Thursday, 21 October 2010

Linton, Cambridgeshire

St Mary in Linton stands on a site that has probably been used for worship for more than 1000 years. The present church dates from Norman times replacing a wooden one built near the ford in Linton (so named after the fields of blue flax spun to make linen). Refreshingly it is open every day and shared by both Anglican and Roman Catholic congregations and although the exterior is dull it compensates with an interesting interior.

From the outside,the church appears to be symmetrical with north and south porches and two chancel chapels to the east, inside it is interestingly different. In the nave, the south arcade, built towards the end of the 13th century, has five and a half bays, the last being clipped by the tower. The north arcade, by contrast, has only three and once contained a gallery seating up to 100 people. It was erected in 1790 but pulled down during the Victorian restoration in 1870.

To add to the interest, the main chancel arch, behind the nave altar, is not central, nor is the tower arch behind you. One of the unusual features in the nave are the three round openings in the south wall. These were probably clerestory windows belonging to the Norman Church. They provided some extra light before the roof was raised, the nave walls built up and a new set of windows installed in the 14th century.

ST MARY. Built of flint and stone, well away from the village street and close to the fields. A sizeable church, all embattled except for the chancel. The building history clarifies itself on entering. The S arcade comes first. It has alternating circular and octagonal piers, the circular ones with circular capitals and finely moulded arches - typical later C13 work. The arcade is five bays long, but a sixth existed and was partly cut off when the tower was built. The tower can itself not be much later than 1300, as is indicated by the arch towards the nave which is triple-chamfered and has no capitals. The W window is Dec, the bell-openings are still E.E. Then follows the N arcade. Much wider arches, three instead of four, double-chamfered on quatrefoil piers. This again can be no later than the early C14. The very odd first clerestory, below the present one, probably belongs on both sides to this phase in the history of the church: alternating circular and quatrefoil windows, opening above the spandrels, not the apexes, of the arcade. The chancel arch also is of the time of the N arcade, and so were the chancel windows before later adjustments. One N window now looking into the Vestry is proof of that. The chancel chapels, two bays on the S side, one bay on the N side, are both Perp. The latter is indeed assigned to the time of Queen Elizabeth I. In the Perp style in addition several windows, the N porch and doorway, and S porch (P) and doorway. - PANELLING. Chancel N wall ; Jacobean. - MONUMENTS. Henry Paris (P) d. 1427, brass in armour, the figure 2 ft 8 in. long.- Sir John Millicent d. 1577, and wife. Big monument of a familiar composition but oddly ironed flat, as if pressed against the wall. Two semi-reclining figures facing each other, but the lower parts of their bodies left out, so as to save volume and depth. Children kneeling very small in a compartment below. Sir John’s first wife frontal bust, in compartment above. - George Flacke and sister, 1693, two identical designs with small busts at the top; quite good. - Other similar monuments. - Elizabeth Bacon and her brother Peter Standly. Large standing wall-monument by Wilton, dated 1782. Life-size standing figures of Hope and Faith l. and r. of a big urn against a grey obelisk. At the top of the obelisk portrait medallion of Mr Standly.

Linton has changed considerably since Mee's day and has been developed unmercifully, the new sits uneasily with the old. It also boasts one of the deadliest stretches of road in Cambridgeshire - the A1307 between Haverhill and Cambridge is so notorious it even managed to spawn its own internet message board.

LINTON. Furze Hill raises its chalk down behind the mile long, street, the River Granta flows slowly at its feet, and it has more endearing old houses to the mile than perhaps any other place in the county. They enchant the eye in the street, a timbered inn, a gabled house with raised plaster work, and thatched cottages standing out from comely neighbours. In all the quaint touches of this straggling little place is nothing more charming than the group hidden from the highway with the old church, the dreaming old Guildhall, now a house, and the little bridge over the stream. Near by at Little Linton is the Grange, a small Elizabethan house within a moat. In the field beside it we found one of those ancient clapper stiles with bars which fall at a touch to let us pass over and then slip back again. There is one in a lane where Shakespeare used to walk, at Charlecote in Warwickshire.Here also (at the church) are kept two of those old fire hooks, fixed on their poles, which were used for pulling burning thatch from houses.

The fine church is mostly 500 years old with crude gargoyles on the nave, a sundial on the battlements, arches resting on Norman pillars, and clerestory windows of the 15th century. The two porches are the same age, but in one is a holy water stoup which may be Norman. There is a little old glass with roundels of Bible scenes, a peace memorial window with St George and St Michael, a chest with Jacobean carving, and more Jacobean carving in the sanctuary. The font is 15th century. There is a brass portrait of Nicholas Paris of 1427 in armour with a lion and a sword, and a curious l7th century family group in marble with a man holding his wife’s hand over a skull while she leans on an hourglass, a daughter in black and white above, and, below, 11 children kneeling in quaint rows, five of them chubby figures in nightgowns, and six ghostly draped figures.

Linton has one of the village colleges started by Cambridgeshire as an experiment in education, the idea being to educate children over eleven for the lives of country folk. They are drawn from a number of villages round each college and may learn craftsmanship of every kind, needlework and cookery, with all facilities for music, drama, dancing, and films. The building at Linton is a long low white building with all the chief rooms looking out on the playing-field. It is the third of these colleges opened in the county, the first being at Sawston and the second at Bottisham. The Linton buildings are by Mr S. E. Urwin, the county architect.

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