Friday, 29 October 2010

Orwell, Cambridgeshire

St Andrew is a church I could fall in love with, not because it is particularly outstanding but because of its location (also it was a glorious autumn day and it just shone). An oddly proportioned church, it is situated on a hill, usual provisos, and reigns over the village.

The nave is modest, the chancel large and airy and the tower squat. For a Cambridgeshire it is quite rich in content with a nice wall monument to Jeremiah Radcliffe of 1611, a James II hatchment, good floor ledgers and an amazing stone carving remnant of the crucifixion with St John.

ST ANDREW. Built of pebble and stone rubble. The W tower must once have been a good piece of c I 3 design.* The lancets and the two-light bell-openings with a quatrefoil above the two lights survive, but the three-bay blank arcading of the bell-stage level has mostly gone. The tower is of clunch rubble, as is the chancel. But before the rebuilding of the chancel in the C15 much else happened in the church. The interior is of the C14, and three phases can be distinguished, close to each other in time: The chancel arch has three-shaft responds with a fillet down the middle shaft and an arch with one chamfer and one hollow-chamfer. The N arcade has quatrefoil piers with thin staff-like shafts in the diagonals, hood-moulds and double-chamfered arches. The S arcade replaces these shafts by diagonal hollows and has more finely moulded arches and head-stops for the hood-moulds. The S side is essentially Dec in its structure as well - see the W and the blocked E windows and the S doorway. Perp S porch, Perp clerestory. The N aisle in its present form looks Perp but is of yellow brick. But the Perp masterpiece at Orwell is the chancel, wide and airy, with big windows, with four-centred heads and transoms. The E window is of five lights and has inside a hood-mould with head-stops. The ceiling is panelled, with bosses and shields at the sections of the beams. - SCULPTURE. Fragments of an excellent early C14 Crucifixion; quite small. The figures of St John and of Christ crucified survive. Christ is nailed to a tree-trunk cross. The figure is bent in agony in the arms and knees - very much as one knows it from illuminated manuscripts of c. 1290-1330. - MONUMENT. Dr. J. Radcliffe d. 1612, one of the translators of the Bible. Frontal bust in a niche, Ionic pilasters with strapwork, but the niche still with a four-centred head.

* There are indications of an even earlier date. Two shafts outside the tower in the N and S angles between it and the nave seem Norman, and so apparently is a carved stone found in the tower in 1950. It is now in the church at the W end of the nave. (Information kindly provided by Mr M. G. Prater).

Jeremiah Radcliffe 1611 (4)

Crucifixion (2)


ORWELL. Over the hills and far away runs the Roman road to Akeman Street, and here runs another road, a narrow invisible way that passes round the world and none can see. It is the imaginary line of the meridian of Greenwich. We found here also an interesting field of one acre which from time immemorial has been the freehold of the parish clerk, providing him with his entire emolument except for his ceremonial fees. It appears to have been left for the purpose long ago, and those who will remember the delight they took in their childhood in hearing the parish clerk’s Amen will like to know that his green acre at Orwell is known as Amen Field.

The church has a very precious stone as old as the 13th century tower of the church, rising where the ancient Britons built an earthwork before the Romans came. It is what remains of a small stone Calvary, with traces of colour and still perfect figures of Our Lord and St John. For three centuries this Crucifixion was hidden from sight in the wall of an arcade, where it was buried to save it at the Reformation. It is 700 years old.

The glory of the building is the fine 15th century chancel with grey walls and lovely windows with embattled transoms. The east window reaches nearly to the wagon roof with fine painted bosses of the shields of county families, and faces peeping out of foliage.

There are 15th century stalls and quaint heads of a hooded man and a wimpled woman on the arches of the nave above which rise 15th century clerestories. The pulpit is Jacobean and the altar Elizabethan. Peeping out from a niche in the chancel wall, as if behind a pulpit, we see the head and shoulders of Jeremiah Radcliffe with his square beard. He is at prayer and wears a red gown, and above him are two books by which we are reminded that he was one of the translators of the Bible.

Flickr set.

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