanging on the wall recall wars of other days. With one Colonel Allix, descended from Huguenot refugees, fought at Waterloo in the British Army; the other belonged to an officer who was with Lord Roberts in one of the dramatic scenes of the Boer War, when Cronje surrendered.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

More Pillboxes

In June 1940, with the Germans expected to invade, the department for Fortifications and Works (FW3) was established by the War Office with the express purpose of designing a range of pillboxes and implementing a series of defensive stoplines across Britain. The objective was to break England into a series of small fields surrounded by a hedge of anti-tank obstacles which was defensively strong using the terrain available. The idea was that should an enemy force break into an enclosure the pillboxes would hold that force so that our armoured units and troops could attack and destroy the enemy. The pill boxes were designed so that they could defend from either direction (i.e. front and back). The stoplines were continuous anti-tank obstacles reinforced with pillboxes and other prepared defensive positions.

The GHQ Line ran through Essex from Canvey Island to Great Chesterford before heading north to Yorkshire. Obviously most pillboxes were faced eastward, although some were placed facing west in case of a rear attack.

The FW3 pillboxes were basically flat pack constructions which were adapted for local needs leading to variants around the country but the predominant styles were:

Type 22 - a regular hexagonal with embrasures for rifles or light machine guns in five sides and an entrance in the sixth.The walls were approximately six feet long and were, generally, built to the bullet proof width of 12 inches although tank proof variants of 40 inches depth occur. They have an internal Y or T shaped anti-ricochet wall which also supported the roof. This is, apparently, the most common extant pillbox type although on my part of the GHQ Line the 24 seems prevalent.

Type 23 - a rectangle with one half roofed and the other open with embrasures for rifles or light machine guns in the three available walls of the roofed half. The open section was used for anti aircraft units such as a mounted Bren or Lewis gun. They were about eight foot wide by sixteen feet long and usually built to bullet proof standard.

Type 24 - an irregular hexagonal, with the back wall the longest (normally about fourteen foot)with an entrance and embrasures on each side of the doorway. The other five walls are approximately seven to eight feet long and each have an embrasure for rifles or light machine guns. They had an internal Y shaped anti-ricochet wall which also supported the roof. Generally built to bullet proof standard. This and the Type 28 seem to be most prevalent in Essex.

Type 25 - an eight foot diameter circular design built to bullet proof standard with three embrasures. The 25 is very rare - I think I've turned into an anorak because I'd love to see one of these, although arguably I already am one since I pillbox spot (although in my defence it's good exercise for the dogs)!

Type 26 - a ten foot square with a doorway in one wall and embrasures in the other three, and sometimes a fourth in the entrance wall, built to bullet proof standard.

Type 27 - the most varied of the FW3 designs, it may be an octagonal or hexagonal in plan with walls between 9 ft 9 in and 11 ft 6 in. The outer walls being 36 inches thick and have embrasures suitable for rifles or light machine guns on each facet. Its defining characteristic is a central well open to the sky that could be used as a light anti-aircraft position.

Type 28 -  almost square in design with chamfered forward corners and typically twenty by nineteen feet walls which were built to shell proof spec - normally about 42 inches. The large forward facing embrasure housed either a 2 pounder anti-tank gun or a Hotchkiss 6 pounder. The two side walls normally have smaller embrasures for rifles or light machine guns and the rear wall has a large doorway for allowing the gun to be sited.

Type 28A - is a larger, and more commonly found, variant which includes an infantry chamber  with a front facing embrasure for rifles or light machine guns which resolved the Type 28's vulnerability to a head on infantry attack.

Type 28A Twin - a further variant with two gun embrasures on adjacent walls and two infantry chambers giving variable fields of fire to the position.

Vickers machine gun emplacement - a fourteen foot square with chamfered forward corners built to shellproof spec, normally the entrance has a freestanding blast wall. The front wall has a large embrasure and the side walls have embrasures for rifles or light machine guns. There were no internal blast walls but rather a concrete table for mounting the Vickers. Normally positioned in pairs and often dug in for extra protection.

The section of the GHQ line near me starts in south east Great Dunmow and runs north west through Little and Great Easton, Tilty, Broxted, Chickney, Widdington, Debden and Newport. At Newport the line turns more northerly, running through Wendens Ambo and Audley End before ending in Littlebury (from Littlebury it continues to Great Chesterford and thence, as said, to Yorkshire).

