Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Cowlinge, Suffolk

St Margaret of Antioch, like St Mary at nearby Lidgate, contains a wealth of graffiti on its nave columns, lots of which are helpfully pointed out with arrows. 

The church is elevated enough to make its bold brick tower visible for some distance. This is a lovely setting in the heart of the West Suffolk countryside, and it is well worth standing back and enjoying the building as a whole in its surroundings. The sturdy western tower dominates the exterior and is a comparatively late addition to the church; it was erected in 1733 by Francis Dickins of Branches Park. Although bold rather than beautiful, it is a good example of Georgian Classical architecture in brick [other Suffolk towers of this period may be seen at Drinkstone and Grundisburgh

The atmospheric interior is a treasure-house of ancient and interesting things. Light floods in through the clear glass of the windows to illuminate craftsmanship of many periods. St. Margaret's escaped major Victorian restoration which might well have altered it out of all recognition. Instead, the restoration came in 1913-14, by which time 17th and 18th century fittings, which the Victorians often threw out, were being conserved and treasured for their own sake. Their retention here has done so much to preserve the air of rustic antiquity, which is an unforgettable feature of this church's unique character.

The stonework of the piers contain a wealth of graffiti that people of different periods have carved upon them. There are all sorts of names and initials in varieties of script; some of these are dated. There are various patterns and random doodles, also a ship, two hands with pointing forefingers, a foot and a sea-horse. There is little doubt that many of these random scratchings are medieval.

The western gallery, where the musicians and singers would have sat, is 18th century and provides an excellent vantage point for a panoramic view of the interior. On the west wall are the royal arms of George II, dated 1731 and inscribed with the Churchwardens’ names. They are flanked by boards painted with the Commandments, the Creed and the Lord's Prayer; these were originally each side of the east window, above the altar. The large central inscription bears the Dickins coat of arms and is a quotation from the Latin Classics, which is translated, "He found the roof of this temple made of straw and he left it made of brick, and he built it with one tower only". Clearly Mr. Dickins had read the Emperor Augustus, who boasted that he found Rome a town of brick and left it a city of marble, and compared this to his own work of building the tower and of his other improvements here.

A plaque on the west wall of the north aisle records a Visitation in 1618, when Mr. Thomas Wolbych was given permission "to erect and build up certeine seates behind the north church dore". These were for the use of the Keeper of the Correction House "and the prisoners therin". These prisoners were mostly debtors, rather than hardened criminals. D.E. Davy records that the House of Correction was closed sometime between 1820-30 and turned into cottages.

The chancel arch is lofty and graceful and has the remains of its original colour. Beneath it is the fine rood screen which dates from c.1400. Above the three single openings each side is delicate tracery and there are tiny openings cut into its plain base. This is the only screen in the county, apart from one at Lavenham, which has retained its original doors.

On the wall above the chancel arch are the faded remains of a large wall painting. This is the traditional place for a picture of the Doom (or Last Judgement) and here we have a slight variation on the usual theme. On the south side is St. Michael, weighing souls in the balances. On the north side is the Virgin Mary, holding a long rod which stretches over the chancel arch and tips the scales in favour of the heavenward side, symbolising to mediaeval people the worth of her intercession for them. The painting was restored in 1991 by the Canterbury Cathedral Workshop, as was the fragment on the south wall.

A huge monument on the north side of the Chancel, in figured marble, by Peter Scheemakers, commemorates Francis Dickins, who rebuilt the tower and "repaired and ornamented the church";  he died in 1747. We see the figures of him and his wife in Roman costume, seated (or rather lounging) each side of an urn. Above is a pediment and Coat of Arms. The inscription on the tomb-chest is flattering and is well worth reading. Francis Dickins of Cowlinge and Little Bradley was a Barrister at Law and we read that he was "seriously religious" and was "a shining ornament to his profession". Rachel, his wife (whose maiden name was also Dickins) had the monument erected.

ST MARGARET. Brick tower built by Francis Dickins in 1733. Good classical inscription on the E wall. The medieval church is built of septaria and brick. It dates from the early C14. Arcade of octagonal piers with broadly moulded arches. Aisle windows with nice flowing tracery (motif of four-petalled flowers). Perp N porch, clerestory with quatrefoil windows (at least the first N and S from the W), and kingpost roof. Perp E window. - FONT. Perp, octagonal. - SCREENS. Rood screen Perp. Simple, with one-light divisions. The original gates are preserved. - Parclose Screen of crude workmanship. - PAINTING. Weighing of Souls, above the chancel arch. An unusual representation. Large St Michael on the r. with a feathered body, large Virgin on the l. reaching across with a long rod to tip the balance. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup. - MONUMENT. Francis Dickins d. 1747, an unrecorded signed work by Peter Scheemakers. Base and reredos background with broken pediment on brackets. Two seated figures in Roman dress l. and r. of an urn on a tall pedestal. White marble and grey-veined white marble. Noble, if cool.


Robert 1571 and Margaret 1599 Higham (1)

Graffiti (13)

COWLINGE. It is a scattered village with a church on rising ground overlooking the fields, and the finely timbered Branches Park of 200 acres which is supposed to have belonged to one of the powerful nobles who advised King John to grant Magna Carta.

The church is chiefly medieval and has a clerestory, but its red brick tower is 18th century, having been built by Francis Dickins, a barrister who sits in white marble by the north wall of the chancel, shown in the pompous fashion of his day sitting in Roman costume on one side of an urn, while his wife sits on the other side in long draperies, holding an open book.

The nave has a good roof with kingposts, and some of the windows have fragments of old yellow glass showing foliage. The chancel screen is of old oak with delicate tracery at the top, and another old screen encloses a family pew; it has solid panels at the base with tracery above them, and more elaborate tracery hanging from the cornice. There is a very long oak chest which has kept the parish documents safe for many generations, and a battered old font with tracery on its eight panels and round the base. Two Elizabethans are remembered in brass in the floor of the nave, Robert Heigham and his wife Margaret, he in ruff and gown, and she wearing a Paris headdress. Two groups of their children (five boys and five girls), all quaintly dressed, stand below them with their hands clasped in prayer.

