Thursday, 14 October 2010

Kirtling, Cambridgeshire

I got myself lost coming home from Dullingham and found myself in Kirtling by mistake - although as it is on my list of churches to visit this seemed to be Divine intervention.

I accept that I might be accused of hyperbole but All Saints is simply astonishing from it's setting to its contents; the moment you see the Norman south door you know you're in for something special and you're not disappointed. A light, airy church with fantastic hatchments, monuments, the North chapel monuments and a great brass to Edward Myrfin.

The North family became lords of the manor in 1533 and both the burial chapel and south aisle were built in the second half of the 16th century. Edward North was created Lord North of Kirtling in 1554 and died in 1564. It was his death that gave impetus to his son Roger, second Lord North. to build in c. l567 the red-brick burial chapel, with half-blocked windows, as a mausoleum for the dynasty. There is a two-bay arcade from the chancel and a now partly blocked arch into the former south transept.
The south aisle was also built by Roger North, before his death in 1600. The shields over the three classical arches, on the nave side are for Roger and his wife Winifred (née Rich) widow of Sir Henry Dudley son of the Duke of Northumberland, Lord Protector under Edward IV.

As you leave the village, heading south towards Haverhill, you pass Our Lady and St Philip Neri which, as a Catholic, screams Catholicism at you. I'm not sure what it is about the church but I rather liked it, perhaps because I'm more used to Nissan huts or worse.

The squire of Kirtling, W. H. J. North (succeeded as Lord North 1884), and his wife Frederica converted to Roman Catholicism in 1867 and built a temporary church of corrugated iron in the grounds of the Tower in 1871. It was replaced by the church of Our Lady Immaculate and St. Philip Neri facing the Saxon Street road, opened in 1877. Designed by C. A. Buckler and built in a Romanesque style of flint with limestone dressings, it has a nave aligned north-south with a western porch, eastern aisle and vestry, and a bell turret on the south gable, and to the north an apsidal chancel. The heraldic glass and other fittings were brought from the Norths' house at Wroxton Abbey (Oxon.). A district was assigned to the church in 1872, and North built a presbytery south of the church by 1878. The priests at first held two Sunday services and mass on weekdays for a congregation which by 1905 included several of North's servants, tenants, and alms people. After the retirement of a long-serving priest in 1937 the church was served from Newmarket and a single Sunday mass was held each week, but from the 1960s there was again a resident priest.

From: 'Kirtling: Roman Catholicism', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10: Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (north-eastern Cambridgeshire) (2002), pp. 77. URL:  Date accessed: 14 October 2010.