Type 24 Variant camouflaged by a barn at Tilty

Type 28A Tilty, Essex

Type 28A Tilty, Essex

Type 24 Variant, Tilty, Essex

 Type 28A Great Chesterford, Essex

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Swaffhams, Cambridgeshire Part 1

In two words - effing awesome; I would have never stumbled across these three Churches unless I had been unable to find Landwade, which was the intent of my original journey, and having failed I returned home and then decided to check out the Swaffhams and Dullingham - Dullingham lost out to a Swaffhams lovefest (I'll go to Dullingham at a later date but am sure it wont impact as much as the Swaffhams - look at the name!).

As an exterior experience St Mary, Swaffham Bulbeck, is interesting but slightly run of the mill. An early C13th century tower - lancet style - built of clunch and limestone looms over a later nave and chancel of the C14th with later aisles added.

The exterior corbels are varied and interesting and the surrounding houses are lovely - but it is the bench carvings that make this church truly exceptional. Dowsing, or his supporters, destroyed many of the carvings but many remain and, to me, set this church apart from many others. The C15th benches are capped (or perhaps ended? Although Mee calls them poppy-heads and arm-rests) with dogs, hawks, lions, camels, whales, a hare and fantastical beasts like dragons, wyverns and mermaids. Presumably the figures are allegorical, representing both good and evil. Sadly many have have been defaced or totally removed but enough remain to excite interest.

ST MARY. E.E. W tower with angle buttresses and lancets (double-chamfered mouldings; no capitals). The rest mostly C14. Outside, the N aisle windows come first, with early C14 forms. Then the chancel E window of five lights, chancel side windows of three lights, and the S aisle windows. They all have the flowing tracery of the second quarter of the century. Perp (and of flint - the rest is clunch) the clerestory. Inside, the tower arch and chancel arch are typical early C14. The arcades of four bays have octagonal piers and arches with one straight and one hollow chamfer. In the chancel a group of one recess and three Sedilia goes well with the tracery of the windows. Ogee arches, crocketed and topped by a fleuron frieze. Perp and contemporary with the clerestory the nave roof with flat arched braces, some tracery above them, and bosses. - BENCHES with beasts (bull, lion, camel, wyvern etc; also a mermaid) instead of poppyheads. - CHEST. C15, North Italian. The front has rather defaced shallow carvings, but the carving inside the lid is clear: Crucifixion in the middle, with Signs of the Evangelists at the corners, Assumption on the l, Resurrection on the r. The compositions are based on engravings.

A dogfish, I think?

I think this a fishdog
Arthur Mee says:

SWAFFHAM BULBECK. It has a lovely corner with cream cottages roofed with thatch and pantiles, an oast-house among long barns and a farm with walls made up from the ruins of a nunnery founded by a Norman who gave his name to this place and whose family may have bequeathed to it its greatest treasure. The treasure is something we have rarely seen, a magnificent cedar-wood chest made by some Italian craftsman five centuries ago as a travelling altar. Its lid is carved inside so that it can open to form a reredos and the carvings show the three crosses on Calvary with the multitude pressing about them on horseback and on foot, another scene of the Resurrection and one of the Assumption. The front of the chest has a frieze of angels and Old Testament scenes.

The church which houses this treasure is mostly built of chalk that has stood 600 years, with a tower a century older still. The beautiful medieval windows, crowned with a clerestory, fill it with light, so that we can examine in detail the quaint creatures carved on the poppy-heads and arm-rests of the 15th century benches—birds and animals, camels and mermaids and griffins, one fish caught swallowing another, and fishes with feet and heads of animals. The beautiful chancel has tracery in its windows like butterfly wings and an elaborate sedilia near which is an old coffin, its broken lid carved with a cross.