Flickr set.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Cavendish, Suffolk

I stopped at St Mary on a whim whilst en route to Tostock and this visit led to me going on to Long Melford, of which more later, and am rather glad I did. 

The churches in this neck of the wood are all disproportionately large - the end result of the wool and cloth trade that bought such wealth to this area of Suffolk which was then partly used to the glory of God. Although heavily Victorianised the interior is still fabulous with plenty of interest and a lovely light throughout the church. Whilst it in no way compares with Long Melford as the first church of the day, on what felt like the first day of Spring, it was truly rewarding.

In the north aisle is a Renaissance Flemish altar piece in carved alabaster, and probably dates from the 16th century. The wooden surrounds are by Sir Ninian Comper, the late Victorian Church decorator. This reredos came from the London home of Athelstan Riley who was one of the compilers of the English Hymnal. It was presented to St. Mary’s in 1953, and re-sited in its present position in 1994.

The magnificent brass 15th century eagle lectern was possibly given to the church by Elizabeth I. It stands in the chancel which is at a lower level than the nave; one of only four churches in the country where this is the case.

In the sanctuary is the tomb of Sir George Colt who died in 1570. On the top is scratched a board for playing  ’Alqerque' a form of Nine Men's Morris. Sir Thomas More, ’A Man for All Seasons,’ married a Miss Colt from the local Colts Hall.

ST MARY. On the N side of the Green, a wide expanse with pretty houses around. Early C14 W tower, the ground floor vaulted with heavy single-chamfered ribs. Low tower arch. The upper floor has a fireplace. The SE stair-turret rises higher than the tower top and carries a triangular bellcote. The S porch is early C14, an unusually early date for such a porch. The side windows are flanked by shafts with moulded capitals. Later, and fully Dec, the S aisle windows. In their tracery the motif of the four-petalled flower. The modest doorway proves the N aisle also to be structurally Dec. The Piscina inside the chancel looks Dec too, though the chancel was built by the will of Sir John Cavendish who died in 1381. It is in a very original idiom. Priest’s doorway with the type of arch which the French call anse de panier. The tracery of the side windows specially pretty. The E window was ordinary, but very large (seven lights). Fine Late Perp five-bay arcades with slim piers with single shafts to nave and aisle, triple shafts to the arch openings, and dainty mouldings in the diagonals (money for the s aisle was left in 1471). Clerestory with three-light windows and a good cambered roof. The walls are panelled with flushwork outside. It was erected by the Smyth family. Late Perp also most of the aisle windows. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp. Panelled stem, bowl with Signs of the Evangelists and quatrefoils. - LECTERNS. One big, of brass, with eagle, the same type as Woolpit and also Upwell Norfolk, Croft Lincolnshire, Chipping Campden and Corpus Christi College Oxford. - The other of wood, C16. - SCULPTURE. S chapel altar. Flemish C16 relief of the Crucifixion. (To the r. of the altar statue of St Michael, said to be Florentine C15 work.) Both pieces came from the private chapel of Athelstan Riley’s house in London (cf. Little Petherick Cornwall). - STAINED GLASS. Original bits in several windows. - MONUMENT. Sir George Colt d. 1570. Tomb-chest with shields in cartouches. Canopied niche above with, on its bracket, two angels carrying the soul of the deceased. ls the niche earlier than the monument?


Lectern (2)


CAVENDISH. Its name takes us back in history to one of the most ancient struggles between Capital and Labour, Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, for here lived Sir John Cavendish, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench at that time. His son helped to kill Wat Tyler, and the news of this so infuriated the mob that they ransacked Sir John’s house, dragged him away, and beheaded him after a mock trial at the market cross of Bury St Edmund’s. The old home of the Cavendishes is here by the beautiful green, a three-gabled house now the Village Institute; it has some time panelling inside. Sir John is known to lie here, and it is thought his memorial is the one under the church tower, where a stone has the Cavendish arms on four brass shields. It was with £40 of his money that the chancel was built at the end of the 14th century. The porch, which has the remains of an old sundial, was then a century old; and so was the tower, with a stair-turret at one corner. The lower storey of the tower has a vaulted roof with beautiful foliage on a central boss. The ringing chamber
was used as a dwelling, and has an ancient fireplace with a battlemented chimney shaft rising several feet above the parapet. The rest of this fine building is mostly 15th century, the clerestory of that date having beautiful flint panelling and lofty windows. Built into the north aisle are many of the thin tiles which were imported in quantities from Flanders for backing medieval fireplaces, and in the south aisle are Roman bricks which must have come from a villa near by. An inscription over the windows tells us the south aisle was built by one of the Smyths, who were important people in the 15th and 16th centuries, and married the Cavendishes. One of the ornamental rainwater heads has a Tudor rose between two heads of leopards.

A 600-year-old door with its original iron handle takes us inside the church, where there is much to see. The graceful nave arches were built at the end of the 15th century, and the 500-year-old roof of the north aisle has decoration added after it had been up two centuries. By the altar is a canopied niche carved with two beautiful angels and a tiny kneeling figure sheltering beneath their wings; and on the medieval font are flowers and angels and symbols of the Evangelists, the carving having suffered much in the time of the Commonwealth. A fine possession is the 15th century eagle lectern of brass, one of about 50 old ones in England, said to have been given by Queen Elizabeth on one of her two royal journeys through Suffolk. There is a chest with 14th century tracery along the front, a beautiful 17th century altar table, a chair of the same age with unusual carving, reclining figures holding crowns, and a finely traceried east window with some canopy work in old glass. Another window has a few more old coloured fragments. In the chancel is the altar tomb of Sir George Colt, who died when Shakespeare was a little boy, and by the font hangs a pathetic collection of twelve wooden crosses from the war, the biggest group we have seen.

