Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sturmer, Essex

I've been close to St Mary several times but never had time to visit, it's always been on my way back home when time was running out - and I'm glad I found time to stop last week.

It's tiny with a Tudor brick south porch, a bijou tower and is old. Unfortunately it was locked but there was a keyholder sign although the address label for where the key was held had long since faded and fallen off.

The Norman arch and tympanum of the south door are very high quality - I wonder what is hidden inside the church.

ST MARY. Away from the village, amid trees, with Sturmer Hall to the W. An C11 nave the only evidence of which is the unrebated N doorway with a lintel decorated with a chequer pattern. C12 S doorway with one order of columns carrying scalloped capitals, zigzag in the arch, two heads like projecting knobs at the top of the door jambs, and a tympanum decorated with two ornamental crosses and two rosettes. The latter may mean sun and moon, but why two crosses? And why this completely unplanned arrangement? It looks like nothing but incompetence, and it seems an odd incompetence that cannot put two almost identical shapes on the same level. The chancel is Norman too, as shown by one small N window. It was altered in the E.E. style, when three smallish separate lancet windows were inserted at the E end. C14 W tower with diagonal buttresses and pyramid roof. Early C16 S porch of brick with stepped gable. The nave roof has double hammerbeams, but they are small and the spandrels are all decorated with rather thin tracery. - PLATE. Small secular goblet of 1676.

St Mary (2)

South door (1)


STURMER. Ancient Britons were buried in the mound we see here in a field, Saxon masons began the building of the little church, and 15th century men fashioned the timber framework of Sturmer Hall, now refaced with modern brick. The work of the Saxons is still seen in the nave and in the little north doorway no longer used, its tympanum carved with squares. The Normans re-fashioned the chancel and built the doorway on the south, which has weird heads below a tympanum crudely patterned. The porch is of Tudor brick with a crowstepped gable, and there is a studded Tudor door in the chancel. The nave has a double hammerbeam roof, decorated about 1500 with pierced tracery and carved wall-plates. One of the windows has two shields in 15th century glass. This small place is linked with our greatest naval victory, for we read here of William Hicks, who was a middy on HMS Conqueror when she sailed into Nelson’s last iight. He was rector here for 44 years, with a tale to tell the village children that must have made their history books seem dull.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Ridgewell, Essex

St Lawrence left me strangely flat, perhaps because of the glories of Sudbury or perhaps because it's not very interesting.

ST LAURENCE. All C15 except for an unexplained, probably re-used piece of C13 blank arcading in the N wall of the vestry. W tower with angle buttresses, some flint decoration at the foot, battlements and a higher stair-turret. Embattled S porch. Windows with Perp tracery. N arcade with piers with semi-polygonal shafts, small to the arches, and large, without capitals, to the nave; two-centred arches. Clerestory with embattled cill. N chancel chapel with octagonal pier and semi-octagonal responds carrying embattled capitals. Delicately detailed nave roof with collar-beams on arched braces, every second resting on shafts which stand on corbels. All beams and rafters moulded. - SCREEN. Four divisions of the dado remain, with elaborate tracery including mouchette-wheels. - PULPIT. C17, plain. - LECTERN. Octagonal with a heavy foot decorated with fleurons. Book-rest new. - PLATE. Cup of 1564. 

St Lawrence (4)

Be Still

RIDGEWELL. Many little Roman relics of far-off days have been dug up in this village. Its houses today gather about a spacious green. One of the older ones, Ridgewell Hill Farm, was built a year after the Armada and has kept three sides of its moat. It has carved bargeboards, chimney-stacks with eight-sided shafts, and original panelling in the dining-room. Moat Farm and Essex Hall belong to the next century. The church is mostly 500 years old, and has two valued possessions, a screen richly carved by 15th century men and an oak bier made about the same time. Also 15th century are the roofs of nave and chance] (the nave roof fine with leafy bosses, wall-plates, and little figures in niches in the brackets); the base of the lectern with its square flowers; two plain stalls in the chancel; and the font, which has old tiles in the platform by it. The doorway inside the porch is a hundred years older, and so is the north arcade. There is a peephole in the chancel arch, a little 15th century glass made up with a modern scene of the Crucifixion, and a graceful 17th century pulpit with panelled sides and a fluted frieze.


Bulmer, Essex

Turning for home I crossed back into Essex and headed for Bulmer (after a futile search for Middleton, which, once again, my satnav refused to accept exists and I saw no signs for it but then I was somewhat lost).

St Andrew took an age to find and, when I did, wasn't hugely rewarding - a very nice font, with a green man, and two good modern windows - but the setting was beautiful.

Font (4)

Window (1)


BULMER. Its finest possession has been in the church 500 years, a font beautifully carved and wonderfully preserved. It has an octagonal bowl and stands on a graceful panelled base. Seven of the sides have angels, double roses, and a shield bearing a thumb-screw; but the one we liked best shows a genial face between branches of grapes, with vine leaves coming from its mouth. The tower is 15th century and there are 14th century arches in the nave with a richly moulded doorway of the same age; but the chief interest of the building is in the 14th century chancel, which has a fine little arcade in the sanctuary wall, and a Tudor roof with canopied angels holding shields* and the instruments of the Passion. In two windows is a little old glass. An opening outside one of the walls is blocked with bricks which appear to be Roman.

* Either I missed these or they are no longer extant.

Sudbury, Suffolk part 3

I visited St Gregory in August but a service was under way so I only did externals. The beautiful exterior did not prepare me for the three wonders of this church.

The first, and most impressive, are the bench ends and misericords of the chancel stalls - without doubt some of the finest I've seen - but running them close are the font (or more correctly the font cover) and the original rood screen panel depicting Master John Schorn.

Even without these three this would still be an impressive church with much to see and admire - I'm rather surprised that Simon Jenkins, rather begrudgingly to my mind, only awards it one star.

ST GREGORY. The mother church of Sudbury. By the Green at the W end of the town, the third of its medieval parishes. Perp, built of flint. W tower with diagonal buttresses with five set-offs. SE stair—turret. At its foot on the S side MONUMENT. Tomb-chest with shields in lozenges and recessed niche above. Nave and aisles, clerestory, not with doubled windows. S porch with a chapel attached to its E side (cf. Clare Suffolk and St Botolph Cambridge). Tall transomed chancel windows. Brick vestry to the N of the E end, early C16. C14 arcades of four bays. Polygonal attachments to the piers towards nave and aisle without capitals, semicircular shafts with capitals towards the arch openings. The capitals on the S side simpler and earlier, on the N finer. The church is supposed to have been rebuilt by Archbishop Sudbury, who founded a college here in 1375 (see below) and was executed in 1381, and to have been remodelled c. 1485. Nice cambered nave roof, the E bays ceiled, flat chancel ceiling, painted with a pattern of squares and elongated hexagons, more Renaissance than Gothic in character. - FONT. Perp, octagonal. Bowl shallow with tracery motifs, probably late C14. - FONT COVER. One of the finest medieval font covers in the country. Tall, with two tiers of panels with ogee arches and gables, the upper tier placed so that its panels stand above the edges of the panels below. - SCREEN. One panel, at the W end of the nave, with a painting of Master John Schorn healing the gout by conjuring a devil out of a boot. - STALLS. Heads on the arms, MISERICORDS with heads etc. More panels of the screen dado used for the stall backs. - SOUTH DOOR. With tracery and a trail border. - MONUMENT. Incised slab with Normano-French inscription to the wife of the Sieur de St Quentin, c. 1325. Foreign, according to Mr Greenhill (S chapel floor). - CURIOSA. The skull of Archbishop Sudbury is preserved in the vestry.

