Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Little Shelford, Cambridgeshire

When I visited All Saints last November it was locked with no sign of a keyholder but when I re-visited a couple of weeks ago (as a result of a re-visit to Great Shelford in order to re-shoot the interior) I happened to coincide with an organised group who were touring various Cambridgeshire churches and so had a chance opportunity to record the interior.

The early part of the history of the church is inextricably bound up with a Norman family who arrived in this country at the time of William the Conqueror. Early records show that Barnard de Freville accompanied William, and the family seemingly settled in Norfolk. It is not until the early 14th century that the link between the de Frevilles and the church became firmly established, as then the manor at Little Shelford passed into the possession of Sir John de Freville (d. l3l2). It is he who is thought to have founded or re—built the Chancel. To commemorate him there is a founder’s tomb in the corner close to the altar, set in the north wall and backing on to the vestry. The cross-legged effigy of a knight, in stone, lies underneath a canopied recess. On the wall behind it is the inscription, now difficult to read, but variously recorded, in Lombardic characters:


This can be roughly translated:

"Here lies Sir John de Frevile, Lord of this village,you who pass, of your charity, pray for his soul.’ "

It is thought that originally the effigy of this Crusader was in the centre of the Chancel, but was subsequently removed to its present position at some time in the 19th century (c.1854).

He was succeeded by his son Sir Richard (d. 1328). His son, the second Sir John (d. 1372) married Elena Lucy (d.1380). Their son Richard (d. 1375) was buried in the church and a brass inscription to his memory existed at some time in the past. It is possible that another brass of his mother Elena was sited in the Chancel near to the vestry door between the Chancel steps and the choir stalls. This plate is thought to have been of Flemish workmanship similar to the brass attributed to Sir Ralph de Knevyton in Aveley church in Essex, c. 1370. It is also open to conjecture as to whether the arch, now the entrance to the vestry, was originally intended to act as a canopy for a tomb for Elena as in the later restoration work a coffin was uncovered close by.

ALL SAINTS. Norman one window in the N wall of the nave. Part of a Norman window found by Rowe in restoring the chancel in 1878 and placed in the chancel S wall. The chancel E window entirely by Rowe, the chancel arch by Walters 1854. N and S windows Perp. But in the chancel N wall a broad low recess clearly E.E., with one of those arches which start with a short vertical piece. S chapel wholly Perp and with a pretty niche set diagonally to the r. of the E window inside. An identical niche to the l. only in fragments. Both were for statuettes and have figured brackets. The nave S side and the W tower Dec (but the S porch of 1878). The tower arch has an unusual moulding. Tower top embattled and with a spike. - CHOIR STALLS. High, nicely traceried and crested backs. - PULPIT. 1633; still with the blank arches typical of Elizabethan furniture; but they are now slimmer. - SCULPTURE. Good seated alabaster figure of a saint, C15, in the S chapel niche. In the opposite niche upper part of a female figure of alabaster. - MONUMENTS. Recess in the N chancel arch. Panelled buttresses, thickly decorated pinnacles and finials; ogee head, early C14. - In the recess efiigy of a Knight, cross-legged. Perhaps Sir John de Freville; see the inscription on the back of the recess: ‘ Ici gist Sire Jehan Frevil seigoure de cesr Vil vous ke se passet par charite pur l’alme priet’. He died in 1308. -  Brasses to a Priest, c. 1480, chancel floor, to Robert de Freville d,  1393 and wife, and Thomas de Freville d. 1405 and wife, the latter two, with 30 in. figures, in the S chancel chapel.

LITTLE SHELFORD. It lives in a secluded world with the Granta between it and Great Shelford, with two bridges and two big houses, all that remains of the charming Shelford Hall and the dignified Manor house, with its avenue where the rooks are always cawing. One of many hidden ways leads past the manor and the farm where the river slips through a wood and kingfishers streak over an ancient mill pool. The way to the church is plain, for it stands by the crossroads with 13 huge limes and an ancient cross with a new head.

It has a tiny spire on a 600-year-old tower, and stones from all our great building centuries, Norman and Saxon, too. There are stones carved with Saxon plaitwork below a tiny Norman window, a carved coffin stone which may be Saxon in the porch, and in the chapel are four more stones which are probably Norman, like the queer animal with human arms propping up the 13th century chancel arch. The chancel is 14th century, The small sacristy entered by an ancient door in a rich arch is 15th century, and has holes of three piscinas in a windowsill. The arcaded oak pulpit is Jacobean. The font is 600 years old. The stalls have on them the arms of the Frevilles, whose 15th century chapel (up three steps) has some fine stone ornament on its piscina and on a canopy over the figure of a saint, with fragments of old glass in its windows.

Some of the Frevilles who died before their chapel was built appear in the chancel in stone and brass. Sir John, an alabaster knight with an inscription in Norman French, is here from the beginning of the 14th century, and from the end of it, in brass, are Robert and Claricia, with a greyhound and two dogs at their feet as they clasp hands, their son Thomas holding his wife’s hand near them in a brass of 1405. A 15th century rector, John Cate, has another brass portrait. The shadow of the sword falls on three tablets telling of General Sir Charles Wale, who survived many battles to die at Little Shelford in 1848, of his son who fell at Lucknow, and of his eight grandsons and great-grandsons who gave up their lives when half the world was turned into a battlefield.

Flickr set.

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