Sunday, 31 October 2010

Six Mile Bottom, Cambridgeshire

Another place missed by Mee Six Mile Bottom is a hamlet within the parish of Little Wilbraham, near Cambridge.

The hamlet was built in the 19th century, and is named for its distance from the start of Newmarket Racecourse and because it lies in a valley bottom. Six Mile Bottom railway station served the village from the late 1840s (by the Newmarket and Chesterford Railway) until 1967. The brick-and-flint church of St. George was built in 1935.

Among the earliest residents were George and Augusta Leigh, she being Lord Byron's half-sister. Their residence is now the Country House Hotel, Swynford Paddocks.

St George


Standon, Hertfordshire

St Mary is thought to replace a much earlier Saxon church to which the present 13th century chancel was added. The nave and aisles are fine examples of the Decorated period of the late 14th century with tall arches, a clerestory above and a magnificent window above the west door. The church, along with 140 acres of land was bequeathed in 1199 to the Knights of St. John, whose hospice still stands close by and was still the church school until 1974. The Knights remained in possession of the church until the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century.

The church is built of uncut flints, originally arranged in a chessboard pattern, but altered when the church was restored in 1864 and re-arranged without any pattern. The tower did not then join the church; a square plot of grass bounded by two walls being between the church and the tower, until this was filled in and used as an organ chamber for an organ installed in 1865. The older organ and the singers’ gallery above the west door were then cleared away. A new organ was built in 2000, occupying a position in the South aisle.

On entering the church one is immediately struck by the height of the chancel, there being a gentle slope the whole way up from the west end to the sanctuary, which is thirteen steps above the level of the nave . This construction is most unusual and occurs only in churches built by the Knights of St. John. They are called "processional" churches.

The chancel arch is Early English with fine dog-tooth moulding ornamentation. The Devonshire marble pillars however were erected at the time of the major restoration in 1864. At that date the lancet windows were inserted in the north and south walls of the chancel and a fine 15th century east window was replaced by the present window of three lights in the Early English style. On each side of the chancel arch are openings, or hagioscopes, which at one time went down to the floor of the chancel. The stone staircase to the right of the chancel arch and the opening above leading to the rood loft, remain. Of the rood loft itself no traces are left.

In the wall of the south aisle, where formerly was the Lady Chapel, is a stone coffin under a floriated arch. This is thought to have belonged to an earlier church. The font is much restored but parts of it are of the 12th century.

There are several interesting monuments. In the north aisle stands the altar tomb of John Field, an Alderman of London, who died in 1477. The brasses on this tomb show Alderman Field in a long, loose robe, with the Squire, his son, alongside him in an elaborate suit of armour. At the foot of the tomb are the three children of the Alderman and his four grand-children.

On the south side of the chancel is an impressive monument to Sir Ralph Sadleir, who died in 1587. The 80 years of his life were eventful ones. He entered the service of Henry VIII as a young man and became a gentleman of the Privy Council. He was three times sent on an embassy to James V of Scotland and on the last of these occasions was commissioned to negotiate a marriage between Prince Edward and the newly-born Princess Mary, the future Queen of Scots. In this he was unsuccessful. Six years later he was in Scotland again as Treasurer to the Army and returned from the battle of Pinkie with the Scottish banner, the pole, of which still stands in the chancel. The immensely strong chest, which stands in the nave near the Field tomb almost certainly carried the coin, with which the English army was paid.

Sir Ralph later became keeper to Mary, Queen of Scots and was finally, the year before he died, one of the knights of the Privy Council at her trial and execution at Fotheringay. His house, Standon Lordship, was built in 1546, though it would seem that he must have spent little time there. A fine monument in Italian marble to his son, Thomas, stands on the opposite side of the chancel. His life seems to have been less eventful, though in 1603 he entertained James I and his Scottish retinue for two nights at the Lordship on their way to London for the King's coronation.

On leaving the church, the steep climb up the churchyard rewards one with a fine view over the village and surrounding country.

ST MARY. Unique in the county in two features: the large W porch and the detached tower to the s of the E end of the aisle. The church stands on rising ground, the E parts higher than the W end. Hence the chancel is raised by a number of steps, the most impressive effect inside. The chancel is early C13, as proved by two N lancet windows and the spectacular chancel arch with three orders of big polished shafts (renewed in G. Godwin’s restoration of 1865 in pink marble) with shaft-rings and stiff-leaf capitals, and an arch with dog-tooth ornament (cf. Eastwick). When, in the mid C19, the nave was rebuilt much wider than before, side openings were cut into the W wall of the chancel to allow a freer sight of the altar. Of mid C14 work the following survives: the W doorway, the four-light Dec W window with flowing tracery, the aisle windows, especially those to the W and E, and the ogee-headed recess in the S aisle. The arcade piers are assigned to the same date, but seem later. It is a big church. The arcades have five bays. They are tall and have piers with an uncommon section (four attached semi-octagonal shafts and in the diagonals a keel between two hollows; cf. Tring) and two-centred arches. Above a (later) clerestory (with the windows above the spandrels, not the apexes of the arches). Of the C15 the tower in its present form and the big deep W porch with two windows on each side. - FONT. A very interesting early C13 design; octagonal, with two horizontal wavy bands of stylized leaves running around the bowl. - MONUMENTS. In the chancel Brass to a kneeling Knight, lower part only, 1412. - At the end of the nave Brasses to a civilian, mid C15; to a Knight of the Wade family d. 1557. - In the N aisle plain tombchest, originally with brass-shields against the sides. On the lid the exquisite brasses said to be to John Field d. 1474, a merchant of the ‘Stapull of Caleys’, and his son John Field, Squire, represented by the side of his father and in the same size (2 ft 9 in). The son is in armour. Both stand on hillocks with pretty flowers. Below the small figures of some children. The elder John Field had been rich enough to lend Henry VI £2,000 for the defence of Calais. - In the chancel standing wall monuments to Sir Ralph Sadleir d. 1587 and Sir Thomas Sadleir d. 1606. Both are monuments with recumbent effigies (Sir Ralph alone, Sir Thomas behind and a little above his wife) under arches (Sir Ralph’s shallow and decorated with fleurons, Sir Thomas’s deeper and coffered) and flanked by columns. In the spandrels of Sir Ralph’s are Victories, in those of Sir Thomas’s thin scrolls. The back walls have big bold cartouches, Sir Ralph’s also excellent ribbon Work. The tops are achievements; Sir Ralph’s has also two obelisks at the angles. Both works come obviously from leading London workshops. By the side of Sir Ralph’s monument his helmets (C16), sword (C14), spurs, and standard pole.

