Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Foxton, Cambridgeshire

St Laurence has some fabulous roof angels and bosses but the thing that sticks in my mind is the CWGC headstone for Wing Commander Anthony Hawken who died on 28th November 2001 - I love the fact that the CWGC are still remembering servicemen who fell not just in WWI & II but also those who serve today.

ST LAURENCE. An indulgence was granted in 1456 to those who would contribute to the building of chancel, nave, and campanile. It seems, however, as if only the tower was really rebuilt at that time. The chancel with its three lancet windows of even height at the E end and traces of a double opening above them in the gable belongs clearly to the C13. Inside shafts with shaftrings between the windows, and a hood-mould ornamented with dog-tooth. Double Piscina of the Jesus College type - but the arch arrangement seems a C19 reconstruction. The N and S windows of the chancel look a little later, c. 1300 and early C14. The N arcade of three bays also c. 1300; piers with strong demi-shafts with fillets and very fine convex curves in the diagonals. The arch starts with a broach and has one wave moulding. The S arcade has one Perp bay and then two with demi-shafts and keeled thin shafts in the diagonals. Double-chamfered arches. These piers go well with the Dec (reticulated) E window of the S transept, i.e. E end of the S aisle. The other S aisle windows Early  Dec but suspicious. Restoration of the church 1881 by Ewan Christian. The N aisle windows Dec, and the E window again reticulated. The church has one odd anomaly, hard to explain. The clerestory is Perp, but its first windows from the W on both the N and S sides are Dec. The aisles do not start immediately E of the tower. There is a piece of plain wall first and up in that piece are the Dec clerestory windows. The W tower is C15 from the arch towards the nave to the embattled top (spike behind the battlements). What then happened? Chancel roof with arched braces and a collar-beam high up. The angels at the springing of the braces and on the wall-plate much repaired. - ROOD SCREEN. Only the dado is old. - PARCLOSE SCREEN. With simple graceful one-light divisions. - BENCHES. Plain, straight-topped, buttressed. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten 1569.

 2001 RAF Wing Com Anthony Hawken 57

 St Laurence (2)

 Roof angel (12)

FOXTON. It has many thatched cottages and an old flint church which had a tower added to it 500 years ago, when the nave arcades were two centuries old. From the 13th century also come the crude oval font and a beautiful east window made up of three tall lancets with deep splays, shafts carrying moulded arches, and carved hoods. There are two medieval oak screens, the one in the chancel arch having a half-timbered wall above it. The line roofs have 15th century beams and bosses carved with flowers, animals, and people, and there are 15th century benches in the clerestoried nave. Both aisles have fine east windows 600 years old, and in one are fragments of the original glass.


Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire

St Mary the Virgin is just wrong. The nave and chancel roofs have hideous giant slates which, from a distance, I mistook for corrugated iron and that's about it - my antipathy might be due to its locked status.

I did like the weather vane though and some headstones.

ST MARY. W tower E.E., large, spacious, and dignified. A certain frigid perfection is perhaps due to the fact that it was rebuilt entirely by Pearson in 1881. Inside it has arches to the N, S, and E. The E arch is distinguished by some dog-tooth decoration. N aisle earliest C14, S aisle Dec, S porch also C14. The chancel is a fine piece of Dec design, with a five-light E window of flowing tracery and side windows of the same kind. The westernmost of them reach lower down and have transomes. To the l. and r. of the E window (and also the S aisle E window) are ogee-headed statue niches. Perp clerestory, some Perp S aisle windows, Perp chancel arch and, the most important contribution of the end of the Middle Ages, Perp arcade, with piers, flat to the nave, but with shafts to the arches and moulded hollows between. Capitals only to the shafts. Nave roof with tie-beams on arched braces and king-posts. Nothing special. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with angels in enriched quatrefoils, holding shields. - STAINED GLASS. S aisle E window 1898 by Kempe. - MONUMENT. John Bones d. 1813, by S. Manning of London, a very handsome piece, with two elegant mourning female figures bent over an urn.

St Mary the Virgin (2)

Light blue

Headstone (1)

FEN DITTON. It is famous for its thatched cottages and its church are on a charming slope by the river, and at Ditton Corner in June all is alive with fluttering skirts and eager eyes, for it is the Grand Stand from which to view the races on the Cam in Cambridge Eights Week.