One of the vicars here was a remarkable man who lived through all but seven years of last century, known for 71 years as Leonard Jenyns and for 22 as Leonard Blomefield. He had something to do with the way the career of Charles Darwin went, for he was a first-rate naturalist and was offered a post as such on the voyage of the Beagle. As it would have taken him from the village for five years he could not go, and recommended Darwin in his stead. When Darwin came home Blomefield wrote the volume on the fishes Darwin had discovered, and many walks had they together in the countryside, observing life in aspects common to them both. He was a disciple and an editor of Gilbert White and could almost recite White's Selborne by heart. His own chief book was a volume of British vertebrates, but he wrote a charming autobiography and many scientific papers. He lived till he was 93 and was buried at Bath, having seen his younger friend Darwin laid to rest in the Abbey.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Debden, Essex

St Mary the Virgin is truly stunning not least because you have no idea what to expect until you get out of your car! It is secluded from the village and reached via a narrow lane; surrounded by trees it is practically invisible until the last minute. The church dates from the 13th century with major , to my, untrained eye, sympathetic, renovations in the 18th.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN AND ALL SAINTS. The interest of this church is connected with R. M. T. Chiswell who added the E chapel in 1793 and the Font in 1786. The church itself has C13 arcades of four bays with circular piers with moulded capitals and moulded arches. Only on the S side the two first capitals are enriched by upright leaves. The S aisle windows are Dec; C14 also the S porch. The W side has no tower but a front design which looks the idea of Gothic which the period about 1800 had. So it no doubt also belongs to Mr Chiswell’s time. To the same time the pinnacles must be attributed. For his E chapel Mr Chiswell got John Carter, the celebrated antiquary, to provide the design. It is an octagonal structure on the pattern of such a chapter house as York, connected with the church by a broad passage. The material is white brick, and all the detail of tracery outside (E window) and inside is of papery thinness. The chapel has a ribbed plaster vault, the passage timber arches with thin pendants. Inside the chapel is the elaborate MONUMENT of R. M. T. Chiswell  d. 1797, a tomb-chest with foiled decoration in the style of the C15 under a sumptuous arch in the style of c. 1300. Two other minor MONUMENTS in the current idiom of Late Georgian epitaphs are by King of Bath. - Large monument to William Burhill, d. 1703. It is signed Thorne (R. Gunnis). - FONT. 1789 3 octagonal of Coade stone in an elaborate and crisp Neo-Perp, with foiled panels; against the stem minute figures. The design was provided by R. Holland. Of Coade stone also the two medallions with quatrefoils outside the E chapel. - STAINED GLASS. In one S window heraldic glass evidently also late C18. The church stands all on its own in the beautifully landscaped grounds by the made lake. The Hall (by Holland, 1796) was demolished  1936.

Chiswell Arms

 Muilman Arms

Trench Arms

Exterior arms

Exterior arms

Exterior arms

Holland Memorial

Sadly the interior is a disappointment and doesn't live up to the, frankly, stunning exterior and wonderful setting - despite this I'm placing it as number two behind Saffron Walden and Thaxted as joint number one in North Essex.

And it has loads of snowdrops - which has to be good.

Arthur Mee:

DEBDEN. It is rich in old houses and farms, some Tudor and some 17th century. Scot's Farm at Hamperden End has in one of its rooms a lovely frieze with lions' faces. Mole Hall, its moat still wet, has three original chimneys, a fine barn, and two timber-framed outhouses with oak staircases. Amberden Hall, some way off, also has a moat; and New Amberden Hall, for all its name, is 17th century. The great house is Debden Hall, which stands by a lake in a splendid park of 200 acres; it was built in the 18th century, and is said to be the successor of one that stood here in the Con­queror's day.

The church of this beautiful village is in a perfect setting, reached through a field rich in Spanish chestnuts. It has seen many changes, the 18th century having given it a new chancel and bell-turret; but it has kept a 14th century doorway by which we come to a nave with 13th century arcades. One of the aisles is 15th century; the other, with its porch, is a hundred years older. There is a Tudor chest bound with iron, a window with the Chiswell arms, and an elaborate modern altar tomb to Trench Chiswell, who rebuilt the chancel after it had been destroyed by the falling of the old tower. A tablet tells of Harold Fisher, a Haileybury boy who helped to defend Ladysmith, won the DSO, and lived on to die for us in the Great War.
Flickr set.

Clavering, Essex

SS Mary & Clement could, probably justifiably, be kept locked but I've always found it open - for which I'm truly thankful since this is a fascinating church with lots of interest.