St Mary (4)

St Mary (2)

Panorama merge

Alderman John Field (2)

Thomas Sadleir 1606

Sir Ralph Sadleir 1587

Standon. Every day the flying man flies over it, but never again will its people look at him with such amaze as came to them one autumn day in 1784, when there arrived at Standon the first human traveller from the English skies. A stone has been set up at Standon Green End, and on it we read of an event recorded as a "wondrous enterprise successfully achieved by the powers of chemistry and the fortitude of man."

It must have seemed a fearful thing to these villagers who were looking up on that September afternoon at a great spherical object floating through the sky, slowly descending until it touched the ground in a field near by, and a voice cried out calling on the people to secure the monster. Out of it, from the car suspended beneath the great silk ball, stepped a man and a dog. The man was Vincenza Lunardi, a young Italian who had made a balloon fitted with racket-shaped wings and oars which he declared would help to control it. He had started at Moorfields, 30 miles away, on the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company, and had been just over two hours in the air. Three living creatures had entered the car at Moorfields, Lunardi, his dog, and a cat, but, falling very low as he came to North Mimms, Lunardi had astonished a country woman walking there, and had handed her his cat for safe keeping before he rose again and came on to Standon, so completing the first successful balloon flight ever known.

This was the village’s great event; its great man lies in his tomb in the medieval church, close by the timbered school which has stood for centuries. The plan of the church is unusual, for in the 15th century a porch was added at the west end and a detached tower built beside the chancel, to which it has since been linked by an organ chamber. By this porch we come into a scene of singular beauty.

The lofty nave, with aisles, doorways, and windows 600 years old, slopes a little upwards, and eight steps mount to the 13th-century chancel, five more reaching the altar. The 700-year-old chancel arch is rich with carving, and has on each side of it a peep-hole through which the altar can be seen. Through the arch as we come in we see three lancets shining over the altar. The tomb we see high up in the chancel is that of as honourable a man as ever served our Tudor kings and queens, Sir Ralph Sadler. Here he is in stone, his seven children carved round his tomb and his armour hanging over it, with his stirrups and spurs. Resting at the tomb is a pole more thrilling than it looks, for from it waved the Royal Standard of Scotland at the Battle of Pinkie. It is over and forgotten, but in 1547 there was a plan to unite the English and the Scots by marrying Edward VI and Mary Queen of Scots. The scheme came to nothing, for the Scots were hostile and war resulted, when 16,000 Englishmen met 23,000 Scots at Pinkie, killing 6000 and routing the rest. Sir Ralph Sadler, who had spent an unhappy time in Edinburgh watching over Mary, brought back with him from the battlefield this mast of Scotland’s flag. Facing his tomb is that of his son Thomas, here in stone with his wife and their two children. We may see part of their old home (Lordship Manor) half a mile away by the river, incorporated into a house of a later day. The date 1546 on one of the stones, with Sir Ralph’s initials, show that he built it a year before the Battle of Pinkie, and it would be to this house that he brought back the standard pole.

Though the outside of the church has received a new stone face, inside everything, so far as the structure is concerned, is much as it was when the Calais merchant john Field was laid here in 1474. His brass portrait is on the top of his altar tomb with that of his son john, each with his children pictured below. There is a merchant’s mark on one of the four shields at the corners. Below the chancel steps are other brass portraits of a man of the 15th century and a soldier named Wade of the 16th, but someone has stolen the portrait of William Coffyn, Master of the Horse to Henry VIII’s third queen. The font has a fine 13th-century bowl.

The village was the home of one of the soldier poets who gave his life for us in the Great War, Robert Ernest Vernede. He was a scholar at St Paul’s School and St John’s at Oxford, and became a writer of novels and sketches and poems. He went out to France in the first few months of the war, when he was 40, was wounded soon after, and went back again. He had a fervent love of England. In one of his poems he asks the sleepers in France who will bring them fame in the coming years, and one of the last of all the poems he wrote was this noble prayer for his country:

All that a man might ask thou has given me, England,
Birthright and happy childhood’s long heartsease,
And love whose range is deep beyond all sounding,
And wider than all seas:
A heart to front the world and find God in it,
Eyes blind enow but not too blind to see
The lovely things behind the dross and darkness.
And lovelier things to be;
And friends whose loyalty time nor death shall weaken,
And quenchless hope and laughter’s golden store
All that a man might ask thou hast given me, England,
Yet grant thou one thing more:
That now when envious foes would spoil thy splendour,
Unversed in arms, a dreamer such as I
May in thy ranks be deemed not all unworthy,
England, for thee to die.

