Thursday, 24 February 2011

Wickham St Paul, Essex

The churches in this part of Essex tend to have brick built Tudor towers and All Saints is no exception with an octagonal stair turret. The body of the church is whitewashed and it sits outside of the village besides an old farmyard and farmhouse. A pleasant site but having peered through the windows I decided against searching out the keyholders and pressed on to Castle Hedingham. Given that Hedingham was locked with no keyholders perhaps my time would have been better spent here.

ALL SAINTS. In 1505 in a will £20 was left for the building of the tower. It is indeed a fine specimen, though not high. Red brick with blue brick diapers, diagonal buttresses, high stair turret, battlements and brick pinnacles. Brick W doorway and brick W window of three light with depressed pointed head and intersecting tracery. The rest of the church indifferent. - CHEST. Heavily iron-bound; C13. - SCREEN. With one-light divisions, ogee heads and some panel tracery above.


All Saints (3)

WICKHAM ST PAUL. It has belonged to St Paul’s Cathedral for a thousand years, a little link in Essex with the heart of London. Its houses are round a pleasant green, but its church is half a mile away by a farm, and we come to its porch beneath archways of roses. It was standing much as we see it before old St Paul’s perished in the Great Fire. Its fine brick tower is Tudor and has a door to the stair turret, which has been opening for 400 years. Part of the nave is 12th century, and the chancel was refashioned in the 14th century. One of the bells has been here about 500 years; and just as old are the nave roof and the great treasure of the church, a fine chancel screen with much delicate tracery. There is a 13th century chest bound with iron, a Jacobean altar table with a new top, and fragments of 15th century glass including a lion’s head.

Flickr set.

Westley Waterless, Cambridgeshire

St Mary the Less is an extraordinary building; approached from the north the church is small with a curious spire and is plastered with rather ugly render. As you wander round it reveals itself as huge, large north and south aisles make the nave very big and the chancel suddenly looks short and tall; as I said it looks extraordinary. Apparently there was once a tower, and even better it was round, one of only three in the county, but it fell in 1855.

Inside it is huge and therefore feels spartan but actually has some wonderful fittings including three ancient coffin lids, a rather splendid font and, in the south aisle, a plain but nice effigy of a reclining civilian who is accompanied by the excellent brass to Sir John de Creke and his wife Alyne.

I was amazed but hugely gratified to find the church open albeit during the visit I was watched suspiciously by the local farmer from the next door farmyard.


ST MARY. A round tower (cf. Bartlow, Snailwell) fell in 1855. What remains is a nave with C19 bell-turret, aisles, and chancel. Dec aisle windows and S doorway, and E.E. chancel (see one small S lancet). Nice ogee-headed niche N of the chancel E window. - Arcade of three bays with octagonal piers and very odd capitals. They continue the shape of the piers but have small brackets in the four main directions. The chancel arch is the same, but the brackets are carved with heads. - FONT. Octagonal, probably C15, with an odd assortment of flatly carved tracery motifs on the sides of the bowl, nearly everyone different. - PLATE. Pre-Reformation Paten, re-modelled in the late C16. - MONUMENTS. Stone effigy of a Civilian, one angel still holding on to his cushion. Badly preserved; early C14? - BRASSES to Sir John de Creke and his wife, c. 1325. She is an exquisitely slender figure praying; he in armour also in prayer. The figures are c. 5 1/2 ft long.



St Mary the Less (1)

Sir John de Creke C1340 (1)

Glass (9)

WESTEY WATERLESS. Ducks swim leisurely at the gate of its unpretending little church, which has a great treasure in a brass standing high in our national gallery of brass portraits. Though only 17th in order of age, it has one of the very earliest brass portraits of a lady. It is one of two fine big portraits set in the floor, showing Sir John Creke and his wife Lady Alyne. Here they have been for 600 years (since 1324), he in elaborate armour with lions at the shoulders and elbows, a very fine helmet like a mitre, and a curious coat worn at the time reaching to the knees behind and only the waist in front. Lady Alyne has her hair platted under her veil, and is wearing a wimple and a graceful gown fastened with a cord, and has a dog at her feet.

On a low tomb not far from them lies the stone figure of a civilian they may have known, with long hair and a tunic reaching to his knees. The simple church lost its Norman tower last century, but the inside, gleaming with white arcades and golden walls and roofed in black and white, is pleasantly surprising and ancient too. The nave and aisles are 14th century and the chancel is 13th, and at the crudely carved font the village children have been christened since the church was new. The fine niche by the east window is 600 years old, and the fragments of old glass are of the same time.


Flickr set.

Terling, Essex

All Saints is a curious mix of old and new and is another church that has suffered from the attentions of the Victorians, added to which it "suffered much damage by enemy action during the world war 1939-1945".

It does, however, contain three really good brasses to the Rochesters - Sir John d.1514, William d. 1556 and John 1584. The chancel has a series of wall monuments to the Strutts ranging from 1919 to 2004 and a rather odd brick built mausoleum tacked on to the chancel takes them back to 1769.

ALL SAINTS. The best piece is the W tower of 1732 with arched doorway and arched windows, their surrounds consisting of rustication of alternating sizes. The rest not impressive from outside. C19 N aisle, completely renewed S aisle. The chancel seems to be of the C13. It has one small lancet window on the N side, and otherwise windows of c. 1300. Nice C15 timber porch. Inside, three-bay C15 N and S arcades with octagonal piers with concave sides and wave moulded arches. The low many moulded tower arch is proof of the existence of a previous C13 tower. - FONT. C13, octagonal, of Purbeck marble, with two shallow blank pointed arches on each side. - COMMUNION RAIL. Early C18, with slim twisted balusters. - BRASSES. Two groups of kneeling figures, of 1558 and 1584.

All Saints (6)

John Rochester 1584 (1)

William Rochester 1556 (1)

Sir John Rochester 1514 (1)

TERLING. The Terling countryside, through which the little River Ter flows at times under great forest trees, has a museum piece of its own in a smock mill with fine white sails 66 feet across, still working. It has one of the finest modern houses in Essex, home of the Rayleighs, standing in a magnificent park of 200 acres with the river flowing through it, and scattered about are farms and cottages that were here in our Tudor Age and must have been seen by Henry the Eighth, who had a palace here.

The village is rich in overhanging gabled roofs and Tudor chimneys. A grotesque little man crouches to bear a heavy beam at Eryat’s Farm, and the manor house, a dwelling-place of sheer delight, has 15th century foundations, windows of the two succeeding centuries, richly moulded timbering, and a view into the great park across its old-world garden. We do not wonder that here our great Tudor king lived in splendour, or that great folk lived here before him. The palace has vanished, but we know that here was a Norman chapel which was the scene of an act of ingratitude on the part of another King Henry that Bluebeard himself could hardly have surpassed for calculated cruelty. Here it was that Hubert de Burgh was forced from his sanctuary and carried off to the Tower by the young Henry the Third he had befriended.

