Thursday, 28 October 2010

Melbourn, Cambridgeshire

All Saints is huge, presumably built on the back of the wool trade, but sadly its main attraction is the exterior since the interior has been over restored and is somewhat bleak. There are points of interest inside but, as with so many Cambridgeshire churches, the combination of Dowsing and the Victorians left me with a sense of disappointment.

ALL SAINTS. Two periods mainly, the C13 and the early C16. The C13 church had W tower, nave and aisles and chancel, and of this the following elements are still visible: Of the tower the arch towards the nave, or at least its individual voussoirs; for when the Perp W tower was built, these were re-used and given a four-centred shape. But the arch mouldings are unmistakable. Of the nave and aisles the arcade remains, with octagonal piers and arches with one keeled roll-moulding and one hollow chamfer. Of the chancel the lancet windows give evidence, and the Piscina. However, the leaf stops of the Piscina are clearly of the bossy or nobbly or undulating kind, that is, no earlier than the end of the century. The chancel incidentally at that time may have been lower than now; for the C13 arch responds are only part of the height which the Perp period required. Dec elements in the S transept: E window and Piscina, in the chancel the ogee-headed and crocketed doorway to the vestry. Perp many windows, especially the five-light E window of the chancel, the S window of the S transept carried down with its mullions inside to form blank arcading and a ledge, and the three-light clerestory windows.* The nave roof was probably made when the new clerestory was ready, and as it is said to display the Alcock cock on the westernmost part of the tiebeam, the roof can be dated c. 1500. Probably of the same time also the two-storeyed S porch, rebuilt in the C19. And Perp especially the proud W tower. This has set-back buttresses, on each side two two-light bell-openings with a transom, battlements and short polygonal turret pinnacles. Flushwork decoration at the base; spike on top. Tower and church are of flint and pebble rubble; the chancel predominantly flint. - FONT. Octagonal, C13, with sunk cusped trefoils (cf. Histon transepts) and also a less elementary panel with two blank arches and some carving above. - ROOD SCREEN given by Robert Hitch in 1504. One broad five-light opening on each side of the doorway. The lights have steep crocketed arches and are gathered together under a very low flat ogee arch above which there is only space for a row of very small arches. Dado with much fine tracery and a broad heavy leaf scroll along the top rail. - CHOIR STALLS. Traceried fronts and poppy-heads. - PLATE. Chalice and Cover given in 1569. - C18 Paten.

* The N aisle windows date from 1883.

MELBOURN. The road to London runs through its fruitful orchards, and on it we notice the stump of a great elm tree which we are told was nourishing in the days when the villagers gathered round it to chase Charles Stuart’s ship money collectors with pitchforks. The stump still sends out new shoots each spring.

The village has a reputation for independence and courage; it has one of the oldest Nonconformist churches, the old Congregational chapel having been founded in 1694. It is still in use as a Sunday School. On the village green is a cross to the men who did not come back from the war and an oak seat to a villager with a good village motto carved on it: Kind words are the music of the world.

Melbourn was an important place in the Middle Ages, and has several old moated houses and a medieval church to keep company with its cluster of thatched cottages. The imposing 14th century tower is crowned with a tiny spire, and opens into the nave of the church with a richly moulded arch. The 600-year-old porch has turret stairs leading to an upper room, and the fine doorway brings us into a medieval interior with stately arcades of the 14th century, a 15th century clerestory over them. A 600-year-old chancel arch leads us into the sanctuary, which has three notable possessions: a 13th century double piscina and two aumbries which have managed to preserve their original doors. There is an Elizabethan chalice, a Bible of 1611, a delicate traceried chancel screen of the 15th century, and some old stalls, but only a few fragments are left of the glass, which filled the windows in those days. The oldest possession of the church is the crude Norman font with a crack in it which was strengthened centuries ago by iron clips. A crested memorial of 1760 tells us of Dame Mary Hatton whose Tudor home remains here. There are old and new heads carved in stone, a king and a bishop by the elegant doorway of the vestry, and a queen and a bishop with St Peter and St Paul among the new stone heads in the nave, where angels support the carved beams of the fine roof.

Flickr set.

No comments:

Post a Comment