It lies at one end of the Fleam Dyke, the great earthwork built by prehistoric Britons for defence and long used as a highway. We come into the church by a doorway 500 years old, sheltered by the old timbers of the porch in which we found a swallow building her nest - yea, the swallow hath found a house. There are old timbers in the roofs, with massive beams and kingposts sheltering the nave. We are in the presence here of our three great building centuries, for the four massive arches of the tower are all 13th century, the chancel is just 14th, and the light and lofty arcades are 15th. There are 15th century clerestory windows, and a font with winged angels from the same age. On a windowsill we found fragments of old stone carved with angels with gold wings, and hanging on a wall we found a quaint possession, the fiddle of old Jack Harvey, who used to play it here till he died at 71. Like Watts’s harp in his famous picture of Hope, it has only one string left. There is also a brass tablet to Sir William Ridgeway, a familiar figure here for 45 years; his tablet is engraved with a camel loaded with two chests, and a squirrel sitting on a stump eating nuts. Under a spreading chestnut tree in the churchyard is a pathetic wooden cross from Flanders.

Elmswell, Suffolk

St John the Divine dominates the surrounding countryside, is highly visible, situated right at the edge of the village on a fairly busy road and is therefore, obviously, locked.

Having made a specific journey out of my catchment area to visit this church, which internet research (unusual I know), led me to believe would be open, this was particularly galling - it's bloody magnificent though.

ST JOHN BAPTIST. W tower with ‘probably the finest flint and stone devices’ of Suffolk (Cautley). They include two chalices and a lily in a vase. Many emblems and initials in the battlements and also panelling. S aisle (much renewed) and S porch also with flushwork emblems; N aisle of 1872; chancel of 1864. Perp five-bay arcade. The clerestory not with double the number of windows. Inside below the windows a fleuron frieze. On this wall shafts for the former roof. - FONT. Base with Ox, two Eagles, Pelican. Bowl with shields in foiled shapes. On the shields the letters of the name I. Hedge. Retooled. - PARCLOSE SCREEN. Good, with two-light divisions. - BENCH ENDS. Some, with poppy-heads and blank tracery. - MONUMENT. Sir Robert Gardener d. 1619. Standing monument with stiff semi-reclining figure. By his feet a rhinoceros, his crest. To the l. his son, kneeling. At the foot of the monument lie Sir Robert’s robes and part of his armour. Two columns carry a large coffered arch. - (CHURCHYARD CROSS. The base is old and has good carvings. LG).

St John the Divine (1)

St John the Divine (2)

ELMSWELL. To this village in 1433 came the devout young Henry the Sixth, guest of the Abbot of Bury St Edmunds, who was lord of the manor here with a Grange where a king might dwell in comfort. The abbot and his royal visitor would have come riding along the lord’s highway which linked this place with the abbey eight miles away, and parts of it can still be traced.

On a green hill above a little stream is a splendid church of the 14th and 15th centuries. The porch and the tower are remarkable for their elaborate flint and stone ornament with wheels and crosses, and pots of lilies running round the base of the tower, on the buttresses, and along the parapets. On a buttress near the priest’s door is a mass dial.

Inside above the south door is a grim old stone head. The line lofty tower arch rests on two round columns with graceful capitals. There is a 14th century font with a bowl supported by eight angels and guarded by three eagles and a stag, ten richly-carved 14th century benches with fine poppyheads, and a medieval screen with a quaint little man looking out from the tracery at the top and birds from the foliage below. The chancel has a marble tablet to Joseph Lawson, who ministered here for 54 years last century, and the north chapel has a magnificent monument to Sir Robert Gardener, a 16th century Chief Justice of Ireland. Resplendent in red robes and a blue waistcoat, his robe trimmed with gold and lined with ermine, he rests his skull-capped head on a red and green cushion, and has in one hand his gloves and in the other a book, marking the page with his finger.

At his feet kneels William, "son of good hope," richly attired, and between them is a queer heraldic creature.

The churchyard cross has a 14th century base with tracery and canopied niches, and just outside are the almshouses founded by the benevolent Irish judge.

Eastwick, Hertfordshire

St Botolph was locked which seems a shame - especially since it houses "the best C13 effigy in the county".

ST BOTOLPH. A short yew avenue leads to the church which was rebuilt in 1872 by Blomfield, except for the chancel arch and the W tower. Blomfield’s church consists of nave and chancel only and is of no interest. The chancel arch is an astonishingly ambitious piece of C13 design with three orders of tall Purbeck shafts and a complexly moulded arch, as if for a cathedral (cf. Standon). - PLATE. Paten, 1705;  Chalice, 1719; Paten, 1735. - MONUMENTS. Under the tower the best C13 effigy in the county, a marble Knight in chain mail with long surcoat. His legs are crossed. - Brass to Joan Lee d. 1564. - Epitaph to Mary Plummer d. 1700, good, of diptych type, with three Corinthian columns. - Epitaph to Walter Plummer d. 1746, so good that it may well be by Rysbrack (see the delightful cherubs’ heads and the exquisitely carved classical details of frieze and pediment).