Carlton, Cambridgeshire

St Peter is more like a chapel than a church and is really rather charming. The chief interest in its rather simple interior is the font and the head of what I took to be Wodewose on the west windowsill.

ST PETER. A small church with a nicely unrestored exterior. Chancel windows with not quite common Perp forms; nave S one straight-headed Dec window. Chancel arch also Perp. Bell-cote castellated, of brick. - FONT. Octagonal Perp, with traceried stem and bowl with shields in cusped quatrefoils. - ROOD SCREEN. With one-light divisions. Fragmentary. - PULPIT. Elizabethan or Jacobean.

St Peter (3)

Nave (1)


CARLTON. It lies in open country on the Suffolk border, with a small church from the 14th and 15th centuries and two bells that have been ringing since before the Reformation. The leaning walls are golden inside below a white ceiling and they shelter a simple 15th century chancel screen, a font from the same time, and a Jacobean pulpit. One great old beam with a kingpost supports the nave roof; it is probably as old as the ancient glass in the chancel. On an illuminated parchment are the names of nine men, and of them it is said that "They were a wall unto us both by night and day."

Here lies a man who found fame by curious ways, for he was sent out by the king and some of his manoeuvrings were for the divorce of Catherine of Aragon and some for the arrest of William Tyndale.
He was Sir Thomas Elyot, scholar, diplomat, and author, who died and was buried here in 1546. While abroad on his diplomatic plottings Sir Thomas complained bitterly that he had no replies from his letters home, and that he received an allowance which only half covered his spendings. When he was ambassador to Charles the Fifth it was from the emperor himself at Naples that he learned the bitter news of the execution of his friend Sir Thomas More. He was also an intimate friend of Roger Ascham. He published many learned books, original works, translations, and anthologies, one of them On the Knowledge which Maketh a Wise Man, a dialogue between Plato and Aristippus. Having helped the king to dispose of his unwanted Catherine, he was one of the men who took part in the reception of the king’s unwanted Anne of Cleves.

Flickr set.

Burrough Green, Cambridgeshire

From the outside St Augustine of Canterbury filled me with dread.

First it looks extraordinary with three odd gables above the south door, second the general wear and tear of the fabric and third it was surely going to be locked. The third worry was groundless and upon entry I was utterly blown away by the interior.

The chief glory of the church are the de Burgh and Ingoldsthorpe tombs and the 15th century double piscina and sedilla but there's much more of interest in this sadly waterlogged church. Whilst the general condition of the interior is in tenuous shape this is an obviously loved church and is well worth a visit - although I warn you that you will be here for longer than you anticipate from the outside.

ST AUGUSTINE. A church more interesting than architecturally valuable, a puzzle rather than a work of art. The material is flint. W tower probably C14 with later bell-openings and parapet. The aisles altered outside in the C17. They received cross-gables for each of the first three bays and a kind of minimum decoration of the large windows. The chancel was originally flanked by chapels. Of these remains can be seen on the E wall of both aisles and along the N and S walls of the chancel. The most illuminating of these is S low broad ogee arch on the N side, as a look at the inside shows this to correspond with a monument which once connected chapel and chancel. E of this remains of a Piscina; so the chapel went as far E as the chancel. On the S side - just as illuminating - a re-set and a blocked Early Dec two-light window. This was the chancel fenestration, before chapels were added. For it goes with the three-light cusped intersected E window. This by the way is also re-set, and remains of a brick E arch indicate the existence of an C18 extension or apse. Then a chapel was also added on the N side of the chancel - see the blocked arch cutting into the blocked window. The dates which we have for chapels indeed correspond to this evidence. One chapel had a central tomb to two men who died in 1330 and 1334, the other was founded in 1445. - Now the interior. Perp arcade of three bays with tall octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. Tower arch the same design. The chancel-arch on the surviving two responds has been demolished; two C18 vases on the responds instead. The sedilia and double piscina bear out the date of the chancel window, i.e. c. 1300. - FONT. Completely plain, octagonal, dated 1672, with nice simple cover. - MONUMENTS. The ogee-headed recess (ogee-cusped and sub-cusped) in the chancel N wall has already been mentioned. It is flanked by pinnacles. To its l. and r. two slightly later recesses. They have four-centred arches below ogee gables and enriched quatrefoils in the spandrels. Below these three canopies lie four effigies, not one necessarily belonging to its canopy. They are all poorly preserved. They represent members of the de Burgh and the Ingoldesthorpe families. Under the ogee canopy effigy of the earlier C14, a Knight on a bed of pebbles - an unusual conceit (cf. Ingham, Norfolk). Next to him a Lady of the late C14. - Under the four-centred arches two Knights of c. 1400. In addition in the N aisle efiigies of husband and wife, better in quality than the others and later, probably John Ingoldesthorpe d. 1420 and his wife Elizabeth de Burgh d. 1421.

St Augustine of Canterbury (2)

de Burgh tombs

John & Elizabeth Ingoldsthorpe nee de Burgh 1420 & 1421 (1)


Flickr set.

Rather to my surprise Mee and his team missed Burrough Green.

Brinkley, Cambridgeshire

Whilst I can see why Alpheton church is kept locked there is absolutely no reason for St Mary not to be open, sited as it is in the middle of the village and surrounded by houses. Its locked status is a shame as Mee makes it sound quite interesting.

UPDATE 29/09/11: I was passing through Brinkley on my way to Depden, of which more later,and stopped at St Mary on the off chance and think that when I first visited I was just unlucky to find it locked.

Having said that Mee made it sound interesting sadly it's not really. True the box pews are good but the rest is rather plain and sterile.

