Monday, 1 November 2010

Steeple Bumpstead, Essex

I love St Mary with its curious combination of Norman and Tudor work, its utterly bizarre but charming. Bumstead or Bumsted is Saxon for "place of reeds" and Steeple, it is believed, refers not to the church steeple, which the tower lacks, but to another steeple located near the Wixoe pumping station.

There has been a long history on non-conformist belief in the village which continues to this day in the Congregational Church. A Bumpstead man was burnt to death in the parish for his beliefs. Along the Blois Road, leading from Bumpstead to Birdbrook, is a field that has been called the ‘Bloody Pightle’, and that is where he is believed to have been martyred. In 1527 John Tibauld and eight other village residents were seized and taken before the Bishop of London, charged with meeting together in Bower Hall to pray and read a copy of the New Testament. Although the non-conformists in the village were encouraged by the powerful Bendyshe family that lived at Bower Hall, even their influence could not save Tibauld. He was burned at the stake.

The first time I visited the church was locked with no sign of a keyholder but a subsequent, recent visit found the church open. Sadly there was no guide book and my architectural expertise is nowhere near good enough to do it justice so I'll leave that to Mee!

ST MARY. There was here a remarkably large C11 church. The W tower (see its lower windows, open and blocked) belonged to it, and the chancel (see its quoins). The diagonal buttresses, also the buttresses into the present nave were added later. The top is all brick. Brick also the tops of the aisles, the S porch and the whole clerestory. Most of the exterior features are due to the restoration of 1880. But in the N aisle are still two fairly reliable windows. They look late C14 or early C15. The N arcade and the identical S arcade may well belong  to the same date. They have piers with semi-polygonal shafts without capitals to the nave and semi-circular shafts with capitals to the arches. The aisle roofs deserve some notice too. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with quatrefoils carrying shields. - BENCHES. Two in the nave with panelling dated 1568. Also some poppyheads and some more panelling. - POOR BOX. Iron-bound, on panelled stem. - HELM. Late C16, N aisle, E end. - PLATE. Two large Flagons of 1639; two Cups, two Patens, and a Paten on foot of 1712. - MONUMENTS. Sir Henry Bendyshe d. 1717.

St Mary (5)

Sir Henry Bendyshe 1717 (2)

Bendyshe arms

STEEPLE BUMPSTEAD. It has lost the steeple which gave it its name, but it has a group of old houses, farms, and barns, and by the road from Haverhill to Baythorn Bridge are entrenchments of an ancient stronghold. Gone, too, is Bower Hall, though a fine avenue of tall trees still leads to the site. Its six-sided  dovecot was built about 1700, its brick walls honeycombed with 220 nesting-holes. Another unusual dovecot is at Claydon’s cottage; it is nine feet square and built of mud. It is said that in 1914 something fell down inside it, so frightening the birds that they never returned.

Little Walton’s Farm was built about 1500, and has something of its moat still left. Remains of another moat are at 17th century Herksted Hall; and here too is a 17th century weatherboarded barn with a thatched roof. Another thatched barn of the same date is at Latchley’s manor house, a timbered and plastered Tudor building surrounded by a moat complete and unusually wide.

One ofthe finest houses of this countryside is the magnificent Moyns Park, an Elizabethan home in grounds of 200 acres; it has bay windows, pinnacled gables, and three many-cornered chimney stacks. The Moot Hall, a pretty timbered building at the cross-roads in the middle of the village, has a projecting storey, and on the roof is a stone lion holding a shield with the royal arms of the Tudors. The ancient church has a Norman tower, though its upper stage has been repaired with Tudor brick. There are three narrow Norman windows, and a gargoyle below each length of parapet. The porch is 14th century; its roof and a pair of rough and gnarled benches are 16th. The door is partly 16th century and by it is an ironbound almsbox of about 1500 on a traceried post.

The tower arch stands on round pillars and was set up about 1500 a century after the wide chancel arch. In the aisles are six poppyheads 400 years old, attached to modern seats, and in the back of a pew is old panelling which says "Onsel and Thomas Lond, her son, did these stools make in l568." There are two Tudor stalls in the chancel, a 17th century oak chest in the vestry, an altar table of about 1700, and a cupboard door with Jacobean carving. The font is 500 years old. In one of the windows are fragments of medieval glass, and on a wall hangs a wooden helmet with a Tudor crest.

Near by is an 18th century monument to Sir John Bendish and his wife, with their busts, by which stands a cherub holding a flaming torch upside down. A finer monument against the same wall is to Sir Henry Bendish, the last baronet, showing him reclining in lace cuffs, cravat, and buckled shoes, his curly wig falling over his shoulders. Playing by his pillow lies his infant son, Henry, a lively little fellow.

On the wall near by is a stone to Dick Dare who made his last long journey a few years ago: he, his father, and his grandfather were carriers from Bumpstead to London for 150 years.

We gathered two items of news here from the vicarage, where the greatest treasure of the church was once put to base uses as a shovel - an 8th century bronze boss with panels of ornament and sockets for 18 jewels. It used to be on the chancel door of the church and is now in the British Museum. The other news from the vicarage was that Nurse Cavell was a nursery governess there long before her name was known throughout the world. She was here live years. Often must she have sat in these pews with village folk who can little have imagined that her life would be caught up in the grip of so great a destiny. There is a tablet to her memory in the church.