St Botolph (1)
Eastwick. Behind its few cottages are meadows with high and solitary trees and a distant gleam of the River Stort as it turns south into Essex. The church, reached between walls of clipped yew, has changed much; but, though it was rebuilt last century, except the tower, the richly moulded stones of its first chancel arch were set up again as they were 700 years ago and the old gargoyles are back on the tower. In the tower hang two medieval bells, and a third which was new when it tolled for Queen Elizabeth I; and below them is the portrait of an Elizabethan lady, Joan Lec, looking down from her brass on a stone knight of the 13th century who lies cross legged in chain mail with his long sword. They are an interesting couple, both showing in detail the costume of their time.


Colne Engaine, Essex

A nice lych gate from 1912 greets you on a pretty road in the middle of the village, with dominating St Andrew on top of the hill. I approached from the north and the church is barely visible, it was not until I hit the south that I realised how commanding it is.

The chancel, nave and aisles are 14th century (as usual extensively altered over successive years) whilst the handsome brick tower is Tudor built by John de Vere, Earl of Oxford - or at least under his orders.

Heavily restored much of it's internal interest has been lost.

ST ANDREW. The W tower with diagonal buttresses is C14 below, early C16 brick above, with battlements on a trefoiled corbel frieze and polygonal pinnacles. Norman nave, see the W quoins and N and S traces of windows. Much Roman brick re-used. In the chancel a doorway and a blocked lancet window of the early C13. The S porch is of brick, with stepped battlements and an older timber gable above. No fittings of interest.

St Andrew (2)


COLNE ENGAINE. It is grouped round its church on a hill and has commanding views of the Colne valley. There are Roman tiles in the Norman nave, and a tower which was begun in the 14th century and finished 200 years later with two stages of brickwork. Its battlements and pinnacles project over a corbel table, and on one side is a shield with a mullet, the crest of the Earls of Oxford who were neighbours in the next village. We see the beautiful Tudor brickwork again in the porch, which has a stepped arch over the doorway with a new lead figure of St Andrew. The nave roof is 500 years old, and one of its corbels is a man who has been laughing all the time. There is a handsome modern eagle lectern, a fine 14th century piscina, and a brilliant east window showing the King of Kings and St Michael in a company of saints and martyrs and angels kneeling on the clouds. The church has a link with London and the Bluecoat boys. Its rectors are appointed by the Lord Mayor in his capacity as Governor of Christ’s Hospital, and here on the wall are tablets to two who were headmasters of that school. In the 100 acres of Colne Park stands a tall column put up in 1791 by the famous architect Sir John Soane; and a mile or so away is Hungry Hall, which, in spite of its name, has a great barn of seven bays in which to store the winter needs of man and beast.

East Hatley, Cambridgeshire

St Denis is a redundant church, a nature reserve and in serious danger of falling down. It would be fantastic if it could receive the same loving care that St Bartholomew at Layston is receiving rather than be left to die a slow and lingering death.

ST DENYS. Nothing but nave and chancel, the chancel rebuilt in 1874. At the same time the nave was heavily restored and probably received its bell-cote. The nave is dated by its windows c. 1300. Ogee-headed, i.e. later, niches l. and r. of the chancel arch. Over the S doorway the date 1673 and a coat of arms. What do they represent? - BRASS to a Lady, c. 1520, nave floor, the figure 26 in.

St Denis (2)


St Denis (3)

EAST HATLEY. Its few farms and cottages and the little old church made new are in the meadows sheltered by the woodlands of Hatley Park. There is an altar tomb in the church to Mistress Constance Castell whose family owned the park in Shakespeare’s day, and the brass portrait of a lady a hundred years older, wearing a fur-lined gown and the kennel headdress fashionable before Queen Elizabeth was born.

Drinkstone, Suffolk

All Saints stands out for its poppyheads and chancel screen and Mee is unusually succinct. Whilst I except that Drinkstone is not Long Melford I think it merits slightly more of an entry than he gives even if not all the poppyheads are ancient.

ALL SAINTS. Dec chancel, the E Window new and the former (of three lights with flowing tracery) re-used, it seems, on the S side. Dec N aisle E and w windows with segmental heads. Dec arcades, N and S, with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. Perp aisle windows. Brick tower of c. 1694 (see inscription), the brickwork in chequer pattern of red and blue. - FONT. Octagonal, C13, of Purbeck marble, with the usual pair of fiat blank arches on each side. - SCREEN. Tall, one-light divisions, with ogee arches. Close panel-tracery above them. Original cresting. - BENCHES. Some with simple poppy-heads. Parts of a traceried front re-set in the back of the Sedilia. - PANELLING. In the sanctuary; C17. - STAINED GLASS. Fragments in chancel and aisles, notably, though much restored, a seated Virgin (chancel N), and several whole figures (chancel S). - TILES. Some S of the pulpit. - PLATE. Paten 1564; Cup 1567. - MONUMENT. The pulpit stands on a base which seems a very low tomb-chest or part of an Easter Sepulchre. The front is decorated with circles with two, three, or four mouchettes; early or mid C14 probably.

