Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Madingley, Cambridgeshire

St Mary Magdalene was an unplanned detour - you may if you want read this as I took a wrong turn - on an otherwise planned church trip. The church lies just within the gates of Madingley Hall, a fine Tudor house with a modern wing behind it set in beautiful grounds, which is part of the University of Cambridge.  The church is an attractive medieval building founded over nine hundred years ago but heavily restored, particularly on the the north side.

The Shire Manor of Madingley was granted to John Hynde in 1543 by an Act of Parliament, "upon condition to pay £10 to the sheriff and members of the county." He began building Madingley Hall in the same year, creating what are now known as the south and east wings.

The south wing contained domestic buildings, the kitchen and a garderobe; the east wing had just a few sleeping rooms, along with two large halls. The upper hall had a splendid viewing platform, leading to speculation that the Hall was originally conceived as an extravagant hunting lodge, built to flaunt the wealth of the newly-rich Hynde. When the Hall passed to his son, Sir Francis Hynde, in 1550, he made it the family home, and added the north wing in 1591. Sir John Hynde Cotton inherited Madingley Hall in 1712; during the 40 years that he owned the Hall he transformed it from a panelled Tudor house into a Baroque building and closed the medieval village street, with the aim of removing the villagers’ houses from sight.

In January 1861 Edward, Prince of Wales, arrived at Madingley. His mother, Queen Victoria had rented the Hall as a residence for her son whilst he studied at the University. However his stay was brief and his departure sudden, due to “the great calamity at Windsor” - Prince Albert’s unexpected death. 

In 1871 the Hall was sold out of the family to a Mr Hurrell and subsequently to Colonel Walter Harding in 1905. Colonel Harding, whose portrait can be seen in the Gallery on the first floor, completely renovated the Hall before his heirs sold it, along with the surrounding park and farmland, to the University of Cambridge in 1948 for the sum of £50,000.

ST MARY MAGDALENE. Most attractively placed near the entrance to the grounds of the Hall. The exterior not very appealing, chiefly because of the crazy-paving effect of the pattern of the rubble. A good deal of the church dates from c. 1300, namely the W tower (unbuttressed with characteristic two-light cusped bell-openings), the nave (lancet on the S side, W of the porch), the chancel (rebuilt 1874; E window of that date, but N and S windows apparently correctly renewed; responds of chancel arch). In the early C14 a N aisle was added, and the arcade (five bays, piers with four major and four minor shafts, arch with two quarter-circle mouldings), doorway and one window survive. Also one S window of three lights. At the same time the chancel arch received new capitals and a new arch, the tower a new, beautifully moulded arch, larger than its predecessor. A new spire was also erected (much of this rebuilt in 1926). Perp clerestory, N porch and some windows. - FONT. Square with extremely odd ornamental carving in the panels. It looks as if it might be C17 work trying to imitate the Norman style. - COMMUNION RAIL. Fine late C17 work with twisted balusters having a corolla of rising leaves at their feet. It comes from Great St Mary at Cambridge. - DOOR in the S doorway, with iron hinges contemporary with the building of the nave. - ROYAL ARMS. 1802 in Coade stone. - SCULPTURE. Ten raw wooden figures, not well preserved, in the tower. They come no doubt from a former roof. - PAINTINGS. Set of Apostles, probably Dutch, late C16. - STAINED GLASS. Fragments of C15 and C16 glass in the chancel S windows, including a C15 figure of the Virgin and a C16 Crucifixion (from the E window). - MONUMENTS. Dame  Jane Cotton d. 1692, standing wall-monument, with semi-reclining figure, cheek in hand, black back-wall flanked by white bands of flowers; drapery as well. - Jane Cotton d. 1707, small standing wall-monument with life-size kneelingfigure, by E. Stanton (Mrs Esdaile). - Sir Charles Cotton, Admiral of the White d. 1812. Oblong tablet with a big flag, an anchor and a sword; no effigy; by Flaxman.

MADINGLEY. Its name brings up a vision to every Cambridge man, and not to them alone, for who can forget the view from this wooded hill of the towers and spires of Cambridge rising from the trees against the background of the Gog Magog Hills? Well may Rupert Brooke ask:

Is sunset still a golden sea
From Haslingfield to Madingley?

From a pretty corner where the ways meet we see the sloping park with the beautiful hall where Edward the Seventh lodged as a student, and where Charles the First is said to have hidden. Built by Justice Hinde in Tudor days, it was altered by his Elizabethan descendant Sir Francis, who pulled down the old church at Histon for building material and stole its Norman font. Not till our own day did the house give up this font, a great treasure rich with Norman carvings, but now it is for all to see in the medieval church by the fine iron gates of the park, where a thatched and timbered lodge and a lake with a Japanese garden add to the picture.

Three ladies from the big house are also to be seen in the church, one of our own day and two of long ago. Annie Heycock, who died at the hall in 1923, looks out from a pleasing medallion; Jane Hinde, who married Sir John Cotton and died in 1692, reclines in alabaster on a cushion in her lace-trimmed nightcap and gown; Mrs Jane Cotton, an odd figure of 1717, kneels on her cushion. A father and son of the house have memorials carved with signs of their calling. Both were naval commanders, Sir Charles Cotton the father commanding the Channel Fleet on the look-out for Napoleon. A curious sculpture shows a bonny baby wrapped in a coverlet with angels watching over him.

The north doorway, the graceful arcade with bell capitals on clustered pillars, and the slender tower with pillars and capitals to match, are all 14th century. The south porch is 15th and has a door 100 years older. An ancient mass dial is on a wall. The rich balustered altar rails are Jacobean and come from a Cambridge church. Medieval windows fill the place with light, one showing Mary Magdalene in beautiful modern glass, others with fragments of old glass, a golden medley and a rich patchwork in which Mary and John are seen at the foot of the Cross in front of a charming town of gabled houses, turrets, and spires. Saints and the pious pelican are in two panels of Flemish glass, and six old paintings on wood show Christ’s first followers. Ten headless oak figures on the tower wall were once in the roof of the chancel; and also brought down into the church for us to see is a bell made 600 years ago by a Bedfordshire man. It was found when men were rebuilding the short spire on the tower, which was new when this bell was made for it.

Flickr set.

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