Sunday, 17 October 2010

Kedington, Suffolk

I stumbled upon SS Peter and Paul on my way to Barnadiston, I'm sure I would have eventually visited it but it was not a planned visit. For once Simon Jenkins and I are in agreement, he rates it as a four star church and says that it "comes in the top rank of small English churches. It offers nothing out of the ordinary, nothing jarring or shocking, just consistency of craftsmanship and the harmony of ages......inside, no inch is without diversion". I don't think I can put it any better.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. * A late C13 nave and chancel (see the uncusped and cusped Y-tracery) and a Dec N aisle (W window) and W tower. Chancel arch also late C13, though the imposts have a simple, Norman looking moulding. The chancel windows are shafted inside. The E window is of course a Perp insertion. The Piscina has the weirdest shape - a steep pointed arch cusped by three steep pointed trefoils. Low arcades between nave and aisles. The piers have a big polygonal shaft without capital to the front, as in many other Suffolk churches, but the polygonal shafts to the aisles have been painted in the C17 or C18 to simulate fluted columns. There is no clerestory. Yet the impression is not of darkness; for a later age has seen fit to put skylights into the false hammerbeam roof. Later ages have done much in other respects too to change the original effect of the interior. Kedington church contains a delightful diversity of furnishings. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with quatrefoil decoration. - PULPIT. An uncommonly complete three-decker with tester and hour-glass stand; of Jacobean date. - Of about the same time the ROOD SCREEN. This is actually dated 1619. It is simple and has scrolly ogee tops to the one-light divisions. It folds back like a folding door, which is also highly unusual. - (COMMUNICANTS’ STALLS. Late C18; a rarity. LG) - BARNARDISTON PEW. Opposite the pulpit. It is made up of parts of a C15 ROOD SCREEN, with segmental arches and four-plus-four-light tracery over, and of parts of an arched Jacobean screen. - BENCHES. Partly Late Perp, straight-headed with buttresses and linenfold panelling, partly C18. - FAMILY PEWS. C18, in the S aisle and more in the nave. - WEST GALLERY, early C19. Projecting in a semicircle.- CHILDREN’s BENCHES. In rising tiers at the W ends of the two aisles. Opposite them on each side of the block of pews a special boxed-in seat for the schoolmaster and schoolmistress to watch the children. - (POOR BOX. Simple, C15. Hewn out of a tree trunk. LG) - CHANCEL PANELLING, probably early C18. - WIG STAND. Baluster-shaped. By the pulpit. - COMMUNION RAIL. Three-sided, with strongly moulded turned balusters; given in 1707. - SCULPTURE. Anglo-Saxon Cross with Crucifixion, assigned to c. 900. This is placed above the main altar. - PLATE. Cup and Paten 1663-4; Flagon 1740. - MONUMENTS. Of the Barnardistons. Sir Thomas d. 1503 and his wife. Tomb-chest with shields in lozenges and quatrefoils. The effigies badly worn-off. - Sir Thomas and wife. She died in 1520, the date of his death is left blank. Big plain tomb-chest. Two recumbent effigies. Children kneeling small against the chest. Back wall with arms. - Standing wall-monument to Sir Thomas d. 1610 and his two wives. He recumbent, they kneeling and facing one another. Big superstructure, not refined. In the base a low segment-headed arch in the middle into which a coffin is just being pushed, as if it were a baking oven. - Grissell d. 1609. Adjoining the former and commemorating a daughter of the former. Kneeling figure between columns. The inscription runs like this:

Loe heere the Image of Lyfe, new inspyr’d
too wise In choice too olde in youthfull breath:
too deare to frendes: too much of men desier’d
therefore bereaft us by untymely death:
while shee trod Earth shee mynd farre Higher
Her actions faire, unstaynd of vice or pride
truth was her loade stone, heav’ne was her desier:
Christ was her hope as in his Fayth she dyde.

In the N aisle Sir Nathaniel d. 1653 and his wife d. 1669. In an oblong recess with garlands l. and r. , two frontal demi-figures, both pensively resting their heads on a hand and the elbow on a pillow. - Also N aisle Sir Thomas, 1724. Minor, without effigy, but with two standing putti holding a skull and a torch outside the pilasters which frame the inscription. The welcoming and parting touch is the COBBLING of the S porch.

* The remains of a Roman building are under the pews, and a section of mosaic paving is to be noted in the S outer face of the nave.

KEDINGTON. It is said that ten knights lie under the ten elms in the churchyard, to which we come by the narrow twisting lanes of Kedington on the Stour, and certainly it was a triumph for tradition when one of the elms toppled over and a skeleton was found at its roots.

Pollard limes lead us to the cobbled porch of the medieval church which has Norman stones in its tower, Roman bricks and mosaic paving in the flint walls of the nave, an old mass dial, and a round stone with a cross in the chancel gable. Inside we found as big a congregation in stone as many churches have of villagers on Sunday, no less than nine men and women and eight children, all Barnadistons, of the family to which Kedington owes most of its treasures.