Benchend (1)

Benchend (3)

Misericord (6)

John Schorn (1)

The mother church of the town is St Gregory’s (built by Simon of Sudbury), standing at a quiet corner with a medieval porch and a lofty tower. It has stood as we see it since the 15th century, but has a relic of its earlier days in a stone to a wool merchant’s wife who lived here in 1275. The lovely old door of the porch opens into a great white church, elegant and lofty, and with fine old roofs. On each side of the high chancel arch is a delightful figure of a curly-haired girl carved in stone, and seen through the arch the blue chancel roof is charming, painted with spiral bands and gold stars and angels on the cornice.

The chancel has 20 fine choir stalls with medieval carvings under the seats, and figures on the armrests. In two facing windows are three of our patron saints and three figures of the church (Augustine, Bede, and Gregory). Across the chancel still stand the lower panels the old rood screen, painted with saints last century, and close by them is a charming pulpit of our own time, daintily shaped like a wine glass.

The treasure of the church is the ancient cover of its modern font, one of only three covers of its kind. A richly traceried piece of craftsmanship of the 15th century, 12 feet high, its gorgeous tabernacle work is gay with its original red and gold, and it has in its diminishing stages traceried windows with pinnacled canopies. What is exceptional about the cover is that the lower part pushes ingeniously telescopewise.

Hanging by the tower arch is a painted wooden panel of the medieval knight of whom it is said that he conjured the devil into a boot; in case we should doubt it the great boot is here to see, and the owner stands with his hand raised in rebuke to the devil sitting inside. The knight, who is wearing a red gown with a black hat over his bobbed hair, is Sir John Schorne, a Buckinghamshire rector of long ago, who appears with his boot on several English screens.

In a small medieval chapel is a massive altar tomb with a mysterious inscription which is an epitaph’s way of saying that a rich man has gone to heaven; it is to Thomas Carter who died in 1706:

Traveller, I will relate a wondrous thing. On the day on which
Thomas Carter breathed his last a Sudbury camel passed through
the eye of a needle; if thou hast wealth, go and do likewise.

There is outside the porch another altar tomb which has lost its brass; it is close to the great gateway which leads from the church to the workhouse - for so low are the mighty fallen in Sudbury that Simon of Sudbury’s college has now become the home of the poor.

Simon was Sudbury’s great Archbishop of Canterbury in the 14th century and there he lies, but his old town has a grim relic of its greatest son. He looks down from a boss in the roof of an aisle and a big stone in the floor at the east end marks the grave of his father and mother. But in a niche in the vestry is a little box behind an iron door in which is the head of Simon, cut off by Wat Tyler’s followers on Tower Hill and set over London Bridge, where it remained six days. It may now be seen, a grim sight reminding us of the head of Cromwell which we found also in this county. It was perhaps some satisfaction to the people of this town that the last of Wat Tyler’s rebels was killed or captured in this market-place in the year when the rebels slew this good old man*.


* Some take a rather different view, including Wat Tyler's supporters, as he was the instigator of the original Poll Tax.

Sudbury, Suffolk part 2

Having visited Sudbury in February and the subsequent discovery that All Saints was not the only church in town I returned to visit St Gregory and St Peter.

St Peter is a CCT church right in the heart of Sudbury and is, externally, stunning but I found the interior a bit of let down. This may have been due to a book fair being conducted in the nave but I just found the whole too forensic and sterile.

Having said that I did like elements such as the rood screen dados, the reredos and the south chapel altar as well as the interesting crucifixion graffiti in the south chapel.

Thinking that I might be being a bit harsh I went to the excellent SimonK's site to see what he made of it and must say that when I visited I had a warm welcome and was positively encouraged to take photos!

ST PETER. Perp: although large and convincingly expressing the wealth of a prosperous wool-manufacturing town, this church was built as a chapel of ease. W tower of c. 1460-85, with a pretty copper spirelet of 1810 that tells much in distant views. Nave and aisles, clerestory with a doubling of windows. Chancel and chancel chapels. The aisles embrace the tower. S porch two-storeyed, three niches in the front. The ground floor was intended to be vaulted. No N porch. Tall arcades of five rather narrow bays, the piers with four attached shafts and four small hollows in the diagonals. The chancel redecorated by Bodley, 1898 . Vestry under the chancel. - By Bodley also the tall reredos. - Handsome BALCONY right above the chancel arch and the former rood. - ROOD SCREEN. Dado with completely repainted figures. - PARCLOSE SCREENS. Very rich, though with only one-light divisions. But the arches are broad and there is much cusped tracery. - DOORS. S and N doors with tracery. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp. The bowl with cusped pointed quatrefoils. - PAINTINGS. Moses and Aaron (N aisle, W end), from the C18 reredos. Painted by Robert Cardinall, early C18. - EMBROIDERY. Alderman’s Pall, C15. Among the embroidered motifs small kneeling figure in shroud, with prayers from the Vulgate. - Preaching Cloth, i.e. Pulpit Frontal, Jacobean.


South chapel altar

Grafitti (2)

St Peter’s stands on Market Hill with Gainsborough in front. It is nearly all 15th century, but has Norman stones in its tower. The curious angle of its west wall is due to the fact that houses stood close up to it in other days. It has fine old traceried doors, a 17th century nave roof panelled in blue and gold, fine screens, a medieval font once used as a cattle trough, two medieval choir-stalls, and a pair of fine chairs with 16th century carving; on one chair is a man with a wide-brimmed hat and on the other a Nativity with three shepherds, an ox, and an ass looking on. Over the two doors are two faded paintings of Moses and Aaron by a Suffolk pupil of Sir Godfrey Kneller.

The elaborate decoration of the chancel is by George Frederick Bodley, whose reredos shows the Annunciation and the Crucifixion in deep relief under golden canopies. Much finer, however, is the oak reredos in the south chapel, with the Last Supper above and the Nativity below; it has shepherds with their crooks, angels under canopies, and richly painted tabernacle work.

Three fragments of medieval England St Peter’s has, a piece of embroidery of 1500, rood screen panels with eight painted saints, and a long narrow oak canopy which once sheltered a crucifix; it is still where it would be then, over the lofty chancel arch. The embroidery, the great treasure of the church, is known as the Sudbury Pall and is still used at the burials of aldermen. It is of maroon velvet with a fringe of green and gold, and round it are floral ornaments worked in gold and silver thread with kneeling figures in white shrouds. Above the figures are fine scrolls with prayers on them. There is a more modest example of embroidery in the royal arms on the cloth of the Jacobean pulpit.

Chilton, Suffolk

Despite the fact that my satnav denied all knowledge of a Chilton existing in Suffolk, St Mary was easy to spot as I headed back towards Sudbury looming over an industrial estate.

St Mary is a CCT church and is kept locked but with very clear directions, by foot or car, to the keyholder's house - unfortunately, this being a Tuesday mid-morning, the keyholder was out. This is a pity as I would have liked to have seen the Crane monuments, I may return.