The ruthless king had drawn his sword on Hubert, who was Justiciar of England, and had called him a traitor, and on Hubert seeking sanctuary in the chapel here had sent men down to fetter him and carry him off to the Tower. On the Bishop of London threatening to excommunicate all concerned, the king released the captive, but, in any case, before the bishop’s intervention the village smith, being ordered to fetter Hubert, had stubbornly refused. The king persisted in his persecution of the Justiciar, however, and though he dare not put him to death, finally sent him in chains to the Tower, from which Hubert escaped to Devizes and took sanctuary in the beautiful Norman church of St John, which would then be new. He was ultimately reconciled with his royal master. Far the better man of the two, Hubert is known in Shakespeare as the man who refused to put out Arthur’s eyes at the bidding of the ruffianly King John, and in history he is famous, it has been said, for being the first statesman "to convert the emotion of nationality into a principle of political action."

It is one of the few villages that have an ancient chapel. Across the green outside the churchyard stands the little Congregational building which has been here 250 years. It has a 17th century brass candelabra, by the light of which its people have sung their hymns since John Bunyan died; there are 12 branches, and a bird sits on the top. The church stands by the manor house, approached through a porch which has still its medieval timbers. The tower, crowned with a shingled spire with a dove for a weathervane, and carrying its bell outside, is of red brick and white stone, and is one of the 18th century towers, joining a 13th century wall. The church has brass portraits of William Rochester and his wife, who may have seen Henry the Eighth pass by, for they were laid here in the terrible reign of Mary Tudor. Their ten children kneel with them. On another brass 12 children kneel in groups with two mothers and their father, John Rochester, who died in the days of Queen Elizabeth.

In a quiet corner of the churchyard, joining the garden of Terling Place (which has a small gate into it), is a simple monument of red sandstone on which are the words, "For now we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face." It is the grave of one of the most learned men who ever lived in England, John William Strutt, third Lord Rayleigh. He was born at Maldon a few years after the Victorian Era began and lived till the end of the Great War.

He saw science revolutionised and played no small part in the revolution, and for nearly half a century he carried on his work at Terling. Learned as he was, he had the rare quality of making subtle things seem simple. In his collected works are 440 separate papers. They issued frequently and rapidly from his pen, whether he was quietly working at Terling or in the laboratory at Cambridge, whether he was thinking out deep problems or discovering the new gas argon with his friend Sir William Ramsay. He was one of the chief authorities on physical optics, and wrote 150 papers on this subject. We believe that it was he who first suggested that the blue of the sky is due to the shorter waves of light being scattered by the line particles of dust suspended in the air. He received the Nobel Prize, and was honoured by six of the highest distinctions England can bestow on any man: the Order of Merit, a Privy Councillorship, the Chancellorship of Cambridge University, the Presidency of the Royal Society and of the British Association, and a tribute on the walls of Westminster Abbey, which tells us with a modesty characteristic of himself that he was "an unerring leader in the advancement of natural knowledge."

Sudbury, Suffolk

Due to extraordinarily poor research, actually to be honest none whatsoever, I hadn't realised that Sudbury is the home of three churches - All Saints, St Gregory and St Peter - and since I'd driven to Sudbury on a whim I assumed that this was the church. Which is a bit boring as I now have to go back and do the other two.

All Saints is externally stunning, a proper Suffolk church: majestic and commanding, it must have been amazing when it was built but feels crowded by subsequent development around it. That said it's the outside that impresses while the interior is a huge let down through a combination of William Dowsing and a Victorian restoration. However there are highlights including fantastic wood corbels, some really good Victorian poppyheads and the Eden family tree in the north chapel sadly obscured by the organ.

All Saints Church was first built in Sudbury in the 12th century when from 1150 until the reformation it was appropriated to the Abbey of St Albans. A flint and rubble church, built principally in the perpendicular style (1375 - 1550) the present church was erected between 1350 -1490, with the wide aisle being built in 1460. The chancel pre-dates the rest of the church being built around the early 1300's in the decorative style

The north aisle was probably built in 15th century as a chapel for the Waldegrave family and then the Eden family. Thomas Eden became patron of the living at the Dissolution and was Clerk of the Star Chamber in 1551. Although most of the chapel is now taken up with the organ, a painted genealogy of the Eden‘s family dating from 1622, though faded, can still be seen. The Burkitt family had a vault in the aisle and they were related to Oliver Cromwell and entertained the poet John Bunyan when he visited Sudbury.

The large mausoleum in the middle of the churchyard is that of the Gainsborough family, merchants of the town. Thomas Gainsborough, the artist, was born in Sudbury although he is not buried in All Saints Church.


ALL SAINTS, Friars Street. At the foot of the town, not far from the bridge. Perp W tower with big angle buttresses and big SE stair-turret. Nave and aisles, the N aisle c. 1459 (bequest towards its building). Clerestory with doubled windows. Chancel with family chapels N (Eden family) and S (Felton family). The former chapel was building in 1465. To the N of the chancel also a two-storeyed vestry attachment with barred E windows. The arch into it from the chancel is blocked. Arcades of five bays, the piers of the same design as at St Peter. In an arch moulding small suspended shields and fleurons. Good cambered roofs in nave and aisles. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, simple. - PULPIT. With Perp tracery panels. - READER’S DESKS.With some Perp tracery panels. - SCREENS to the N and S chapels . Large, with one-light divisions and much cusped and crocketed detail (cf. St Peter). - DOORS. N and W doors with tracery. - PAINTING. Entertaining family tree of the Eden family in the N chapel; early C17. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup and Cover; Flagon 1757; Patens 1761. 
 Corbel (33)

Eden family genealogy (3)

Poppyhead (4)

It is in All Saint’s that some of Gainsborough’s kinsmen lie, though others lie in the Congregational burial-ground. The church is of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. Its tower has four grotesque animals at the corners and a green spire. It has in its belfry the county’s heaviest bell, weighing about a ton. The church has original roofs above the nave and aisles, the 15th century font, a reading desk with panels from the ancient screen, and a pulpit which is the glory of the church. It is one of the rare 15th century oak pulpits still surviving, marvellously preserved through having been covered with deal boards. The vicar who removed these boards in 1850 must have been thrilled to see the slender buttresses dividing the traceried panels, crowned with an embattled cornice. Very charming it all is on its graceful octagonal stem. The church has three glorious  old screens with pinnacles rising to arches crowned by a riot of tracery and rich cornices.

There is a family tree of the Edens painted on the wall 300 years ago, with about 60 shields still recognisable, and wall tributes to an 18th century vicar, John Piper, who was here for 56 years, to a bell-ringer of nearly 60 years, and to a sexton of nearly 40 years.