Given that Mee was writing in 1940 Nurse Cavell meant nothing to me so I Googled her and found that Edith Cavell (pronounced /ˈkævəl/; rhymes with 'gravel') was born in Swardeston, a village near Norwich, where her father, the Reverend Frederick Cavell, was priest for 45 years. After a period as a governess, including for a family in Brussels 1900 -1905, she trained as a nurse at the London Hospital under Matron Eva Luckes. In 1907 Cavell was recruited by Dr. Antoine Depage to be matron of a newly established nursing school by the name of L'École Belge d’Infirmières Diplômées on the Rue de la Culture in Brussels. By 1910 Miss Cavell felt that the profession of nursing had gained sufficient foothold in Belgium to warrant the publishing of a professional journal, and therefore launched the nursing journal L'infirmière. A year later she was a training nurse for three hospitals, 24 schools and 13 kindergartens in Belgium.

When World War I broke out, she was visiting her widowed mother in Norfolk. She returned to Brussels where her clinic and nursing school were taken over by the Red Cross.

In late 1914, after the German occupation of Brussels, Cavell began sheltering British soldiers and funnelling them out of occupied Belgium to neutral Holland. In the following months an underground organisation developed, allowing her to guide some 200 Allied soldiers to safety, which placed Cavell in violation of German military law. German authorities became increasingly suspicious of the nurse's actions, which were backed up by her outspokenness.

She was arrested on 3 August 1915 and charged with harbouring Allied soldiers. She was held in St Gilles prison for 10 weeks, the last two in solitary confinement, and was court-martialled.
The British government said they could do nothing to help her. Sir Horace Rowland of the Foreign Office said, "I am afraid that it is likely to go hard with Miss Cavell; I am afraid we are powerless." The sentiment was echoed by Lord Robert Cecil, Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, "Any representation by us", he advised, "will do her more harm than good." The United States, however, had not yet joined the war and was in a position to apply diplomatic pressure. Hugh S. Gibson, First Secretary of the U.S. legation at Brussels, made clear to the German government that executing Cavell would further harm Germany's already damaged reputation. Later, he wrote:

We reminded him (Baron von der Lancken) of the burning of Louvain and the sinking of the Lusitania, and told him that this murder would stir all civilized countries with horror and disgust. Count Harrach broke in at this with the remark that he would rather see Miss Cavell shot than have harm come to one of the humblest German soldiers, and his only regret was that they had not 'three or four English old women to shoot.'

The German civil governor, Baron von der Lancken, is known to have stated that Cavell should be pardoned because of her complete honesty and because she had helped save so many lives, German as well as Allied. However the German military acted quickly to execute Cavell and so deny higher authorities the opportunity to consider clemency.

Cavell was not arrested for espionage, as many were led to believe, but for treason. Of the 27 put on trial, Cavell and four others were condemned to death, among them Philippe Baucq, an architect in his thirties who had also been instrumental in the escapes. Evidence has recently emerged that Cavell was in fact a spy working for the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), but her espionage role was compromised by her helping prisoners to escape.

When in custody, Cavell was questioned in French, but the session was minuted in German. This gave the interrogator the opportunity to misinterpret her answers. Although she may have been misrepresented, she made no attempt to defend herself. Cavell was provided with a defender approved by the German military governor. A previous defender, who was chosen for Cavell by her assistant, Elizabeth Wilkins, was ultimately rejected by the governor.

The night before her execution, she told the Reverend Stirling Gahan, the Anglican chaplain who had been allowed to see her and to give her Holy Communion, “Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.” These words are inscribed on her statue in St Martin's Place, near Trafalgar Square in London. Her final words to the German Lutheran prison chaplain, Paul Le Seur, were recorded as, “Ask Father Gahan to tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country.”

Despite efforts by Brand Whitlock, the U.S. minister to Belgium, and by the Marquis de Villalobar, the Spanish minister, on Cavell's behalf, on 11 October Baron von der Lancken allowed the execution to proceed. Sixteen men, forming two firing squads, carried out the sentence pronounced on her and on four Belgian men at Tir National shooting range in Schaerbeek, at 6:00 am on 12 October 1915. There are conflicting reports of the details of Cavell's execution. However, according to the eyewitness account of the Reverend Le Seur, who attended Cavell in her final hours, eight soldiers fired at Cavell while the other eight executed Philippe Baucq.

There is also a dispute over the sentencing imposed under the German Military Code. Supposedly the death penalty equivalent to the offence committed by Cavell was not officially declared until a few hours after her death.

On instructions from the Spanish minister, Belgian women immediately buried her body next to St. Gilles Prison. After the War, her body was taken back to Britain for a memorial service at Westminster Abbey and then transferred to Norwich, to be laid to rest at Life's Green.

In the months and years following Cavell's death countless newspaper articles, pamphlets, images and books publicised her story. She became an iconic propaganda figure for military recruitment in Britain and to help increase favourable sentiment towards the Allies in the United States.
Cavell was a popular icon because of her sex, her nursing profession and her apparently heroic approach to death. Her execution was represented as an act of German barbarism and moral depravity. The many biographies that surfaced shortly after her death were, in reality, only fictional.

Along with the invasion of Belgium and the sinking of the Lusitania, Cavell's execution was widely publicised in both Britain and North America by Wellington House, the British War Propaganda Bureau.

During World War I the French shot a number of women, including two German nurses who aided German prisoners of war to escape; the German government did nothing to publicise the incident. When asked why not, the German officer in charge of war propaganda replied, “What? Protest? The French had a perfect right to shoot them!

Because of the British government's decision to use her story as propaganda, Cavell became the most prominent British female casualty of World War I. The combination of heroic appeal and a resonant atrocity-story narrative made Cavell's case one of the most effective in British propaganda of World War I.

1 comment:

  1. I pumped the bellows in this church in 1936 R smith