Thursday, 1 September 2011

Gilston, Hertfordshire

Most, if not all, churches I visit leave some abiding memory - either good or bad - but St Mary has left absolutely nothing. I visited in May and despite the fact that it has memorials to family tree members (the Gores) I don't remember it at all. It's a perfectly pleasant enough church, typical of this part of Hertfordshire and perhaps that's the problem - it's just typical.

ST MARY. Basically C13; see the W doorway of three orders, the chancel lancets, and the N doorway and one N window of the nave, the latter with elementary plate tracery. The upper parts of the tower probably late C16 (brick with S stair turret; cf. Sawbridgeworth). The N aisle is old, the S aisle C19. The arcades are low and have quatrefoil piers with later arches. - FONT. Hexagonal, C12, of Purbeck marble, with. shallow blank arches. - SCREEN. A survival of firstate importance. Evidently late C13 and well enough preserved to have made reconstruction possible. Tall dado, shafts thin and only 2 ft long, trefoiled pointed arches and stylized flowers in the spandrels. Straight top. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, 1562 ; Paten, c17 5 Flagon, 1697. - MONUMENTS. Two good big mid C17 epitaphs: Bridget Gore d. 1659, white standing figure in shroud in front of an oval black niche, drapes l. and r., and weeping putti wiping their eyes with them. The type had been made popular by John Donne’s tomb in St Paul’s Cathedral. - Sir John Gore d. 1659, black and white, with long inscription flanked by blank columns; thin curly broken pediment with small figures on it; signed by Joshua Marshall.

St Mary (1)

Bridget Gore 1657 (1)

Graffitti (2)

Gilston. It has homes on the highway near the River Stort and others on the byway skirting the park of the great house, once the home of the Plumer family, described with such charm by Charles Lamb in his essay on Blakesmoor. It was one of the kind hearted squires here, Colonel John Plumer, who befriended poor Jane Wenham of Walkern, the last Englishwoman sentenced to death for witchcraft.

In the gently undulating park is a lake through which the Fiddlers Brook plays its way to the river in tune with the surrounding calm, and high up beyond a group of giant walnut trees is the church, basically 13th century and though much changed with the centuries still keeping a fine doorway (now blocked up), a coffin lid with a cross, and a font bowl, all 700 years old. Almost as old, but of a rarer beauty, is the oak chancel screen with roses carved above its trefoil arches and graceful pillars only an inch wide. The upper part of the tower is of 16th-century brick. In the west window is a coloured shield of Sir William Estfield, Sheriff of London in 1429, and in the chancel are monuments to the Gores, forerunners of the Plumers at the great house, among them being a tablet to Sir John Gore who sat in Cromwell’s Parliament, and a quaint figure of his four-year-old Bridget who fell asleep two years before him.

The village inn, 300 years old, boasts the proud name of Plume of Feathers, but stands humbly at Pye Corner.

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