ALL SAINTS. Not in a village, but close to the grounds of the house. Norman S doorway, unusually ambitious for a Cambridgeshire parish church: two orders of colonnettes, thin shafts fluted or zigzag-grooved. Arch with zigzag, three-dimensional zigzag and billet. Plain tympanum on two head-cusps, but in the middle of the tympanum a sunk circular panel with a carved figure of Christ seated in majesty. The ironwork of the DOOR also Norman. Norman finally the S window W of the door. The chancel follows, with blocked lancets, and the N aisle with a blocked W lancet. The rest is Perp: W tower, nave and clerestory, S porch and most windows. They vary interestingly in date. In the clerestory the arches are straightened out, a sign of c. 1500 or later. In the chancel N side an odd three-light window, with Early Renaissance detail in the spandrels between the cusped lights. It is dated 1564 in one spandrel.* Finally, shortly after 1500 the most rewarding part of the building: the SE (North) chapel, of brick, with transomed brick windows, of three lights to the S, of five to the E. In the interior the roof line of the church, before it had a clerestory, appears against the tower, and the details of this on the lower stage may indeed date from the C14. Fine, long, bare and cool interior. S arcade of four bays with octagonal piers and double-chamfered round arches, except for the last bay. This is clearly Perp, as is the chancel arch and the six-bay N arcade (piers with four shafts and four hollows, arches with mouldings including hollow-chamfering). But how can the plain arches on the S side be explained? It has been suggested that they are the remains of an earlier aisle, broken through the Norman nave, c. 1200. Shields above the arches. Charming niches in pairs to the l. and r. of the E window of the N aisle. Especially the ones on the l. have lively decoration. Another pretty niche N of the High Altar. In the N aisle big head-corbels to carry the roof.- Good HATCHMENTS.- MONUMENTS. In the North Chapel. First Baron North d. 1564, the builder of the brick chapel and of Kirtling Tower. He was the son of a London merchant and rose to be Chancellor of the Court of Augmentation which dealt with the spoils of the dissolution of the monasteries. He was exceedingly rich and politically skilful, or else he would not have been equally in favour with Somerset, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth. His London mansion was the former Charterhouse and Elizabeth stayed twice with him there for several days. Big tomb-chest of black marble, standing at r. angle to the E wall of the chapel. Against the wall a back plate with short fluted columns and a shield in a wreath above. Shields in Wreaths between fluted pilasters on the tomb-chest. The monument comes no doubt from the same workshop as that of Lord Audley at Saffron Walden in Essex, nearby. - Second Baron North d. 1600. Sumptuous, though coarse, free-standing six-poster, also at r. angles to the E wall. The columns are of white stone and carved with spiral vine, oak etc. trails. Tomb-chest with fluted pilasters. Recumbent effigy. Big recessed  superstructure with much openwork strapwork and achievements. - In the chancel: Edward Myrfin d. 1553, brass, small kneeling figure. - Maria North d. 1841, tablet with profile surrounded by a wreath. - Very different John Crichton Stuart, Marquess of Bute, d. 1848, a Gothic stone epitaph without figures. Yet both are by the same sculptor: J. E. Thomas of London.

* S aisle windows C19.

OUR LADY IMMACULATE AND ST PHILIP, R.C., close to the entrance of Kirtling Tower. 1877 by Buckler (GR). Flint with lancet windows, a W bell-cote, and an apse. - STAINED GLASS in the W window. Three parts of a Crucifixion, Swiss, c. 1530, from Wroxton Abbey.

KIRTLING. It has the quiet charm of so many corners of our countryside with that group of characteristic English beauty – a church tower peeping through the trees, a gabled house of bricks mellowed by Time, and ducks on a pond by long thatched barns. It has a house that is famous in story, the great Kirtling Towers by the Roman Catholic church, making a fine picture as it rises from lawns surrounded by a deep embowered moat covered with a green carpet patterned with forget-me-nots. The house we see was new last century, but it has the red brick gateway with four turrets through which Queen Elizabeth passed to the house that was here before. Here she was entertained in great magnificence by the son of the builder of the house.

It was the first Lord North who built it, Chancellor to Henry the Eighth; he lies in a fine slate tomb richly adorned with shields, the second lord, the son who entertained Elizabeth, lying under a huge canopy borne on six pillars and crowned by painted figures. Lord North is a fine figure in black armour tipped with gold, his head on a helmet and a griffin at his feet. The third lord died in the year of the Great Fire of London and has a floor stone in the chapel; it was he who discovered the springs at Tunbridge Wells, and he was a notable figure at Charles the Second’s court. On a small brass is a portrait of Edward Myrfin kneeling at a prayer desk. He died in 1553 after a life of travel. There were not many Englishmen of his day who knew more of the world.

The glory of this medieval church is its splendid south doorway, its arch enriched with zigzag and resting on pillars with carved capitals. The door swings on ancient hinges and there is a Norman window by the porch, and guarding this entrance are two heads under a very fine tympanum carved with Our Lord sitting on a rainbow. The interior is charming with grey arcades and rose coloured walls. The south arcade has three Norman arches, and the north has a fine row of 15th century bays. The chancel is 13th and 15th century, and in the roof of the chapel and the north aisle are bosses of flowers, the corbels being heads of men in caps, bearded men, and draped women. Below the chapel roof are two quaint oak figures.

Here is one of those pathetic memorials unique in our generation, a wooden cross from a grave in France. It is that of Frederick Bowyer, a boy of 19 who fell in the last British attack on the German line in 1918, and sleeps at Cambrai with 400 of his comrades.

Flickr set.

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