Poppyhead (15)

Rood screen (1)

Poppyhead (7)


DRINKSTONE. Its flint church has a brick tower and is mostly 500 and 600 years old. Outside one of the walls a little stone cock is perched - appropriately enough on the memorial of Simon Cocksedge. The old chancel screen is what we come here to see, for its carving and colouring make it a time sight. The bottom panels are gay with red and green, their beautiful arches with gilded flowers and foliage in the spandrels. The top is magnificent with rich tracery and elaborate coloured canopies. More beautiful carving is on the front of a panelled chest; and round the 13th century font there are sunken arches. We found in this church some old poppyheads, old tiles below the lectern, and old glass showing foliage and canopies of gold.


Croydon, Cambridgeshire

All Saints was firmly locked even though it has a house slap bang next to it, on the face of it this is probably due to HSE regulations since this church epitomises dilapidation. I would, however, have loved to have gained access because it's simplicity is lovely and the setting is wonderful.

ALL SAINTS. A humble church, as most of the churches around are. C14 S arcade with octagonal piers, double-chamfered arches and corbel-heads. The W bay of the aisle has been pulled down and the arch blocked. Blocked N arcade of the same design, but without corbel heads and with little broaches at the springing of the arches. Perp W tower, see tower arch and windows; brick buttresses. Brick chancel, said to be of the later C17. The church has transepts which, considering its small size, is odd. In the S transept niches to the l. and r. of the E window. - FONT. Norman, square and plain, with angle shafts to the bowl. - PULPIT. A simple desk made up of the panels of a Jacobean pulpit (cf. e.g. Great Eversden nearby).

All Saints (1)

CROYDON. We pass by the woods of Croydon Wilds, a rare place for birds and butterflies, and where the roads meet below the church we find a cross with its noble words:

Sons of this place, let this of you be said,
That you who live are worthy of your dead.
These gave their lives that you who live may reap
A richer harvest ere you fall asleep.

Over all this we look from the church embowered on the hill, so patiently brought back to its old charm after long neglect. Its sloping walls, the tower, and the leaning arcades are 14th century, but the chancel is new. In the south transept is a niche which has long been hidden by a fireplace in the squire’s pew. The massive font comes from early Norman days, the arcaded pulpit is Jacobean, and one of the two women whose heads are carved on the south arcade wears a quaint three-cornered headdress which was the height of fashion 600 years ago.

We read that six centuries ago Croydon’s first vicar died of the Black Death, and last century Edmund Lally was vicar here for 58 years.

Though they have no memorial, three Sir George Downings, father, son, and grandson, are buried in this church. The first was Charles the Second’s ambassador to the Hague, an extraordinary man who died in 1684, leaving his name to London’s most famous street. The last gave his name to Downing College, Cambridge, which he founded before he died in 1749.

It is a sad thing to remember that our famous Downing Street should take its name from a man not worthy of its fame. Sir George Downing, born in 1623, had for his father a sturdy Puritan lawyer, and his mother was a sister of John Winthrop, the famous Governor of Massachusetts.

The family emigrated to America, where George was first a pupil and then a teacher at the new Harvard University. Returning to England in 1645, he joined the Commonwealth forces as chaplain to Colonel Okey, and was promoted by Cromwell to be head of the Army Intelligence Department. His success in this capacity and as a member of Commonwealth Parliaments, during which time he urged Cromwell’s acceptance of the Crown, led to his employment as ambassador, first to France, and next to Holland. His post at the Hague enabled him secretly to ingratiate himself with the exiled Charles, to whom he betrayed secret despatches from home. At the Restoration his perfidy was rewarded by the bestowal of other offices of profit.

His zeal whetted by gain, Downing exerted his skill in luring from Germany into Holland three exiled Commonwealth men, among whom was Colonel Okey, to whom he owed all his early success. Having laid his trap, he and his servants effected the arrest and transport to England of all three, where they were executed. In his comment on the event Pepys writes down his old friend as a perfidious rogue, adding that “all the world takes notice of him for a most ungrateful villain.”

In the dishonourable scheme which enabled Charles to earn a secret pension from Louis the Fourteenth by making war with France on Holland, Downing had a nefarious share, deliberately enraging Dutch opinion and making armed conflict inevitable.

