Sunday, 6 March 2011

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.

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