Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk

I think the guide book does rather better than I could:

This magnificent building stands on the crest of a ridge overlooking the valleys of the rivers Stour and Box, dominating the village and surrounding country for miles around. It is one of the great churches of Suffolk, a county so noted for its sacred buildings that it early won the title 'selig' (holy), which in recent times has been corrupted into 'silly' Suffolk. John Constable, who loved to sketch and paint the church, wrote in 1830 that "the tower is its grandest feature, which from its commanding height seems to impress on the surrounding country its own sacred dignity of  character". The tower; which is constructed of brick, stone and flint and is 120ft in height has a mellow glow - a striking feature particularly at sunset and when illuminated at night.

ST MARY. Large Perp church, in its upper parts mostly of brick with a substantial W tower. The church is 168 ft long, the tower 120 ft high. The tower is remarkably ornate. Money was left for its building by local merchants in 1439, 1440, 1441, etc., to 1459. Stone frieze with shields at the base. W doorway with the shields of the Tendring and Howard families. Up the jambs and arch oblong panels with lions’ heads and foliage. Ogee gable, buttresses on corbels l. and r. carrying supporters. Big four-light W window. Three two-light windows, and above these three-light bell-openings. The tower has four stages in all. Very big polygonal buttresses with diagonal buttress attachments, the latter decorated with niches with nodding ogee canopies. Decorated battlements and pinnacles. Chancel with transomed five-light (E) and three-light Windows. Nave with clerestory and arches; early C14 N chapel, N of the N aisle. Three-light aisle windows, clerestory windows of 1865. Two-storeyed S porch, partly early C14, partly C19. Rib-vaulted with carved bosses. On the N side simpler porch of brick, early C16. Six-bay arcades inside with thin piers with eight thin attached shafts, the four main ones carrying fillets. Eight individual capitals, many-moulded arches. At the sill-level of the clerestory string-course with angel figures and fleurons. Very tall tower arch. Chancel chapels of two bays with simpler piers: four attached shafts and four thin filleted shafts Without capitals in the diagonals. The chancel also has clerestory windows. FURNISHINGS. FONT. Perp, octagonal. Stem with eight niches with nodding ogee arches. Shields of the Tendring and Howard families against the seats formed by the uppermost of the three steps on which the font stands. Bowl with the Signs of the Evangelists and four other figures. Whom do they represent? - REREDOS. 1865. - SCREENS. To the N and S chapels; simple, Perp. - STALLS. With little figures against the ends of the arms; also some MISERICORDS. - DOORS. W door with tracery, S door with tracery and a Tree of Jesse in small figures. - STAINED GLASS. W window by O’Connor, 1865; E window by Capronnier of Brussels, 1876; S chapel and N chapel E window by Capronnier, 1868 and 1869. - PLATE. Cup and two Patens 1774; Cover 1791; Flagon 1819. - MONUMENTS. Brasses in the S chapel, probably of Lady Clopton, later Lady Tendring d. 1403 (4 ft figure); Sir William Tendring d. 1408 (6 ft figure with a beard); double canopy of Sir John Howard d. 1421 (?) and wife; Lady Catherine Molyns, wife of Lord John Howard, d. 1465, made c. 1535 (3 ft 2 in.). - John, son of Lord Windsor, d. 1588. In chrysom robe. Incised slab. - Lady Ann Windsor d. 1615, standing wall monument with recumbent alabaster effigy, children kneeling at her head and feet. Background architecture of no special interest. - Sir Francis Mannock of Giffords Hall d. 1634. Recumbent alabaster effigy. Columns of touch l. and r. carrying a semicircular pediment and two small, well carved figures l. and r. On the base thick garland, a sign of the coming of the new, classical Inigo Jones style.

Lady Waldegrave 1600

Sir William de Tendring 1408


STOKE-BY-NAYLAND. Big and beautiful, it has many old timbered homes, two grand halls, a charming gabled roof like a textbook for thatchers, and a medieval church which Constable put into his famous rainbow picture. The church stands on a hill among the trees, lifting up a tower 120 feet high as a landmark for Suffolk, a proud landmark, for it is one of the grandest in the county, with pinnacles on its beautiful parapet, and at each corner a huge buttress carrying canopied niches up to the belfry. Lions’ heads are on the richly decorated arch over its doorway.

Stoke owes this tower and most of the grandeur of its church to early 15th century builders. The north porch is Tudor; the south porch has been rebuilt on its 14th century foundations; it has a boss of the Madonna and Child on the vaulted roof, which supports a room used as a library. The ancient door into the church is a mass of intricate carving, a Jesse tree among a crowd of figures in tiny pinnacled niches. The clustered columns of the lofty arcades have carved capitals of great beauty. Angels hold shields along the string-course below the clerestory windows, which light a fine old flat roof of timber. A pleasant glow of colour comes from the modern glass in the south aisle, and a perfect frame for a perfect font is the deeply moulded tower arch exceptionally tall and narrow.