Accumulating great wealth, he took a lease of land in what is now Downing Street, and built houses there, two of them being Number 10 and Number 11 today. His ignoble service to Charles is said to have brought him secret gifts amounting to £80,000, but nothing satisfied his avarice, nothing made him generous, and his mother left it on record that while he was rich and acquiring property he kept her on a starvation pittance. It was his grandson who founded Downing College at Cambridge, thereby redeeming his grandfather’s evil fame to such an extent as he could.

Cottered, Hertfordshire

St John the Baptist is, on the face of it, a fairly run of the mill, bog standard Hertfordshire spiked church, heavily restored but not devastatingly so. It doesn't create a flutter of excitement when encountered but a sense of fondness, like greeting your maiden aunt.

Except that St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers, is depicted on the north wall of the Nave opposite the main doorway. Thought to date from the second half of the 15th century, it was discovered under a thick coat of whitewash when the Victorians carried out an extensive restoration programme in 1886. However, the mural was not completely uncovered until the time of Rev Arthur Granger, Rector here from 1915 to 1925.

Depicted on each side of the main figure are zigzag roads and various roadside crosses along them. On the left at the bottom of the painting is a youth wearing pointed shoes near a tree. A hermit, dressed in a surplice, stands at cross roads with a large red lantern, rather like the old type of telephone kiosk. He is also pulling a rope attached to a bell in a turret high above his head.

On the right hand side of the picture at the base are two men with drawn swords, and high up are some timber framed buildings and two churches. The borders are decorated with flowers connected by a tendril like pattern.

ST JOHN THE BAPTIST. The outstanding feature is the spacious aisleless nave with large three-light transomed Perp windows with four-centred heads. It makes the church appear a palatial Hall. The masonry of the nave is older (see the C14 doorways). Of the C14 also the W tower (see the W window and tower arch). The tower is unbuttressed and has a lead spire. The chancel is lower than the nave. Its windows are Perp but the chancel arch looks early C14. - FONT. Early C18, of lovely grey Derbyshire marble, with baluster stem and fluted bowl. - DOORS. Nave, heavy oak, C15 (?). Vestry, with Late Medieval ironwork. - PAINTING. On the nave wall large figure of St Christopher with indications of river surroundings and much incidental drama of the medieval highway. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, 1711.

St Christopher (1)

St Christopher001

St Christopher detail 1


Corbel (1)
Corbel (2)

Cottered. It gathers about its green, on which cows and donkeys graze in the shadow of tall elms. There is an ancient farmhouse and a church 600 years old. We open the 500-year-old door of the church and find the faded figure of St Christopher greeting us, the background of the scene like a medieval map, with castles and roads, a horseman riding, and a countryman stepping through the meadows, like a picture of our countryside when this church was built in the middle of the 14th century. The lofty nave has a 15th century timber roof and is lit by six medieval transomed windows, some with fragments of their original glass. There is a second old door to the vestry with 16th century ironwork, and the vase-shaped marble font is 18th century. The chapel was built 500 years ago by Edward Pulter of Broadfield Manor, a house that has been made new but keeps the 17th century stables.

Here is one of the oldest houses in the county, a farmhouse known as The Lordship, built 500 years ago and interesting as showing the changes of the 17th century. It has many of its original doorways and much 17th century panelling, but the front door which the village knew for nearly five centuries is now in America.

There died in this village in 1926 a brilliant surgeon who spent his life in public causes, Sir James Cantlie. Here he lies in the churchyard, and on the wall of the church is a white tablet with a bronze medallion showing his kindly face, with the words: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Merciful indeed he was, a Scotsman who went out to China in 1887 as a surgeon, and also spent many years in India, mastering the mystery of tropical sickness and founding the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine. The tablet was set up by the Chinese Minister in London, Dr Alfred Sze, in appreciation of the noble services Sir James Cantlie rendered to China. In the critical days when Dr Sun Yat Sen was kidnapped and held a prisoner in the Chinese Legation in London it was Dr Cantlie who saved his life and enabled him to become the Christian President of the Chinese Republic. Sir James was knighted for his work in the Great War.

Cornish Hall End, Essex

St John the Evangelist is a brick built 19th century (1841) church situated in the centre of this small hamlet about 2.5 miles north of Finchingfield.

Mee missed it but the totally reliable Wikipedia entry states:

Cornish Hall End is on the B1057 three miles north of Finchingfield and 4 miles (6 km) south of Steeple Bumpstead in the Braintree district of Essex. The main part of the village is a ribbon development of about 60 houses on either side of the road with many outlying farms, hamlets and individual houses.

It is approximately 11 miles (18 km) from Braintree, Great Dunmow and Saffron Walden, and about 7 miles (11 km) from Haverhill in Suffolk.

Cornish Hall End is served by a Parish Council which also represents Finchingfield, Shalford & Wethersfield.

