Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Earls Colne, Essex

Ah the chance for another rant. Earls Colne is a large village, actually I suspect it's a town, with St Andrew pretty much in its heart in a very overlooked and open setting. Now I don't know the history of crime committed on the church but when I visited the amount of passers by on foot and bicycle in the churchyard and the volume of traffic passing by on two sides pretty much dissuaded me from even thinking of a daylight heist. Despite my natural disinclination to commit daylight robbery the church is locked up tighter than Fort Knox without a whiff of a hint of a keyholder - even if there had been a keyholder I doubt I would have been able to carry the keyring.

This seems to underscore my theory that you're more likely to gain access to an utterly remote church in Essex and have the uninterrupted pleasure of stripping lead, removing monuments and committing untold desecrations than you are to have the pleasure of looking around a church in a busy village/town centre.

Rant over. The exterior and setting is lovely but I wish I could have looked around inside!

UPDATE: I had been led to believe that it is now an open church so visited the Wednesday to find a sign advising that St Andrew is open from 10 to 3pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays (which I found slightly odd! Why not every day?). As it's not that far from home I returned on Thursday (in case they changed their minds) and took interiors - sadly a severe restoration means that there's not much of interest here.

ST ANDREW. A large but disappointing church. The most rewarding part is the W tower. Big with diagonal buttresses, and three-light bell-openings. Battlements with flushwork decoration dated 1534 and bearing the de Vere arms. Stair turret, in its top parts of brick and carrying an iron openwork ‘corona’ for the weathervane. This latter adornment dates probably from the early C18. It is the only feature easily remembered of the church. The rest mostly 1884, except for the S aisle with C14 windows, and the S arcade with octagonal piers. The chancel inside has nice Victorian stencilled decoration on walls and ceiling panels. - PLATE. Early C16 Paten with incised figure of Christ in the middle; large late C16 Cup with bands of ornament. - MONUMENT. Richard Harlakenden d. 1602 and four wives, the usual type of epitaph with kneeling figures. - John Wale d. 1761, tablet by Roubiliac with relief of Mercury and Justice (R. Gunnis).

A number of good timber-framed houses to the W.

 St Andrew

 de Vere Stars

Hard to tell but maybe de Vere Arms

I hope one day someone will eulogise me like this

Arthur Mee:

The Vanished Tombs

EARLS COLNE. How are the mighty fallen! Here are old cottages in plenty, but the medieval priory founded by the Earls of Oxford has gone, and so have their splendid monuments. It was one of the delightful surprises of our countryside that we used to be able to open a door in a farmhouse and find four of their tombs.

They made one of the grandest groups in the county, decoratively arranged along a white wall with a wonderful oak beam set over them, grotesque faces looking out from its flowery carvings. Now, alas, Earls Colne has lost this great attraction, for the tombs have gone to Bures in Suffolk. Two by two the weepers stood in niches round the first of the tombs, on which lay the armed figure of Thomas de Vere, eighth earl, who died in 1371. Other niches completing the scheme came from the hidden side of the tomb at the far end, the earliest, made with its buttresses and pinnacles and lovely niches in the middle of the 14th century, though the mailed figure on it died in 1296. He was Robert, fifth earl, with a boar at his feet and angels at his head. Between these tombs lay Richard the 11th earl and Alice his wife, united no longer, for their tomb had been split so that we might see the full glory of each panelled side. Richard was in armour, his boar crest on the helmet under his head, his feet on a lion. His lady wore a dainty horned headdress and had two small dogs at her feet.

Their tombs were the greatest things these three earls left us, but King Richard the Second came here to clasp the dead hand of another de Vere whose meteoric career was the talk of all England. He was Robert, ninth earl, whom the king loved more than his throne, for he endangered the throne itself for this young man. He made him Duke of Ireland with despotic power and then could not bear to part with him and sent a deputy instead. Soon, however, the worthless earl was in danger of being tried for treason by his peers and Richard had to part with him, only to see him again when his body was brought to Earls Colne for burial, after he had been killed in a boar hunt. The king came to the village and the coffin lid was raised that he might touch his friend's hand again.

The star of the De Veres was even then in the descendant; yet it shines still in the parapet of the church tower on the hill. It is 200 years since the village blacksmith gave this tower a copper crown and a weathercock. The chancel and the nave roof are 14th century, but the rest is mostly modern. There are Jacobean chairs and an altar table in the chapel, where Richard Harlakenden kneels with his four wives on a small painted monument of 1602, but the chief treasure is a medieval paten engraved with the figure of Christ.

I plan to re-visit Bures and track down the Chapel of St Stephen - which I missed when I last visited and where the only 3 surviving de Vere tombs out of 21 were relocated - sometime this summer. St Stephen and Landwade are must finds!

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