Shudy Camps, Cambridgeshire

St Mary epitomises for me all that I dislike about the Cambridge style but does hold a personal genealogical interest in the form of several Dayrell monuments, a family who can also be found at Hinxton, Essex, in numbers and Lillingstone Dayrell, Bucks, which is where my interest lies. Before I visited Shudy Camps I hadn't realised that there was a connection so finding the memorials was a pleasant surprise.

By 1700 Hanchetts was owned by Sir Marmaduke Dayrell, whose elder brother Sir Francis (d. 1675) had devised an interest in Shudy Camps manor to him.  Sir Marmaduke was succeeded in 1730 by his son Francis (d. 1760). Passing over his eldest son Brownlow (d. 1773), who became insane, Francis left his Shudy Camps estate to his son Marmaduke (d. 1790), in whose time and that of his son Marmaduke (d. 1821) the manorial rights of the other surviving manors of Shudy Camps were bought in. The last Marmaduke's eldest son Capt. Francis Dayrell died without issue in 1845 and was succeeded by his brother the Revd. Thomas Dayrell (d. 1866). Of Thomas's sons the two eldest, Marmaduke Francis and Charles Lionel, died without issue in 1877 and 1890 respectively. Their next brother, the Revd. Richard Dayrell, offered the debt-burdened estate for sale in 1898.

From: 'Parishes: Shudy Camps', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 6 (1978), pp. 49-59. URL:  Date accessed: 31 October 2010.

The church itself however has been heavily restored and, as a result, has, for me, lost much of its charm.

ST MARY. Chancel S doorway C13, see the double-chamfered moulding outside and the hood-mould on two head-stops inside. The rest all Perp. W tower with battlements (l. and r. of the W window two small standing figures), nave and chancel. - SCULPTURE. Small C13 capital from the Cloth Hall at Ypres, which was destroyed in the First World War. - PAINTING. Large Flemish C17 picture of the Mourning of the Dead Christ. - MONUMENTS. Francis Dayrell d. 1760. Large urn flanked by fluted Corinthian pilasters with a segmental top. Two putti outside the pilasters are the only figures. - Mrs Elizabeth Dayrell d. 1768, signed by T. Carter. Large classical urn, the surrounding decoration with drapery and Louis XVI garlands. - Other Dayrell Monuments of 1773, 1790 etc.

St Mary (3)

St Mary

Francis Dayrell 1760

SHUDY CAMPS. A little group of houses by the park in a far-away corner of the county, it has sad memories of war and two visible things to stir us, linked with the catastrophe which tore the world to pieces. Its curious name may come from the vanished earthworks raised when a village did battle for itself. It gave six of its sons for freedom when all Europe was turned into a battlefield in our own time.

Two things we see here from this vast field of war, a wooden cross from the grave of one of the vicar’s two sons who lie in Flanders, and a small bracket which comes from the ruins of the famous Cloth of Ypres. The hall is in the background of the east window which glows in memory of all the men of Shudy Camps who did not come back.

The reredos below this window is an old oil painting of the women the tomb, and is interesting because it is claimed as Vandyck’s. 

It is a plain and simple little church, but it is 15th century, and in the spandrels of the west window are carvings of the Madonna and a warrior. The south porch has a medieval roof and a door still hanging on its ancient hinges.

Flickr set.

Shepreth, Cambridgeshire

A monumental church, particularly the tower, but locked without a keyholder mentioned. The chancel is new build, and then overly restored as was the nave , but the tower looks true, however there's a truly awful lean-to tacked on to the north aisle. An oddity are the waist high "corbels" on the south wall.

In principal, as it's locked, I'm going to give it a zero but because of the tower alone I'm going for a 8 or 9 - assuming it's true.

ALL SAINTS. Nave and chancel; S aisle; short, ashlar-faced W tower with pyramid roof. Norman chancel arch, narrow with one angle shaft each side towards the nave, and, corresponding to it, in the arch one roll-moulding. Norman also the N doorway with one order of shafts; but the arch, with one slight chamfer and pointed, must be a little later. To the r. of the chancel arch a trefoiled C13 arch, originally perhaps blank as a recessed reredos behind a side altar, but now filled by a two-light Dec window into the chancel. On the other side of the chancel arch a similar, not altered arch which is still blank. The nave N wall cuts into it. The chancel Piscina (on the N side) goes with the mouldings of these arches. The rest of the chancel was rebuilt early in the C17, again in 1777, and re-gothicized in 1870. The N wall of the nave has also C13 windows, but they seem to be new, as the wall is of yellow brick. The S arcade is of five bays, the Perp W tower cuts into the first bay, The piers have four shafts and four hollows, the arches twice fine hollow-chamfers. - FONT. C13, on five circular supports. The bowl octagonal but connected in the diagonals with the five supports by volutes meeting at the corners. - PAINTING ‘The Widow’s Mite’. In bad condition. - MONUMENT. C13 grave cover with foliated cross, found in 1953.

All Saints

All Saints (2)

SHEPRETH. Charming it is, with lovely groves of trees and murmuring brooks and thatched cottages dotted about the lanes. Here was a Roman house, of which traces have been found today there is a comfortable Georgian house where the ways meet, a cross with ten names on the little green shaded with limes, and at a secluded end of the village a moat still filled with water.

By the moat is the neat little church, which takes us back to Norman days. The Normans built its chancel arch, and its font is  by the English masons who learned their work from Normans. In one of the recesses by the chancel arch is open window tracery through which we peep to the altar.

We come in through a 12th century doorway, but the clustered columns of the nave, and the chancel itself, are 14th century.  The old chest is crumbling with age between its iron bands.

A low pyramid cap covers what is left of the massive old tower of the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries; the stones that were once at the top have been used in the churchyard wall.

Flick set.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Shalford, Essex

St Andrew is very peculiar and is not helped by a, seemingly, very new, north extension; because it's so odd it is logically locked with no keyholder listed. I've Googled it and can't find anything particularly informative.