ST MARY AND ST CLEMENT. A church of pebble-rubble, all Perp and all embattled. The W tower has angle buttresses, the aisles, clerestory and S porch three-light windows. Inside, the N and S arcades have curiously detailed tall, slim, lozenge-shaped piers. They have a thin demi-shaft on a semi-polygonal base and towards the (four-centred) arches semi-polygonal shafts. The roofs are all original  low-pitched and have a number of original head corbels. The nave-roof has tie-beams, the slightly earlier chancel has not. - FONT. Octagonal, of Purbeck marble, with two shallow blank pointed arches to each side, c. 1200. - PULPIT. Elizabethan, with two tiers of the typical short broad flatly ornamented arches. - BENCHES. Plain in the S aisle, with traceried ends in the N aisle. — SCREEN, with S broad, tall, one-light openings, cusped and crocketed ogee heads and panel tracery above. - STAINED GLASS. Much of the C15 in the N windows ; probably Norwich school. - MONUMENTS. Efligy of a Knight in chain-mail with coif and mail-coat reaching nearly to the knees. Purbeck marble, early C13. - Brass to one Songar and wife, c. 1480 (17-in. figures). - Brass of 1591 with kneeling figures. - Brass of 1593. - Margaret Barley d. 1653 and Mary Barley d.1658, both wives of the same man, almost identical, with frontal busts in oval niches between columns. Attributed by Mrs Esdaile to one of the Marshalls. - Haynes Barlee d. 1696, erected in 1747. Elegant frontal bust with decoration of a cool and classical style.
CLAVERING CASTLE. Remains of the site N of the church, near a handsome gabled C17 house called THE BURY. The site is rectangular with a ditch 75 ft wide and 18 ft deep. There probably have been stone buildings in the castle.

Arthur Mee:

CLAVERING. Scattered about a brook which feeds the River Stort it has, in a meadow by the churchyard, an acre of mounds with a dry moat round them, believed to have been the Roland's Castle in which Normans arriving before the Conqueror fortified themselves after incurring the anger of their Saxon hosts. On the hill is a windmill which has lost its sails.

The Grange, with brickwork between its timbers, stands in spacious grounds, and there are delightful overhanging cottages, one said to have been a 15th century almshouse. Next to it is a shop with carved Jacobean woodwork and wall-paintings of religious subjects. The clerestoried 14th century church has its original porch, and two fine arches in the tower and the chancel, supported by weird heads, are balanced by dignified nave arcades. The oldest possessions of the church are the 700-year-old bowl of the font and a stone figure of a knight in 13th century mail, lying in a recess. On a wall-tablet is Haynes Barlee, of grave features and curly hair, with his third wife, and to keep him company is a tablet in coloured marbles with a bust of his first wife, several children, and some skulls, and a bust of his second wife, "by whom he had a very plentiful fortune." There is another tablet in memory of the wife of William Wales, the gallant astronomer who sailed with Captain Cook and saw him die. He was one of that broken-hearted band who came home with the news a year later, and he settled down as mathematical master at Christ's Hospital. He took great interest in the condition of Society and was one of the first to conceive a census of the English people; but he found so much religious hostility to the idea that he gave up his researches. There are brass portraits of Thomas and Ursula Welbore and their six children in Elizabethan costume, and on another brass are three girls left motherless by Joan Smith in the 16th century.

The church is rich in treasures of 15th century glass, with scenes from the life of St Catherine, angels, Madonnas, the head of Christ crowned with golden thorns, and St Cecilia. All the roofs are 15th century, that of the chancel supported by finely sculptured heads, and a bishop and a company of grotesques sustaining the roof of the nave, which has fantastic bosses carved on its beams and seraphim watching from the sides. One roof has bosses of musicians playing, a priest in his robes, and an angel with an organ.

The high 15th century screen has panels of saints drawn in black lines on a white ground. There are over a score of medieval benches, two Tudor chests, and two 15th century chairs. But the masterpiece of craftsmanship here is the Jacobean oak pulpit, which, set on the stem of its medieval predecessor, is carved on each of its seven panels and has delicate inlay work of other woods.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Chrishall, Essex

I ran out of time when I visited Chrishall - I had to get back for the youngest - I'll re-visit and do interiors. The south side of the churchyard has been more or less cleared of headstones and the north side is predominately modern. Fantastic battlements though.