The font is 500 years old, and has on its bowl not only the winged creatures of the Evangelists but the Gospel writers themselves, men in floppy caps and long capes. Next comes a row of angels, and then a pedestal with eight canopied niches, and the whole is raised high, the uppermost step projecting in the form of a cross.

Delicate tracery has been fitted to the old framework of the aisle screens, but the chancel screen has gone, though its medieval tracery, still flecked with red and gold paint, makes up the backs of a pair of stalls and their prayer desks, ending in flowery poppyheads carved with faces. Other old stalls have heads on the arm-rests and tip-up seats. A little inside door is made strong with old iron strappings, and iron bands bind an old chest.

Full of interest are the memorials in stone and brass to Stoke folk of centuries ago. In the south chapel is Lady Ann Windsor, sculptured in all her finery of fur-lined cloak, fur collar, ruff, and embroidered sleeves, with a proud little son kneeling at her feet and daughters in ruffs kneeling at her head. For 300 years she has been lying here in state, her shield held by heraldic creatures standing boldly against the window above her.

In the tiny north chapel he built 600 years ago lies Sir John de Peyton and his three wives, but their brasses have gone and their floorstones are worn, and it is the handsome fellow who lies on a tomb festooned with flowers who takes pride of place. He is Sir Francis Mannock, who died in 1634 and is here shown in marble wearing many-hinged armour, with his curly head resting on an embroidered cushion. Two draped figures stand on the black pillars of the lofty arch over him. Sir Francis’s wife has her portrait in brass, a dainty woman in a lace-trimmed gown with a bow at her waist, of whom Sir John Suckling might well have written his famous lines:

Her feet beneath her petticoat
Like little mice stole in and out
As if they feared the light.

Sir John owned a Suffolk manor at Barsham, so perhaps they met. Then there is a brass group of 16th century children who have lost their father, an earlier Francis Mannock, who had two wives, which accounts for the children being in two groups.

A splendid bit of medieval craftsmanship is the brass showing Catherine Howard, whose husband, the 1st Duke of Norfolk, married again and fell fighting for the bloodstained Richard at Bosworth long after this grand lady in her square headdress had died. Her son, the 2nd Duke, was captured at Bosworth, but lived to be left in charge of England while Henry the Eighth was parading on the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The duke’s great-grandfather was Sir William Tendring, whose brass here shows him in armour, his bare head resting on a many-plumed helmet. It was his daughter Alice who brought the Howard family to Stoke by marrying Sir John Howard, but all that is left of their memorial is a handsome brass canopy. There is one other brass of a woman in tightly buttoned sleeves, whose long thin lingers are pressed in prayer, and it is thought she may be Sir William’s wife.

Born and buried at Stoke was Ralph Agas, who surveyed much of the Fens for Elizabeth’s Lord Burghley, and whose pictorial maps of London, Oxford, and Cambridge are among the earliest of their kind and valuable rarities. He once said in an advertisement that he could read old records, write small, and could move and replant without damage trees weighing a ton; and he was never so happy as when he was working with what he called his profitable staff.

Some of the Tudor houses he knew are still here: the delightful black and white gabled group called Maltings Houses near the church; the Guild House with its beautiful timbering, overhanging storey, and clustered chimneys; Stoke Priory with its timbered gable ; Thorington Hall on the way to Dedham; and, grandest of all, Gifford’s Hall. It is Tudor, with an embattled gateway bearing the Mannock arms and brick towers flanking a noble entrance. The entrance hall has some bits 700 years old. There is a fine oak roof and a minstrel’s gallery in the dining hall and in the tapestry room is a hiding-place leading to a chimney. One of the tapestries pictures the house itself and the portraits of men and women whose home it was are in the oak gallery. There are also the ruins of a chapel built by Richard Constable 700 years ago.

Another man born at Stoke was Sir William Capel, the draper became Lord Mayor of London and who is said to have lent Henry the Seventh much money and to have torn up the bonds after the king had entertained him to a sumptuous feast. Another of London’s Lord Mayors rebuilt Tendring Hall in 1736 in its fine park on top of the hill; he was Sir John Williams.

One thing more we remember - the long roof and gabled windows of Mead House, all covered deep in thatch patterned in the most delightful way. We should imagine that a would-be thatcher might learn the whole art of thatching from this roof.

Flickr set.

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