Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Thorley, Hertfordshire

St James the Great is another heavily re-furbished church consisting of tower, nave and chancel but its simplicity is its attraction. The exterior is peculiar with the nave and chancel being rendered and painted white whilst the tower remains flint and rubble and the interior is quite austere - I can't imagine why I warmed to it so.

ST JAMES. Norman S doorway. Colonnettes with spiral-fluted shafts and capitals with elementary upright leaves at the angles. Arches with two orders of zigzag. Nave and chancel have C13 lancet windows preserved. No aisles. W tower C15, unbuttressed, with low stair turret and spike. Tall C15 tower arch; the chancel arch of double-chamfered orders could be C13 still. The chancel Sedilia, however (ogee—headed), must be of the C14. The S and W windows C19 (1846, by Pritchett). - FONT. Square, C12, of Purbeck marble, with five shallow blank arches on each side. - REREDOS with side-panels of naturalistically carved flowers and leaves; High Victorian in style (by J. Day). The church was restored in 1854 by Vulliamy. The PULPIT and COMMUNION RAILS were designed by Sir G. G. Scott. - STAINED GLASS. W window, c. 1853, still in the painting style of the C18, that is pre-Puginesque. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, 1562; Patens, 1809 and 1818; Flagon, 1839. - Many minor epitaphs. 

St James the Great



Thorley. Through the lychgate at the end of the lane we come in the shade of tall pines, limes, and ancient yews to the old church with its coat of plaster, and with a 15th century tower, a 14th century chancel, and a 13th century nave. We enter through a Norman doorway with twisted shafts and scalloped capitals; there is another tiny Norman doorway opening to the tower stairs inside, its delicate capitals probably carved by the craftsman who made the font. The piscina and the triple sedilia are both 14th century.

Thorley had as rector the brilliant Samuel Horsley who lies here, his coifm having been brought from St Mary’s, Newington Butts, when that church was pulled down to make room for a railway. Born in 1733, he lived till after the Battle of Trafalgar in spite of his quarrelsomeness and eccentricities. He would make bitter speeches at stormy meetings of the Royal Society, attacking Sir Joseph Banks as President, and at one of these meetings, pointing to the mace on the table, he shouted: "When the hour of secession comes the president will be left with his train of feeble amateurs and that toy upon the table, the ghost of that society in which Philosophy once reigned and Newton presided as her minister.” He also had a bitter controversy with Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, which began in a Good Friday sermon and lasted 12 years. He was clever enough to learn Latin without a master in his youth, and in his old age he would ride about in a coach and four. He believed that Napoleon would set up as a Messiah. As a preacher he was powerful and eloquent and a great force, but he was pompous and irritable.

Flickr set.

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