As far as I can tell it is always locked.

ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST. 1840 by J. D. Morgan (GR). Red brick with white brick dressings. In the lancet style with a W porch and W angle turrets. A bell-tower added in 1910. 

St John the Evangelist

Clothall, Hertfordshire

St Mary the Virgin is an absolute gem of a church with a quirky design, good brasses and outstanding glass.

The glass in the east window is the glory of the Church; it is thought that there are only two others like it in England, possibly the work of the same man.

It consists of six late 14th century medallions, with the Heads of Christ, the four Evangelists and Mary Magdalene. That of Mary Magdalene is reputed to have come from the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene in the Leper Hospital which stood at Hooksgreen, at the top of a hill about half a mile to the South of the Church. The Hospital was suppressed in 1547. That medallion is of interest for the prominence of Mary's hair, which is probably due to the belief that she was the same Mary who anointed the feet of Christ in the house of the Pharisee, having washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair; but some modern scholarship has rejected that belief.

The medallions are surrounded by small 15th century diamond-shaped quarries, depicting many of the birds of English countryside together with others more exotic. Of the English birds, hawks, partridges, peewits and ducks are all recognisable.

The Canopy Work in the top of the window is pot metal glass of the earlier thirteen hundreds, and the whole has been made up, with some insertions, within a border of 15th century glass.

ST MARY. The church has a SW tower in which is the porch. This is C14; so is the S chapel. The latter is the most interesting part, with an arcade to the nave on unusual piers with semi-octagonal members and a Piscina characteristic of the period. - FONT. C12, of the tabletop type, Purbeck marble, square with shallow blank round-headed arches. - BENCHES. Some bench-ends with poppyheads. - DOOR. In the S doorway, with long iron hinges, probably C14. - STAINED GLASS. Christ, the Virgin, and Saints in medallions, only fragmentarily C15, ornamental quoins with flowers and delightfully drawn birds; thick canopies above; hardly before 1400 and perhaps later. - BRASSES (in the chancel). Early C16 priest, c. 3 ft long; John Vynter d. 1404, Rector of Clothall, c. 3 ft long; John Wryght d. 1519, Rector of Clothall, with scrolls and the Trinity above the figure; two more brasses covered by the chancel stalls.

St Mary the Virgin

Chancel window (2)

Chancel window (8)

Chancel window (10)

Clothall. It is a lonely spot that any traveller must love to see, with a few old thatched cottages and a wonderful little church on a hill, looking over cornfields red with poppies when we called. It is only here that they have crept in, for all round we found fields with some of the finest wheat in England, and there are terraces still to be seen on which men were growing their food in the days before history.

We come into the church by a door studded with the nails of hundreds of church notices, and painted with the name of John Warren - perhaps the name of the proud man who made it in the 14th century. The door opens on a quaint group of old seats raised in tiers to the back of the church. Among their poppyheads stands the little panelled font on pillars, 800 years old with a cover made 300 years ago. The chantry chapel is now the children’s chapel and is 14th century. They saved their pennies to buy vases for it and they keep them filled with flowers. The images have gone from the brackets, but here is still an Old French inscription to a man who died when the chantry was new. The children must love the east window, for it is filled with birds of the countryside, all in glass of the 14th and 15th centuries. There are six heads of saints in the window and every inch of space between is filled with hawks and peewits, ducks and partridges, and all the birds from the fields around. One of the bells has been ringing while all these birds have been singing.

Yet more treasures has this small place, five brasses. They show four rectors of the 15th and 16th centuries, and a mother with her 16 children. The oldest rector here is John Vynter of 1404, shown in his robes, and the three others are John Wright of 1519, Thomas Dalyson of the 16th century, and William Lucas who died in 1602. Unfortunately, his brass and that of Anne Bramfield, with her very big family, are hidden by the pews*.

* The group of seats with poppyheads and the pews obscuring the last two mentioned brasses are no longer extant which in many ways is a shame but does mean we can now see the brasses.

Buntingford, Hertfordshire

Having often been to Mass at St Richard I knew that it was a new build but hadn't realised quite how new, it having been built in 1914. I wasn't going to include it but changed my mind whilst searching for Layston church - to be honest it's not very interesting inside.

Neither Pevsner nor Mee mention it.

St Richard (3)
St Richard of Chichester
St Bartholomew at Layston was a most peculiar experience. Having entered Layston into my sat nav I was presented with something to the affect that no such place exists. Now I knew this was not the case as I had marked it on my google map, so I bravely parked the car and proceeded on foot. As I entered the High Street the first sign I noticed was that of Church Street and, thinking to myself that that's where I'd put a church, walked down it but failed to find a church. Somewhat bemused I decided I needed height to survey the town for a steeple so I started uphill until I came to a sign saying Layston Cemetery.