I returned the other day, October 2010, and borrowed the key (after having to explain my reason to a deeply suspicious keyholder). For the de la Pole monument and brass alone it was worth the trip!

HOLY TRINITY. Quite a large church, on a hill, and on its own The material is pebble-rubble. C13 remains are the responds of the tower arch and of an arch at the E end of the N arcade. The rest is all Perp, the diagonal buttresses, and the flint and stone chequered battlements of the W tower (spire taken down in 1914), the battlements nearly all round the church (not N aisle) and most of the windows, and also the aisle arcades. These have an elongated semi-polygonal section without capitals and only towards the arches small semi-polygonal shafts with capitals. - FONT. Plain, of c. 1300. - PAINTING Large copy of Rubens’ Adoration of the Magi of 1624 at Antwerp. -  PLATE. Cup and Paten on foot of 1686. - MONUMENTS. Effigy of a Lady in a recess with depressed segmented arch and battlements; late C14. - Brass to Sir John de la Pole and wife, c. 1380. Figures, 5 ft tall, under a tripartite arch with thin side buttresses, an uncommonly important and satisfying piece. - Brass to a woman, c. 1450 (12 ins. long). - Brass to a man and wife, c. 1480 (18 ins. long; good).

Arthur Mee again:

CHRISHALL. It is charming with thatched and timbered cottages 300 years old, a gabled farmhouse of Shakespeare's day and a 15th century inn. It has, too, an ancient site that leaves us guessing, a mound surrounded by a moat still with water in it. Standing finely near a group of white cottages is the battlemented church, built by 15th century men who kept the thick Norman walls at the base of the tower, but made a fine new tower arch. On her tomb lies a stone lady with a perky dog at her feet; but the chief pride of the church must be in its brasses, one magnificent indeed. It shows John and Joan de la Pole of the 14th century, and, with its rich triple canopy, is one of the finest brasses in this country. John, wearing armour and a tunic, is hand in hand with Joan, who, with her pretty headdress and close-fitting gown, is a very captivating lady. At their feet are a dog and a smiling lion. Two other brasses show 15th century people, a lady with a high waist and a veil, and a man and his wife kneeling. For 600 years children have been baptised at this font; and there is a 16th century roof with Tudor roses over the north aisle, a fine modern kingpost roof in the chancel, pews with woodwork 400 years old, and lovely carvings of kneeling women.

Flickr set.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Chickney, Essex

St Mary was the first CCT church I encountered and immediately became my bell-weather church for Essex - a stunning location, lonely not to say isolated, a beautiful building and, in my experience, always kept open; simply put outstanding.

ST MARY. Saxon nave with two original double-splayed windows. Chancel with small E.E. lancets. The chancel arch is about a hundred years later. Its imposts are exceedingly curious; they are regarded by the Royal Commission as C19, but are not necessarily so. Pretty two-light squint to the l. of the arch. - FONT. C14 with buttressed stem and bowl with deep crocketed ogee arches with shields in the spandrels. - FONT COVER. C16, pyramidal, with embattled foot, and crockets, but certain leaf motifs which look Elizabethan. - PLATE. Small Cup with baluster stem, c. 1630-40.

Arthur Mee:

CHICKNEY. Here, its walls askew, stands one of the oldest and most remarkable churches in Essex. With a couple of farms and a cottage or two, it is all there is of Chickney.

The church stands in an oval churchyard - a shape loved by the Saxons - and is much as the Saxon builders left it. Here are their nave and chancel, the chancel having been lengthened in the 13th century and the little tower added a century later. Stirring it is to look at these walls and feel that they were here when the Conqueror set foot in Sussex. There are doubly splayed Saxon windows in the nave, with doorways of the 14th century; and in the chancel two Saxon windows keep company with two of the 13th century. On two of the windows on the south side are several old scratch dials. The kingpost roof of the nave is 600 years old, and so is the chancel arch, by which is a curiously shaped peephole through which the altar can be seen. The 19th century restorers came upon the altar stone set in the chancel by the 13th century men, and here it is in position again, with its five consecration crosses. A splendid font to which the babies have been coming for 500 years is carved with canopies and angels and shields.

