Tuesday, 30 August 2011

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.

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