Flickr set.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Silverley, Cambridgeshire

Technically there is no All Saints or Silverley - the village having disappeared (to such an extent that it's location is unknown but presumably somewhere near this last remnant) - and the church was being used as a barn by 1627; now all that remains is this crumbling tower.

I'd seen this remnant's entry on the excellent Cambridgeshire Churches website but was unprepared for the impact it makes. To be fair I had no idea that I was going to see it as it wasn't on the itinerary but stopping at a T junction on the way to Dalham there it was in a wood opposite.

It's extraordinarily atmospheric, although I have to say that I didn't get the heebiejeebies or any sense of doom but rather a fascination with the lost history of the people who lived,
worshiped, married, baptised their children, died and were buried here - who were they and why did they upsticks and abandon their village? Oh God I feel another obsession coming on.

ALL SAINTS. All that remains is the ruinous tower in a thick wood. Eminently picturesque in its decay. The interior especially in fine, with the winding of the spiral stair ripped open. 


All Saints (3)
Mee missed or ignored it.

Flickr.

North End, Essex

Black Chapel, or more particularly North End, was missed by Mee and his researchers but a quick Google reveals that this is a rare wood framed medieval chapel with priest house attached. Sadly viewing is by appointment only (a phrase I would more closely associate with estate agents rather than ecclesiastical circles) which I didn't have; so I took an exterior and went off to the more welcoming St Andrew at Barnston.

BLACK CHAPEL. The rare case of a surviving entirely timber framed ecclesiastical building, and also the rare case of a medieval chapel with attached priest’s house. The chapel was of nave and chancel in one, the house is set to the W at r. angles and projects to the N. In the house are two original windows and remains of the roof. The chapel inside looks lovely - not in the original but in an early C19 way. Gothick window casements; on the S side the windows rise into dormers in the roof. Box pews, and a W gallery with a tiny organ on it.  SCREEN. Humble C15 work. - BENCHES. A complete set of simple design.

Black Chapel (2)

Mashbury, Essex

I found Mashbury church by mistake when waiting for the shop that supposedly holds the key to Great Waltham (it doesn't) to open. I arrived an hour before they opened so went for a random drive and ended up at Mashbury.

The church is redundant nowadays and therefore locked but is really rather beautiful or perhaps its the setting - probably both. It's dedication has been lost in the mists of time (it was only closed in the late 80's surely the dedication must be still known to someone! Searching Flickr gives me one suggestion that it is St Mary the Virgin) and a subsequent reading of Mee's entry makes me wish I could get inside for a last look at what must be fading glory.

CHURCH. Nave, chancel and tiny C19 bell-lantern. On the N side a Norman window and a plain Norman doorway, on the S side also a Norman window and a doorway with two orders of columns with one-scallop capitals, decorated abaci and zigzag arches. The belfry rests on four C15 posts with two arched braces. - PULPIT. Plain C17. - DOOR. C12 ironwork on the N door. - STAINED GLASS. Figure of a Saint, C14, N window. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1639. 

Dedication unknown (2)

South porch

South door1

MASHBURY. A little place, very lonely, it has a small Norman church altered by the 15th century builders, who gave it a new chancel arch and a new east wall. Roman bricks are in the walls with two Norman doorways, one sheltered by a handsome Tudor porch, the other framing a remarkable old door which has kept its battens and hinges from the 12th century. There are two small Norman windows, 15th century beams supporting a modern bell-turret, a panelled 17th century pulpit, and a series of paintings over the altar showing the Nativity, Simeon in the Temple, and Our Lord healing the sick, all in watercolour by William Hole, who is remembered for his wall-paintings in the National Gallery at Edinburgh. A 500-year-old chest is strong with bands of iron and seven hinges, and there are fragments of old glass showing a saint from the 14th century and faces of leopards from the 16th.

A mile away we come to Baileys, a Tudor house with three lovely gables, its porch sheltering a doorway bearing the date 1614.

Flickr set.

Little Waltham, Essex

St Martin's curious tower is probably its most notable feature, evidently it partially collapsed at some point and now it is half flint and half what looks like Tudor brick - it looks quite astonishing and rather beautiful. Sadly the same cannot be said for the rest of the church which suffered a restoration in 1883/4 by Frederick Chancellor, the result of which is a total lack of atmosphere. There is a nice brass of John Maltoun (who died in 1447) and a very good east window designed by Lawrence Lee in 1951 which shows scenes of Little Waltham as a background to the crucifixion. The north aisle windows have nice heraldic glass also by Lee.


ST MARTIN. Norman nave with S doorway (one order of columns, one-scallop capitals, roll-moulding) and one S window. Chancel Perp, W tower also Perp but much repaired in brick in the C16 or C17. Behind the battlements appears a minute cupola with a weathervane dated 1679. - CHEST. ‘Dug-out’, 7 ft long, heavily bound with iron; C13 or C14; nave W end. - PLATE. Cup with Elizabethan stem and bowl of 1619; Paten on foot of 1712. - BRASS to John Maltun d. 1447, in armour, the figure 3 ft long.



St Martin (2)


John Maltoun 1447 (1)

Lawrence Lee 1951 (7)

LITTLE WALTHAM. Many of the farms and cottages round about go back to the 16th and 17th centuries, but a house near Winchford Bridge was built in the 15th century and has attractive woodwork. The church is older still, for its nave comes from Norman England and has kept a doorway and two windows all the time. The chancel was rebuilt about 1400, and the embattled tower is less than a century younger. Its weathervane of 1679 flies as a pennon above the handsome walnut trees in the churchyard. There is a spacious timber porch with beams and cornices and other woodwork by Tudor carpenters; a Tudor door on its old strap-hinges, a fine brass of John Maltun of 1447 who is shown with a dog at his feet and two tiny white cherubs; and an inscription to John Aleyne of 1663. John was a benefactor of the village who left money for the teaching of apprentices, and part of a lad’s leather coat worn by one of them is still a curious treasure here. It is kept in a church chest, a magnificent object hollowed out of a sycamore about 700 years ago, and strongly bound with iron straps. Another chest was made in Shakespeare’s day, and has a leather coat not in it but outside, the arched lid being covered with leather and initialled with the heads of nails.

Little Leighs, Essex

St John the Evangelist is barn like and sits amidst the fields; despite the presence of two or three cottages it feels very isolated and exposed so I was utterly amazed to find it open (I almost didn't try the door so certain was I that it would be locked). Another minor miracle that restores my faith in mankind!

It's an extraordinarily peaceful spot and I spent much longer than usual mooching around the churchyard savouring the atmosphere. On my way to the next location I stopped to admire the very lovely Leez Priory but a wedding was in progress did not have the gumption to enter the grounds!

