Monday, 29 August 2011

Bengeo, Hertfordshire

Bengeo is a tale of two churches; the Victorian Holy Trinity and the ancient St Leonard.

As you would expect there's not a lot to say about Holy Trinity although I did think it was a rather good Victorian re-creation but very spartan.

St Leonard on the other hand is fascinating but unfortunately only open on Saturday and Sunday afternoon between June and September so my chances of seeing inside any time soon seem remote - which is a shame as it's a rare Norman survival. Apparently it's the oldest building in Hertfordshire and is, I think I'm right in saying, the first apsed church that I've seen in the county. A google search throws up tantalising references to wall paintings but no images - so I'll have to return on a weekend afternoon to see what I missed.

Simon Jenkins says "One of the smallest English counties, Hertfordshire finds excitement hard to come by." - all I can say is that even on an overcast, drizzly day this church excited me, although I have to admit that before I visited I regarded Bengeo as little more than a dull dormitory town.

ST LEONARD. The rare example of a virtually intact Norman village church; nave and chancel with apse. This again is a rarity, at least in Herts (but cf. Great Amwell) The apse has small round-headed windows in the deep inner splays, the nave has one such window on the N side On the S side the windows have been enlarged and altered in the C14 and C15. The brick S porch dates from the C18, the timber bell-cote from the C19. The S and N doorways are original, and the chancel arch has an order of colonnettes with one scroll capital and  the other with the face of a man. The chancel and apse are surprisingly roomy. - S DOOR. Probably C14. - COMMUNION RAILS. C18. - PAINTING. On the nave E wall a C13 Deposition from the Cross and indications of quatrefoil patterns. In the chancel painted ashlaring and a later, superimposed red lozenge pattern. - TILES. Some of the C14 below the Communion Table (cf. Much Hadham). - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, 1626. - MONUMENTS. John Ryde, mural tablet of 1665, by William Stanton. - Humphrey Hall, 1742, by Thos. Adey, proļ¬le medallion held by two putti with rather vacant faces. The background the usual obelisk. - Daniel Minet d. 1790, a modest tablet by Nollekens.

Holy Trinity (3)

St Leonard (4)

Bengeo. The hillside road to this quaintly named village (a little walk out of Hertford and now brought within the borough for civic purposes) passes through some of the finest scenery in the county. From the sandy slopes above two rivers (the Beane and the Rib) flowing past to join the Lea in the valley below, spring larches and firs in rich profusion. With a cottage or two and a 17th century house stands the little church of St Leonard, one of the oldest buildings in Hertfordshire, overlooking the valley. Its inheritors for 800 years or more treated the little building not too well, blocking up or replacing Norman windows and doorways; but except for an 18th century porch and a modern bell-turret the church keeps the plan of its Norman builders. With its round apse it is 68 feet long and 21 wide. An ancient mass dial is on a wall and the doorway is plain Norman, with a door of the 14th century, one of the oldest in the county, still on its hinges. On one of the capitals of the chancel arch is a Norman head, and above the altar is a narrow Norman window below which are 14th century tiles. There are traces of figure painting and masonry pattern at a window and on the walls. The small font is rough and plain, part of a coffin lid forms the sill of a piscina, and the portrait of Humphrey Hall in a medallion held up by two angels has been looking down on it all since 1695.

Bengeo has 19th century church of Holy Trinity to which we come through an attractive avenue of limes, and in it is a reredos interesting because its central panel is the work of George Tinworth, one of the pioneer potters at the Doulton works. He did much relief work for churches; his panel here has on it a relief showing the miraculous draught of fishes.


No comments:

Post a Comment