Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Furneux Pelham, Hertfordshire

St Mary the Virgin's main draw is the fantastic nave roof which is made of oak with the beams supported by carved Angels holding coats of arms and musical instruments, one of which holds the arms of the Norman de Furneux family who gave the village its name. At some stage the original wings were sawn off, probably due to decay, and in 1964, when the roof was restored, they were replaced with wings made of Honduras mahogany. They are garishly painted which, unlike the Cutte tomb in Arkesden, lifts the Angels from the ordinary to the extraordinary - I've seen unpainted Angels in other churches and, due to the height of the roof and poor lighting, they often fade into the shadows, here in Furneux they shout out their existence!

In a recess near the chancel there is a 17th century Portuguese leather reredos and an unnamed and undated brass of a husband and wife with their two sons and three daughters. On the tower is a diamond shaped clock with the motto 'Time flies, mind your business' - until 1906, when it was repainted it read 'Time flies, mind your own business'.

ST MARY. A big church, Perp except for the long chancel whose lancet windows (two with inner nook-shafts) and Sedilia and Piscina arrangement and details (stiff-leaf capitals) date it as middle of the C13. Tall unbuttressed W tower with Herts spike. The nave aisles frame the tower. Two-storeyed embattled S porch with two-light windows, markedly higher than the un-embattled aisle. Big S chapel coming forward as far as the S porch. The windows Late Perp. As the chapel was built (by Robert Newport) about 1518 and the N and S aisle windows are of the same shape as those of the chapel, the same late date may be assumed for the former as well. Two-light clerestory windows. The N and S aisle arcades are of a late type too, with semi-octagonal shafts and hollows (without capitals) in the diagonals. Low-pitched nave roof with tie-beams, high-pitched chancel roof with struts and collar-beams. In the nave the sub-principals are carried on angels. - FONT. Octagonal, C13, of Purbeck marble with shallow blank pointed arches. - STAINED GLASS. In the S chapel Morris and Burne-Jones windows for the Calvert family, that on the S with four figures of angels 1866, that on the E with the Virgin, Gabriel (by Morris), and Michael 1873. The quality is outstanding, especially if compared with other Victorian glass. - MONUMENTS. Tomb-chest in the S aisle at the W end with cusped quatrefoils and shields. On it the exquisite, c. 3 ft long brass figures of a man and woman of the early C15. They lie under a cusped double ogee canopy with pinnacles to the l. and r. - Brass plate to R. Newport with kneeling figures, dated 1518, on a marble slab. - Tomb-chest of Edward Cason d. 1624, with black marble pilasters and top slab. Against the back wall inscription tablet. 




Furneux Pelham. "Time Flies, Mind Your Business," announces the church clock for all to see; and a swarm of bees seemed to be taking the words to heart when we called, flying in and out under the clock. For the rest, time and business seemed merely to saunter by in this pleasant village off the highway.

Yet 800 years have passed since the Norman family of de Furneux gave the village its first name, and 700 years have gone since the chancel of the church was built. It still has its three stone seats for the priests. The rest of the church is 15th century, with clerestoried nave, aisles, two-storied porch, and west tower. The finest sight here is also from the early 15th century, the altar tomb with two figures cut in brass, a man and his widow under canopies. Another brass of a very small knight kneeling with his wife and five children is thought to portray Robert Newport, whose money built the south chapel, where an Elizabethan helmet hangs over the altar tomb of a later lord of the manor, Edward Cason.

The low-pitched roof of this chapel and the angels supporting it seem to have been modelled on the finer 15th-century roof of the nave, borne up by wooden angels holding shields, two painted with coats-of-arms. The font is 700 years old. Built into a wall are two stone coffins, and in the chapel we found the lid of another. The royal arms on the screen at the west end of the south aisle have the dates 1634, 1660, and 1831. It is indeed a Royalist church, and a story told here is that the vicar Richard Hancock marched up and down the churchyard sword in hand to prevent any Puritan making away with the altar rails or with the first of these royal arms.

The village street sinks into a hollow and then rises to the green verge and gates of the hall, a big Elizabethan house with curving Stuart gables among the older ones. We get a glimpse of it from the road through a window cut in a thick yew hedge.

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