Sadly a fairly savage Victorian restoration has stripped the church of its soul but it does retain, in the chancel within an early 14th century recess, with external tiled quoins and a clunch canopy, the life-sized effigy (c.1300) of a priest buried in the tomb beneath. He wears Eucharistic vestments and his head is supported by two angels, now defaced.At his feet are a lamb and a lion with mane. More than 100 such wooden effigies survive but this is the only one of a priest known in England.The original appearance of the effigy is quite unlike that of today, being once coloured with gesso. There is some white in the creases of the robes and a small area of blue and red by the feet. Unusually, it is made of oak. It is wooden not because the donor could not afford stone, but because it was made to be movable to make a place for the Easter sepulchre.

ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST. Nave and chancel of flint rubble. The nave is of the C12, the chancel of the C13; it can be observed that the C12 laid the stones coursed, the C13 did not. One Norman window each in the N and S walls. No original windows in the chancel, but an original C13 doorway in the nave, with one order of columns and a roll-moulding with fillet. In the chancel N wall is an early C14 recess with ogee arch, cusped and sub-cusped, thin buttresses by the sides and a big finial. In the spandrels oak, roses etc. - the leaves already bossy. Over the W end of the church a belfry with a shingled broach-spire. - FONT. Octagonal, with tracery panels, C14. - PULPIT. With some old panels, e.g. linenfold. - BENCHES. Ten in the nave of a plain design, with a kind of vertical reeding in the ends. -  S DOOR C13 with two scrolled iron hinges. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1706 in a stamped leather case. - EFFIGY of a Priest, oak, c. 1300. 

St John the Evangelist (2)

Priest effigy c1300 (1)

Priest effigy c1300 (4)

LITTLE LEIGHS. A little place with two lanes and the River Ter between them, it has a great reminder of the world of centuries ago - a church with a Norman nave and Roman bricks in its windows, and the ruins of a priory which are still magnificent. They are all that is left of the paradise set up here by Lord Chancellor Rich out of the vast spoils that fell to his share when Henry the Eighth seized the monasteries and made millions. Here he kept Princess Elizabeth prisoner in the reign of Mary Tudor, and here lived the Chancellor’s descendants, worthier men than he, till 1673, when the place passed to the Earls of Manchester, then to the Dukes of Buckingham, and finally to Guys Hospital, whose Governors (we are sorry to say) destroyed it to save its upkeep. Today it is all a cared-for place again. Here flows the River Ter and down in its valley is this gem of Essex, the deep red buildings of the 16th century built on the site of the 13th century priory and with the gatehouses and courtyard of the priory itself. The river still shows us the ingenuity by which the monks filled their ponds, and the view of the medieval and Tudor buildings nestling in the valley is one of the most charming sights in the county.

What remains of the Tudor buildings is a group of two gatehouses and part of two sides of the outer quadrangle. The outer gatehouse has two storeys, and the original doors hang in the outer entrance; the inner gateway has three storeys with four turrets rising above its gables so that they almost hide four rich and lofty chimney shafts. The old doors of the inner gatehouse now hang in the inner archway of the outer gatehouse; they have panels with traceried heads, and at the ground level is a little door for dogs.

Through the inner gateway we pass into the inner courtyard, the cloister of the priory 700 years ago. In it stands a stately conduit built from stones of the monastic buildings; it has a pinnacled parapet. From the roof of the gateway we see the plan of the nave and transepts and tower of the old priory, and the white fragment of the tower remaining shows us how lovely this great white place must have been. Today there are lovely gardens surrounded by old brick walls, and this lovely place is a home again.

The small church, with the light still falling through windows shaped in Roman bricks, has two doorways 700 years old, one with its original door, a font and a roof 600 years old, and a very rare treasure in the 700-year-old chancel. It is the oak figure of a 13th century priest carved out of a log and showing him in his robes with his feet resting on two beasts, his head on cushions held by two angels. He is a very solemn figure and very beautiful, one of the hundred wooden figures that have survived from medieval England. He lies in a setting worthy of him, a recessed arch with a richly carved finial and shafts at each side with little heads at the pinnacles, and heads and acorns in the carving of the arch. In the nave are ten Tudor pews, and in the chancel a 17th century chair with its rich red cover still unfaded.

Flickr set.

Gazeley, Suffolk

All Saints is another huge Suffolk church presumably built on the back of the wool trade. The earliest parts of the building date from the early years of the 14th century (the Decorated period of English architecture). This was probably a rebuilding of an earlier church that existed on the same site. The building was further improved and beautified during the second half of the 15th century, (the Perpendicular period), when the windows of the aisles and clerestory were inserted and the porch was added. Sympathetic repairs and restorations took place during the 19th century, in 1857, 1884 (when the tower was rebuilt), and in 1888, (when the nave roof and the aisle windows were repaired and the church was re-seated).

In the south aisle are five poppyhead medieval benches and one with a straight top. Two of the former have beautifully pierced and traceried backs, one with some lettering, part of which is missing. The interpretation of this lettering has so far baffled the experts, although Pevsner thinks that it may read ‘Salamon Sayet'.

Whilst All Saints retains some fine features, including a very good sedilla and piscina, a chalice brass and a 14th century font, it has a very 'stripped' down feel to it and I suspect Dowsing has been at work here. For all that it is still magnificent.

ALL SAINTS. Mostly of the later C13. The chancel is an interesting and individual work. The E window has three lights, the outer ones a little taller than the middle one. On them stands not a circle but a spherical triangle with a sexfoil set in, three foils being pointed and large, the other three round and small. The whole window is not simply arched, but the outer arches of the outer lights form part of its outline, which is then continued by the sides of the spherical triangle, forming a normal arch-head. Inside, the arch has a normal rere-arch, but there are in addition tall arched panels in the iambs. The side windows have quatrefoils on pointed-trefoiled lights. Piscina with oddly double-cusped arch on shafts. The adjoining Sedilia are two stepped seats in the window-sill, separated by a simple arm with a (defaced) lion couchant. On the N side of the chancel a gabled niche. The westernmost chancel windows are transomed ‘low-side’ windows. The arcade of four bays is also late C13. Quatrefoil piers and boldly moulded capitals. The chancel roof is a canted wagon roof and has small cusped panels and many carved bosses. The W tower was rebuilt in 1884, but its Perp W doorway seems in order. Perp also the aisles and clerestory. - FONT. Octagonal, of c. 1300 (?). The sides have plainly represented tracery motifs, all usual about 1300 (e.g. three stepped lancets under one arch, three-light intersected, three lancets of the same size, Y-tracery in a round arch, and pointed quatrefoils). - PULPIT. Perp, with simple arched panels. - SCREEN. Much restored; with one-light divisions. - BENCH ENDS. Both with poppy-heads and with straight tops with simple tracery and buttresses. Some backs have tracery and one the name ‘Salamon Sayet’ instead. Much of the bench ends seems re-used panels from the screen. - PAINTING. Presentation in the Temple. By Jacques Stella. From the chapel of Trinity Hall Cambridge, to which it was given in 1729 by the son of Dean Chetwode, who had brought it over about 1700. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Patens 1673 (1662?) and 1696. - MONUMENT. Tomb recess in the S aisle. Tomb-chest with small lozenge-panels. The arch above the recess is nearly a lintel. Top with cresting. The brasses inside are lost.