Close by stands a 17th century house which has kept some of its old panelling; and about a mile away is Sibley's Farm, built in the 15th century, a gabled house with overhanging storeys. It has a Tudor staircase, Tudor fireplaces, a Tudor barn, and one of the oldest dovecots in Essex.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Bush End, Essex

St John the Evangelist is a tiny church on the edge of Hatfield Forest. The church was built in 1860; is in the early English style; and consists of nave and chancel, with a tower. Despite being Victorian built I really liked it.

Neither Pevsner nor Mee recorded it.

Bures, Suffolk

ST MARY. A stately church. Late C13 to early C14 tower with Dec bell-openings. Tomb-recess in the outer N Wall. Also C14 the tower arch towards the nave with three chamfers dying into the imposts. Inside the tower springers of a projected vault with fine faces and grotesques. The tower originally carried a spire. C14 N porch of big timbers. C14 arcades of three bays (octagonal piers, double-chamfered arches). Perp aisles and clerestory. Ornate Perp S chapel (Waldegrave Chapel), founded in 1514. Brick, with flushwork battlements to the E. Big windows, two to the S. In the buttress between them small priest’s doorway. The piers of the arcade towards the chancel are square with four half-columns with fillets. Of about the same time the big founder’s MONUMENT in the chancel and the elegantly decorated doorway next to it. The doorway has fleurons, the tomb a chest with shields in cusped foils. On the lid indents of brasses. Arch above and big angel corbels l. and r. Early C16 S porch of brick, the side windows with brick tracery. The inner doorway, however, belongs to the C14 work. -  FONT. Octagonal, Perp. Stem with four tracery panels and at the angles the four Signs of the Evangelists. Bowl with panels with demi-figures of angels. On the shields the arms of England, de Vere, Fitzralph, Mortimer, de Cornard, Waldegrave, de Bures, and Mortimer de Clare. - STOUP. Inside the S porch. On two male demi-figures, one a bishop. - SOUTH DOOR. With tracery and a trail border. - PLATE. Almsdish 1734; Cup and Paten 1740. - MONUMENTS. For the chancel N side see above. - In a N window on the sill beautiful oaken effigy of a Knight, cross-legged, early C14. - In the S chapel tomb-chest with shields on lozenges in square panels. The top rises like a lectern towards the window sill. Indents of brasses on it. - Also in the S chapel small tomb-chest with shields in cusped foils, and free-standing monument to Sir William Waldegrave d. 1613 and his wife d. 1581. Big square base and recessed square top with coupled columns and pediments. The only figures are the row of small kneeling children on the N side.

Arthur Mee says: 

BURES. A little town in the Stour valley with old houses and still older church, it has seen the crowning of a half-forgotten king and the travels of a never-to-be-forgotten queen. One of its old homes, quaint little Maynscoft, by the church, was built in Shakespeare's time; another has an old wooden wall-plate carved with men and beasts; and it was to Smallbridge Hall a mile away that Queen Elizabeth came on two of her journeys through Suffolk, the house being new in her day.

Ever since the 13th century the flint church tower has cast it reflection on the quiet waters of the Stour and the wide nave aisles have been here just as long. From the 14th century comes the chancel, and from the 15th the two fine porches, one of wood, the other of brick sheltering an old door adorned with foliage tracery. The 500-year-old font has angels holding gaily-paint heraldic shields. The south chapel was built in 1514 as a memorial to the Waldegraves, and in it a century later Sir William Waldegrave came to join his Elizabeth. Their tall stone tomb has columns porting a pediment, below being a painted coat-of-arms, and little kneeling figures of Sir William and Elizabeth with six sons and four daughters gradually diminishing in size. The parents are privileged to kneel on cushions, but the rest have to be content with a length of matting. The boys have baggy breeches; the girls wear high collars and sashes. Within the altar rails is the huge stone tomb of an earlier Sir William Waldegrave, and in one of the aisles when we called was the oak figure of a knight of Henry the Eighth's day; he is in armour with his feet on a lion.

Alan Pettitt, who sang in the choir for half a century, has rightly been given a musical memorial, for in 1921 three bells were recast as a tribute to him.

Overlooking a fine expanse of the countryside is what is known as Chapel Barn, a little to the north of the town, a simple thatched building with narrow lancet windows. Some of it is 750 years old, but its memories are much older, for it is believed to stand on the site of the tiny church in which St Edmund, the martyr-king of the East Angles, was crowned on Christmas Day in 855. The story of it comes into a manuscript of his life in the University Library at Cambridge.

