Tuesday, 30 August 2011

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.

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