Saturday, 30 October 2010

Sawston, Cambridgeshire

Due to, I assume, the incredibly high crime rate in Sawston - an otherwise seemingly sleepy Cambridge dormitory town - St Mary is firmly locked and without an indication of a keyholder. This really pees me off on two levels; first Mee makes it sound interesting and second, when Ben Colburn & Mark Ynys-Mon visited it was open and they make it sound really interesting. I think the latter were lucky to find it open when they visited since I've tried to gain access several times and have always failed. Their excellent review can be found here.

I have to confess that I don't like the exterior but I'd pull my eye teeth to get inside. 

UPDATE March 2012: keyholders are now listed and access has been gained and I have to say does not disappoint even though it's been savagely restored and re-ordered it retains plenty of interest. Whilst not the most interesting interior it does have fine brasses, good graffiti and some relatives including a brass inscription to a 16th G Grandfather and an altar tomb to Elizabeth de la Pole nee Bradeston my 18th G Grandmother. Also, and I mark this up as a major plus on a cold rainy day, the heating was on and it was warm inside - not something often, if ever, previously found!

ST MARY. Pebble and stone rubble. A plain Norman doorway leads into the chancel. Near it a blocked lancet window. More lancets on the N side of the chancel. The E window is C19. A N chancel chapel has gone. Only a Perp arch remains. The chancel arch also is Perp. So the phase in the building history following the Norman doorway is that indicated by the three W bays of the nave arcades. It is what might be called Transitional. The arches are still round and entirely unmoulded. The W respond on the S side has a many-scalloped capital, that on the N side is rectangular with angle-shafts. The same form is repeated in the NE respond. In between on both sides circular and octagonal piers alternating, also from N to S. After these three bays follows a piece of bare wall, and then two bays of pointed slightly double-chamfered arches with circular piers. Perhaps there had in this place been a Norman crossing tower, and the transitional bays indicate the Norman nave, as the Norman doorway indicates the Norman chancel. N and S aisle windows Dec. N porch Perp. Perp clerestory. In the S aisle two excellent corbel-heads. - The W tower is Dec, see the unmistakable triple-shaft responds with very thin shafts between. Dec bell-openings; battlements. - HELMET above the funeral recess in the N wall of the chancel. The recess is filled by a tomb-chest with four quatrefoil panels. - The arch is four-centred. -- BRASSES. Civilian, c. 1420, feet missing, 2 1/2 ft figure. - Knight, c. 1480, head missing, 3 ft 3 in. figure. - Robert Lockton and wife, c. 1500, 2 ft figures, in their shrouds, the shrouds being tied above the heads so that they look all bundled up. - William Richardson d. 1527, 12 in. figure.

St Mary (7)

St Mary (6)

SAWSTON. It has in its annals an exciting page of the story of the past, and it is working out a hopeful page of the story of the future. The tall chimneys of its paper mills stand out in the fields, a midway mark between a house of Tudor stateliness and a light and airy building which was our first village college, to which children from all the villages round come for a practical education for country life not obtainable at the ordinary village school.
It was to Sawston that Mary Tudor came to take refuge with the Huddlestons at the manor house in the anxious days when the reign of the young Edward the Sixth had ended. The house served the Roman Catholics well, for when the Protestant wind blew again a priest's hiding hole was made in it by Nicholas Owen, the Jesuit who was nicknamed Little John. He made hiding places all over the country with incomparable skill and industry, and in the end was caught himself and paid for his work with his life.

The church, which stands by the house, has an impressive exterior and an interesting collection of brass portraits within, new and old.

The tower is 14th century, the arcades are 13th except for three Norman arches at the west end of each, and the porch, the clerestory, and the chancel arch (with a peephole on the north side) are 15th. There is a double piscina 700 years old. Two charming Jacobean figures in black gowns and white ruifs kneel on their wall-memorial; they are Gregory Milner and his wife. There is a line canopied tomb in which lies the wife of Sir Walter de la Pole who died in 1423.

Four brass portraits show a man of about 1420 with an inscription to someone else (the inscription having been found in the manor moat a century ago), a knight in 15th century armour, a couple of about 1500 in shrouds with their live daughters, and a Tudor priest from Norfolk, William Richardson. The John Huddleston who gave shelter to Mary Tudor has no portrait, but an inscription remembers him as "once Chamberlayn unto Kinge Phylipe and Captaine of his Garde, and one of Queen Maryes most honorable Privie Counsel." His family remained on here, and three 19th century descendants have their portraits on brass, Richard drawn in medieval fashion, Edward kneeling in a long travelling cloak, and Sarah with a fringed cloak over her gown and a draped headdress.

On one of the Norman pillars in the nave is a stone figure of Our Lord set here in memory of the men who went out to the war. In memory of them the old market cross has been restored. The market is no more, but an old custom of picking peas continues, and in due season all who will may go with their baskets to two acres of land left by a rich man long ago to grow peas for the poor. The educational idea born at Sawston in our time may prove to be one of the most potential factors in the transformation of our countryside. The conviction behind the movement, which began in this village, is that the English heart beats best in its villages and that our people should be encouraged to stay there. It was the Director of Education in the county, Mr Henry Morris, who gave the idea practical shape in the formation of a college for training children in rural life and rural work. The college was opened in 1930 by the Prince of Wales, who planted a tree, and this light and airy set of modern buildings, built round a great quadrangle, centralises education for children over eleven from the villages round about. There are carpentering and engineering shops, kitchens for teaching cookery with all kinds of stoves, needlework and art rooms, libraries and reading rooms, and, of course, a college hall in which one of the most popular functions is the midday meal, served for a few coppers.It is intended to cover Cambridgeshire with ten such colleges embracing all its villages, and similar colleges have already been set up at Linton and Bottisham and Impington. The buildings are all in keeping with the modern note in school architecture, and the idea is to give abundant facilities for music, dancing, drama, and films. There are acres of playing-fields about each college, and indoors and out the buildings are delightful. The Sawston college was designed by Mr H. H. Dunn.

Flickr set.

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