St Mary the Virgin

The Star Chamber Proceedings

The Star Chamber was a committee of the Royal Council, established by Henry VII (1485-1509), where prisoners, civil or criminal, were tried and sentenced without benefit of jury. It was not abolished until 1641, in the reign of Charles I. In the first year of the reign of Elizabeth I (1558), three inhabitants of Bures were arraigned before the Star Chamber, charged with riot, that is to say, damaging and stealing from, the tombs of Sir Richard and Sir William Waldegrave, and from the rood loft and screens. Extracts of the charge taken from the Star Chamber Proceedings, give most detailed evidence of the positions and construction of both tombs, and of the rood loft and screens. Any further reference to the Star Chamber Proceedings, or to the S.C.P., refers to the extracts mentioned above.

The Sanctuary

The stone tomb between the sanctuary and the vestry, with stone brackets to carry the now missing wooden canopy, is something of a mystery. It stands in the exact position specified by Sir Richard Waldegrave in his Will, and the S.C.P. describe it as in this position in 1558. There seems little doubt that the effigies on the tomb slab, with the brasses removed, represent Sir Richard Waldegrave, of Smallbridge, first Speaker of The House of Commons, who came from Walgrave in Northants, died 2nd May 1410, and Joan, his wife, who died 10th June 1406. She was lady Joan De Bures, the widow of Sir Robert de Bures, of Netherhall, who had died in 1361. The indents on this slab are still clear, and show that the male effigy was clad in chainmail and jupon armour, which was superseded by full plate armour not later than about 1410. The effigy is also helmeted, which was an unusual feature after about 1500. However, the tomb chest itself appears to be 16th century, and not early 15th, and does not conform entirely with the description of Sir Richard's tomb in the S.C.P. The reason that slab and chest are, apparently, of different periods, can only be a matter for conjecture. It is evident from the S.C.P. that the tomb chest and its canopy were extensively damaged in 1558, and it is possible that the Waldegrave family repaired the chest at that time. It also seems that, at sometime in the 16th century, the vestry and its door may have been reconstructed, and the arch and wrought iron grille to the north of the tomb made. Possibly the repairs to the tomb chest, the reconstruc¬tion of the vestry and its door, and the construction of the arch and grille, all took place at the same time in the 16th century, maybe immediately after the damage done in 1558. But, it is admitted that there is no evidence to confirm this.

The large corbels which supported the highly ornate and gilded wooden canopy, which was about 4 ft. high, are finely carved, though they have been defaced at some unknown date. The motif of an angel holding an open book is the same as that of a 14th century corbel in the north aisle. On the underside of the corbel by the vestry door is a grotesque carving of a large dog, resembling a bull mastiff, secured by a collar and massive chain.

The S.C.P. indicate that, during the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547), Sir Richard's tomb slab and canopy were used to form the Easter Sepulchre. It is stated that when the tomb was used as a sepulchre, there were figures of angels, holding candles, at each end of the tomb, which is a possible explanation of the recesses which still exist. The annual practice of building the sepulchre apparently ceased from 1548, as a result of an Order in Council of Edward VI.

In a vault below the Sanctuary lie the remains of Mary Constable, aunt of John Constable, the famous artist, and a simple stone tablet on the wall records her death in 1792. Next to this are two other tablets, commemorating the deaths of members of the Sidey family, of Bures Hamlet, between 1812 and 1853, and there are three 18th century floor tombs of this family, just inside the south door of the Waldegrave Chapel. The stained glass east window and the ornate reredos behind the altar are mid-Victorian probably dating from the 1862/64 restoration. Earlier, in the east window were two coats of arms, one quartered and including Ferriers, the other de Bures.