The south aisle and porch are embattled while the north aisle isn't but the nave is, a tiny chancel is tacked on to the end and a four stage tower sits four square to the world. The new extension will age well and only adds to the eccentricity of the church.

ST ANDREW. An early C14 church. But the most unusual motif is the straightheaded two-and three-light windows with a kind of reticulated tracery straightened out, and these are Early Perp, i.e. later C14. In the chancel and the N aisle some earlier C14 windows. The Sedilia with cusped arches on polygonal shafts and no ogee forms also is early C14. W tower with clasping buttresses and a three-light W window. The arcades to the N and S aisles rest on piers with four major and four keeled minor shafts. The arches are two-centred and have head-stops. The most remarkable feature of the church however is its three large and almost identical tomb-recesses, one in the N aisle, one in the S wall of the chancel, and one in the S aisle. There is no effigy or record on any of them to tell us who had them erected. Two hold tomb-chests with indents for brass figures. All three have canopies with thin buttresses and large cusped arches and ogee gables with crockets and finials. In the gables of two is a quatrefoil in a circle. The third has the quatrefoil cusped. The one in the chancel moreover has to the l. and r. of the gable large shields. The S aisle recess seems the earliest, the chancel recess the latest; but all three must be C14. - FONT. Octagonal. Traceried stem, bowl with two small quatrefoils with shields in each panel. - SCREEN with simple traceried lights. - S DOOR with much tracery; C14. - STALLS (W end of nave). Two with poppy-heads. - COMMUNION RAIL, c. 1700, with twisted balusters. - STAINED GLASS. Many bits, especially in the E window - the arms of the Norwood family and its alliances; C14. - STRAW DECORATION for the altar, premiated at an 1872 exhibition in London. PLATE. Small Cup and Paten of 1562.

St Andrew (2)

St Andrew (3)

Corbel (2)

SHALFORD. Its many old buildings include a farm which has an overhanging storey above the porch, and a Tudor door with ornamental ironwork; but for Shalford’s treasures we cross a field to the church standing in a quiet valley. Its tower is 15th century, but nearly everything else we see is a hundred years older, the porch with shields and grotesques in its roof, the beautiful traceried door, and the arches and clerestory windows which make the interior so impressive. The handsome altar rails are 17th century, and so is the nave roof, but there are other beams 600 years old, and a splendid chancel screen which has been with them all the time. It has little openings in the lower panels, at which a child might kneel and look through at the altar; and at the back of the screen are two Tudor stalls, and a panelled desk with a pelican on one of its poppyheads.

The east window has fine glass as old as the church, showing shields of arms, lions, and foliage; and there are shields and other fragments in the windows of the aisles. A peephole is 15th century, and so is the font, which has the arms of such famous families as the Mortimers, De Veres, and Fitzwalters. There is much notable stone carving by the 14th century men, the chancel having three handsome sedilia and a very fine recess with an altar tomb. Two other beautiful recesses are in the aisles, and on the sanctuary wall is a brass of William Bigge and his wife, from the England Shakespeare knew.


Sawston, Cambridgeshire

Due to, I assume, the incredibly high crime rate in Sawston - an otherwise seemingly sleepy Cambridge dormitory town - St Mary is firmly locked and without an indication of a keyholder. This really pees me off on two levels; first Mee makes it sound interesting and second, when Ben Colburn & Mark Ynys-Mon visited it was open and they make it sound really interesting. I think the latter were lucky to find it open when they visited since I've tried to gain access several times and have always failed. Their excellent review can be found here.

I have to confess that I don't like the exterior but I'd pull my eye teeth to get inside. 

UPDATE March 2012: keyholders are now listed and access has been gained and I have to say does not disappoint even though it's been savagely restored and re-ordered it retains plenty of interest. Whilst not the most interesting interior it does have fine brasses, good graffiti and some relatives including a brass inscription to a 16th G Grandfather and an altar tomb to Elizabeth de la Pole nee Bradeston my 18th G Grandmother. Also, and I mark this up as a major plus on a cold rainy day, the heating was on and it was warm inside - not something often, if ever, previously found!

ST MARY. Pebble and stone rubble. A plain Norman doorway leads into the chancel. Near it a blocked lancet window. More lancets on the N side of the chancel. The E window is C19. A N chancel chapel has gone. Only a Perp arch remains. The chancel arch also is Perp. So the phase in the building history following the Norman doorway is that indicated by the three W bays of the nave arcades. It is what might be called Transitional. The arches are still round and entirely unmoulded. The W respond on the S side has a many-scalloped capital, that on the N side is rectangular with angle-shafts. The same form is repeated in the NE respond. In between on both sides circular and octagonal piers alternating, also from N to S. After these three bays follows a piece of bare wall, and then two bays of pointed slightly double-chamfered arches with circular piers. Perhaps there had in this place been a Norman crossing tower, and the transitional bays indicate the Norman nave, as the Norman doorway indicates the Norman chancel. N and S aisle windows Dec. N porch Perp. Perp clerestory. In the S aisle two excellent corbel-heads. - The W tower is Dec, see the unmistakable triple-shaft responds with very thin shafts between. Dec bell-openings; battlements. - HELMET above the funeral recess in the N wall of the chancel. The recess is filled by a tomb-chest with four quatrefoil panels. - The arch is four-centred. -- BRASSES. Civilian, c. 1420, feet missing, 2 1/2 ft figure. - Knight, c. 1480, head missing, 3 ft 3 in. figure. - Robert Lockton and wife, c. 1500, 2 ft figures, in their shrouds, the shrouds being tied above the heads so that they look all bundled up. - William Richardson d. 1527, 12 in. figure.