ST MARY. On no road, about 1/4 m. from Chilton Hall. There is no village near either. Flint, but with a C16 W tower of brick. The Crane Chapel at the NE end also of brick. Moreover, a Tudor brick window of two lights in the nave N wall next to a very tall transomed straight-headed stone window also of two lights. The S windows are equally tall and transomed, but of three lights and arched. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, simple. - SCREEN. Only the dado survives. - STAINED GLASS. In the tracery of the E window of the Crane Chapel two original figures. - MONUMENTS. Alabaster effigy probably of George Crane d. 1491. - Alabaster effigies of Robert Crane d. 1500 and his wife. - Sir Robert Crane d. 1643 with his two wives. This monument was prepared in 1626. The sculptor was Gerard Christmas, and the price in the contract is £50. Tripartite composition of the shape of the so-called Venetian window. Columns of touch. Three niches. In the middle one Sir Robert kneeling frontally, in the other two the two wives in profile.

St Mary (3)

CHILTON. It has a lovely old hall of mellow red brick with an embattled corner turret and a bridge of many arches astride its moat. The little 15th century church stands remote in the fields alnost hid by tall elms, its brick tower battlemented with flint and pinnacled with stone. There is a panelled 15th century font and a Jacobean altar table, but it is the splendid monuments of the squires of Chilton that attract all eyes. Sir Robert Crane of Shakespeare's day kneels on the vestry wall in his Stuart armour and baggy red breeches, with a wife on either side, and earlier Cranes are sleeping here on their fine altar tombs. One is a long-haired man in armour, his head resting on his helmet, his feet on a strange beast, his wife in tight-waisted gown and SS collar. The other is a merchant with his money-bag at his waist and a quaint animal at his feet looking round at these last vestiges of his master’s opulence.

Acton, Suffolk

Whilst trying to find my next stop, Chilton, my satnav took me to Acton so I took the opportunity to visit All Saints which was, unfortunately locked. A helpful sign stated that it is kept open in daylight hours from June to August and gave directions for the keyholder who was sadly out.

This necessitates a revisit as I have heard about the brasses here and would love to 'acquire' them - also Mee makes it sound interesting.

ALL SAINTS. S aisle and S Chapel of c. 1300 (Y-tracery). W tower base of c. 1300. The rest of the tower 1913-23. N doorway and N chapel Dec. Arcades with piers with four polygonal shafts, those to nave and aisles broader and stronger and without capitals. Between the chancel and the N chapel big Dec.- MONUMENT. Tomb-chest; on top a slab formerly with a foliated cross; cusped arch, and ogee gable. -  COMMUNION RAIL. Late C17. - BENCH ENDS with poppy-heads, one of them with a pair of moorhens. - BRASSES. The brass to Sir Robert de Bures d. 1302 is one of the oldest and one of the finest in England. The figure is 6 ft 6 in. tall. He wears chain mail, over his head as well, no helmet, and a long surcoat. His legs are crossed and the feet are on a lion. His hands are in prayer. Exquisite engraving. - Alyce de Bryan, c. 1435. Under a triple canopy. The figure is 4 ft 9 in. long. - Henry Bures d. 1528. Knight in armour, 3 ft figure. - MONUMENT. In the SE chapel the monument to Robert Jennens d. 1722, adjutant of the Duke of Marlborough. Attributed by Mrs Esdaile to Thomas Green. It was put up, and the chapel built for it, by Jennens’s widow. Standing wall monument. Reredos background with fluted pilasters. He lies comfortably semi-reclining on a mattress. His elbow rests on a pillow and his head is propped up by his hand. He looks towards his wife, who is seated by his feet. Minute details of the dress very competently carved. Emotionally the figures are perhaps less convincing.

All Saints (2)


ACTON. It has a notable house in Acton Place, standing in a park with fine trees, for it includes part of the mansion begun by the Duke of Marlborough’s aide-de-camp Robert Jennens. His miserly son William, who was nearly a millionaire, hardly spent a penny in his 97 years. In the vestry of the restored medieval church Robert Jennens reclines in marble, with a seated woman gazing down on him. It is interesting that the sculptor has shown him in a rich coat and a wig, and not in the rather foolish Roman costume so fashionable in our 18th century monuments. The church has some remarkably massive buttresses, a roof renewed with oaks from Acton Place, and a collection of old pews with carved poppyheads, one bearing the carver’s name, C. Newson. They show fowls eating corn, a dove with an olive leaf, acorns, grapes, flowers, and foliage. Some of the pews have panelled backs with arches of tracery, the spandrels also being filled with carving.

But the fame of Acton lies in its remarkable little portrait gallery in enduring brass. Here is John Daniel in his Elizabethan ruff and gown, and quaint little figures of Edmund Daniel and his Margaret and their five sons, all Elizabethan. Alyce de Bryan of the 15th century is shown as a widow with her little dog playing on the folds of her mantle, and Henry Bures of 1528 is in armour with a long sword strapped to his waist. All these portraits any church might have, but there is another, one of the oldest brasses in England, which experts have called the finest military brass in existence, because of the richness of its detail and the splendid engraving. It is a portrait of Sir Robert de Bures of 1302 as a cross-legged warrior in chain mail covered by a tunic open in front. He wears a broad belt and has a great sword and a shield with two lions. His hands are together in prayer, and his feet rest on a smiling lion. The de Bures chapel is a fitting home for this rare treasure. It is divided from the chancel by a fine 13th century arch with some of the heaviest and most gorgeous ornament of cusping we have seen, the cusps ending with figures of angels which have lost their heads.

Great Waldingfield, Suffolk

St Lawrence was padlocked with no sign of a keyholder which is a shame as this is a resplendent building in the heart of the village and there seems to be no apparent reason for it to be kept locked. So I took exteriors and moved on, accidentally, to Acton.

ST LAWRENCE. (Built by John Appleton at the end of the C14. L G) Perp, with some flushwork decoration, chiefly of a chequerboard pattern. W tower with diagonal buttresses of four set-offs. Nave and aisle. Clerestory with single, not double windows. Inscription on the S  side in the battlements: ‘Pray for the (soul)’ - probably of John Appleton. S porch with flushwork. Its entrance and the S doorway have fleurons in the jambs and arches. The N porch is presumably of the restoration of 1827-9. The chancel was rebuilt in 1866-9 by Butterfield. Interior with tall arcades. Piers with four shafts and four small hollows. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with heavy quatrefoils. - BENCH ENDS. With poppy-heads. - COMMUNION RAIL. From St Michael Cornhill in the City of London. With twisted balusters, and enriched with leaf and garlands. Probably by William Cleere c. 1670-5. - STAINED GLASS. The E and W windows by Gibbs 1869 and 1877; a N aisle window by Westlake, 1877, two in the N aisle by Lavers, 1885 and 1887, and one in the S aisle, 1882, by the same. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup, repaired 1618; Almsdish 1701.