The Waldegrave Chapel or Chantry

This stands at the east end of the south aisle, and was founded in 1514 by Sir William Waldegrave, who died in 1527 (old style) or 1528 (new style). By Elizabethan times it had become, according to the S.C.P. "A certain little Ile or Chappell there builded and set up p'posely as for an Oratory, wherein the gentlemen and gentilwomen of worship of that p'ish might pryvatly sitte to use their prayers and meditacions . . ." Later, it fell into disuse for this purpose, and in 1889, in a Faculty to remove a gallery installed in 1862/64, it is described as "... what was then the Waldegrave Chantry, but which is now the east end of the south side of the chancel" indicating that it no longer held the status of a Chapel. In 1927, it was restored to its former use as a chapel by the Probert family of Bevills, descendants of the Waldegraves as recorded by the good modern stained glass window, under a Faculty "To restore to its sacred use the Waldegrave Chapel", which permitted the re-instalment of an altar with its customary ornaments.

Sir William Waldegrave, who founded it, specified that he was to be buried "... under the arch between the High Altar and the Chapel of Jesus", and the S.C.P. refer clearly to the tomb of Sir William as "... erected and standying the south side of the Chauncell ..." in 1558. All traces of this tomb have disappeared, and its fate is unknown. From the above extract from Sir William's Will, it is apparent that the Waldegrave Chantry and the Chapel of Jesus must have been one and the same. This is further borne out by the Will of Sir George Waldegrave of Bevills, son of Sir William, who died in 1528, the same year as his father, in which he directed that he should be buried "... in the aisle of Jesu there, near to the tomb of my father... ". There is a tomb chest against the south wall, with a slab, stripped of its brasses, inclined on top of it, which is believed to be that of Sir George Waldegrave. There is a fine detached monument to a later Sir William Waldegrave (died 1613), his wife Elizabeth, and their ten children. The sixth son, Henry of Bevills, is recorded as contributing to a fund for Bures victims during one of the great plagues. All the arms of the twelve figures have been knocked off, presumably by Dowsing in 1643. This Sir William rebuilt Smallbridge, only a fragment of which remains today, twice entertained Elizabeth I there and raised forces against the Armada.

Sir George

Sir William and sons

Lady Elizabeth and daughters

This excessive loyalty started the impoverishment of this branch of the family and by 1718 after 350 years the last Waldegrave in Bures, Elizabeth, widow of John Barrington, died at High Pale. A stone bench, with carved frontal, stands against the west wall of the chapel, and appears to be of an earlier date than the chapel, and may have been moved from elsewhere in the church. There is a fine band of carving on the oak beam supporting the roof of the chapel, where it meets the wall of the chancel. This depicts a series of mediaeval figures, with doleful faces, studying an unbroken length of curling parchment. At the bases of the upright timbers supporting the roof, in the north-east and north-west corners of the chapel, are finely carved figures. In the east wall is an aumbry.

Sir William Waldegrave

Other Monuments

On a pedestal in the north aisle is the very rare wooden effigy of a knight in mail coif, with hauberk, with gambeson beneath, surcoat, mail hose and knee cops, with shield intact, sword belt and part of sword, legs crossed and feet spurred, with lion at his feet, and angels supporting the cushion beneath his head. The effigy is carved in sweet chestnut, and dates from about 1330. It is one of only two of that period in Suffolk. Its identity cannot be proven, as there are no identification marks, but it is almost certain that it represents Sir Richard De Cornard. This belief was current as long ago as the 16th century, when the effigy was in the same position under the window. It is believed that the body is buried beneath the north wall. At some period the effigy has been given a coat of paint, presumably with the idea of preserving it, which accounts for the polished appearance of the wood.

Just inside the door in the south aisle, are two floor tombs in which are interred the remains of members of the Pelham family, between 1746 and 1780. This family, who lived at Ferriers, was descended from the Waldegraves, and some members were among the earliest emigrants to the United States in the early 17th century. The town of Pelham in Massachusetts is named after them.

Will Dowsing

Will Dowsing, who did so much damage to East Anglian churches under the Commonwealth, records the following:— "BUERS, Feb. the 23rd. We brake down above 600 superstitious Pictures, 8 Holy Ghosts, 3 of God the Father and 3 of the Son. We took up 5 inscriptions of quorum animabis propitietur Deus; one pray for the soul. And Supersticions in the Windows, and some divers of the Apostles." This was written in the year 1643. Dowsing's fee for this work was one noble (about 33p), which was charged to the parish.

What is, perhaps, surprising, is that, after the widespread destruction of church property, which had previously taken place during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth I, there was so much left for Dowsing to destroy. Evidently, Bures had not complied very strictly with previous Royal Edicts.

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