ST MARY. Perp and C19, flint-built. W tower Perp with flushwork decoration at the base. Perp brick porch - a rarity in Cambridgeshire, but frequent in Essex. - Chancel rebuilt 1874, but the four-light E window so typical of c. 1300 and so unlikely for a High-Victorian architect that it must be accurate. It appears indeed in Cole’s drawing (B.M. Add. 5820). It has a quatrefoiled circle and two two-light lancet arches flanking it, with pointed quatrefoil-cusping in the spandrels of the two arches, cf. St Etheldreda, Ely Place, London, the chapel of the Bishops of Ely. Perp four-bay arcade with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. Perp tower arch. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - PEW in the NE corner, with Jacobean panels. - Plain later PEWS in the SE, NW, and SW arms too. - STAINED GLASS. Two small C14 angels in the E window and other bits in the chancel. - MONUMENT. Small tablet of 1723 inscribed:

I. P. M.
Richdi White Infantuli Beatis mi
Qui in natus Jul. 9
a Peccato renatus } 12
sine denatus
E Lavacro simul ac Vita excessit
in Vitam auspicata Albatus aeternam

St Mary (1)

BRINKLEY. It lies in the meadows and hides among the trees with a simple old church from the 15th century. It has ancient glass in its windows with golden-winged angels and a medley of Bowers. There is a broken old font under the tower, a battered Jacobean pulpit, a pew with Jacobean panels for the squire, and old box-pews for the people. On the wall of the squire’s pew is a constable’s staff of 1734, with a little crown carved at the top and gaily painted with the royal arms and the Union Jack. Here two small people are remembered, a boy of four days and a girl of four months. The boy was Richard White, who lived for four days in 1723, "a blessed little infant." He is said to have died near the font while being christened. The girl was Anne Anstey, whose memorial is carved with fruit and an angel’s head, and the words, "Let no sad tear these infant relics mourn." She died in 1710.


Alpheton, Suffolk

SS Peter &; Paul was locked with no sign of a keyholder but is beautifully situated away from the village and by the Hall. Peering through the windows revealed a spartan interior with seemingly little of interest still it would have been nice to have a look around.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. Nave and chancel, and quite a substantial Perp W tower. Pretty S doorway with fleuron decoration; Dec Sedilia and Piscina composition damaged by a later window. The Piscina is in the angle of the window. Niches l. and r. of the chancel arch, the one to the N re-fixed higher up in the C19. — STALL. The back made up of two misericords. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - SCREEN. Only the dado. - BENCHES. Some ends with poppy-heads. - PAINTING. St Christopher, on the N wall; dim.

SS Peter & Paul

ALPHETON. It has a little church in the middle of a farm, with the old Alpheton Hall next door; and it has been snatched from ruin in our time. Well worthy of saving it was, for the church is mostly 15th century. The doorway is carved with pomegranates and roses, with a king and queen to greet us as we come. The porch has an old roof and a seat of gnarled oak. The font has been here all the time, and there are traces of a 16th century wall-painting of St Christopher, a picture hidden for centuries. The west window has a little old glass, the small Jacobean pulpit has dainty foliage, and on each side of the chancel arch are two lovely niches, one with a vaulted canopy in which we noticed a smiling man with a rich store of fruit.The chancel stalls were made last century from oaks which were growing in the rector’s garden when the church was new.

Early in this century the Old Felstedians took an interest in the church and restored it, but the tower began to crack and was wrapped in wire netting until it could be restored. The King and Queen subscribed to the fund for putting the church in order; the top of the tower was rebuilt, the walls restored, the old north doorway uncovered, and the oak rafters of the tower revealed.

UPDATE 20 02 13: Still locked although I'm informed by Simon Knott that it's open daily from Easter.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Woodditton, Cambridgeshire

St Mary is another one of those Cambridgeshire churches with an extraordinary tower and is really rather beautiful, I guess it's sufficiently close to Suffolk to have benefited from cross pollination. It's locked but with keyholders listed but sadly one was out and I couldn't find the other, I'll have to revisit - a burden I'll gladly undertake.

ST MARY. A big flint church, standing alone. Mostly Perp. Earlier evidence only the N aisle W window, the N aisle E window (now looking into the vestry) with the diagonally placed niche to its l., and the first bays of the N arcade. These are clearly Dec. The arcade bays have short piers with four shafts and four small hollows, characteristically moulded capitals and double-chamfered arches. One corbel-head of the hood-mould remains. The rest is Perp. Square W tower with big transomed W window. Squarely framed doorway on angel-corbels and with traceried spandrels. The W front is not straight but slightly canted out towards the buttresses. The upper part of the tower is octagonal. Castellated aisles with late windows (Tudor arches). The S porch has C19 battlements. Chancel with new E window, two niches inside to the l. and r. of it, and straight-headed tall and slim side windows. Arcade (except for the one arch) Early Perp, still of the C14, with piers of complicated section: to the nave elongated polygonal without capitals, to the arch openings triple-shafted (partly with fillets) with capitals. - ROOD SCREEN. With big single-light divisions. The tracery above is of three-light type, i.e. with two pendants. Dado with nice blank tracery. - BENCH FRONT. W part of the nave. No doubt the remains of another screen. BENCHES. With poppy-heads, animals, a kneeling figure. -- SCULPTURE. Interesting fragments of an ALABASTER ALTAR, e.g. Pieta, St Christopher, Martyrdom, a Saint, St Denys, The Souls of the Redeemed. - IRON GATE under the tower arch. French (?), Baroque. Inscribed Petrus Rasorius Oeconomus 1805. - BRASS. Henry English d. 1393 and wife. Good figures, 4 1/2 ft long.

St Mary (1)

Porch carving (1)

St Mary (4)
WOOD DITTON. When the builders before history drew the line of their defensive work of bank and fosse across the open country, known to us as the Devil’s Dyke, they rested one end on the impassable fens where the village of Reach is now and the other end eight miles away on the impenetrable forest at Wood Ditton. Here we may see it, its massive proportions little changed,at the edge of a small wood by Camois Hall.

