Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Thriplow, Cambridgeshire

St George in Thriplow, pronounced Triplow, was undergoing extensive reparation and the installation of a new heating system when I visited but the bits I could see were fantastic. I love cruciform churches and that's exactly what St George is but it's also brilliantly situated and is very fine architecturally. Definitely on a mental list to re-visit at a later date when the builders have moved on!

The earliest parts of the church are carved Norman pillars on the outside of the north transept, remains of narrow lancet windows in the chancel, and the font which is also of Norman workmanship. Its prominent position on a hill made it ideal for claiming 'Sanctuary', and four cases are recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries of people claiming sanctuary for crimes they had committed, either theft or murder, both capital offences. As long as they stayed in the church they were safe, but no food was to be brought to them and they had either to submit to justice which probably meant death or to 'abjure the realm' which meant being escorted to the nearest port clad only in shirt and hose, and to board ship never to return. In 1299 it is reported that "Peter de Cambere when shooting arrows in Tryppelawe, accidentally hit Richard Denys aged 2 years in the head and killed him. He took sanctuary in the Church there and abjured the Realm, his chattels 3/-".

The church is called All Hallows in wills of the 16th century though its other name of St George (not found until the 19th century) probably reflects the fact that the Thriplow Feast was held on St George's day, April 23rd, until within living memory.

Thriplow church suffered William Dowsing's attention who, with Oliver Cromwell's authority, travelled the country destroying all evidence of so called Popery. In his journal he records: "March 1643, we brake about 100 Cherubins and superstitious pictures and gave Order to take down 18 Cherubins and a cross on the steeple and to level the steps".

By the mid-nineteenth century the church was in a ruinous state and was extensively restored in 1875/76. During the restoration two stone coffins were found beneath the floor of the nave, they date from the 13th century and contained the skeletons of a man about 6 ft high, and. a woman of 4ft 10in. The Chancel, being the responsibility of Peterhouse College was restored by 1878 to a design by Sir George Gilbert Scott.

ST GEORGE. Raised on a small eminence above the village with views to the E and N. A cruciform church mostly of the later C13. There are lancet windows in the chancel (N side, now giving on to the vestry, also traces at the E end outside) and the transepts. In the N transept the shafting of the angles of the diagonal buttresses should also be noted. The crossing arches look a little later. They rest on semi-octagonal responds and are triple-chamfered. Caricatured heads in the corners carry the outer chamfers. Dec upper storey with bell-openings. Battlements and spike. Nave without aisles. Perp W front and several windows. Restoration by Scott 1877. Of that time the S porch and the E window. The roofs of nave and transepts are prettily painted. - FONT. Norman, of table-top type, Purbeck marble, with seven shallow blank arches against each side. - ROOD SCREEN. Fragments of a screen with large, wide-open one-light divisions. Cusped main arches, tracery spandrels. It is interesting that, when at Great St Mary in Cambridge a rood screen was to be erected in 1518 it was stipulated that it should be like that ‘within ye parisshe chirche of Tripplow’. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten of 1569. - MONUMENT. Edward Lucas d. 1601, small, with the usual kneeling ļ¬gures facing each other across a prayer-desk.

St George (3)

Edward Lucas


THRIPLOW. Its smithy and its cottages gather about the green, and on a hill on the edge of the village, with a 17th century thatched cottage close by, the church looks down on peaceful fields which came into history for some fateful hours of 1647. It was the time of the first dispute between the Long Parliament and the Army. The army commanded by Cromwell and Fairfax had been ordered to disband, and the angry soldiers assembled on Thriplow Heath threatened to march on London. As a practical gesture of defiance of the Parliament the army sent Cornet Joyce with a troop of horse to carry off the King from Holmby House in Northants. Three weeks later Thriplow Heath saw another act in the momentous drama of King and Commonwealth, when Charles was brought back on Midsummer Day across these very fields.

The church has a central tower which can be seen for miles, six or seven centuries old, resting on four arches adorned with quaint faces. It has old painted roofs, an oak chancel screen of the 14th century, a Norman font, and a sculptured family group with Edward Lucas and his wife kneeling with their four children, subjects of Queen Elizabeth. 

Flickr set.

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