Monday, 7 February 2011

Bottisham, Cambridgeshire

Holy Trinity is magnificent both externally and internally awash with monuments, brasses and other interesting features. The nave and chancel are lofty and airy and date from the 13th and 14th centuries. As you approach from the west there is no hint of this magnificence but all is soon revealed as you head east.

Simon Jenkins rates it with three stars and says that it is "one of the county's most glorious churches", who am I to disagree?

HOLY TRINITY. One of the most interesting churches of Cambridgeshire, and in addition an architecturally very satisfactory building. It is essentially of two periods, the C13 and the early C14. The C13 must be considered first; it meets the visitor as he approaches and enters the church from the W. What he sees is a W tower and a tall W porch or Galilee, to use the term of Ely, which was no doubt the source of inspiration of the Bottisham mason. The Bottisham version is of course much less ornate, but the connexion is none the less evident. The W tower has lancet windows below, though the upper parts are later (Dec two-light bell-openings, Perp battlements and pinnacles). The W porch also has lancets on the sides, but its W wall is somewhat puzzling. It is of stone and has an entrance arch, as large in proportion as at Ely, but it is filled in in flint and a much smaller W doorway made. This, however, also seems C13 with one order of (C19) colonnettes with shaftrings and a double-chamfered arch. The arch between porch and tower is on plain moulded responds and triple-chamfered, the arch between tower and nave small and double-chamfered. So the nave is reached. Here in the W wall the modest size of the nave before the present one can be seen by its roof-line. The W tower and porch must have looked enormous against it. The nave clearly dates from the early C14. It is of five bays, tall and vigorous, with quatrefoil piers with four thin shafts in the diagonals and deeply scooped-out hollows between. The major shafts have fillets. The capitals are moulded in a typical early C14 way, the arches steeply and nobly pointed and finely and richly moulded. The clerestory also is in this case - a rare case - contemporary: a row of simple lancets cusped.* They are set above the spandrels, not the apexes of the arches. The outer walls of the aisles take part in this splendid scheme. They are enriched by raised borders or courses and in addition by shallow blank arches (S wall). The borders rise to enclose the doorways which are shafted inside. Both the S and N doorways belong to the scheme of c. 1320. The S doorway has again a steep finely moulded arch. The porch has three-light openings and a doorway framed by two pretty late C17 tablets. On the N side the porch has a cusped niche above the outer entrance. The aisle windows are much renewed, but in their tracery again typical of a date just before the introduction of flowing tracery. On the S side below the windows the same arched recesses repeat as we have seen outside. A very odd feature appears close to the E ends of both aisles. Tall narrow two-light windows are here squeezed in, out of keeping with the rest, yet not much later - in spite of the fact that they have a transom and a straight head. What purpose did they serve? To throw more light on to the rood loft? Outside the S aisle the use of knapped flint should be noted - a very early case, as the wall is part of the early C14 work.* The chancel, though it also seems to belong to that time, contains evidence of the C13, in the Sedilia and Piscina. The E windows however date entirely from 1875. The chancel arch is very similar to the nave arcades, though resting on moulded corbels. Its N and S windows are a Perp insertion.

SCREENS. The Rood Screen is of stone, three equal openings without tracery or cusps. The dado also is open (was it originally P). The detail shows the screen to be Perp. - Two Parclose Screens of the C14 to the aisle E bays. They are C14 and excellently detailed, though evidently not in their original position. Two-light divisions, cusped trefoils and quatrefoils, straight top with openwork quatrefoil frieze and battlements. - West Screens, in a competent and refined Neo-Georgian; by A. E. Richardson 1951. - CANDELABRA of brass, probably Dutch, dated 1760. - ANTEPENDIUM. Silk embroidered, Italian, C18.

MONUMENTS. Tomb-chest between nave and N aisle. Brass missing. The sides with shields in cusped lozenges. - Thomas Pledger d.  1599 and wife. Large monument with two figures kneeling behind each other; columns, frieze, and achievement. - Lionel and Dorothe Allington d. 1638. Two children under a big canopy of cloth held open by two lusty putti. The children lie above and behind each other. The inscription reads:

Stay Passenger and wonder whom these stones
Had learned to speake two infants Alingtons
These ye worlds strangers come not heere to dwell
They tasted, liked it not, and bad farewell.
Nature hath granted what they begd wih teares
As soon as they begun to end theire yeares.

The monument is attributed by Mrs Esdaile to W. Wright. - Sir Roger Jenyns d. 1740 and wife. Standing wall monument. The two are seated on a mat opposite and facing each other. Back-wall grey with broken pediment. - Soame Jenyns d. 1787. By Bacon 1796. With grey obelisk and in front of it white putti with urn.

* Cole, in his drawing at the British Museum, seems to be mistaken in giving them two lights and some tracery.

* According to a recent thesis by Mr Robert J. Wyatt the treatment of the flint is very similar to that outside the contemporary Lady Chapel at Waltham Abbey.

Holy Trinity (3)

Elias de Bekingham c1310

Thomas and Margaret Pledger 1599 (3)

BOTTISHAM. Halfway from Newmarket to Cambridge we come upon its overhanging cottages and the graceful tower of a church which glories in some of the finest 14th century work in the county. The tower and the gaunt chancel with its fine stone seats are 13th century but the nave and aisles and porches are all as the builders left them in the 14th. The south porch has a beautiful inner doorway through which we enter by a wicket door, to find that the rich arcading of the south wall runs along the inside as well as the outside wall. This south aisle has a stone seat for the priest, a piscina, and in its floor an ancient coffin lid. Above the stately arcades is a clerestory of fluted lancets of rare beauty, and the traceried aisle windows are richly moulded inside and out. Here is the font where the children who saw this beauty grow were baptised; and there are three old screens of the 14th century, two of oak and the rarest of stone, with three delicate open arches before the chancel. There is an ironbound chest of 1790, and some fragments of carved stones, the oldest being a Norman tympanum.

A table tomb (1) has the mark of a vanished brass portrait of Elias de Beckingham, who was said to be with one exception the only honest judge in the reign of Edward the First. Only he and one other were acquitted when every judge was charged by the king with bribery. A sculptured monument of three centuries later shows Margaret Coningsbye kneeling behind her husband, both in black robes and ruffs. Cherubs hold back the curtains of a stone canopy to show two children asleep with flowers in their hands, Leonard and Dorothea Allington, of whom the inscription of 1638 tells:

These the world’s strangers were, not here to dwell.
They tasted, liked it not, and bade farewell.

The east window and a tablet close by are in memory of Colonel Jenyns, who rode down the Valley of Death at Balaclava and survived. Other memorials to the family, whose home (Bottisham Hall) was rebuilt in 1797, show Sir Roger and his wife sitting on their tomb holding hands, with dressing-gowns thrown over their night things as if they had just woke from sleep. Their son Soame was for 38 years in Parliament, a keen debater, and is remembered here by angels garlanding an urn.

Bottisham is one of the group of villages in which the village colleges of Cambridgeshire are being developed. The first college was built at Sawston in 1928, and the idea of these magnificent modern buildings is to draw children over eleven from the villages round into an atmosphere in which they will develop a taste and a capacity for rural life and craftsmanship, with facilities for training themselves in whatever career they desire, and with opportunities for practising music or drama, cooking or needlework. The buildings at Bottisham are charmingly planned so that all the principal rooms run round a curve and look out on to the playing-field. The Bottisham buildings were planned by the county architect, Mr S. E. Urwin.

1. The table tomb is actually that of William Allington d. 1479. Elias de Bekingham's matrix is in the east end of the nave aisle.

Flickr set.

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