There are beautiful fields about the village now, and gracious elms and chestnuts, children of the giants of the ancient forest, shade the church, a medieval structure with its ancient door still opening and closing for us, old timbers in the roof of its old porch, its 15th century oak screen still beautiful with roses and tracery and a little colour in its panels. Here is the 15th century font, a curious piscina on the edge of a window, fragments of old glass, and ancient bench-ends carved with griffins, birds, and animals. There is a fine portrait of Henry English of 1393, a knight in armour with a steel helmet and his feet on a lion, his wife headless beside him though still with her mantle and her rosary, and with a fine dog looking up to her with bells on its collar. On an alabaster panel in memory of 30 men who did not come back is another knight, St George, shown as an old man in silver chain armour with a coloured coat, his sword through the dragon. On the panel are the words, They went forth from us and died for England.

Sounds like it's worth a retry! And I have but so far without luck.

Flickr set.

Trumpington, Cambridgeshire

For once I had researched Trumpington, care of the excellent, and was thoroughly looking forward to this visit. Alas SS Mary and Michael was locked with no sign of a keyholder (although the church sign advises visitors to the notices in the porch so there might be keyholders listed there but as the porch is locked this is slightly redundant!).

Enough said and, anyway, Mee bangs on for ages.

I've re-visited numerous times and have never found it open but I will continue to drop by when I'm passing, and have time, in hope that one day I'll gain access! 

ST MARY AND ST MICHAEL (anciently St Nicholas). A sumptuous church, externally much renewed (Butterfield 1876) and now displaying a fine buff Bath stone surface, instead of the original Barnack. Most of the church belongs to the early C14. Earlier the base of the S arcade W respond (c. 1200) and the W tower and chancel which both seem to belong to c. 1300. The tower has big angle buttresses and windows characteristic of that date, the chancel, as its dominant feature, an equally characteristic E window of a very ingenious design, five lights, intersected, cusped and provided with quatrefoils and trefoils between the arches. But at the top intersection is suddenly broken off and a large quatrefoil set in. The principle is similar to that seen at St Etheldreda, the chapel of the Bishops of Ely in London, but much more richly interpreted. Other windows also intersected and cusped and of designs representing the same stage of development, though according to the building history of the church they are probably a few years later. They are all renewed, but in the E wall of the churchyard are two of the original windows. The external ensemble is extremely lavish. Equally lavish the interior. The chancel tall, wide, and smooth. Nook-shafts i. and r. of the E window, contemporary doorway to a demolished N chapel (of which the Piscina can still be seen outside). Double Piscina of two pointed trefoiled arches under one, with a plain trefoil in the spandrel. This piece could easily be mid C13. Partly original Perp chancel roof with carved bosses. The nave has splendidly tall early C14 arcades of five bays. They are ingeniously profiled of four groups of three very thin shafts, provided with fillets to make them appear yet more wiry. Two-centred arches of two quarter-circle mouldings. The clerestory is of plain lancets on the S side, of quatrefoils on the N. The windows are all above the spandrels, not the apexes of the arcade arches. The aisle windows have nook-shafts and the string course that runs at their sill-level is taken up and round the steep arches of the doorways. The transepts are separated from the aisles by arcades of two bays - an almost confusing enrichment of the spatial impressions. These arches rest on piers with four filleted shafts and four hollows between. In the N transept an ogee-headed Piscina. Between this transept and the aisle a big MONUMENT, contemporary with the architecture: blank ogee arcading on the tomb-chest, canopy with finely shafted jambs and ogee arch, cusped and sub-cusped. On the tomb-chest BRASS to Sir Roger de Trumpington d. 1289, an effigy older than the monument. The brass is the second oldest in England. Cross-legged, with mail coif. - FONT. Perp,  octagonal with traceried stem and quatrefoil panels. Heads to support the bowl. - ROOD SCREEN. Nothing left but the exceptionally richly adorned dado. - PULPIT. Simply panelled; early to mid C17. From the chapel of Emmanuel College Cambridge. - STAINED GLASS. Jumble of old fragments in the E window. In a N chancel window two excellent figures of St Peter and St Paul; C13. - CROSS. Base of the village cross under the tower, inscribed ‘Orate pro animabus Johannis Stokton et Agnetis uxoris eius’, c. 1475. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten 1660. - MONUMENT. Tablet, inscription only to F. P. Campbell Pemberton d. 1914 in Belgium. An outstanding early Work of Eric Gill.

Trumpington, Cambridgeshire

Trumpington, Cambridgeshire

TRUMPINGTON. It is in modern poetry (in Rupert Brooke and Tennyson) and it has a place in the history of our medieval craftsmanship. Many a Cambridge man since Chaucer has taken the way past King’s and Peterhouse which begins as Trumpington Street and ends two miles away at Trumpington Church; and some, like Rupert Brooke, have passed by Chaucer’s mill, where the Cam divides Trumpington from Grantchester:-

Beside the pleasant mill of Trumpington
I laughed with Chaucer in the hawthorn glade.

Tennyson brought it into the Story of the Miller’s Daughter:

From the bridge I leaned to hear
The mill dam rushing down with noise
And see the minnows everywhere
In crystal eddies glance and poise,

But here is something which stood in England long before our poetry began, long before the great medieval brass of Roger Trumpington was made. On the way to the village from Cambridge is the first milestone set up in England after Roman times. It was put here in 1729, when milestones painted with the crescent of Trinity Hall were set up by the College far and wide; but this first of our milestones for over a thousand years is an actual Roman stone. Old as it is there were roads here before the Romans, trackways of Iron Age Men who lived and fought and were buried here with their weapons and their pottery, much of which is to be seen in Cambridge Museum.