St Lawrence (3)

Headstone (1)

GREAT WALDINGFIELD. The villagers occupying its snug little cottages enjoy the peace of a secluded corner of the countryside, but they are in touch with great scenes and great names. They can lay hands on fragments of London and of the Eternal City; they can see and touch something seen and touched by Pharaoh. The lofty clerestoried church is 14th century, and has a fine tower. The south porch, with a mitre over it, has flowers in its arches, and the old west door has tracery and foliage on its panels. Below the clerestory windows are quaint heads and more flowers. One of the windows has a medley of delicately coloured old glass in which are two crowns, four flaming suns, and two golden canopies. The chancel is a treasury of surprise and interest. Panelling the lower part of the sanctuary walls is a mosaic of marble fragments collected from ruined temples in Rome by two ladies of the parish. The pieces were fitted together by an Italian artist and brought home intact. There is granite here from Mount Sinai, and with it pieces of syenite, once part of a colossal statue of Rameses lying in the sands of Egypt.

The woodwork of the chancel is believed to have been carved by Grinling Gibbons for Wren’s fine church of St Michael in Cornhill, where it remained until last century. There are fine spiral rails, some worked into the choir-stalls and some at the altar; other woodwork includes poppyheads with flowers, foliage, dragons, and birds. The remainder of the woodwork from St Michael’s sanctuary we found at the vicarage, fluted columns with cherubs and foliage capitals, and splendid panelling carved with festoons of flowers and fruit.

Here lies John Hopkins, a son of Gloucestershire who was vicar here in the 16th century. Here he died, having linked his name forever with that of Thomas Sternhold by setting our people singing Psalms. They produced the first metrical version of the Psalms set to modern music, and their book was a bestseller before the Spanish Armada came, more copies of it having been sold since than of any other book except the Prayer Book and the Bible. In three centuries this treasure of the church has run into over 600 editions. Old Thomas Fuller counted Hopkins one of the best poets of Tudor England and he was more than a poet, for he was filled with deep sympathy for the suffering and oppressed, and he wrote verses for Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Little Waldingfield, Suffolk

St Lawrence, and Little Waldingfield, are, quite simply, beautiful. Amongst its treasures are two fine porches, a fantastic font and some excellent brasses.

The interior is light, airy and, unlike many south Suffolk churches, feels relatively untouched by both Dowsing and the Victorians - OK the glass, as you'd expect, has gone but any restoration that was done has been exceptionally sympathetic.

ST LAWRENCE. All Perp. The distinguishing feature is the two rood-stair turrets with their crocketed spirelets. W tower, nave and aisles and clerestory. The arcades have quatrefoil piers with embattled capitals and carry arches of one wave and one hollow with little decorative ogee gables. The same motif over the aisle windows and also over the doorways. That on the S side is decorated with crowns, faces, and big square fleurons. S porch of brick and flint, roughly striped. N porch of brick. The front has a stepped gable in front of a steep plain gable. The latter carries a pinnacle. Niche for an image below this. The chancel E window looks plain C17 Gothic. The roofs in the nave, cambered on arched braces, and in the aisles are original. - FONT. Octagonal, with the Signs of the Evangelists and four frontal figures of monks with books. - PULPIT. Jacobean; good. - READING DESK. With panels with similar motifs. - WEST DOOR . With a band of quatrefoils. - NORTH DOOR. With a band of foliage trails outside, a band of shields and quatrefoils inside. - CHEST. Good C15 chest with traceried front. - BRASSES. John Coleman d. 1506, 2 ft 6 in. figure (by the E wall of the N aisle). - Robert Appleton d. 1526 and wife, 20 in. figures. - John Wyncoll d. 1544, 19 in. figure.

North porch

Font (7)

John Wyncoll 1544 (1)

LITTLE WALDINGFIELD. Its 15th century church has a fine tower with four stone priests instead of pinnacles. Unfortunately they have lost their heads; and so have the angels by the handsome south doorway, which is enriched with flowers and heads and a crown. On the north side there is an old brick porch now blocked up. The nave has battlemented piers supporting unusual decorated arches, the Jacobean pulpit is finely carved with little arches and foliage, and a beautiful desk for the vicar looks as if it were made of material from a pulpit. There are old benches with poppyheads, some fragments of old glass, and an ancient chest with rough ironwork and an arched lid. The 15th century font has angels supporting the bowl, which is carved with the symbols of the Evangelists and four seated figures holding open books. Nearby is a Jacobean table once an altar.

One of the little sights of the church we do not see, for it is under the organ, a brass showing John Colman of 1506, with his wife and 13 children. Another brass half-hidden by the organ has a portrait of a Tudor clothier, John Wyncoll, in a doublet and furred gown; and still another, seen quite well, shows Roger Appleton of 1526 and his wife, he in armour with a long sword strapped to his waist, she in a headdress rather like the one Sir John Tenniel loved to draw for the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland. Very interesting it was to find on the wall above this old couple a brass in memory of a 20th century Appleton from Boston, Massachusetts, whom we take to be a descendant of Roger and his wife.

Near the church is an old house called the Priory, with a vaulted crypt and a fine timber roof. It may have belonged to a monastery.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Great Cornard, Suffolk

I'd say that technically Great Cornard is a suburb of Sudbury rather than a village in its own right nowadays and that St Andrew is a very Essex style of church - not without some merit but, to be honest, not to my taste.

To my mind the best parts were a surviving poppy head, the rood screen dado and the south aisle window.

The village near which Gainsborough painted Cornard Wood is now more or less a suburb of Sudbury.

ST ANDREW. Flint. C14 W tower. It has diagonally placed niches l. and r. of the W window and carries a shingled spire. C16 brick stair-turret. The S aisle is of 1887. Low N arcade with piers of Sudbury type. - FONT. Simple, octagonal, Perp. - WALL PAINTINGS. Framed texts on the N aisle wall; Elizabethan. - PLATE. Paten 1710.


Rood remnants (1)

SE Aisle window (2)

Oddly Mee has no record of Great Cornard, although he does cover Little Cornard.


Sible Hedingham, Essex

Another trip to, predominantly, south Suffolk began with a visit to St Peter where, unbeknownst to me,there is a monument to my children's 19th great grandfather Sir John Hawkwood (I'll leave it to Arthur to fill you in on him).

Despite the size of the church this is a surprisingly spartan interior - or perhaps not, it's almost in Suffolk (and has a very Suffolk feel to it) and I suppose Dowsing came to visit - but is light, airy and appealing. I rather liked the reredos.

ST PETER. Except for the W tower a church dating from about 1330-40. The window tracery is typical and not of special interest.* The W window of the tower also belongs to that period, although the tower itself with its angle buttresses carried up in four set-offs and its stepped battlements is of early C16. Buttresses are also carried down into the inside the church. The quatrefoil clerestory windows are not original, but the back-splays may indicate that the form is correct (cf. Little Sampford). The arcades between nave and aisles and the chancel arch have octagonal or semi-octagonal supports and double-chamfered arches. The most interesting feature of the church is the MONUMENT in the S aisle, a low tomb-chest like a seat, decorated with six cusped panels holding shields. Big ogee arch flanked by buttresses. The spandrels have Perp panelling. The monument is considered to be a cenotaph for Sir John Hawkwood d. 1394 who, the son of a tanner at Sible Hedingham, rose to be a condottiere of the Florentine army and the son-in-law of a Duke of Milan. He is buried in Florence Cathedral, where a fresco by Paolo Uccello commemorates him.

* But the chancel E window was made during the C19 restoration of the church.

