Saturday, 3 September 2011

Hunsdon, Hertfordshire

St Dunstan was locked with no keyholder listed however subsequent research reveals that you can pre-arrange a visit to be shown around. Now, and this may be picky, when I visit a church I go to explore the building and don't want to be shown around and whilst I appreciate that the church is 'kept locked most of the time after they had some vandalism' the best way to prevent said vandalism is to keep a church open. I was doubly p'd off when I got home and found the Careys in the family tree.

The locked status is particularly annoying as it sounds like a really interesting church but I'm not going to arrange a visit to be shown around - or is that cutting my nose off to spite my face? Probably but no matter.

I do like the fact that the vicar is the Rev Mark Dunstan though.

ST DUNSTAN. A small village church with interesting Tudor and later additions. The church has a small unbuttressed W tower (with recessed spire), and a nave and chancel. The windows are Late Perp, the tower arch is Perp too, though earlier. The best part of the church is the N porch, of heavy coarse timbers like a lychgate and with elementary bargeboarding (cusps ending in an ogee at the top). Of a pre-Perp building the re-used N chapel E window gives evidence. It is early C14. The N chapel is an addition of the C16, and a S chapel followed about 1600. Both chapels are brick-built, with all window details also of brick. - Not much need be said architecturally of the interior; but the furnishings deserve close notice. - PULPIT. Jacobean, with tester. - SCREEN. The rood screen was Perp but only the dado survives. But early in the C17 a bigger and more sumptuous screen was erected between the nave and the new S chapel. It is the best example in the county of a Jacobean screen: with a panelled dado with Roman Doric pilasters, sturdy baluster columns carrying little arches, a broad cornice and a big pierced strap-work achievement on top. Behind the screen high FAMILY PEWS also with some Jacobean decoration. - COMMUNION RAILS, c. 1700, with twisted balusters. - STAINED GLASS. C15 bits in the tracery ofthe E window. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, 1660. - MONUMENTS. Brass to Margaret Shelley d. 1495, shrouded figure nearly 3 ft long, representation of the Trinity above (chancel). - Small recess with four-centred arch at top and canted panelled sides and arch. The top is straight and crested. It is the monument to Francis Poyntz d. 1528. The inscription is in the newly revived Roman lettering, but the detail otherwise is still all Perp (chancel). - Brass plate to James Gray, park-keeper, d. 1591, showing him aiming at a stag, while Death is aiming at him. Death says Sic pergo (So I proceed; i.e. I do as you do) (nave N wall). - Big standing wall monument of alabaster to Sir John Carey d. 1617 and wife. Black double columns to the l. and r. of a coifered arch. Achievements on top. The effigies lie side by side with folded hands. The sculptural quality is of the highest then available in England. The work may well be by Colt (S chapel). - Equally outstanding the standing wall monument to Sir Thomas Forster d. 1612 (chancel), recumbent in judge’s robes under a low six-poster with scale-adorned ogee-shaped cupola. The ornamental detail, especially ribbon-work, etc., is exquisite. - The C18 added some good epitaphs. Felix Calvert d.1713 (nave). The only figures are two small putti on the curves of the broken pediment and two brilliantly carved cherub’s heads at the foot. - Opposite, Robert Chester d. 1732. The same composition, also only with small figures. At the top what seems a fine relief. - Mrs Jane Chester d. 1736 (chancel), medallion with lively head in semi-profile, the inscription below on a hung up drapery.

St Dunstan (2)
Graffitti (1)
Hunsdon. Away from the village with its row of 300-year·old cottages stand the church and Hunsdon House in a park where Henry VIII’s children used to canter their horses. Henry bought this house, which Sir John Oldhalle had built when the Tudors were still Welsh gentlemen, and turned it into a palace for his children, and here came Master Ridley to persuade Princess Maryto change her faith. She held her own against him, and when he offered to preach to her in the church she replied that he might preach but that neither she nor any of hers would listen.

Ridley hoped that she would not refuse God’s word, but she declared that God’s word now was not God’s word in her father’s days, whereupon the bishop begged her to believe that God’s word is all one in all times, but better understood and practised in some ages than in others. "You durst not for your ears have avouched that for God’s word in my father’s days as you now do, and as for your new books I never read any of them. I never did, nor ever will do." Then in dismissing him she said, "My lord, for your gentleness to come and see me, I thank you, but for your offering to preach before me I thank you never a whit."

It was from Hunsdon that Mary set out on that exciting ride which lasted through 12 summer days and brought her to the throne.

Both house and church have changed since then, but the walls of the house are of Tudor brick, and we can imagine our royal Bluebeard’s burly form sheltering under the stout old timbers of the 15th century church porch. Elizabeth I gave the palace to her cousin, Sir Henry Carey, first Lord Hunsdon, and the church’s most handsome possession is the Jacobean screen in front of his family chapel. On the top of this screen rear horses’ heads like the knights of a chessboard, with the Carey’s painted shield between them and a swan standing triumphantly at the highest point. On a great monument in the panelled chapel lies Sir Henry Carey’s son with his wife, two lovely alabaster figures with their feet on a swan and a poodle. This was that Sir John Carey whom Elizabeth sent to Berwick as Lord Warden of our East Marches, and who returned ten years later with a new king, the first of our Stuarts. Between his monument and the screen is a huge anchor made of timber and metal from HMS Caledonia in memory of Admiral Montgomerie, who died in 1908.

Lying in coloured robes and cap is Sir Thomas Forster, a judge in Sir John’s time, under a canopy and behind iron railings. There is an elegant panelled recess to Francis Poyntz of 1528, and brass portraits of two humbler folk, Margaret Shelley in her shroud of 1495, and James Gray, a park-keeper of 1591, whom a skeleton of Death pierces with an arrow as he draws his bow at a stag. His inscription records that he served Yeares thirtie-fyve in good renowne, Parke and housekeeper in this towne.

The tower is 15th century, like the porch, the brick chapels are 16th century, but the rest has been much renewed, with only traces left of the Norman origin in the nave. In the east window are fragments of early 16th-century glass, enough to show that once it pictured the Annunciation, the Ascension, and the Resurrection. Still on their hinges are two plain medieval doors. A chalice made to celebrate the return of Charles II to the throne, a poorbox, an altar table, and three bells are 17th century.

Standing under one of the great beech trees in the churchyard we may read these lines on the chancel wall:

They lie at rest, the blessed dead,
The dews drop cool above their head.
They knew not when sweet summer fled.

And our mind goes back to those lovers who met for the first time in Hunsdon Palace, Henry, the Earl of Surrey executed for treason in 1547, and Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the fair disdainful Geraldine of his sonnets, who ranks with Petrarch’s Laura and Sidney’s Stella.

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