Friday, 16 July 2010

Berden, Essex

St Nicholas is a fantastic church, absolutely stunning and although the interior is fairly austere there are some lovely brasses and a rather nice monument to Thomas Aldersey. Definitely worth a visit.

The alabaster Aldersey monument is on the south wall of the chancel and records the death of Thomas Aldersey in 1598. Originally from Cheshire he became a citizen of London, moved to Berden and built Berden Hall.

He was educated at Bunbury, apprenticed to Thomas Bingham in 1541 and given the freedom of the city of London and livery of the Haberdashers Company in 1548. He was a staunch protestant and came under the suspicion of the Marian authorities as an active supporter of Princess Elizabeth and protestant reform. His religious leanings stood him in good stead as a merchant dealing with the German port of Emden and he was in contact with William Cecil which led to his appointment as deputy governor of the Merchant Adventurers Company. He also contributed, financially, towards the establishment of the Royal Exchange.

He married Alice Calthorpe and her family's influence, along with Cecil's, meant a rapid rise of power within London's merchant classes and an influential voice in the privy council.

Meanwhile on the south side of the chancel there is a brass to the memory of Ann Thompson, one of his daughters (although the inscription calls him John rather than Thomas), who died in 1607 aged 31 after contracting an infection during childbirth, leaving behind a husband and twelve children.

Her sole herself to virtue she did give
To tread the steps of truth & piety
She died in life & now by death doth live
The lasting joys of heavenly bliss to see

              Thomas Thompson      Ann Thompson                

Interestingly, to me at least, whilst researching Thomas Aldersey for this post I discovered that he, and therefore his daughter, are in my family tree which I didn't know when I first visited Berden.

In the north transept is a great brass to William Turnor and his two wives, Margaret and Margery, dated 1473:

Arthur Mee's take:

BERDEN. A very old village close to Hertfordshire, it has among its old houses Berden Hall, built in Queen Elizabeth's day and still keeping its wide staircase with a handsome balustrade. From Tudor days also comes Berden Priory, though it stands on the site of a 13th century priory and has two ancient coffin lids for doorsteps. Its well is covered by a 17th century building, and a big treadmill is still used to draw the water from the deep chalk below. In a square of elms stands the church, its medieval tower capped by a pyramid above the battlements. It is cross-shaped, the nave being the oldest part, with Norman work in its walls and Saxon masonry at the corners. The attractive chancel and transepts are 13th century, and on the chancel arch is the name of the man who built it, Geoffrey the Mason.

The windows and doorways have hardly changed for 600 years, and there are roofs that have been with them most of the time. A remarkable piscina of the same age is carved with the head of a woman wearing a wimple; and upside down in the east wall is part of a 13th century coffin lid set up as a bracket. Another ancient stone lid is in the north transept. There is much old woodwork about the church, some in the beautiful pulpit some in the modern pews, and some on the back of the organist's seat. The traceried panels are probably from a medieval screen, and a door with six panels of Iinenfold came from Berden Hall. There are brasses of a 15th century man, William Turner, with his two wives, all rather squat figures on an altar tomb; and of Thomas Thompson of Shakespeare's day, with his wife and 13 children. High in the chancel is a tablet with the arms of an Elizabethan haberdasher, Thomas Aldersaie, founder of a school in his Cheshire village of Bunbury.

Flickr set.

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