Thursday, 14 October 2010

High Easter, Essex

The outstanding features of St Mary the Virgin have to be the rather odd embattled tower, the Tudor brick porch and nave extension and the extraordinary C14th font not to mention the carvings on the roof timbers. It is not a pretty church but is without doubt an interesting one.

The chancel is early Norman or possibly Saxon and incorporates Roman tiles in a herringbone pattern its east wall, the brick clerestory was added in the late 15th century along with the porch and tower. The chancel roof dates to the early 16th century while the font is 14th century.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. Wide and large Norman nave and Norman chancel. The quoins of Roman brick are unmistakable, also some Roman bricks used herringbone fashion in the walling. Remains of the chancel arch. Plain Norman S doorway. The nave was heightened early in the C16 and given three-light clerestory windows and battlements. There is also an E window above the chancel arch. The roof is unusually impressive, of flat pitch, with tie-beams on braces with tracery, and with numerous carved bosses. The N aisle was added in the C14. It has two-light windows with an octofoiled circle over two ogee heads. The arcade of four bays has octagonal piers and double-hollow-chamfered. arches. The W tower of C15 date has diagonal buttresses; a little chequer flushwork along the base, a doorway with the demi-figure of an angel in the apex and big leaves in the spandrels. Three-light W window, two-light, transomed bell-openings, battlements, and taller, embattled stair turret. Early C16 embattled brick porch. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with the symbols of the Evangelists and four shields. - SCREENS. Two Parclose Screens at the E end of the N aisle, C15. - PLATE. Paten and Cup of 1562, with chased swags, fruit and flowers, satyr-heads etc.- TOMBSTONE in the churchyard to Thomas Witham d. 1772 with decoration in the style of local pargetting (F. Burgess). 

Arthur Mee:

HIGH EASTER. Its ancient cottages jostle at the gate of the churchyard, in which stand the Norman walls which were here before any of them. They make a charming group with overhanging storeys and high-pitched roofs. The noble 15th century tower of the church is stocked with gargoyles and heads of strange beasts to drive away evil from these pleasant highlands. There are Roman tiles set in herringbone fashion in the east wall of the chancel. The spandrels of the doorway of the tower have quaint carvings of a horseman with a woodman on one side and a winged beast on the other, while at the apex an angel holds a shield. Minstrels playing lutes act as stops to a modern window over the door, and angels form stops to the fine tower arch windows, carrying the eye up to the splendid 16th century roof in which every beam is moulded. There is running foliage on the embattled tie beams, and the bosses of its arches are carved with faces of men and beasts and the device of Sir Geoffrey Gate, made Marshal of Calais by Henry the Seventh. Sir Geoffrey may have kept one of the keys of the 14th century chest, which is still held together by its ornamental ironwork, and members of his family were baptised at the handsome 14th century font. The east window is in memory of Edward Francis Gepp, who died in 1903 after having been vicar 54 years. Old Edward Porter knew this Norman chancel even better than he, having sung in the choir for 70 years. There are mason’s marks on some of the pillars here, and a medieval scratch dial by the south doorway.

Flickr set.

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