Wednesday, 12 May 2010

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.

Flickr set.

1 comment:

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