Al Saints (2)

Sedilla (1)

Brass chalice


Pews

GAZELEY. It is set in a green countryside, with fine trees enhancing the dignity of its 14th century church, clerestoried and aisled 500 years ago. A nail-studded door in the vestry, a canopied tomb, and a graceful panelled font are all 500 years old. The screen and pulpit have fragments of tracery, and under the stone seats in the chancel a strange beast has crouched through many centuries. The ancient roof of the nave is borne up by stone angels, good companions for the exquisite little blue and golden angels in the ancient glass of the clerestory windows. 

Flickr set.

Dalham, Suffolk

St Mary the Virgin is a restorative power in humanity, faith, hope and all things good with churches. By all rights I knew this would be locked - it's isolated, beautifully so, the location is extraordinary - but against all expectations it was open.

Without a doubt this is my favourite Suffolk church to date, slightly shabby but resplendently furnished and architecturally quirky, for example a de-roofed and defenestrated mausoleum for the Afflecks, who are remembered in several monuments within the church; why it is ruined and empty is not explained. Not to mention the tower with inscriptions from 1625 running round its castellated peak. 

Perhaps the most famous connection is to the Rhodes family, progenitors of Cecil Rhodes; if you don't know, buy a Wilbur Smith epic or Google Rhodesia.

Inside there are fading wall paintings, a great monument to Martin Stuteville, painted rood screen dado and a profusion of poppyheads - of which I think the chancel's are original and the nave's modern but fantastic.

ST MARY. C14 chancel (see the S doorway - the windows are Perp) and S aisle (see one window and the doorway). C14 arcade with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. Perp N aisle and lower part of the W tower (flushwork ornament on the buttresses). But most of the tower was rebuilt by Sir Martin Stuteville in 1627 as is recorded in a huge inscription inside and on the parapet to the N. On the W side it says Deo triuni sacrum, but on the S side Keep my sabbaths. That was for the villagers. The Perp W window must be of 1627, unless it was re-used. The Perp chancel S window was made under a will of 1466.* Of the same date presumably also the N chapel (now open to the sky) with its mullioned windows, and the Vestry. - SCREEN. Only the dado, with arabesque paintings. - WALL PAINTINGS. On the nave N wall traces of the Seven Deadly Sins (l.) and the Seven Works of Mercy (r.). Over the chancel arch apparently Scenes from the Passion. - STAINED GLASS. E window apparently by Kempe, 1908. - PLATE. Good silver-gilt set of 1691, presented by Bishop Patrick of Ely; Flagon 1712. - MONUMENTS. Thomas Stutevyle d. 1571. Tomb-chest with three shields in strapwork cartouches. Free-standing on it an inscription tablet flanked by two columns. - Sir Martin Stuteville d. 1631 . Three oval niches, the middle one raised, for Sir Martin and his two wives. Frontal busts in flat relief. Black columns l. and r. and entablature with semicircularly raised centre. The children kneel small in the ‘predella’. - In the churchyard Obelisk to General Sir James Affleck d. 1833.

St Mary the Virgin (1)

Martin Stuteville1631 (1)

Poppyhead (9)

DALHAM. Here in one of Suffolk’s most charming villages, where thatched cottages look across the little River Kennet with its wooden bridges, we think of a great man’s brother, laid to rest after an adventurous life. Colonel Rhodes knew this place well, for his grandfather had bought the estate of Dalham, and to this countryside they brought him to rest when his life ended far away.

His memorial is in the church, which we approach by a steep lane overhung with trees, turning a corner at the top and seeing it suddenly over a fine box hedge. The churchyard gates tell us they were made in 1904 from the wood of the ancient chancel roof; and the tower itself has a message, for round the top is written, Keep my Sabbaths, reverence my Sanctuary. The pinnacles and battlements are carved with 1625, but most of the tower is 150 years older. The spire was blown down in the great gale that swept over England on the day Oliver Cromwell died.

The nave and aisles have been standing for about 600 years, the clerestory being a few decades younger. Over the chancel arch are traces of an old painting of the Last Judgement, and by another arch is a big devil’s head with pointed ears, representing one of the Seven Deadly Sins. The lower part of the old screen is here, among its carving being lions and birds, little whiskered men, and spiteful dragons trying to get at each other; and carved on the modern oak benches are enough creatures to fill a menagerie, lions and bears and birds, dogs and stags, a monkey, a hare, and a squirrel eating a nut.

It is thought that one of Dalham’s sons lies here in his family vault, the 18th century admiral Sir Edmund Affleck, who distinguished himself in several actions against the French. A handsome canopied monument in the sanctuary has the bust of Martin Stutevill, who died 300 years ago, with him being his two wives, and eight children kneeling at a table.

But of all the things Dalham has to show nothing stirs us more than the inscription to Colonel Francis Rhodes, who restored the 15th century roof of this church in memory of his immortal brother Cecil.He was himself a great man and a hero, and though he died in 1905 at the house of Cecil Rhodes in Capetown, he sleeps amid the calm of this Suffolk village, where his memorial has these proud words:

Long travel in this churchyard ends `
A gentleman who knew not fear,
A soldier, sportsman, prince of friends,
A man men could but love, lies here.

He was only 54, a man who lived to great purpose and gave his life to Africa. He distinguished himself at the relief of Khartoum, was a member of a council of four for Matabeleland, supported the tragic Jameson Raid, and was captured by the Boers and sentenced to death. At last set free after paying a heavy ransom, he was war correspondent for The Times in Kitchener’s Nile Expedition; and in the South African War was besieged in Ladysmith, where his courage and cheerfulness helped to keep up the spirit of the garrison. When Lord Ava was mortally wounded he went out under heavy fire and brought him back. He was one of those who went to the relief of Mafeking, and when peace came again he travelled hundreds of miles taking photographs of little-known parts of Africa for a book describing the country from the Cape to the Zambesi. But the work was too hard for him, and, worn out with the strain of his journeyings, he died only a little way from the spot where his brother had been sleeping for three years.

The hall by the church is another link Dalham has with these two men, for it once belonged to Cecil Rhodes himself. Approached by a fine avenue and overtopped by a lordly sycamore, it was built in Queen Anne’s time by a Bishop of Ely and stands in more than 3000 acres. Running the whole length of the house is a fine upper gallery 24 feet wide; and here we like to think the two brothers walked, one now sleeping in the solid rock of the Africa he loved, the other in this corner of England he knew so well.


