Thursday, 28 October 2010

Mount Bures, Essex

St John the Baptist in Mount Bures is rather odd. It sits on a hill to the south west of Bures, just over the Suffolk/Essex border, seemingly randomly placed for no obvious reason - the village doesn't seem large enough to have ever warranted a church. It is apparently Norman and to the north is a large mound which was constructed by the Normans as a motte and bailey.

William the Conquerors successful warfare campaign was mainly due to the use of such earth and timber castles, already common in France. The motte at Mount Bures is one of those strongholds, it was within easy reach of the river and the roads such as they were.

From the top of the bailey the views of the river would have been extensive, at least 3 miles in any direction including the river crossings at Bures and Wormingford. Consequently from the summit, defenders could easily see the enemy, including approaches by the River Stour.
The construction of the motte was influenced by the local terrain and geology. As the army was moving forward, speed of construction was essential in positioning a garrison to provide fortifications. In the case of the Mount Bures mound it would have been constructed by local labour force. It would be expected that the experienced troops would also assist with the work. Some historians estimate a mound such as this could have been built in something like 40 - 50 days.

So I imagine the church was built by the local Norman lord of the manor and remained when the motte and bailey disappeared. Whatever the reason it's charming and the views are terrific. In 1959 a stone statue of St. John the Baptist by B. Dobson was placed in a niche over the high altar on the north side.

ST JOHN. The unusual shape of this village church is no doubt to be explained by the connexion with the castle. Nave and chancel, crossing-tower and transepts. All Norman, but crossing tower and transepts rebuilt in 1875. The Roman quoins of the old parts can easily be distinguished from the new bricks. Norman windows (with Roman brick dressings) in the W wall, high up (a reticulated C14 window below), in the S wall, blocked, and in the N wall, where there is also a plain Norman doorway. S porch Perp with three-light windows and a doorway with decorated spandrels.- PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1641.

St John the Baptist

St John the Baptist (3)

The Mount

MOUNT BURES. It takes its name from a wooded mound where a fortress stood, the silent guardian of a few cottages and an ancient church. Romans and Normans have helped to build the church, the Normans using the bricks the Romans left behind. A Norman doorway here is shaped with them, and others can beseen at the corners of the chancel and transept. Another doorway is 14th century, and both have doors 500 years old. The porch is 15th century; one of its shields has the Sackville arms. There is a Jacobean table, a chest about the same age, and a memorial to a rector for 50 years in the 18th century, Philip Gurdon, whose proud epitaph says that as a minister he was a burning and a shining light.

Flickr set.

No comments:

Post a Comment