St Mary (7)

St Mary (6)

SAWSTON. It has in its annals an exciting page of the story of the past, and it is working out a hopeful page of the story of the future. The tall chimneys of its paper mills stand out in the fields, a midway mark between a house of Tudor stateliness and a light and airy building which was our first village college, to which children from all the villages round come for a practical education for country life not obtainable at the ordinary village school.
It was to Sawston that Mary Tudor came to take refuge with the Huddlestons at the manor house in the anxious days when the reign of the young Edward the Sixth had ended. The house served the Roman Catholics well, for when the Protestant wind blew again a priest's hiding hole was made in it by Nicholas Owen, the Jesuit who was nicknamed Little John. He made hiding places all over the country with incomparable skill and industry, and in the end was caught himself and paid for his work with his life.

The church, which stands by the house, has an impressive exterior and an interesting collection of brass portraits within, new and old.

The tower is 14th century, the arcades are 13th except for three Norman arches at the west end of each, and the porch, the clerestory, and the chancel arch (with a peephole on the north side) are 15th. There is a double piscina 700 years old. Two charming Jacobean figures in black gowns and white ruifs kneel on their wall-memorial; they are Gregory Milner and his wife. There is a line canopied tomb in which lies the wife of Sir Walter de la Pole who died in 1423.

Four brass portraits show a man of about 1420 with an inscription to someone else (the inscription having been found in the manor moat a century ago), a knight in 15th century armour, a couple of about 1500 in shrouds with their live daughters, and a Tudor priest from Norfolk, William Richardson. The John Huddleston who gave shelter to Mary Tudor has no portrait, but an inscription remembers him as "once Chamberlayn unto Kinge Phylipe and Captaine of his Garde, and one of Queen Maryes most honorable Privie Counsel." His family remained on here, and three 19th century descendants have their portraits on brass, Richard drawn in medieval fashion, Edward kneeling in a long travelling cloak, and Sarah with a fringed cloak over her gown and a draped headdress.

On one of the Norman pillars in the nave is a stone figure of Our Lord set here in memory of the men who went out to the war. In memory of them the old market cross has been restored. The market is no more, but an old custom of picking peas continues, and in due season all who will may go with their baskets to two acres of land left by a rich man long ago to grow peas for the poor. The educational idea born at Sawston in our time may prove to be one of the most potential factors in the transformation of our countryside. The conviction behind the movement, which began in this village, is that the English heart beats best in its villages and that our people should be encouraged to stay there. It was the Director of Education in the county, Mr Henry Morris, who gave the idea practical shape in the formation of a college for training children in rural life and rural work. The college was opened in 1930 by the Prince of Wales, who planted a tree, and this light and airy set of modern buildings, built round a great quadrangle, centralises education for children over eleven from the villages round about. There are carpentering and engineering shops, kitchens for teaching cookery with all kinds of stoves, needlework and art rooms, libraries and reading rooms, and, of course, a college hall in which one of the most popular functions is the midday meal, served for a few coppers.It is intended to cover Cambridgeshire with ten such colleges embracing all its villages, and similar colleges have already been set up at Linton and Bottisham and Impington. The buildings are all in keeping with the modern note in school architecture, and the idea is to give abundant facilities for music, dancing, drama, and films. There are acres of playing-fields about each college, and indoors and out the buildings are delightful. The Sawston college was designed by Mr H. H. Dunn.

Flickr set.

Saffron Walden, Essex

The town was originally called Walden then Chipping Walden but its name was changed owing to the fields of saffron crocuses grown here 500 years ago, which provided the dye for the wool upon which the prosperity of the town was based. Saffron was also used for cooking and as a medicine; the saffron crocus will no longer grow in the area.

St Mary the Virgin, which is the largest church in Essex, stands on a hill in the middle of the town witnessing to the glory of God. It is thought that a church stood on this site in Saxon times which was replaced by a Norman church. In about 1250 this was in turn replaced by a cruciform church in the Decorated style of which the lower part of the chancel, the arches into the north and south chapels and the carvings in the north aisle survive from this period. The aisles and nave were rebuilt in the Perpendicular style commencing in 1430 and taking about 100 years to complete.

The later stages of this rebuilding were carried out under the supervision of John Wastell, the Master mason who was engaged in the building of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. The exterior turrets which stand above the east end of the nave are typical of his work. The size and magnificence of the nave are the church’s more remarkable features.

The church you see today is predominantly the result of work undertaken in the years 1430 to 1525. A great influence in the latter part of this period was the Guild of the Holy Trinity which was partly religious but also had local government-type powers.

A less obvious, but most important influence on the way the church looks today was the major restoration undertaken by the restorer of Audley End House, Sir John Griffin Griffin, 4th Lord Howard de Walden and 1st Lord Braybrooke, between years 1790 and 1793. The church at the time was in a sad state of disrepair but this restoration unfortunately removed many medieval brasses and monuments.

The nave is 54 feet high with tall slender pillars, arches and a clerestory. The carving of the spandrels, the triangular pieces between the arches, some of which contain Tudor roses, are of special note particularly those above the crucifix. These are similar to work in King’s College Chapel and the cross section of the pillars is identical to that in Great St. Mary’s Cambridge, another of John Wastell’s churches. No less than eleven bosses are variations on the Tudor rose reflecting the power of  Henry VIII. Also to be seen are the pomegranate of his Queen, Catherine of Aragon, and the Knot of Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex.

The lower part of the chancel was built about 1250 but the upper part dates from the early 1500’s after the rebuilding of the nave and aisles had been completed. The roof does not fit very well and by tradition Lord Audley had it brought from another religious house. It is very beautiful and as far as is known nothing quite like it exists in other English churches.

