Saturday, 19 February 2011

Stetchworth, Cambridgeshire

When I finally found St Peter my initial feeling was that this was a CCT church such was it's condition but it is in fact still operating albeit the fabric of the church being in a pretty dire state. Having said that I should say that this is one of my favourite Cambridgeshire churches to date - the setting is idyllic, the church nicely proportioned and the interior fixtures and fittings, if spartan, superior. Strangely there is no porch, perhaps a south door was lost when the aisle was built, and entrance is gained through the tower door which I think is the 'right' way to enter a church.

The piers of the north aisle have lots of old graffiti including a swordsman in hose and cut sleeves, a woman in headdress and an owl with the same headdress as the woman - all good fun.

ST PETER. E.E. chancel with lancet windows, N aisle also one E lancet. The rest is Perp. W tower with low tower arch and battlernents decorated with flushwork. Arcades of four bays with piers carrying (castellated) capitals only on the shafts towards the arch openings. The arches have one straight and one hollow chamfer. Perp chancel arch. Perp aisle windows. Four of them, two on each side, are quatrefoil - a very odd mannerism, not shown in Cole’s drawing, that is probably C19. Pretty statue niche at the E end of the S aisle on a derni-figure of an angel. Some head-corbels reset in the aisle walls. - MONUMENT. Henry, son of Lord Gorges d. 1674, attributed by Mrs Esdaile to A. Storey. He was Superintendent to the Hon. Corporation for the Draining of the Great Level or Bedford Level. He lies, a white effigy with wig and Roman costume, semi-reclining on a tomb-chest. Above, on the curved sides of an open pediment are the derni-figures of his sad parents, holding hands over two books. Again above, a black shallow niche with inscription plate. The monument is ignominiously squeezed into the E end of the N aisle.
 St Peter (2)

Henry Gorges 1674 (1)

Grafitti (1)
STETCHWORTH. Once it was a town, able to bear a considerable share in the draining of the fens 300 years ago; and the church in the park, where a fine avenue of elms leads to Stetchworth House, has a statue of the man who for 20 years managed this important business of reclamation. He was Lord Gorges, Baron of Dundalk, and he appears in his armour and wig with his wife on the monument to their 19-year-old son Henry, who died in 1674 and is lying before them in an elaborate kilted dress, the white figures very striking against a black ground.

Many faces from the past peep out from the walls of this rather plain church, a mixture of medieval styles with a small Norman i doorway, a great arch framing the dim 13th century chancel, and in the nave a 15th century font carved round with heads and shields. More faces come between the 15th century arches of the nave arcades and others support the old tie-beams in the roof, one laughing under the strain, another pulling his mouth awry. Under windows in the aisles are four brackets from which odd little men and women look out. Here William Thorpe served as vicar for half of last century.


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