John Hawkwood 1393 (1)

Reredos (1)

Reredos (2)

SIBLE HEDINGHAM. Among its inns, houses, and cottages, some with 15th century roofs, Tudor and Jacobean detail abounds, but the chief interest centres in Hawkwoods, a timbered and plastered 16th century house with a hound and a coronet over its doorway. The house perpetuates the name of a family which, settled here from the time of King John, produced a towering lawless man who became the wonder and terror of medieval Italy.

Roman tiles in the walls of the church tell of the days of Caesar’s Britain, but it was a 14th century Hawkwood who raised the present church. Over a window of the grey embattled tower, in which rings a bell 600 years old, a bold hawk is carved as an architectural pun on the family name, a conceit variously repeated indoors. An angel guards the entrance to the 16th century porch, which has roof bosses carved with the Bourchier knot, and the star of the De Veres, whose great Norman castle is in the next village. In a corner of the tower is a little nail-studded Tudor door leading to the stair turret. The wide nave has two arcades, and a modern font on a 15th century stem. Two bays of the roof spanning the south aisle are 16th century, and have finely carved timbers showing stars and boars. The chancel has two Jacobean chairs.

But the pride of the church is the place in which it is believed lay Sir John Hawkwood, who was brought here wrapped in cloth-of-gold from his tomb in the Duomo, Florence, where we have stood before his memorial. Here in Sible Hedingham, unless our history is false, they laid him in 1394, in a magnificent tomb of which now remains only a canopied recess, resplendent with hawk, boar, pelican, and hunting figures.

It was on the petition of the king that Florence delivered up the warrior who was to her as saint and hero. The name of this son of a tanner was to resound for a generation throughout Europe. He went to the wars with Edward the Third and the Black Prince, and fought at Crecy and Poitiers. Seeking fresh worlds to conquer, he moved on into Italy and there formed what was called the White Company. He lived avowedly to foment war, regular or guerilla, on the widest scale. "God give you peace," was the greeting to him of two gentle friars. "God take away your alms," he answered them; "know ye not that I live on war, and that peace would undo me; and that just as I live on war so do you on alms?" Where rival cities were so many petty republics constantly at war, Hawkwood and his dauntless men-at-arms were almost continuously in demand. He fought for Pisa against Florence, for Perugia against the pope; he fought for this man today and that man tomorrow. When his White Company was taken over by the pope Hawkwood fought for him.

Renowned and terrible, a magnificent hireling, he passed from command to command until in 1390 he settled down permanently as General of the Florentine forces. There as ever he was a brilliant commander, and when he died in 1394 he was given a magnificent funeral, and his portrait by Giotto is in a great procession of figures placed in the cathedral. Tradition has it that Richard the Second brought the body home and that it was buried here.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Birdbrook, Essex

Having set off home from Wixoe I detoured via Birdbrook - more varied my route home than detoured but you catch my drift. The exterior of St Augustine was nothing exciting and seemed to promise a dreary interior but on entering the church there was an overwhelming, pleasantly so, smell of linseed oil.

The smell is explained in the sanctuary and chancel; in the mid 1960s, the sanctuary was panelled throughout with carvings, by Ken Mabbitt (sadly Googling him is remarkably uninformative which is odd given the quality of this work), of the arms of the patrons of the church, and the shield of St Augustine on the north wall. From north to south they are of the Peche family, Edward I, Westminster Abbey, the Tyrrell family, Elizabeth I, Gent family, Alleyn family, Thompson family, Howard family, Rushe family and finally, Clare college, Cambridge. The communion table is decorated with a frieze of foliage incorporating such creatures as a mouse and birds, while the arms of the sedilia, on the south wall, has perching owls. The carving on the linen chest reflects the rural life of the parish, a woodman, reaper, fruit picker and a shepherd.

The chancel panelling matches the sanctuary, but with badges of the regiments of Birdbrook men killed in the First and Second World wars and the Korean war together with the names of the fallen. The arms of the choir stalls are carved with different animals or birds. To match the linen chest, the front of these stalls are carved with a frieze of oak leaves and acorns (significant, as all Mabbitt’s work was constructed in oak), nuts, vine leaves and grapes, amongst which there are birds, a butterfly, a bee, a squirrel and harvest mice. At the south west end of the choir stalls are tiny carvings of humorous faces in a medieval style. All this work dates to the late 1960s.

The stained glass of the east window was put in to commemorate the generosity of Mrs Edith Clara Young. The two stained glass windows on either side of the chancel depict, on the south, Inguar the Saxon thegne who was known as holding the land on which the church was built; hence the view of the church being constructed and Richard FitzGilbert, Earl of Clare, patron after the conquest; hence the scenes from the Bayeux tapestry. On the other side of the chancel are Walter de Wenlok, Abbott of Westminster Abbey and Dr. William Webb master of Clare Hall, Cambridge. Both of the portraits are authentic, taken from true likenesses. These two windows were executed by Rupert Moore.

The Joy here is in the thoroughly modern fittings and furnishings – I never thought I’d be so bowled over by refurbishments dating to the 60’s, 70’s and later but this has been so lovingly, and sympathetically, undertaken that St Augustine is a church to remember.

Martha Blewit 1681

Poppyhead (11)

Window (6)

Window (9)

BIRDBROOK. Some of its old houses have been here about 500 years with overhanging storeys resting on curved brackets. The church has something much older still, for in its walls are Roman tiles used by the 13th century builders. There are three striking lancet windows at the east, with stone heads keeping watch outside, and on the tracery of a 14th century window of the chancel is scratched the name of Thomas Cersey in ancient lettering. The lofty roof of the nave is 500 years old, and there is woodwork of the same time in the choir-stalls. The graceful altar rails are 18th century. In the sanctuary is a medieval coffin lid, and by the altar is something we have not seen before by any altar - a fireplace.

On a stone in the tower is recorded the remarkable experience of Martha Blewit who died in 1681 at the Swan Inn, which is still in the village. She married nine husbands, but the ninth outlived her, whereupon the parson of Birdbrook chose as his text at her funeral the words, "Last of all the woman died also." This same stone also records that in the next century Robert Hogan married seven wives, so that there were between these two people 16 marriages. A less exciting monument is to the antiquarian Thomas Walford, who went about England a hundred years ago and wrote a book called The Scientific Tourist.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Clare, Suffolk

