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.

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