The Sanctuary is raised because it was built on top of a great vault. The Howard vault was sealed in 1860 and holds the bodies of Lord Audley, ten Earls of Suffolk - whose family built Audley End - and Lord Howard de Walden and his two wives.

At the eastern end of the north aisle there are three bays of elaborately carved canopies which are over 600 years old, surviving from the Decorated period of the church. These are worn and damaged, but in the bay nearest the north chapel it is easy to pick out King David with his harp. The brasses attached to the wall were originally on tombs which have disappeared.

The north chapel was rebuilt in 1526 although the wooden carvings of saints below the roof probably date from the fifteenth century. The marble tomb of John Leche was moved from the chancel in the restoration of 1790-93.

The south chapel, now used as the Choir Vestry, is believed to have contained the altar of the Guild of the Holy Trinity. Two monuments on the wall commemorate deaths in the Neville family who took the title in 1797. The elaborate carved tablet tells of the death of two sons of the 3rd Lord Braybrooke killed within a week of each other in 1854 in the Crimea, and the lower one the deaths of the 7th Lord Braybrooke and his two sons both killed in the Second World War. The tomb of black Belgian slate known as touch is that of Lord Chancellor Audley who was granted Walden Abbey on its dissolution in 1537 but is sadly inaccessible to the public. I particularly wanted to photograph this tomb!

The South Porch has a fan vaulted ceiling and by the door is a fragment of an old alabaster reredos above it is the Muniments Room, once the meeting place of the Guild of the Holy Trinity.

The spire reaches a height of 193 feet and the top part of the tower together with the spire were built in 1832 to a design by Thomas Rickman and extensively repaired in 1973-76. The original spire, with a lantern was designed by Henry Winstanley and it is said that he designed this as an experiment for the design of the Eddystone Lighthouse of which he was the architect; he and the lighthouse perished in a storm in 1703.


St Mary the Virgin

St Mary the Virgin (2)

St Mary the Virgin (3)


SAFFRON WALDEN. It is the medieval age living on into our century of change, a delightful little town in the Slade valley with a great roll of fame and 100 houses fit to be preserved as national monuments. Life has been going on here for more than a thousand years, and most of the time a thread has been running through it that has found its place in history.

Hundreds of Saxon graves have been dug in the solid chalk, and on the site of the big Saxon cemetery are traces of ramparts known as Battle Ditches, below which were pits in which ancient pottery was found. Looking down from Bury Hill are the ruined flint walls of the Norman castle. In the medieval days after the Normans a poor Walden boy grew up to be Archbishop of Canterbury, and a King of England died in his arms. In the century after these was born that Thomas Audley who became Lord Chancellor and whose grandson built Walden’s most marvellous house, Audley End; and in his age Walden produced a Provost of Eton and a poet who had the friendship of Edmund Spenser and yet was good-for-nothing. It produced also John Bradford the martyr, and in one century more it gave to the world that wonderful man Henry Winstanley, who built the first Eddystone Lighthouse. A rich dower it has given to us in the lives of men.

And, as we have said, it is rich in old houses. We find them in every street, with massive timbers, carved brackets, overhanging eaves, and plastered fronts with the dolphins, cornucopias, foliage, and portraits fashionable in the 17th century. Inside some of them are rich fireplaces and lovely screens. One of the houses was once the school and has a Latin phrase on its front which warns us either to learn, or to teach, or to depart. There are not many schools in England with a longer tradition than Saffron Walden’s, for it is referred to in the records of 1317, and was endowed in 1522 by Dame Jane Bradbury, widow of a Lord Mayor of London, to support one teacher of grammar "after the ordre and use of teching gramer in the scholes of Wynchester and Eton."

At the corner of Myddleton Place is a 15th century house with closely set timbers in the walls, a richly carved corner-post, and two oriel windows; inside is a magnificent panelled screen. The oak timbers on the house next door come from the house before it, in which the Friends used to meet in the 17th century, a house which came into the history of the town in the year in which the last Stuart king ran away, for we read in the civic accounts that 4d was paid for nailing up the Quaker’s door twice. Their door being nailed up, they met in the street, unperturbed by the fact that some of them were arrested. The town is close to the hearts of the Friends, and their oldest school was transferred here from Croydon towards the end of last century. It stands on the hill called Mount Pleasant, a building costing £30,000, in 20 acres of ground.

Splendid and famous and historic too is the Sun Inn, with its captivating gabled front and its story of exciting days in the Civil War. Here Cromwell stayed with Fairfax when they met the Commissioners of Parliament and tried for two or three days to compose the quarrel with the army, trying in vain. The inn, which is in Castle Street, has projecting wings on each side of the 15th century hall, 14th century timbers in its roof, and a plaster front of the 17th century. A cartway has been cut through one wing, and in the gable above it is a big round sun in plaster relief with men on each side wearing long coats, knee breeches, and high-heeled shoes, one man wielding a club and one with sword and buckler. Next door to this inn is a house with wood tracery in a window 600 years old.

Close by the great park of Audley End is a charming group of the 15th century Abbey Farm and Almshouses. It is one of the rarest peeps in Essex. Built of brick with tiled roofs, the almshouses have 20 tenements set round two courtyards, with a kitchen, a hall, and a chapel between them. The chapel has a hammerbeam roof with ornamental work in the spandrels, and the stone-paved kitchen has a great fireplace with an ornamental iron jack. In one of the kitchen windows is a Madonna and Child in glass 600 years old, and in the window of one of the houses is medieval glass with an angel and a pope among other fragments. The town has another group of almshouses which were the gift of Roger Walden in the 14th century, but they have been rebuilt. They stand between Audley Park and the High Street, and preserve from the older building a 15th century brass inscription, two carved corbels of the original windowsills, a Jacobean armchair, and a notice board 200 years old with the rules for tenants.