SS Peter & Paul is a simply huge Suffolk wool church but, following a Dowsing visitation in 1643, strangely soulless. Having said that there are still various points of interest including the south door, the medieval eagle lectern and east window amongst others.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. The church stands in a spacious treeless churchyard, and one somehow does not consider it as part of the town, although this stretches around it in all directions. C13 W tower with a W doorway with two orders of shafts and a hood-mould with nailhead decoration. Lancet windows higher up. The W window of five lights is of course Perp, as is the frieze with shields and quatrefoils below it. The tower is unfortunately a little short for the church. Large Perp church, but inside it the arcade piers (six bays) are of the c I4 and re-used in the remodelling. They are quatrefoiled and keeled. Of the CI4 the s porch with its windows with Y-tracery. It is vaulted and has carved bosses. The second bay of vaulting was half cut off when the aisle of the C I4 building was widened later. To the E of the porch is a contemporary chapel (cf. St Gregory Sudbury etc.), and the arch of this towards the aisle is again C14. Beneath this chapel and the porch is a vaulted bone-hole. The rest of the church is all Late Perp, and mostly Early Tudor, except for the chancel, which was all but rebuilt in 1617-19, an example of the effortless Perp survival of those years. There are few (if characteristic) differences between the C15 and the C17 work. The motif of the stepped arches of the lights in the three-light window is the same. In the Perp Work it appears in S aisle and S chapel as well as N aisle and N chapel and clerestory. At the E end of the nave is the most easily remembered motif of the church, the two rood-stair turrets with their crocketed spirelets (cf. Lavenham). The clerestory windows are not doubled, as in so many East Anglian churches, but as all the windows of aisles and clerestory are slender and closely set, the effect has the same erectness as at Long Melford and Lavenham. The remodelling of the interior made it very airy. The C14 piers received castellated capitals, the arches crocketed hood-moulds. Shafts rise from the piers to the roof. Above the arches a string-course with demi-figures of angels and fleurons. Chancel arch and chapel arches go with the nave. - FONT. Simple, octagonal, Perp. - SCREENS. Remains of the rood-screen re-used at the entrance to the S chapel. Parclose screen at the E end of the S aisle, fine wide one-light divisions. - STALLs. Jacobean, some with Jacobean poppy-heads. - GALLERY in the porch chapel. Jacobean with balusters. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters, late C17. - DOORS. N and S doors and N chancel door with tracery and a border of foliage trail. - LECTERN. Brass, with a big eagle. The same type as at St Margaret King’s Lynn and Redenhall Norfolk (Oman’s type II). - PLATE. Richly embossed silver-gilt Cup, probably Flemish. - Cup 1562; Paten 1680; Flagon 1713.

UPDATE: Aug 2012 revisited to cover Clare Priory which was undergoing a large extension - I'm not sure I approve but it will be interesting to see once complete in 2013.

CLARE PRIORY. Founded for Austin Friars in 1248 by Gilbert de Clare, the earliest house of the order in England. Of the buildings most of the features which remain are early C14, namely one doorway in the former Cellarium, later the Prior’s lodging and later still the house of the Frende and Barker families, then a vaulted chamber at the s end of this range with one two-light window (single-chamfered ribs), the Lavatorium arches (see below), the doorway to the Refectory (see below), the Chapter House entrance from the former E walk, built, it is known, by Elizabeth de Burgh between 1310 and 1314, and the remains of the church which was indeed consecrated in 1338. The church was 168 ft long and had a chancel of six bays with a S chapel and s vestry, a narrow central tower, and a nave of six bays with N aisle but no S aisle. The last two bays of the N aisle were a chapel. Of this a doorway from the nave to the cloister remains, and in addition the s wall, the Sedilia with curious cusped blank arches against the back wall, and the blocked doorway to the S chancel chapel. The monument to Joan of Acre, daughter of Edward I, who died in 1305 was to the W of the sedilia and cut into them. Of the domestic buildings of the priory the walls of the cloister remain. In the E wall are the entrances to the Chapter House and the dormitory staircase. The Dormitory - a unique case - lay 12 ft further E, separated from the cloister range by an irregular quadrangular courtyard. The Dormitory at the S end overlapped the Infirmary. This has closely set upper windows in blank arches. Reredorter (i.e. lavatories) at the E end of the Infirmary and at r. angles to it. Of the Refectory in the s range parts of the walls stand up. In the S wall is a projection for the Reader’s Pulpit, at the W end of the N wall the Lavatorium, or friars’ hand-washing place. The Cellarium, i.e. W range, was converted into the prior’s residence in Early Tudor days, and of this time are the low mullioned windows with arched lights and the ceiling in the Hall, i.e. the room behind the C14 doorway. Then the Elizabethan period inserted a mullioned and transomed window in the front and a square bay (built of stone, not of flint) at the back. (Very fine C17 panelling in the upper room.) To the S of the Cellariurn is an irregular little wooden cloister of which the W and S ranges remain, complete but altered. The N range was of stone. The E range was widened to form a kitchen, which stood between Cellarium and Refectory. The date is probably the C15. Later on, in the C16-17, the cloister became an inner courtyard, and an entrance and back door were made through the S range.

You'd be hard pressed to tell:

Clare Priory (3)

Clare Priory (2)

Clare Priory (4)

SS Peter & Paul (2)

Chancel window (1)


CLARE. With delightful old houses, a fine and spacious church, something of an ancient priory, and the foundations of a proud Norman castle, it is as fascinating an old town as one could wish to see. Its name plunges us into history, for these lands belonged to one of the greatest of our ancient families, the long line of the Earls of Clare, which began with a follower of the Conqueror. Gilbert, the seventh earl, was one of the most powerful men in the land in King John’s miserable reign, and it was his son Richard who founded the priory. Another Gilbert, the ninth earl, married a king’s niece and then a king’s daughter, and only with the death of his son at Bannockburn did the long line come to an end. His daughter Elizabeth became the Lady of Clare, and it is through her that the name of this Suffolk town is on everybody’s lips at Cambridge, for she endowed and re-founded the second oldest college in the University.

What is left of the old priory is built into a house still called after it. There are parts of the cloister arches, old windows of the chapter house, massive buttresses, a vaulted roof, and some fine panelling and carving. Another building, once probably the refectory, is 60 feet long, and we noticed a fine old garden wall. It was here, in a lovely chapel built by herself, that they laid Joan of Acre, the daughter of Edward the First and his Eleanor. She had married the ninth Earl of Clare, 17 years before.

The castle across the Stour stands where a Saxon fortress stood, but only fragments of its foundations and its 13th century keep are left. The mound where the keep stood is about 60 feet high, and from it are fine views of the countryside.

A thrilling find of last century in these foundations takes us back to Edward the Third, for it is believed to be a treasure he lost, a golden crucifix and chain now in the keeping of Windsor Castle. It is ornamented with four big pearls, and so made that the figure of Our Lord can be removed.

The priory and the castle we look at with the eye of imagination, but not so the ancient church, for its beauties speak for themselves, and the Roman bricks in its walls are the oldest possessions Clare has. The tower is 13th century, with walls four feet thick, a fine doorway, and a lofty tower arch; but the body of the church was refashioned in the 15th century, and the chancel altered again in the 17th. The nave pillars are the 13th century ones raised on high bases and used again; and above them, below the big clerestory windows, are carvings of heads and angels and foliage. Both porches are 14th century and both have fine old doors richly carved. The south porch has a handsome vaulted roof, and over it is an 18th century sundial telling us rather abruptly to go about our business.

In this light and spacious interior are some interesting things. In Flemish brass, 400 years old, is an eagle lectern, with three dogs at the foot, said to be the gift of Queen Elizabeth and certainly one of the finest we have seen among England’s 50 old ones. In lovely old woodwork are choir-stalls carved in fine black oak, and a screen with beautiful tracery under a cornice of pairs of beasts supporting crowns. A 15th century chapel has a fine Jacobean gallery pew approached by a staircase and held up on posts, and attached to it are three old iron candlesticks. The east window is bright with heraldic glass made just after Shakespeare died, and a beautiful memorial window shows the Crucifixion, St Michael, and St George.