Flickr set.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Castle Hedingham, Essex

St Nicholas is seriously fuck off huge, as befits the parish church of the Earls of Oxford, but was sadly locked until further notice for safety assessments - which sounds a bit alarming. I was one of several visitors to be disappointed however the castle and town/village are well worth a visit in their own right. Mee goes on a bit so I'll leave it at that (to be fair there is not much to go on about the exterior).

Update: Almost exactly a year later  I was passing through Castle Hedingham, on my way to record some more Suffolk churches and, on the off chance, decided to stop. The safety assessment was, presumably, positive as this time I found St Nicholas open and thank goodness it was since this is a fabulous building.

Predominantly Norman the interior is full of interest from the screen, misericords, de Vere tomb and lots more - I highly recommend it.


ST NICHOLAS. The brick W tower is dared 1616, but seems to be substantially of the early C16. It is impressively high, when you stand near it, but suffers from the position of the whole town centre in a dip. The tower is built entirely in the Tudor style, with diagonal buttresses, a higher stair-turret (with a small cupola), stepped battlements and (obelisk) pinnacles. Above the five-light W window is a frieze of shields referring to the 13th Earl of Oxford who died in 1512, e.g. a chain of state, because he was Lord Great Chamberlain. On the aisle walls the battlements are also of brick ; so is the clerestory. A frieze above the clerestory windows has a de Vere emblem too, the molet, a star. Early C16 also the S porch. The windows of the church are mostly Perp, except for the chancel, and the chancel windows are externally all sadly renewed.

In spite of this external appearance and the dominance of the tower, the church, once it is entered, reveals itself as one of the most important and, of its period, the most ambitiously designed in Essex. A complete Late Norman parish church, 125 ft long to the E arch of a Norman tower replaced by the Tudor tower. Nave and aisles of six bays, and a long chancel. The nave arcades rest on alternatingly circular and octagonal piers with splendidly carved leaf capitals, mostly of crocket-like leaves, but in one case also of real crockets on the French Early Gothic pattern. That dates the nave as not earlier than c. 1180. The complex mouldings of the arches indicate so late a date too. The clerestory has rear-arches with a flat wavy band (cf. Felsted). The same motif in the tall tower arch which has semicircular responds. It must have led into a tower of substantial size. The triple-chamfered arch however is Tudor, if not 1616. The S as well as N doorway belong to the Late Norman building. They have columns with volute and waterleaf capitals and round arches. The chancel of Hedingham is even more of a showpiece. First externally. It has an exceptionally impressive design for the E end. This design does not seem to have been decided upon at once. The groundfloor has two shallow buttresses or pilaster-strips ending at the sill level of the windows. There are three small lancet windows shafted outside and inside and above them a large wheel-window with eight columns as spokes. This is a rare motif in Norman England (Barfeston, Peterborough). On the S side is a doorway with one order of colonnettes with  long thin volute-capitals and two-dimensional zigzag-work in the (round) arches. The S and N windows are shafted like those at the E end. Internally a whole order of blank arches on shafts runs round the windows, a large arch for each window and a narrower and also less high one for each interval. Here also all the arches are round and the same flat wavy motif accompanies them which we have found in the tower arch. The chancel arch makes a special display of three-dimensional zigzag and similar motifs and very thin long nook-shafts and besides is the only one in the church which is pointed. Can it be earlier than c. 1190?

The late medieval alterations and additions are minor and have been mentioned - with one exception: the double-hammerbeam-roof of the nave which, as a crowning motif, is worthy of the Norman columns. It is one of only four roofs of such type in Essex.

SCREEN. One of the most ornate in a county poor in worthwhile screens. One-light divisions, each with a heavily cusped and crocketed ogee head and much panel tracery above. - CHANCEL STALLS. On the S side with misericords, e.g. a wolf carrying off a monk(?), a man’s face and two leopards’ heads, a fox with a distaff etc. - CUPBOARD (under the tower). The front is made up of panels of C17 dates. -  DOORS. In the N and two S doorways, contemporary with the church, with long iron battens with long thin scrolls. - SCULPTURE. Small wooden Relief of the Magdalene washing Christ’s feet, probably Flemish, early C16 (E end of S aisle). - Demi-figure of a woman praying; small; probably C12 (S aisle S wall). - Norman ornamental carving with a head and leaves 1. and r., used as a Stoup (S aisle). - MONUMENT. John, fifteenth Earl of Oxford d.1539 and wife. The other de Veres were buried at Earls Colne Priory. The monument is of black marble. Against the foot the kneeling figures of four daughters. On the opposite side four sons, not now visible, as the monument which was originally placed in the middle of the choir now stands against the wall. On the lid the kneeling figures of the Earl and his Lady under some drapery gathered up, and above a large coat of arms. Only minor details are in the new Renaissance taste. The workshop which made this monument is probably the same to which we owe the Vyvyan Monument at Bodmin in Cornwall (1533) and the Audley Monument at Saffron Walden (1544).  

 


St Nicholas (3)

North arcade

Misericord S5 Fox carrying a priest preceeded by a wolf blowing a trumpet & followed by a Lion's head with protruding tongue  (1)

CASTLE HEDINGHAM. Still in this 20th century it is like a piece of Norman England, clustering round its castle walls, and with Norman doors still swinging to and fro in its astonishing church. The ploughmen turned up a gold ring believed to have been worn by the countess who ruled over the nunnery founded in Norman England by the first Earl of Oxford. Castle Hedingham has an ancient
stateliness which is not to be equalled in Essex, and hardly surpassed in the country.

For 600 years the Norman castle was held by the De Veres, Great Chamberlains of England, and the great keep they knew still rises on the slope of the hill, looking down on a compact little place with houses that have seen two or three centuries go by. This mighty keep, all that is left of the medieval castle, stands high on a mound of two acres which is surrounded on three sides by ramparts and a deep wide ditch. The ramparts extend one way for nearly 200 yards, enclosing the Georgian house and its garden, which are on the site of the outer court. The keep and the house are a charming picture, reflected with trees in a big lake.

We cross a Tudor bridge of four spans to the castle mound, and above us tower the smooth walls of a keep which is only a little smaller than that at Rochester and was probably designed by the same architect. The castle is 58 feet wide and nearly 100 feet high. It has two turrets and four storeys, the lowest with narrow openings in walls 12 feet thick and the top storey with windows under chevron arches in walls 8 feet thick.

An outer staircase of stone leads to the entrance on the second storey, its arch enriched with three rows of chevrons resting on scalloped capitals. The most striking feature in the entrance hall is the Norman fireplace with rich moulding; the smoke passed out through holes in the buttress. In a corner of the room is a circular staircase leading down to the basement and up to the audience chamber on the second floor, a splendid room with a fireplace and an eight window recess with chevron arches. There is a gallery within the wall, entered from the stairway through a richly ornamented arch and with arches opening into the hall, flooding it with light. But the most striking thing in the hall is the richly moulded arch sweeping across its centre to support the floor above. Resting on piers only seven feet high, it rises to twice that height in a noble span of 29 feet and is as perfect as the Norman masons left it. The top storey has lost its original floor, but its arches complete an ordered design which is one of the most perfect remaining from Norman times.