It should not be forgotten, as we look about at all this ancient beauty, that Walden has a living beauty too. Its name of Saffron comes from the flavouring plant which was once widely grown here, having been brought to England hidden in the staff of a palmer. Today if we come to Walden in carnation time we may see in a nursery a remarkable display of carnations. They are the pride of the town in their season, a riot of colour under one of the widest glass roofs in the world, covering an acre. The town is also rich in trees and in green spaces, for besides the great park it has a wide common and what are called the Bridge End Gardens, with noble cedars. From Audley End runs a double avenue of beeches to Strethall. Walden is perhaps unique among our towns for having two public mazes. One, on the common, is a curious survival of the centuries, a spiral maze cut in the turf. Nobody knows how old it is, but 15s was spent on repairing it in 1699. The other maze is in a corner of Bridge End Gardens, and is a copy of that famous maze at Hampton Court in which ten million people have been lost. As we are visiting it we should peep in at the little picture gallery at the garden gate to see the paintings by Old Masters.

In the castle grounds is the museum, a collection of remarkable interest. The ruins of the castle take us back eight centuries; the contents of the museum go down the ages and across the earth. We see a glove Mary Stuart wore on the morning of her execution, and a grim fragment of human skin which was found nailed to the door of Hadstock church. There are skulls and ornaments from the Saxon cemetery, and the skeleton of an elephant shown in the Great Exhibition of 1851 which was meant to usher in the peace of the world. There is one of the best collections of humming birds to be seen in England. An oak strip has 13th century carving of a mounted knight in mail, a bedstead has 14th century carving, and there is a 14th century altarpiece of alabaster showing Joseph leading the boy Jesus. A Jacobean doll’s chair has a padded back. There are two stone mantelpieces from the home of Gabriel Harvey, the ne’er-do-well poet, one with figures of Justice and Truth and one with a pack-horse, a pig eating acorns, bees about a hive, and flowers of the saffron crocus.

Among the most interesting of all the exhibits is one of those rare feather cloaks worn by the kings of Hawaii, made from the feathers of birds that have long been extinct. There are only a small number of these cloaks left in the world, and they are all known, being highly treasured by the people of Hawaii; this one was worn by a king who came to England, who ruled for five years over Hawaii and was so agreeable to the missionaries that Christianity made great progress, and it became possible to pass a code of laws based on the Ten Commandments. The friendly king, Kamehameha, came to England with his queen and unhappily both caught measles and died.

In the castle grounds outside the museum we found the whipping-post and pillory, brought here from the prison of the neighbouring town of Newport.

The stately and impressive church looks boldly across the town. Its tower has 12 bells and dominates the High Street with a fine spire rising nearly 200 feet. There is only one church in Essex bigger than this noble structure of the 15th century, 184 feet long and 80 feet wide. Cupolas and pinnacles rise above its roofs, its parapets are richly carved, and along the north wall run grotesques among which we noticed a chained monkey, a wild man, a saddled beast, a woman with a cat on her lap. Both porches have vaulted roofs and the south porch has a priest’s chamber above and a 13th century crypt below. In the porch wall is a figure from a 14th century reredos.

The arches of the nave are the solid work of the 15th century mason, the spandrels elaborately carved with familiar devices. Above these arches run 13 clerestory windows in each wall of the nave, filling the church with light. All the roofs are splendid, the chancel roof with the Twelve Apostles and painted bosses 500 years old, the nave roof with angels 400 years old, and the north chapel roof with 16th century saints and angels. Set in the wall of the north aisle are 12 canopied niches 600 years old, with delicate carvings of David playing the harp, St John and the Lamb, the incredulity of Thomas, and Our Lord’s last days.

Below this lovely stone carving is a little gallery of brass portraits of people whose names have been lost. They are of the 15th and 16th centuries: a priest of 1430 with a pelican above his head, a woman of 1490, two women in butterfly headdresses leaning gracefully backward, a longhaired civilian and his wife of 1510, a thick-set man in a fur gown of 1530, a woman in a flat cap of the same time, and a 14th century civilian. On a wall are banners and helmets carved in memory of two brothers who died in one week, sons of Lord Braybrooke, one perishing at Inkerman and one at Balaclava. There is a lovely modern window of the Madonna in memory of Lord Braybrooke and his daughter, Augusta Strutt. On one of the screens is a little carving 600 years old. The fine chancel screen was designed by Sir Charles Nicholson, with the gallery above the roodbeam in medieval style. There is a Jacobean altar table, a Jacobean chest, and a plain font of the 15th century. A homely picture of Jerome with the Madonna and Child was above the altar when we called;  it is a copy Matthew Peters made of Correggio’s famous painting at Parma, and was given to this church by Lord Braybrooke in 1793.

