Thursday, 1 September 2011

Harlton, Cambridgeshire

The Church of the Assumption was locked when I visited with no keyholders listed but I think this was an anomaly caused by the Royal wedding so I've listed it for a re-visit. I rather liked the odd exterior and the rather good collection of corbels.

I returned, found it open and was blown away; the interior is superb!

ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY. The church lies tucked away, and its exterior is cemented so that one does not expect much pleasure from it. The W tower with spike has lancet windows, i.e. indications of C13 origin, but the lancets are renewed. It is only as one enters the church that one is struck by its splendid, erect proportions, its exceedingly tall four-bay arcades and tower arch (the arcade piers have semi- polygonal shafts and complex receding mouldings in the diagonals) and the elongated transomed windows of the aisles behind the arcade openings. The roofs of nave and aisles are original and plain and solid; of low pitch. The chancel also is of the same style. That style is besides of considerable interest to the historian. The four-petal tracery in the heads of windows is a familiar early C14 motif, but there are plenty of typically Perp panelling motifs as well, especially in the broad five-light E window, and so the church seems to have been designed at the moment of transition from Dec to Perp. Inside the chancel two very elaborate niches l. and r. of the E window, with brackets on tall panelled pedestals and very high crocketed canopies. Several ornamented brackets in the chancel wall as well, and below the E window a REREDOS of thirteen little niches. They have recently been filled by a Cross, the figures of the apostles, carved in a good compact modern style, under the influence of Romanesque sculpture, by H. J. Ellison, c. 1924. He was the son of a former rector of Harlton. - FONT. square stem, octagonal bowl with quatrefoil panels. – ROOD SCREEN. Stone; contemporary with the building. Unfortunately deprived of all its decoration and no more than a tall plain base and l. and r. of the entrance two tall arched lights. Four-centred entrance arch with two arches above, the mullion standing on the apex of the arch. Embattled top. - CHANCEL STALLS. Also contemporary. Traceried fronts, plain poppy-heads. - MONUMENT to Sir Henry Fryer d. 1631 and his parents Sir Thomas Fryer d. 1623 and his wife d. 1613. Big standing wall-monument of alabaster. Big base and half up its height effigy of a lady, reclining propped on her elbow. On the base three kneeling figures all facing E. They are flanked by large, broad and calm caryatids, a bearded man and a young woman. The caryatids taper into terms, but these are mostly hidden by their wide draperies. He weeps, she crosses her arms ceremonially. Coffered arch carried by them. Smaller allegorical figures above them and yet another on the top between the sides of a curly open pediment. Attributed to W. Wright (Mrs Esdaile).

Church of the Assumption (2)

Corbel (2)

Corbel (7)

HARLTON. It has one of the best views in this flat plain of the Cam, with the tower of the chapel pinnacles of King’s College Chapel, and all the other Cambridge colleges scattered in the town or sunning themselves by the river.

The church comes from the days when the 14th century style was passing. A low embattled tower crowns the plastered walls, and the porch brings us through a fine doorway into an impressive interior with graceful arches east and west, all richly moulded and with a quaint gallery of faces between them.

Two grim little faces look down from the chancel arch into a chancel with two treasures. One is a sturdy old stone screen with cinquefoil arches, beyond which we see the delicate beauty of the east window, a niche at each side with canopies like spires. Below the window is the second treasure, a rare stone reredos with 13 dainty niches, modern saints in 12 of them. There are only two seats in the choir, one with a medieval stall worked into it, and the stone seat for the priest is formed from a windowsill. On the wall are stone brackets like bunches of ribbon. The old door is still in the rood stair doorway, hanging on delicate hinges. There is a shield of old glass and a Jacobean pulpit.

On an elaborate tomb reaching nearly to the roof, its canopy borne by two figures, is the Fryer family, Dr Thomas Fryer, bearded and grey, with a skull cap and a black gown and ruff, his wife with a gold chain, a ruff, and a hooped skirt, and their son Henry in red and gold armour. Henry died in the days of Charles Stuart, and his wife is in a black and white dress in the fashion of the time, holding a book and a handkerchief and leaning thoughtfully on a cushion.


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