Among the other possessions of the church are a well-panelled 15th century font, a huge old ironbound chest, a 16th century bell, three chairs made of old poppyheads, a Jacobean table and altar rails of the same period, a modern pulpit effectively carved with tracery, and a big earthenware jar which belonged to the bell ringers 200 years ago. A lovely chalice used here is said to have come over with the Armada as a goblet.

The vicarage is an Elizabethan house justly proud of its panelling, and by the churchyard is a beautiful priest’s house built a few years before the Tudor Age began. Its gable is lovely with a traceried bargeboard, and one of the diamond-paned windows has a wooden corbel carved with heraldry. Some of the old houses in the town are finely timbered and plastered, and some have lovely gardens by the Stour. In the marketplace there is a house with a crypt covered by a huge vaulted roof, and on the front of the Swan Inn is a remarkable wooden sign, perhaps a window corbel 500 years ago. It is carved in relief with a swan chained to a tree, and has on the back a tree laden with fruit.

A cottage a mile away by the road at Chilton has the longest history of any house here, for it was a chapel in the 12th century, and still has Norman windows and some signs of the work of 13th century builders. In the Civil War it was used as a powder magazine.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Wixoe, Suffolk

St Leonard is kept locked but with a keyholder listed - sadly I'd run out of time so I admired the Norman dogtooth arch of the south door, took a couple of exteriors and left for home vowing to return.

It is not known when or why the church at Wixoe was dedicated to St Leonard. Nearly 180 medieval churches in England are dedicated to him, however. As patron saint of pregnant women and prisoners of war he would have been good to have on your side at a time when most women were undernourished and at risk in pregnancy and childbirth, and with many men involved in Crusades and other conflicts, including civil war.

UPDATE: Aug 2012 I gained access after several revisits and for a tiny church there's much of interest - nothing earth shattering but it packs a punch but what a shame the apse is no longer extant.

ST LEONARD. Nave and chancel with weather boarded bell-turret. Nave and chancel are Norman, as is seen in the treatment of the flint walling and also the S doorway with one order of shafts with scalloped capitals and a zigzag in the arch, and the outline of the N doorway.* All windows C19 or C20. - STAINED GLASS. E window signed by Cakebread, Robey & Co. c. 1892. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup and Paten; Cup 1706; Paten on foot 1728. - MONUMENT. The following inscription appears in large and dignified letters on a plate in the chancel floor: ‘The Entrance into the Vault of Henry Berkeley Esq. and Dorothy his wife containing Ten Foot Square.’

* The church originally had an apse (P. G. M. Dickinson).

South door

St Leonard (2)


WIXOE. It has a simple church with Norman masonry in its walls, a fine Norman doorway with bold zigzag, and a wooden bellcote with a bell thought to have first rung out about 1460, when the Red Rose and the White were struggling for the crown.


Stoke by Clare, Suffolk

You enter St John the Baptist through the north door and find yourself in a light but somewhat shabby nave which has traces of wallpaintings, some fine brasses and as a curiosity a doom painting at the end of the north aisle hidden away behind the organ (thus making it very hard to photograph). Why a doom painting would be located here rather than on the chancel arch is beyond me.

There are several fine brasses under various carpets and the Elwes chapel on the south side has some interesting modern glass.

ST JOHN BAPTIST. Big Perp church. The tower is Dec. It belonged to an aisleless church with a chancel and a N Vestry of two storeys. The ceiling beams of this and an upper doorway still exist in the N wall of the present chancel. When the new church was built in the C15 it was placed somewhat further N, so that the former nave S wall became the S wall of the aisle, and the W respond of the S arcade stood against the middle of the blocked former tower arch. The Perp windows are nearly all of the same design, with straight-sided arches to the individual lights. Nave and aisles and clerestory. Projecting transeptal S chapel, probably part of the other church. The arcade piers quatrefoil with keeled foils; castellated capitals of the same design as at Clare. The piers are probably re-used, also as at Clare. Double-hollow-chamfered arches. The chancel arch of the same design. - PULPIT. Richest Perp, the richest in the county, and very small. Two tiers of tracery panels. Money was left towards its making in 1498. - BENCHES. With traceried fronts and poppy-heads. - WALL PAINTING. Doom, at the E end of the N chapel, assigned to the 1550s by Mr Rouse. - (STAINED GLASS. Fragments of the C15 in the S transept, including a post-mill. LG) - PLATE. Flagon 1674. - BRASS. Unknown Lady, early C16, 18 in. figure.

Doom (2)

Alice Talkarne nee Alington 1605 (1)

South chapel window (1)

STOKE-BY-CLARE. Its church and its priory have much to remind us of one of our great reforming churchmen, Matthew Parker, who attended Anne Boleyn on the scaffold and was Archbishop of Canterbury under Queen Elizabeth. He was the last dean the college of priests which developed from the priory founded 800 years ago, and in some of the thick walls still standing are the hiding-places where he sheltered Nicholas Ridley. These old walls are in a park by the church, part of a house still called Stoke College. What is now the library was once a chapel and there are fragments of the old windows and kitchens. The brick tower of the priory porter is at the entrance of the churchyard.

The village church has grown from the priory church, keeping its crow-stepped south porch, a chantry on the north side, and the 14th century tower, which has a very old clock still striking on a bell from the priory chapel. The nave was restored by Matthew Parker when he became dean, and very familiar to him must have been the grand little 15th century pulpit, as fine a possession as Stoke has. Perhaps the smallest pulpit in Suffolk, it stands on a slender stem and is richly carved with beautiful tracery, the sides divided by pinnacled buttresses. More old carving is on the poppyheads and panels of the chancel stalls, and close by are two beautiful old chairs. The vestry has a 17th century altar table, and an ancient chest with elaborate ironwork in the form of two trees. The south chapel has still a little old glass, in which is something rarely seen in a window, a perfect windmill. We have seen one also in a window at Long Melford.

Three old people are here in brass, a woman who died about the time Matthew Parker came, and a man and woman of the generation after his. Buried here in the 18th century was John Elwes the miser, who lived like a beggar and died worth half a million. His miserly spirit was evidently inherited, for his rich mother starved herself to death. He was a good classical scholar. He lived on partridges, wore dirty old clothes, would not have his shoes cleaned lest it should wear them out, allowed the rain to fall through his roof, and one of his stories is that when he cut his legs on a sedan chair he had the doctor for one and looked after the other himself, he beating the doctor by a fortnight. Yet this mean fellow was three times MP. He thought of marrying a servant girl but his memory went and he probably forgot; he died a bachelor and happily left no progeny to carry on his life so not-worth-while.


Ashen, Essex

St Augustine was locked but with keyholders listed however I had neither the time, inclination or top up credit to track down the key so did exteriors and left.

ST AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY. One small lance window in the nave indicates a C13 origin. The W tower with diagonal buttresses and battlements was added about 1400, the brick stair-turret with the battlements on a trefoiled corbel-frieze about 1525. The chancel dates from 1857. - DOOR in S doorway, with damaged C13 ironwork. - BENCHES. A few fragments in the nave. Also an inscription in Roman capitals, dated 1620, which reads : ‘This hath bin the churching the mearring stool and so it shall be still’. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of c.1570. - MONUMENTS. Brass to a Knight of c. 1440, the figure 21 in. long (nave, E end). - Luce Tallakarne d. 1610, an odd design with termini caryatids and between them decoration with panels, a shield, and the inscription plates.