Thinking to myself that where there's a cemetery there's bound to be a church I continued, walking further and further into the countryside until eventually I spotted the Spire emerging from a pretty dense wood. When I got to the church I found it surrounded by hoardings, covered in scaffolding and with a seriously overgrown churchyard. So I took a few pictures and returned to my car.

When I got home I googled it and came across www.layston-church.org.uk which tells the story of the extraordinary restoration project being under taken by Martin and Mandy.

Basically Layston is a lost village and St Bartholomew was inconveniently placed for the good folk of Buntingford and so was allowed to fall in to disrepair. As a result of the fantastic research that they have undertaken on the 'inhabitants' of the chancel monuments I have found out all sorts of connections back to my 12th GGrandfather, John Crouch, as well as ancillary connections to the Freman family.

So what I had regarded as a failed trip actually turned out to be a huge success!

St Bartholomew (1)

St Bartholomew (3)

Buntingford. A small town on the River Rib, it has a wide stretch of a Roman road for its High Street, full of quaint houses with gables, overhanging storeys, deep archways, and red roofs turned yellow here and there with creeping stone-crop.

By a group of lime trees are the 17th century almshouses, standing round a court filled with flowers; they are the homes of four old men and four old women, founded in 1684, by that famous man of his day, Seth Ward. His portrait hangs inside, and outside are his arms and mitre, carved in stone. He was born at Aspenden, and walked over here every day to the free school till he left for Cambridge. He lost his fellowship there by refusing to take the Covenant, but later was made Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, and, branching into philosophy, started his long controversy with Hobbes. After having been Bishop of Exeter, he became Bishop of Salisbury, and one of his first acts there was to call on his friend Christopher Wren to survey the cathedral. Wren’s report is now in the possession of the Royal Society, of which Seth Ward was the second President.

Close to his almshouses is a red brick chapel, built about 1625 to gather in more of the people of Buntingford than could attend the old church on the hill. Inside is a picture drawn on brass soon after the chapel was finished, showing it, with its vicar Alexander Strange in the pulpit, as it was before the apse and porch were added in 1899; and hanging in the vestry is a charter giving the town permission to hold a market. It has a portrait of Henry VIII on the seal hanging from it.

In a garden farther down the street is a Roman Catholic chapel and priest’s house, with roses climbing up the walls. Robert Hugh Benson lived and wrote many of his novels close by, at Hare Street, and now lies in the graveyard. Son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, he became a priest and private chamberlain to Pope Pius X.

All round are fine old houses. Hare Street has many and near it is the 17th-century Alswick Hall. The Court was the Grammar School 300 years ago, and the Old Manor is a little way out at Corney Bury. In the main street are many 16th- and 17th-century houses and hostelries, one with its sign hanging from magnificent ironwork. An old turret over the archway of the Angel Inn has a clock with one hand, and a bell which the Charity Commissioners (who own the inn) used to have rung whenever there was a service in the chapel down the street or in the church on the hill.

The church on the hill is still called Layston, though nothing else is left of that lost village. The chancel is now used only occasionally, and the nave has, unfortunately, been deprived of its roof. The bells still hang in the 15th-century tower. The chancel is 13th century and the rest mainly late medieval, but the thickness of the nave walls suggests an earlier origin. During repairs a few years ago pieces of carved alabaster work were discovered which when reassembled were found to portray the Crucifixion with the Blessed Virgin and St John. These fragments are now in the Hertford museum, where also is part of the 15th century font.

Close by, in a new little graveyard which we found as bright with flowers as his own decorative work, lies Claud Lovat Fraser, a delightful artist of our time. He was the son of a Buntingford solicitor, and he loved beauty over all. Very early he began to make drawings for books and rhyme sheets - long slips of paper with a poem or a ballad printed on them. People loved them partly because of the verses and the artist’s work, and partly because many hundreds of years ago the same kind of sheets were printed, and balladmongers walked the streets selling them as fishmongers sell fish. Looking at these works of art, some of them not much bigger than a postage-stamp, it would seem that the artist’s greatest genius lay in drawing minute head-pieces and tail-pieces for poems. They look as if he did them with one hand while he was waving the other about, telling a story; they look as if he had just thought about them that minute, and must put them down before he forgot. They are little images of people and places, not as ordinary people see them but as Mr Fraser saw them. He knew that at night tree trunks become "little old men with twisted knees." He knew what a lovely colour a highwayman’s cloak ought to be. He knew exactly, down to a spar, the kind of ship that went a-sailing, a-sailing on the sea.

Braughing, Hertfordshire

I don't know why it has taken me so long to visit St Mary the Virgin as I visited most of its neighbours ages ago but it was well worth finally dropping by. Not only a wealth of interestingness but also some family leads so a double win.

