Friday, 22 October 2010

Little Bardfield, Essex

OMFG St Katherine is a gem. When I visited the organ was being restored and was pretty much scattered all over the south chapel. The interior, it has to be said, is a disappointment - over restored and vandalised by the Victorians - but the exterior is amazing and the setting perfect.

ST KATHERINE. Late Anglo-Saxon W tower, unbuttressed, with arched openings on three floors. Later recessed pyramid roof. The nave masonry is of the same character as that of the tower. One Saxon S and one N window, double-splayed. - ORGAN. Said to be by Renatus Harris, c. 1700 and to come from Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge. The case with openwork foliage scrolls and a cherub’s head.

LITTLE BARDFIELD. Its hall is a beautiful Tudor house with overhanging gables, ornamental plaster, and old woodwork within; and the luxuriant elms and chestnuts in its grounds almost hide the church’s great Saxon tower. For 900 years this tower has been standing, and a remarkable structure it is, 22 feet wide. All its five stages are Saxon except for the herringbone masonry at the top and the new battlements, and there are Saxon windows cut straight through the pebble and flint walls. A little modern spire rises above the battlements. The nave has Roman tiles and is Saxon too, with a blocked Saxon window keeping company with others of the 14th and 15th centuries. St Catherine, to whom the church belongs, is outside the small medieval porch, and there are 15th century arches from the nave to the tower and to the 600-year-old chancel. There is a Jacobean chest, and a chancel stall about the same age fitted with poppyheads of Henry the Eighth's time; but the most interesting possession of the church is the organ with its carved case, for it is thought to be the work of the famous builder Renatus Harris about the year 1700. He it was who competed with the still more famous Father Smith when a new organ was needed for Temple Church in London, each man building an organ which was tried before the Benchers. Father Smith’s won, perhaps because it was played by the immortal Purcell.

Flickr set.

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