But the chief monument in the church is in the south chapel, where on a fine altar tomb lies the man who was largely responsible for the grandeur about him, Thomas Audley, an Essex man born in 1488 who became town clerk of Colchester and rose to be a member of Cardinal Wolsey’s household. On Wolsey’s fall Sir Thomas More became Lord Chancellor and Audley took More’s place as Speaker of the Commons. He advanced rapidly in the king’s favour, and as Speaker allowed himself to transmit to the House one of the most flagrant pieces of royal hypocrisy. He caused two oaths to be read in Parliament to prepare the way for the Act of Supremacy. On Sir Thomas More surrendering to the king his seal as Lord Chancellor, Henry gave it to Audley while he was still Speaker, wishing to retain a Speaker who so well suited his purposes. He helped the king to put away Catherine of Aragon and to marry Anne Boleyn, and then examined Sir Thomas More, whom he could have saved if he would, though he would not. A man of poor character, the willing instrument of his imperious master, he declared that he was glad to have no learning but Aesop’s Fables. Having presided at the trial of Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More, behaving shamefully at both, this man who had manoeuvred the marriage of Anne Boleyn now conducted her a prisoner to the Tower. He tried the prisoners for the Pilgrimage of Grace, and for all these services he was allowed to have what Thomas Fuller called the carving for himself of the first cut of the monastic properties. He declared that he was always poor till then, but he now became rich enough to build this magnificent tomb at Walden, the town after which he had called himself Baron Audley of Walden. His name is a stain on the Knighthood of the Garter which the king gave to him. He was a tall and impressive man to look at, and these seem to have been his noblest attributes, except that he was loyal as a tyrant’s slave.

A man who left us a heroic example and an immortal saying, one of the notable figures of the 16th century, comes into Saffron Walden’s story - John Bradford, at one time chaplain to the young King
Edward the Sixth. He preached here for two years, and so endeared the people to him that they were in his thoughts as he sat writing his last letter at Newgate, with the prisoners in tears all round him; he called his letter the Dying Martyr’s Testament to the Faithful at Saffron Walden. His death was one of the bitterest tragedies of Mary Tudor’s reign, and rarely was seen such a crowd as at his burning. Taking a faggot in his hand and kissing it, Bradford looked on the people and cried: "O England, England, repent thee of thy sins; take heed they do not deceive you." It was John Bradford who, seeing a criminal going to execution, used these words which have been quoted a million times since, "But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford." He was about 45, and a Manchester grammar school boy.

Walden has on its roll of fame two men of the 14th century and two of the 16th. One of its 14th century men began life as a poor boy and rose to be Lord Treasurer of England and Archbishop of Canterbury. He was Roger Walden, probably a butcher’s son. He had a curiously adventurous life, advancing rapidly from a rectory to an archdeaconry at Winchester, becoming secretary to Richard the Second, and then Treasurer of England. In 1397 the king banished Archbishop Arundel from Canterbury and gave his office to Walden, but he held it only a little while, for Arundel returned and took the Primacy again. He bore no ill-will against Walden, in spite of the fact that he had removed jewels and six cartloads of goods from Canterbury. During the public miseries of those times Walden suffered with the deposition of the king and was put in the Tower; he was one of those who fell when King Richard gave up his crown and pleaded for a little, little grave on the king’s highway. He came back into favour and was even installed as Bishop of London in the new reign, but he did not long survive this dignity. In spite of his chequered career he is said to have been a gentle character, and even the archbishop whose office he usurped paid high tribute to his qualities.

Thomas Waldensis, who was living at the same time as Roger Walden, is also known as Thomas Netter. He became a monk, and took a great part in the prosecuting of the followers of Wycliffe, being made an inquisitor. He preached against the Lollards at Paul’s Cross, and examined Sir John Oldcastle as to his opinions. He became a favourite with Henry the Fourth, and was with him when he died in Jerusalem Chamber, so that he would see that wondrous scene in Shakespeare. Henry the Fourth lay dying, his conscience uneasy, his physical frame in the grip of disease, and the Prince of Wales was by his bed when the king fell into a deathlike trance, and it seemed to his son that the crown had fallen to his lot. Thinking that the king was not to wake again, the prince took up the crown and put it on, and suddenly the king awoke. His dying heart was broken as he felt that his wild son had seized the crown so soon:

Dost thou so hunger for mine empty chair
That thou wilt needs invest thee with my honours
Before thy hour be ripe?

It is said that Henry the Fourth died actually in the arms of Waldensis, who preached his funeral sermon. He lived through the reign of Henry the Fifth and became confessor of the young Henry the Sixth, with whom he went to Rouen, where he died and was buried, a year before the burning of Joan of Arc in that city.

The two 16th century notables of Saffron Walden were kinsmen, Thomas Smith and Gabriel Harvey. Smith was a Saffron Walden grammar school boy who found favour with Thomas Cromwell, became Public Orator at Cambridge, and had such influence that he was appointed to discuss with Henry the Eighth the point as to whether he should marry an Englishwoman or a foreigner. Smith was a Protestant, and in the reign of the young Edward the Sixth the foul Bishop Bonner was imprisoned in the Tower for his conduct towards Smith. He became Provost of Eton, but lived in retirement during most of Mary Tudor’s reign, being made Ambassador to France by Queen Elizabeth. Holbein painted his portrait. He was upright according to the life of his time, was a classical scholar and a writer, and believed in astrology long before the astrological quacks came pouring into Fleet Street. He lies at Theydon Mount, and his kinsman Gabriel Harvey wrote a poem of praise on his death. Both were grammar school boys, but while Sir Thomas Smith lived in the great house Audley End and entertained Elizabeth there, Harvey was but a ropemaker’s son, though it is suggested that his father was quite a prosperous man.

At Pembroke College Harvey made friends with Edmund Spenser, who has immortalised him in the Shepherd’s Calendar, where he is known as Hobbinol. One of Harvey’s poems is also in the group which introduces Spenser’s Faerie Queene. Apparently a quarrelsome man himself, Harvey shared with Shakespeare the scurrility of Robert Greene, the forgotten dramatist who imagined that he would live when Shakespeare was forgot, and he assailed Harvey with such vehemence that his offensive references were afterwards expunged from his work. Harvey replied to it in the same unworthy style, and today is forgotten with the rest.

Mee then includes a lengthy biography of Henry Winstanley (see Littlebury) and a review of Audley End which I'm omitting as outside of this blog's remit - although Audley End probably merits a post.

Flickr set.