It was in King Stephen’s turbulent reign that this castle was built by Aubrey de Vere, son of the Aubrey who came to England with the Conqueror. It was the stronghold of 17 Earls of Oxford, the best of them being John who fought for Henry the Seventh on Bosworth Field, and to Castle Hedingham came Henry in later years to be entertained with such pomp as exceeded all the bounds laid down by the law to check baronial power, so that the king fined his host £10,000 for his daring!

The Georgian house was built by Robert Ashurst, whose descendants the Majendies now live here. It is here that Miss Musette Majendie organised the Rover Scout Unemployment Camp which was the pioneer of many camps in Essex to train men and set them on their feet again. It is one of the most successful movements devised for giving idle men new hope and a new place in the world, a fit piece of work for this venerable place.

We are thrilled as we realise the wonder of the church which has kept company with the castle through so many generations. It comes from the end of the Norman era, although its red brick tower, fine with its parapet and pinnacles and turrets, is like a thing of yesterday, being 17th century. Above its west windows has been set a piece of ancient carving with the devices of John de Vere, the 13th earl; it runs round the top of the window and in it we see the gold whistle and chain of the Lord High Admiral, a boar grubbing for acorns under an oak, an ox crossing a ford, the Great Chamberlain’s chair of state, and the familiar star on the shield.

As we walk round this ancient place we are captivated by the outside of the chancel. It has beautiful pointed windows with carved capitals on their shafts, a sundial is scratched on a buttress, the three windows on the east have a stringcourse linking their capitals, and in the gable above them is a magnificent wheel window with capitals on its eight radiating shafts.

And yet there is something more impressive than all this fine carving which delays our going indoors; it is something that should hold us spellbound, for there are three Norman doorways with three Norman doors in them. We have come upon no other group like this in all our tour of England, and there are very few Norman doors anywhere. One of the three doors is fixed in its place, the other two swing to and fro as they have swung to let in and out 25 generations worshipping in this church.  The door that swings no more is set in an exquisite doorway with two orders of richly carved zigzag and foliage. The capitals of the four shafts of the doorway are also carved with foliage, and inside is the door, built of three massive battens with a hinge shaped like a big C by Norman smiths. The same smiths fashioned an animal on one of the ornamented straps of the south door, which hangs in an arch of three moulded orders, the capitals of the doorway being carved with the stiff leaves characteristic of the English style just coming in. The north doorway has been partly cut away but its Norman door still hangs in it.

Keeping company with these three Norman doors is a medieval one still hanging in the doorway the 15th century builders made for it, making a unique collection of doors which should bring many pilgrims to Essex.

Even after all this we must be thrilled with the splendour of this interior, for the fine clerestory windows light up the magnificent hammerbeams of the nave, and the clerestory itself is the greatest surprise of all, for it also is Norman. Up to their great height these Norman walls rise, five Norman bays on each side of the nave, and in the wall between two of the clerestory windows is a narrow doorway from which the priests would step on to the rood loft.

The screen that is here today was carved about 1400 and has six bays with fine oak tracery, the arches richly carved, the moulded cornice adorned with bosses. Beyond the screen in the chancel is a range of five handsome stalls carved while the screen was new; on them are the devices of the medieval craftsmen, shields and heads of wolves and leopards, a wolf carrying off what looks like a monk on a stick thrown over his shoulder, a fox with a distaff in its mouth, and so on.

But it is the roof of the nave (200 years younger than the plain roof of the chancel) which is the crowning glory of the woodcarvers who adorned the church. They were 16th century men and their roof has double hammerbeams. They were building this roof for the 13th Earl of Oxford, and proud he must have been of it, for the lower hammerbeams and the cornice are decorated with running foliage, crowned angels with outspread wings looking down from it. There is rich tracery in the spandrels, carved pendants and pinnacles, and scattered about are the star and boar of the Earls of Oxford.

At the east end of the nave the arch is pointed, and at the west it is round ; the chancel arch must have been refashioned when the English builders were succeeding the Normans; the tower arch was reset as the Normans made it when the nave was shortened at the time the tower was built. Even the stoup is Norman here, its square bowl resembling a cushion capital richly carved with foliage and the head of a beast. It was probably carved by the men who shaped the figure of a woman with folded hands built into the wall over an altar.

Impressive in itself, the church has few impressive monuments, the chief one being the altar tomb which has been moved so that we see too little of it. On the side we can see kneel the four daughters of the 15th Earl of Oxford and his wife Elizabeth, who lie in black marble on the top, he in armour, she with a heraldic mantle. Very quaint these figures are, kneeling sideways in relief yet showing full face, with a harpy and a stag holding their shield-of-arms above them.

There is more carving on the panelling of a cupboard in the tower, showing Daniel in the den of lions and Jonah beneath the gourd; it is probably 18th century. There is a panelled chest with three locks,a Jacobean altar table, and a painted memorial tablet from a vanished church on London Wall, brought here to keep green the memory of Dominic Van Heyla and his wife Wilhelmina, immigrants from Flanders in Shakespeare’s day. One very beautiful thing here is framed on the wall, a beautiful embroidery of the Madonna.

In the churchyard the shaft and base of the 12th century cross have been set up in memory of the men of Castle Hedingham who did not come back from the war. It was found in the cellars of the medieval inn, the Falcon.

I do hope it is made safe and opened soon although indications seem to point to a locked church.

Flickr set.

Barnston, Essex

St Andrew is another of those churches that I instinctively wanted to dislike but the more time I spent wandering around the more it grew on me. It is kept locked with a keyholder listed but he or she was out when I tried to collect the key - having peeped through the windows I don't think I missed out on a huge amount.

In the churchyard is a whole series of Livermore headstones and tombs of Barnston Hall including four to Edward and Sarah Livermore's daughters: Martha Susannah died 3 April 1827 aged 14, Emma died 10 Sep 1840 aged 22, Jane died 30 May 1841 aged 19 and Maria who died 9 Dec 1841 aged 16. All four had verses which I found incredibly moving, Jane's reads:

The rising morning can't assure,
That we shall end the day
For death stands ready at the door
To take our lives away.

UPDATE: I revisited today (16th Feb 2012) after Simon Knot informed me that a key is now accessible even when the keyholder is absent. Sadly it's a disappointing interior but the piscina is fantastic and there's a nice south window by Burne Jones. Still I'm glad it's permanently accessible now.

CHURCH. Nave Norman with two N windows, one S window and a plain S doorway with one order of columns with scallop capitals. Chancel E.E. with one N lancet window and a fine Double Piscina of the type of Jesus and St John’s Colleges at Cambridge, that is with intersected round arches. The shafts have stiff-leaf capitals. The foliage runs on as a frieze behind the capitals towards the wall and fills the spandrels of the arches as well. C15 belfry with C18 cupola. PLATE. Cup and Paten on foot of 1712. 

