Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire

St Mary is majestic, sitting on a rise (I feel slightly ridiculous describing anything in Cambridgeshire, except maybe Gog MaGog, as a hill) in the heart of the village. It is cruciform in layout and the exterior is exquisite - I know it's unusual for me to lavish such high praise on a Cambridgeshire church but it deserves it.

Sadly the interior is a major disappointment, although there are altar pieces on the chancel arch and a rather unsatisfying monument Sir William Mitchell, being spartan. After the high expectations generated by the exterior the interior feels rather undressed however as with all churches there are items of interest - two ghoulish corbels particularly caught my eye.

ST MARY. A sizeable cruciform church of flint and pebble rubble, much restored in 1869. A preceding Norman church attested by a Norman capital found and placed under the crossing. Most of the present church Dec. Crossing with the four arches on semi-octagonal responds; the W arch double-chamfered, the others double-hollow-chamfered. Chancel with typical windows of c. 1300, the E window new, but correctly shafted inside, the N doorway with one hollow chamfer and one convex semicircle moulding also c. 1300, and the Double Piscina too. The transepts early C14, see the windows and also, on the front of the N transept, a frieze of vine tendrils with ball-flower, just as for example at Over. Again early C14 the N arcade of piers with four strong shafts and four fine shafts between; double-chamfered arches. No S aisle, but the windows Dec. Big Perp N porch, Perp W front, Perp top of the crossing-tower with battlements and spike, Perp clerestory. Several niches with canopies in the transepts. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, with quatrefoil panels. - ROOD SCREEN. With three-light divisions, each light with an ogee-arch in a round arch. - MONUMENT. William Mitchell d. 1745, by Thomas Adey. Standing wall monument, with an allegorical female figure seated comfortably on a black sarcophagus. She unveils a somewhat dull portrait medallion. A putto leans against it from the other side, extinguishing a torch.

FOWLMERE. Both fowl and mere went from it when the marsh was drained as part of Rennie’s scheme, but the small ring of earthworks called Round Moats has survived from untold centuries, strong defences which prehistoric men made stronger by turning the water from a neighbouring brook into the moat.

Here is Chequers Inn, with 1675 written on the plastered walls which sheltered Pepys for a night on his way to Cambridge; and near the Round Moats is a fine flint church of 600 years ago with a lofty central tower and a needle spire. The four tower arches and the nave arcade have clustered columns, and the chancel and transepts have each a pair of rich niches. The font is also from the 14th century, and the oldest double piscina marks the change-over from Norman to English styles. A sword and two helmets are left hanging in the chancel from long ago. The 15th century provided the crude and battered chancel screen, the clerestory, the west doorway, and the splendid porch where traceried windows light a handsome carved doorway guarded by angels. Over the door which has opened and shut to generations of village folk is the cross of an ancient coffin stone. Typical of the 18th century is the draped woman with her child mourning over William Mitchell’s plaque. From 1561 to that day in 1925 when Alexander Yorke fell dead in the church as he prayed, Fowlmere had but 11 rectors, John Crackanthorpe out-spanning them all by his 53 years of service.

Flickr set.

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