When I visited it was being lime washed - or rather the south aisle was - and the gentleman doing the washing spent ages pointing out interesting features and moving dust cloths so that I could photograph various features.

The first thing you notice is how obviously well loved the church is, it being one of the best maintained churches I've seen. Added to that is the splendid nave roof with angels and one section, by the chancel, exuberantly painted.

ST MARY. With the exception of the chancel (N lancets) entirely early C15.* W tower tall, of three stages, with set-back buttresses and a recessed spire rather than a spike.* W door with ornamented spandrels and niches to the l. and r. Two-storeyed S porch with ornamented spandrels to the doorways, large two-1ight side windows, a two-light upper S window with niches. Battlements and angle pinnacles (that is, everywhere a show of a little more money spent than by most of the neighbouring churches). Embattled clerestory with three-light windows, rood loft turret at the SE end of the nave. Late Perp N and S aisle windows. Tall W tower arch, arcades of four bays with piers of four main shafts and four hollows in the diagonals, the latter without capitals. The arches are re-used from an earlier arcade. Fine nave roof with the sub-principals carried on angels and the E bays panelled and decorated with bosses. - BENCHES. A few C15, buttressed. - STAINED GLASS. E window of 1916-17, just going C20 in style, that is with the leading getting heavier and more severe. (By whom?) - PLATE. Chalice, Paten, and Flagon, 1718. - MONUMENTS. Brass to man and woman, c. 1480, much rubbed off, 18 in. figures (S aisle). - Brass to Barbara Hauchett d. 1561. - Tablet to Sir John Brograve d. 1593, without figure. - Epitaph to Augustin Steward d. 1597, frontal bust, very stiff. - Large standing wall monument to John Brograve d.1625 and his younger brother, two stifily reclining figures, their heads propped up on their elbows, in a reredos framing with big columns and arch between them; in the spandrels the figure of an angel blowing soap bubbles (Vanity) and Father Time. - Large monument to Ralph Freman, D.D., of Hamels, d. 1772 and his wife as well as two other Freemans and their wives. The portraits are in three medallions, each with two profiles, the main one on the severe sarcophagus which forms the centre of the composition. Two putti lie a little awkwardly on their bellies on the volutes of the curved top, Michelangelo’s Medici allegories in reverse; the other medallions are on the sides outside the monument proper. The monument was designed by James Stuart (Athenian Stuart) and carved by the younger Scheemakers.

* In 1416 John Kyllan of London left £5 for the work on the church.

* This, it seems to me, is showing off; It's the apogee of the Hertfordshire spike and a splendid achievement.

Nave ceiling

Augustine Steward 1597 (2)

John d1625 & Charles d1602 Brograve (2)

Braughing. The world does improve; we found here a memorial to an MP who died after being attacked by highwaymen on Hounslow Heath. Of the old church of this pleasant tree-girt place above the River Quin, set 700 years ago in a sloping churchyard where cottage roofs are on a level with the church doors, only the chancel with some lancet windows remains, for the 15th century built anew the nave and the aisles, the porch, and the tall lead spired tower with its grinning gargoyles. They built on a noble scale, and it is all here still, though patched with new stone. Higher than the nave roof rise the turret stairs to the vanished rood loft, and higher than the aisle stands the pinnacled porch with its upper room floorless so that we look up to the vaulted roof. Queer stone faces watch outside the walls, and there are wooden angels in the nave and stone angels in the aisles to hold up the 500-year-old roofs. Modern woodwork makes a good show in the elaborate screen, and on the wall hangs a 17th century painting of the Resurrection, thought to be part of the old altarpiece. A modern font of Caen stone has taken the place of the 14th-century font, which has been brought back into the church after having been cast out. Five of the bells average nearly 350 years.

Augustin Steward appears here in Elizabethan armour in an alabaster bust, but it is two soldier brothers, Charles and John Brograve, who take pride of place, lying in alabaster on their stately Stuart monument. Simeon Brograve has his name painted inside the chapel he bequeathed before he died in 1638, and many others of the family are remembered here. There are also little brass portraits of an unknown 15th century man and his wife (these were covered because of the lime washing; next time I’m passing I’ll stop again and record them).

Several old homes add their testimony to the fact that long generations have found Braughing a pleasant place to live in. On the hills a mile away is the 17th century Upp Hall, with a huge barn of older red and blue brick beside it; and farther still is Rotten Row, a timbered farmhouse still staunchly Elizabethan, though the past three centuries have changed it much indoors. That at least one Roman made his home here is proved by the discovery of such oddments as the shells of the oysters he ate, and a few coins from his purse, as well as a stone sarcophagus.