St Andrew (2)

St Andrew (3)

Livermore daughters (3)

BARNSTON. Up the hill and past some lovely white poplars we come to its church and hall, the one so small that it is not 20 feet wide, the other Elizabethan with fine windows, a central chimney with diagonal shafts, and in front a most noble elm towering up 100 feet. The church has a Norman nave, a Norman chancel rebuilt by the 13th century men, and a Norman doorway containing an ancient door with medieval hinges. One of the original narrow windows still lights up an old choir gallery, and outside other windows are quaint 15th century heads. From the 17th century the village has an oak chest, a carved communion table, and a tiny poor-box with many locks. Moulded timbers 500 years old rise from the nave to support a turret with a weathervane. A monument with three bright shields reminds us of Robert Scott, who was Dean of Rochester and came to lie here in 1620; and there is a family window to the Livermores of last century, a tribute to 15 of them, from little Martha who died in 1827 to an old lady who died in 1893. Another window has a few coloured bits from the 14th century among its modern glass. But the treasure of Barnston is its ancient piscina, the earliest double one known. It was made about 1200, and looks like a piece cut from a beautiful interlaced arcade.

Perhaps I did miss out after all.


Flickr set.

Ashley, Cambridgeshire

St Mary - oh dear. Although historically there has been a church in Ashley and nearby Silverley since the thirteenth century, Ashley's fell in to disrepair and was pulled down whilst Silverley as a village disappeared. The present church was built in 1845 by the Marquis of Bute and can only be described as bland, and that's being overly polite. About the only thing of interest in the building is a monument to Mary Langley who died in the sinking of the SS Empress of Ireland and that's only interesting because of the story behind the sinking and not in itself!

ST MARY. Neo-Norman, 1845; architect unknown.

St Mary (1)

Nave (1)

One to avoid methinks, albeit it was open - Mee certainly did as there is no reference to Ashley cum Silverley in my edition of Cambridgeshire (and yes I did check Essex and Suffolk in case of boundary changes).

Flickr set.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Witham, Essex

St Nicholas was a lesson on two fronts, first never hold preconceptions about churches before a visit and, second, always take your mobile phone with you.

As with Sawbridgeworth I had very low expectations of Witham and, as with Sawbo, I was pleasantly surprised to find the church open and  full of interest both inside and out. The lesson of the mobile phone was that I left it in the car and came within a hairsbreadth of being locked in - apparently the church is locked when the school's are out due to a series of events involving school - and it purely by chance that the lady locking up came in, normally she just locks up and goes home. Without my phone I would have had to wait until dark and then semaphored using the church lights. I wonder how many visitors she has incarcerated over the years!

In addition to St Nicholas is a redundant church (All Saints) converted to residential use and an unusually, in my experience, locked RC church.

ST NICHOLAS. A large flint church, almost entirely of the C14. C14 is the W tower with diagonal buttresses, a W window with Dec tracery and battlements, C14 the nave and both aisles, C14 the embattled S porch, C14 the chancel and the embattled N vestry. Only the N and S chancel chapels are C15, and the S doorway is the one surviving piece of evidence of an earlier church; c. 1200 with three orders of columns and voussoirs partly with three-dimensional zigzag and partly with keeled roll-mouldings. The S and N aisle windows are of the same pattern of tracery as the W window of the tower, the porch windows are different but of the same character. One S aisle window is different, but also Dec. The chancel E window (renewed) has ogee reticulation. The arcades of four bays have curious piers consisting of a square with big attached demi-shafts, and arches with a double wave moulding. Tall steep tower arch on semicircular responds. The C15 S chapel opens in two bays into the chancel. The pier has an odd section as if re-used or re-tooled. It consists of four shafts connected by deeply undercut hollows. - The roofs are all original, of divers varieties but not of special note. - SCREEN. Of tall lights arched and cusped at the top and with cusped ogee-arches a little lower down. - ROYAL ARMS of William III, finely carved (S chapel). - SCULPTURE. Small wooden relief of the Nativity, S chapel. Mannerist and not English. - FUNERAL HELMS (Lady Chapel). Late C15, late C16, C17. - PLATE. Alms Basin elaborately engraved, probably a Dessert Dish; given in 1617. - MONUMENTS. Mary Smith d. 1592, the usual design with kneeling couple. - John Southcotte d. 1585. Plain tomb chest with recumbent effigies; he in judge’s robes. Good quality; alabaster. - William East d. 1726. Large monument with excellent bust above a big inscription table. Columns l. and r. supporting a broken open segmental pediment. Cherubs standing l. and r. and reclining on the pediment. (Signed by C. Horsnaile, see R. Gunnis.) 
ALL SAINTS. 1842 by J. Brown of Norwich. Flint and white brick. Large, in the lancet style. W end with very big bellcote. Nave without aisles, but transepts and, oddly enough, a tripartite chancel, that is a chancel with aisles of two bays - all this vaulted.

St Nicolas (3)

1700

John Southcote 1585 (5)

WITHAM. It has old barns, old inns, and old cottages, and it lies on the Roman road to Colchester at the point where the River Brain crosses it. On one of the timbered houses by the bridge are brackets carved with a cock and a hen. The 14th century church has Roman bricks in its walls and a doorway carved with chevrons by the Normans; in it swings a 15th century door with traceried panels, companion through the ages for a door older still leading out of the chancel into the vestry. Here are still the roofs made by the carpenters who made these doors, for all the roofing of the 14th century aisles and the 15th century chapels is original. The handsome chancel screen is also 15th century, carved with Tudor flowers. In the chancel are two oak seats of about 1500, and on the wall are painted figures of Francis Harvey and his wife, an Elizabethan couple facing each other at a prayer desk. By it is a bust of William East, who died in 1726. On an altar tomb lies John Southcotte in his judge’s robes with his wife in her Elizabethan ruff and cloak. Hanging over a doorway are four helmets, one 15th century and one worn by a trooper in the Civil War. The elaborately engraved almsdish is Jacobean, a chest with three locks is 16th century, and one of the two coffin lids in the chapels is Norman.
The hill on which the church stands is known as Chipping, the old name for market, and the name of the Woolpack Inn close by recalls the sort of goods sold there. Some alterations in a cottage here a few years ago showed that it was the ancient guildhall. Four oak arches span the width of both rooms, upstairs and down, and it is probable that this little hall was built at the end of the 14th century. Tudor fireplaces were afterwards put in, but they are now hidden.
 
The old barns are at Powers Hall a mile away, one with seven bays, aisles, and gabled porches being 15th century, the other with five bays is 17th century. Ages before they came the old earthworks were here through which the railway has been cut, for they were built by Edward the Elder as defence against the Danes.

Flickr set.