Between the slow-moving river and the fast-moving traffic of the London road are Trumpington’s old houses and trees, and a medieval church still beautiful though much restored. The grey walls, the delicate clustered pillars, and the lofty arches make a stately picture as we see them from the sanctuary, the arcades soaring up to a clerestory of trefoiled lancets on one side and round quatrefoils on the other. Very charming are the windows of 14th century tracery, with a medley of medieval glass in the east window and two headless saints with more fragments in another. The heads of 15th century folk are carved with angels round the bowl and stem of the font, a king, a bishop, and some odd looking fellows among them. Only the base of the 15th century oak chancel screen is left, but it has some good carving, coloured and gilded. The pulpit is Jacobean and there is an older ironbound chest like a family trunk.

The most precious of all the possessions of this church is the great brass portrait of Sir Roger de Trumpington, who went with our future Edward the First on the Crusade which so nearly ended in Edward’s death by an assassin. There is only one brass portrait in England earlier than this, that of the Surrey knight Sir John D’Abernon at Stoke D’Abernon. Sir Roger here is portrayed as a cross-
legged knight six feet four inches tall, with his sword in a dog’s mouth and his head on a helmet secured by a chain to his girdle. He lies on a 14th century canopied tomb, with a rich arch from which the heads of men and women look down on him.

The block of stone under the tower arch begging us to pray for the souls of John Stockton and his wife is all that is left of the wayside cross they gave the village 500 years ago. Where it stood on the main road is now a striking cross to 36 men killed by war, its shaft carved with the Madonna, St George, and St Michael, and a Tommy trudging along while shells splinter the trees round him.

Most of the 36 must in their youth have been thrilled with the tales of G. A. Henty, who made of war an adventure far different from their experience. This Victorian best-seller was a Trumpington man, born here 1832. Many of the wars he wrote about he had witnessed, first on active service in the Crimea, and later as a war correspondent with Garibaldi, Lord Napier, with the French starving in Paris during the Commune, with Lord Wolseley in Ashanti, till his health gave out and he settled down to writing adventure books for boys, about three a year. In 1902 he died on board his yacht in Weymouth harbour. Another writer here before him was Christopher Anstey of Anstey Hall, who delighted our great-grandfathers with his new Bath Guide, written in the days of Beau Nash. At Old Mill House lived the traveller and naturalist Dr F. H. H. Guillemard, who loved to tell how his ancestor came over from France, not with the Conqueror but in a wardrobe, a Huguenot escaping persecution. The wardrobe was here when he died in 1934 and may be here still. We can only imagine how he used to regret the pile of three-cornered Cape stamps which he collected as a boy and which his mother burned during spring cleaning. She could scarcely foresee that one day they would be worth a small fortune.

In the churchyard sleeps another famous man, Henry Fawcett, the blind reformer of Mr Gladstone’s day, his life summed up in these words on his tomb, Speak unto the people that they go forward.

Nemesis overtook him as he was entering on his career; it came in a moment. Out shooting, he was struck in the face by two pellets from his father’s gun, and each pellet took an eye. His father himself was short sighted, and now, in an instant, the son was totally blind. In ten minutes he had formed a resolution. He resolved never to complain and not to permit the accident to cause any deviation from the career already planned for him. He took up his fellowship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and in a few years made his name as a professor of economics, and author of a book on that subject which attracted wide attention. At 32 he entered Parliament, a brave and independent figure, subject to no party servitude, but unswervingly devoted to reform. His enlightened interest in Eastern affairs won him the title of Member for India. In 1880 Mr Gladstone made him Postmaster-General, an office in which he was a brilliant revolutionary, giving us sixpenny telegrams, the parcel post, and postal orders.

All through his parliamentary career of over 20 years he was one of the most progressive spirits, a blithe and gallant soul, who insisted that his fellows should treat him on terms of equality. "Do not patronise those who are blind," he used to say to his friends; "treat us without reference to our misfortune; and, above all, help us to be independent." He lived valiantly up to his precepts. He enjoyed life to the full; in his blindness he was a successful fisherman, a finished and fearless horseman, a tireless pedestrian, and a remarkable skater. In company he was the merriest of the party, a wit, a romp, a delightful companion. It was a point of honour with him always to speak of having seen this or read that. He had the good fortune to meet and marry Millicent Garrett, who lived for her husband and their home but won fame as one of the first advocates of votes for women. She came of an old Suffolk family at Aldeburgh, and is remembered as one of the most brilliant women of her generation.

Hauxton, Cambridgeshire

St Edmund was, without doubt, the highlight of the day.

This little church is one of the oldest and most interesting in Cambridgeshire and is dedicated to St. Edmund, King and Martyr. A church has stood on this site for over a thousand years. By 878 the Danes had been subdued by King Alfred the Great. During the next century Abbeys, including Ely, which had been sacked were restored and it is believed that a little wooden church was built about 969 in Hauxton or Hasucestune as it was then called. This was the forerunner of the later stone church dedicated to St. Edmund.

The oldest portions of the present church, early Norman work, were most likely built about 1109 when Herve le Breton, the first Bishop of Ely was consecrated. At that time the Abbey estates were divided and apportioned and the See of Ely was established. The church, built of clunch and rubble, stone and flint, then consisted of a small Nave, and an apsidal Chancel. The very fine and massive Chancel Arch is a splendid example of the original work. There are two very early Norman windows in the Chancel, and two of later Norman in the Nave. There is a plain Norman doorway on the north side of the Nave, and another of a more elaborate design on the south side, also Norman and not dissimilar to that of the Prior’s doorway at Ely Cathedral.

In 1229 considerable alterations were made to the building. The Apse was pulled down, the Chancel lengthened and finished off square with a triple window, and two new Altars were erected, north and south of the Chancel Arch. The mouldings of the Arch on the north side remain, the mouldings on the south side were cut away when the Rood Screen was installed in the fifteenth century. The Nave also was lengthened at this time by about 10 feet, and the original north lancet window still remains, although that on the south side was replaced in the eighteenth century.