But it was John of Newmarket who raised this tower, putting his wife’s name, Dame Amicia, on a buttress where we see her much weathered figure in a niche above the faint outline of her husband both just recognisable after 600 years. The chancel is 14th century. The Barnardistons built a new nave in the 15th, and we read on the tomb of Lady Elizabeth, who died in 1520, that she "built the church roof new and covered it with lead." Three skylights were cut in her roof last century, a very rare sight indeed in a church. A dainty fretwork frieze runs below the aisle roofs.

In the middle of the nave are pews 500 years old, with linenfold designs. Box-pews line the walls, and the 18th century added a gallery with a steep tier of seats on each side, one for boys and one for girls. The stone figures and the grand family pew, the screen and the remarkable pulpit, claim pride of place, but everywhere is something from the past: a 15th century font with shields and flowers and something like little windows in its base; a long chest of 600 years ago and an almsbox perhaps as old, hollowed from a tree and now partly buried in the nave; bits of old glass over a Jacobean altar railed in 200 years ago by Sir Samuel Barnardiston (whose handsome head is said to have given the name of Roundheads to Cromwell’s men); and a writing case with a box for the sand which was used for blotting the ink.

The oak chancel screen of 1619, with curious flat tracery in the bays has the distinction of being the earliest dated screen after the Reformation. Facing each other across the central aisle are the Barnardiston family pew and the pulpit from which the Puritan Samuel Fairclough preached for 34 years to packed congregations. This famous and unusual pulpit, made by a Jacobean craftsman, stands on a slender stem with a carved canopy over it and a pillar running up one side for the old hourglass stand. We were told that a shorter pillar with a knob on the top was for the parson of olden days to hang his wig on. The steps extend into a panelled desk for the clerk, with a long carved book-rest.

The family pew has a panelled canopy with a beautiful cornice, Jacobean work on three sides, but on the fourth side made up from a 16th century screen and still touched with old red and gold. It has a fantasy of tracery, and many quaint carvings in its spandrels, heads with flowing whiskers, long-tailed birds, and dragons sticking out venomous tongues.

Many of the great family who sat in this pew are here in stone, lying or kneeling on their monuments, the grandest being of Sir Thomas Barnardiston and his two wives, all gay with colour. He lies in black armour on a tomb hung with shields and festoons of flowers, his long sword at his side, his fine head on a plumed helmet, and the black lid of his coffin protruding from beneath. Against the wall at his side are two arched recesses where his wives kneel on red cushions at their open prayer-books, their delicately chiselled faces clearly portraits. One wears a collar upstanding like a peacock’s tail, the other has her ruff covered at the back with widow’s weeds. Their white dresses are mottled with red and both have open cloaks with embroidered edges. Carved skulls are piled on each side, and over them hang gauntlets and a helmet, probably carried at the husband’s funeral. By their side, in another elaborate memorial, is Griszel, daughter of Sir Thomas and his second wife. She kneels on a cushion under an arch in a tight-waisted dress and puffed-out skirt, with her hair brushed straight up from her forehead over a frame.

On two other tombs lie two more Thomases in armour, each with a wife Elizabeth. One couple died at the beginning of the 16th century, the other at the end, and it was the wife of the elder Thomas who gave the new roof. She sleeps under it alone, for her husband (who has a bird at his feet here) was buried at Great Coates in Lincolnshire. The other Thomas, almost as fat as Falstaff, has a lion at his feet while his lady has a dog.

Nathaniel, the pious Puritan of the Commonwealth, who was said closely to resemble Cromwell, is shown with his elbow on a helmet, his wife resting hers on a cushion in a recess like a bit of harvest decoration with its flowers and leaves and ears of corn. Below are their coloured arms and a winged skull.

Sir Samuel Barnardiston has only an inscribed stone, and so we do not see the head which inspired the name of Roundheads. The story goes that Charles Stuart’s queen was looking out of a window when she noticed this short-haired youth among a rebellious crowd in street, and called out: "See what a handsome round head is there”. The name stuck, but Samuel had little to do with the Roundheads spending most of the Civil War secure in Suffolk, and welcoming Charles back to the throne so warmly that he was knighted. He spent four years in gaol for refusing to pay the £10,000 which Judge Jeffreys fined him for criticising the monstrous Rye House Plot proceedings, and once he was made prisoner of Black Rod for criticising a judgement of the House of Lords. A right royal row followed when the Commons took the Lords to task for this indignity to one of their members, a bother which was only settled when the king suggested that the whole case, judgement, imprisonment, objection, and all, should be wiped out from the records of both Houses.

One small item of interest concerning Samuel the Roundhead is that he built a reservoir for water on the top of his house at Brightwell, which not only served for all domestic purposes but was kept stocked with fish for the larder.

Flickr set.

No comments:

Post a Comment