St Augustine (2)

ASHEN. From the street of this upland village we look over the Stour into Suffolk. Its flint tower was built about 1400, and the brick turret was new about 1520; but two of the bells (called Thomas and Alice) were made 600 years ago, and the third is 15th century. The church is small, but very old, the nave having been built by the Normans and the 13th century men. A porch of Shakespeare’s day covers a doorway 200 years older, making a frame for a door with 13th century hinges.

There are two little pews 500 years old, a nave roof about the same age, a carved chair of the 18th century, and a curious panel of 1620 which tells us it has been the marrying stool and "so it shall be still." In the nave are brass portraits thought to be John and Frances Hunt, who would be alive when the victory of Agincourt was the talk of the land. John, in armour, stands on a lion; and looking up at Frances is a little dog with bells on its collar.


Poslingford, Suffolk

My run of good luck had to end and so it proved with St Mary the Virgin - locked with no sign of a keyholder. I took the exteriors and headed off for Clare.

ST MARY. Very restored. Norman nave with one N window, a fragment of the N doorway, and a good s doorway with one S order of shafts with finely decorated scalloped capitals and some geometrical decoration on the abaci. Tympanum with stars, rosettes, and interlace. W tower of the late C13 with triple-chamfered arch towards the nave. Chancel with late C13 windows. Nave with one Dec window with reticulated tracery. Nice Perp S porch of brick with three brick niches above the entrance and brick windows. Nice niche inside a Perp nave window. - SCREEN. Tall, with two-light divisions, segmental arches and tracery over. - PAINTING. C13 scrolls in a chancel window.

St Mary the Virgin (3)

POSLINGFORD. It has some delightful thatched cottages with a myriad colours in their gardens, and a medieval church. Most of the church is 15th century, but its ancient brick porch, with niches under its crow-stepped gable, shelters a Norman doorway adorned with exquisite flowers. In the embattled tower is an old chest and a bell brought from the ruined Chipley Abbey a mile away. The chancel has traces of red wall-paintings, including a figure with a gabled building in his hand, probably representing the founder of the church; in the vestry is a copy of a Doom painting revealed last century and unhappily destroyed. The best possession of the church is the 15th century screen with grand tracery and arches, and little flowers hanging from it.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Pentlow, Essex

This was my third attempt at finding SS Gregory & George (success was due to making a note of the address before departure) and, despite it being locked with no keyholder listed, I was blown away - regular readers will no I'm a sucker for a round tower and an apse.

Having read Mee and Googled the church I do really wish it was left open - it sounds fascinating.

The Church (St. Gregory,) is an interesting structure of great antiquity, having a semicircular east end, and a round tower, containing five bells. The architecture is a mixture of the pure Norman and pointed styles, and the large stone font has a wooden covering, ornamented in the florid style of the time of Henry VII. The walls of the tower are of flint, 4 feet thick. On the north side of the chancel is Kemp’s Chapel, in which is a very fine tomb, on which are recumbent effigies of Judge Kemp, his lady, and his son John, who died in the early part of the 17th century. Round the tomb are 14 kneeling figures of children. The Chapel window is filled with stained glass, and the roof is divided into compartments, with Gothic quartre-foils. In the chancel is a curious old tomb of the Feltons, who were connected by marriage with the noble family of Hervey.

ST GEORGE. Nave and chancel are Norman. The apse is completely preserved, with its three windows. As for the nave the W doorway survives. It now leads into the tower, one of the round towers of Essex, and a late one, C14 according to the E windows. It may replace an earlier one, but when the nave was built, there obviously was no tower yet in the W, or else the doorway would not have been enriched by columns (one order with decorated scalloped capitals) and the little animal’s head above the arch. The N chapel was added to the chancel in the C16. It has stepped brick gables to the W and E and Late Perp windows. The E window seems C15 and may be re-used. The chapel has a charming panelled tunnel-vault. It houses the MONUMENT to George Kempe d. 1606, John Kempe d. 1609, and his wife, three recumbent effigies on a tomb-chest with kneeling children against the front of the chest. The Royal Commission assumes that the chapel was built for this monument. But can that really be the case? Another MONUMENT in the chancel. Edmund Felton d. 1542 and wife. Tomb-chest with shields on cusped panels; no figures. - FONT. Square, with angle colonnettes, Norman. The sides decorated with a cross and interlace and leaves, a star, branches etc. - all very stylized. - FONT COVER. Square with muted front. Niches with nodding ogee arches. The canopy with buttresses, canopies etc., crocketed and ending in a finial. - PLATE. Cup and Cover of 1724; Paten also of 1724; Flagon of 1722.

SS Gregory & George (3)

Among the old houses of Pentlow are Paine’s Manor with a carved beam of Shakespeare’s day; Bower Hall of about 1600 with original chimneys and a 15th century barn; and Pentlow Hall of about 1500, with much old woodwork, a line bay window of Elizabeth’s day, and an oriel with 16th century glass showing a hawking scene and shields. It is charming from the churchyard, looking under a great cedar and across the moat still wet. The fine church tower is remarkable as being one of the six round towers of Essex, with walls four feet thick. It was probably added in the 14th century to the nave and apsidal chancel built by the Normans, and protects the Norman west doorway, which is carved at the top with a muzzled bear. The 15th century chancel arch is wide and very high, and a flat arch leads to a chapel of about 1600. There is a 16th century chest, a 17th century table, twisted altar rails a little younger, and scraps of 14th century glass in the east window. But finer than anything is a huge Norman font elaborately ornamented on its four sides, the cover a rich piece of 15th century work with canopies and pinnacles. A Tudor altar tomb in the chancel is the sleeping-place of Edmund and Frances Felton, and a great tomb in the chapel has figures of George Kempe of 1606, his son John who died three years later, and John’s wife Elinor in an elaborate headdress and tight-waisted gown. The men are carved in their furred robes, and on the front of the tomb are kneeling figures of the children of John and Elinor, eight daughters with their hair brushed back, and four curly headed sons in cloaks. It is an impressive monument to three generations of an Essex family in the days when Shakespeare was writing his plays.

A window of St Gregory and St George is in memory of Felix Edward Bull who began his ministry in 1877 and preached for 50 years; and a testimonial hanging on the organ tells of Sarah Clark, who played her first voluntary in the year the Crimean War began, and her last two years after the shadow of the Great War was lifted from Europe. For 66 years she was organist, and for 43 she was at the organ while Felix Bull was in the pulpit, a wonderful fellowship of prayer and praise in this small place.

Stanstead, Suffolk

St James is pleasant enough but was somewhat outshone by Glemsford and Boxted; I did, however, really like the grotesques on the south porch.

ST JAMES. Small; mostly Perp. Earlier the W tower with small lancets and the N doorway and the chancel doorway: early C14.

St James (2)

Grotesque (1)

Glass (3)

STANSTEAD. From its hillside it looks across to distant woods and pastures new. A lychgate by its green leads past tall trimmed yews to the church porch guarded by snarling dragons. Most of the church is 500 years old, but there are bits of Norman masonry still in its walls. The panelled font is 700 years old with a floral pattern in ancient ironwork on its cover. One of the windows has 14th century heraldic glass, and the chancel roof has delightful angels on its corbels.