In the middle of the fourteenth century two light windows were put in the Chancel, and two Chapels were built out on the north and south sides of the Nave near the Chancel. The north Chapel projected farther east than the south one, and abutted against the Chancel wall, and thus the bowtell of that angle has disappeared. These side Chapels were pulled down probably at the beginning of the sixteenth century, but the foundations of both of them have been traced and the Arches of both into the Nave, which were filled in when the Chapels were pulled down, are still to be seen. They show a width of about 10 feet.

In the fifteenth century further alterations and additions were made. The present beautiful and simple Nave roof was put on and a Rood Screen and Loft were built, although these latter were taken down again in 1860. The Tower also was built in the fifteenth century There is a date A.D. 1459 on one of the beams of its inside roof, together with mason marks and the name Jo Choil 29. He was probably a master mason and in charge of the work. On this beam too are the letters M.G. which could stand for Miles Graye who made the bells. In the centre of the inside roof of the Tower, an aperture had to be made so that the bells could be hoisted up to their present position, and when this aperture was again filled up, Miles Graye may have had his initials carved on the beam.

In the south aisle is a beautiful and rare thirteenth century fresco of Saint Thomas a Becket. This is one of the very earliest paintings of the Saint still in existence and is one of only two, or possibly three, of the period which do not show the martyrdom. On 13th March 1643 the notorious Puritan, William Dowsing, who had wreaked such havoc in the churches of East Anglia, visited St. Edmund’s church and continued his work of destruction. An extract from his journal reads “March 13,1643. We destroyed a crucifix, three popish pictures, an inscription on brass, and ordered the steps to be levelled." Fortunately the niche containing the fresco of St. Thomas had been walled up earlier and so the painting was saved. It came to light during further alterations in 1860 when the Rood Screen and Loft were taken down. The damaged section is the result of a squint being cut completely through the wall when the fresco was hidden from view. The following extract is taken from Bentham’s "History of Ely":

"At the neighbouring village of Hauxton, is to be found one of the very few remaining memorials of the devotion to him (Saint Thomas a Becket), so widely spread in Medieval England, and stamped out with such  thoroughness by King Henry the Eighth; in the little Norman church there, itself a rare sight in our county we may yet see depicted on the wall, the effigy of the Prelate, who beyond all others, was the very embodiment of Norman Ecclesiasticism."

ST EDMUND. Nave, chancel, and W tower. Clunch rubble. Norman nave and Norman chancel. Evidence the plain N doorway and the more distinguished S doorway with one order of colonnettes, a roll-moulding and a chip-carved lintel. Evidence also one S window. The SW angle of the nave is shafted. On the N side a lancet window. As for the chancel it has two Norman windows, and excavation has proved the existence of an apse.The chancel arch is the best Norman piece of the church: with two big semicircular shafts on each side, plain block capitals or cushion capitals (cf. Ickleton) and an arch with two roll-mouldings. To the N of the chancel arch is an E.E. niche for a side altar. A simple one also on the S side, and here instead of a reredos a PAINTING of St Thomas Becket has survived, a relatively early representation of the saint, c. 1250. The jambs of the recess are painted with red scrolls. To the Norman nave transepts were added later. They are now only represented by blocked arches. The semi-octagonal respond of one cuts into a Norman window. The W tower is Perp, including its arch towards the nave. Nice Perp nave roof with thin arched braces and high-pup collar-beams. - PULPIT. Plain, Perp. - BENCHES. Plain, buttressed, straight-headed.

St Edmund (1)

St Thomas a Becket (3)

South door arch

HAUXTON. Away from the road it lies, shepherded by a simple church with a medieval tower rising boldly from the meadows of the Cam. Here herons come to fish, here coaches used to change their horses, here the Romans would cross the river.

The church is a famous little shrine, for there are few in the county keeping so much of their Norman work. Everything is odd and charming within its white walls, windows of four centuries and at all levels, arches and niches squeezed in quaintly here and there, two Norman windows in the chancel and two in the nave, two Norman doorways and two mass dials. Noblest of all in this rich Norman legacy is the splendid chancel arch, massive for so small a place and with two pillars at each side, and cable mouldings in the arch.

In the days when this arch was barely a centenarian a recess was made on each side of it, and on the wall of one of these is Hauxton’s rare treasure, one of the very earliest paintings of Thomas Becket. It is 13th century and shows him in his mitre, with the cross in one hand and the other raised in blessing. It is in almost perfect state, and a remarkable survival of the saint whose pictures Henry the Eighth strove to drive out of every church. It is older than the portrait at Maidstone, and was saved by being hidden for centuries in the wall, Hauxton having the good sense to build up the niche to save it from the destruction of Thomas Cromwell and his king.

The medieval transepts have gone and we see their filled-in arches, but the font has been here 700 years. There are many 500-year-old benches, and the roof has delicately arched beams made by Tudor carpenters. We noticed that two vicars here covered a span of 103 years of service, through the French Revolution till after the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. They were Thomas Finch who came in 1788 and was followed in 1837 by George Williams.

Flickr set.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Harston, Cambridgeshire

All Saints is idyllically sited beside the Cam, I imagine on a nice day it is truly wonderful. The churchyard is tiny which makes the church, and particularly the tower, seem huge - which it is. I rather liked the exterior but inside there is little of interest (and it's all a bit damp and shabby) with the exception of the strangest corbels I've seen to date. I have to say that they save the interior from total dreariness and actually elevate it to extraordinary.

