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.

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