Friday, 29 October 2010

Pampisford, Cambridgeshire

St John the Baptist was locked with no keyholder listed but does have an extraordinary Norman arch with a tympanum carved with the story of St John's death. In what seems to be a deliberate attempt to rub salt into the locked church wound there was a typed description of the church and arch as follows:

The earliest suggestion of a church existing in Pampisford comes from the Domesday survey of 1086. Apart from the principal owners of land in the Parish, the Countess Judith (widow of Waltheof and niece of William the Conqueror) held land in Pampisford and under her ½ a virgate or ½ a yardland was held by a parish priest (This would be approximately 25 acres).

This particular holding suggests that the parish had a resident priest at least, although that in itself does not prove that a church building existed.

There may have been a Saxon church on the site, but, architecturally the earliest date evidenced can be seen in the remarkable tympanum over the South door, the North wall of the have and the Font which are all Norman in origin. The Nave is mid-12th century.

During the early English period of the 13th century an arcade was cut through the original north wall of the nave allowing a north aisle to be added. The four bays of the arcade are supported by alternating circular and octagonal piers with pointed arches and low elementary capitals. The chancel was probably rebuilt about this time although it was during the perpendicular period when the rood screen was incorporated.

Reading the arch from right to left the arches depict:

1.The altar of incense
2. Zacharius bowing before the angel.
3. The angel.
4. Herod's daughter dancing.
5. Herod and his guests.
6. St John the Baptist.
7. The headman's block.
8. The severed head.
9. Single figure in the act of carrying - presumably the head.
10. Head bent sideways but in the act of rising - showing the Resurrection.

The information on the arch is both interesting and useful, the information on an interior we are forbidden to see is irksome - almost as irksome as finding another Cambridgeshire church I like...I blame the Essex influence creeping in!

ST JOHN. Flint and pebble rubble. Very renewed in the details, but incorporating features of venerable age. S doorway Norman with the oddest of tympana: ten little arches: arranged radially along the rim and filled with figures. The arches are separated by tiny piers meant to appear built up of ashlar blocks. The order of colonnettes of the doorway has primitively decorated capitals. Norman also the nave N wall, as is proved by the E.E. arcade, cut through it. Four bays, alternatingly octagonal and circular piers, with low elementary moulded capitals and unmoulded pointed arches. Chancel with one lancet window. But most of the windows of the church are C19. So is the nave roof on shafts with thickly foliated capitals. W tower Dec (see the bell-openings) and crowned by battlements and a spike. Buttresses with a little flushwork decoration. Tower arch clearly Dec, chancel arch Perp. - FONT. Norman, octagonal, with odd volute-spurs in the diagonals. - ROOD SCREEN. Plain, with one-light divisions. - STAINED GLASS. Several windows by Kempe.

St John the Baptist (3)

St John the Baptist (2)


PAMPISFORD. A pretty village among fine trees has grown up where once men dug a ditch to close the gap between forest and marsh. All that is left of this ancient defence is the Brent Ditch running between Abington Park and Dickman’s Grove, most clearly seen in the park of Pampisford Hall. In the park is a remarkable collection of fir trees from Japan, Mexico, China, California, Austria, and the Pyrenees, and worthy of them all is another village tree, the cedar shading the lawn of a house by the church, itself bowered in chestnuts and with a charming porch hewn from oaks rooted in medieval England.

The porch shelters a simple Norman doorway with a curious arcaded tympanum, and its ten small arches filled with crude carvings, perhaps the story of John the Baptist, for we see the block and the head of the figure lying on the floor. John the Baptist, carved by modern hands appears again with Christ as a finial for the old domed cover of the Norman font.

The 600-year-old tower has a tiny spire and its pleasant arch opens into a massive arcade from the time when Norman styles were changing into English. The 15th century chancel arch is screened with delicate oak tracery of the same age.

Flickr set

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