ALL SAINTS. Stately embattled church of flint and stone rubble. The N side is the show-side. Here the aisles have three-light instead of two-light windows. Here also a high embattled rood stair turret. Chancel rebuilt 1853. The rest entirely Perp. W tower with clasping buttresses, small quatrefoil windows, Perp bell-openings, battlements and spike. The arcades have a flat projection without capital to the nave, intermediate mouldings, and a demi-shaft with capital only to the arch opening. Perp chancel arch and Perp clerestory. Nave roof of low pitch on figure corbels. They carry tie-beams. - ROOD SCREEN of one-light divisions, depressed round arches with little tracery above. - PULPIT. Perp with ogee-arched panels with a little tracery above the ogees.

Corbel (13) Corbel (15) Corbel (16) Corbel (19) Corbel (20) Corbel (22)
Corbel (25) Corbel (27)

HARSTON. Through its long wide street the traffic passes endlessly, for it is on the main road to Cambridge used by undergraduates in a hurry. Behind the trees and gardens or tucked away in pleasant corners are some delightful things.

The Upper Cam passes by the churchyard and the mill, and saunters with many a willow-fringed pool through Burnt Bridges. We found here a party of Boy Scouts camping by the stream, the blue smoke curling up from their fire, and we wondered if they guessed that thousands of years ago a traveller may have come upon the same scene with Beaker Folk for scouts, for here was one of the most ancient trackways in the eastern counties.

Long after these mysterious invaders the Romans had a settlement here, and in two Harston houses are remarkable collections of their pottery, and glass dug up from the fields. Dug up from the same fields in the war were coprolites, fossil evidence of ancient beasts that roamed the valley before man found it. There is a beautiful Tudor manor house by the church, perhaps on the site of a manor house of Saxon days; and at the cross roads is the 17th century Harston House, also most comely with its red brick windows. The water mill is not so old as either, but it stands where the water wheels of an older mill were turning in the 13th century.

Very charming is the corner where the church stands by the river, with the vicar’s garden next door. It has stood 500 years as we see it, but the quaint stone figures supporting the roof of the nave are perhaps Norman. Some are sitting on their haunches, one has a pitcher, and one has what looks like a horn in its mouth. There are fragments of old glass, and the font and the pulpit are medieval, the pulpit one of about 100 medieval ones in wood still left in England.

Flickr set.

Grantchester, Cambridgeshire

I had a meeting in Cambridge last Tuesday so decided to fill in a few holes in my visit map and left early to drop in on Harston, Hauxton, Trumpington and Grantchester. Following a glorious weekend of sunshine, which seemed to presage Spring, it was overcast with an easterly wind and frankly, bloody cold - not ideal churching conditions.

I don't know whether it was the dour 'Cambridge' style of the churches, the weather or a combination of both but I was severely disappointed.

Grantchester itself is lovely, a little too far up it's arse for my taste, but still lovely nevertheless and SS Andrew and Mary does not detract. The church and the setting are both perfect but the interior was dark and gloomy and lacked soul. The problem lies with the Victorian south aisle, the truly hideous arches and, I suspect years of mistreatment during the reformation, Dowsing's attentions and the said Victorian makeover. Having said that I took 58 pictures so there is some interest therein, particularly the chancel which I imagine on a bright day would be light and airy. The solution seems to be to visit when the sun is out!

The churches suffered comparison with my trip on Friday - back to sunshine, relative warmth and a romp through Suffolk with Cavendish and Long Melford thrown in...any Cambridgeshire church is going to find it hard to live up to those high standards!

ST ANDREW AND ST MARY. That there was a Norman or a Late Saxon church here is proved by the fragments placed in the S wall when this was rebuilt in 1877. There are a small window, some interlace panels, and some zigzag. As for the present church what raises it high above the run of Cambridgeshire village churches is its splendid chancel. Outside it is ashlar-faced and has windows with decidedly original flowing tracery, especially one design occurring twice on the N and once on the S side. These side windows are of three lights, the E window is of five and of a more common Dec type of tracery (renewed). Internally all these windows have nook-shafts, and between them are tall two-light blank arches under one nodding ogee arch. Nodding ogee arches above the sculpture niches l. and r. of the E window, and even above the piscina. Low ogee recess in the N wall, no doubt once containing the tomb of the founder or donor of this chancel. The designers came probably from the Lady Chapel workshop at Ely. Chancel arch double-chamfered on semi-octagonal responds. The rest of the church is quickly described. W tower plastered and embattled with a short lead spire. Two W windows above each other, the lower with the shield of Bishop Fordham of Ely who ruled from 1388 to 1426. That dates the tower. Nave without aisles; Perp windows. The easternmost of them goes lower down than the others and has an elaborately moulded frame. It may replace a Dec transept window. N porch half-timbered. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten of 1648 ; Paten of 1723. MONUMENT. Now at the E end of the S aisle. Tomb-chest with five quatrefoil panels. Perp arch above with traceried spandrels.

SS Andrew & Mary (3)

SS Andrew & Mary (4)

Pelican in her piety (1)

Norman window

Mee has a fulsome entry for Grantchester so I've extracted his thoughts on the church:

The medieval church has a small window which may be Saxon, and part of a Norman doorway, and built with them into the walls are Roman tiles and pieces of a Roman quern. The massive round bowl of the font is Norman.

It is a Tudor porch with a timbered gable which leads us inside, where candles still light the dim hours, burning in upright candelabra standing like little trees among the benches. There is a Jacobean pulpit and fragments of old glass in the windows, but it is the lovely 14th century chancel that Grantchester’s people delight in; it is an exquisite possession. The walls on each side above the stringcourse have a series of windows and fine niches in brick making an arcade of niches linking up the windows with their flowing tracery. The decoration runs round the east wall where the lovely window has tracery like a great butterfly among leaves. The arch into the chancel is 15th century. A low medieval tomb carved with flowers and shields has lost its brasses. A brass inscription tells of Robert Nimmo, a naval chaplain who was drowned on his homeward voyage in 1880. In the churchyard lies the first principal of Newnham College, Anne Jemina Clough. Here also is the peace memorial with Rupert Brooke’s name and 16 others, the "men with splendid

Flickr set.