Friday, 9 September 2011

Newnham, Hertfordshire

St Vincent was being restored, or at least touched up, when I visited - this seems to be happening to me a lot recently, perhaps instead of Spring cleaning churches Autumn clean so it was open (I don't know what its normal status is but the tone of their website sounds welcoming).

As well as two excellent brasses there are the very faded remains of three wall paintings; one a St Christopher in which you can clearly see the bottom of his robe, legs and fish around his feet and less clearly his hand and staff, another could be a devil in a circle but it's very hard to tell, and by a window what could be the remains of a saint.

The church website says: Substantial fragments can be seen of murals dating from the 14th and 15th centuries (some may be as early as the 13th century). They represent the lower half of St Christopher - his feet, the base of his staff, cliffs and some predatory fish in the stream. Alas the upper half of the saint with the infant Christ on his shoulders was destroyed with the construction of the Victorian roof.

Other intriguing wall paintings await conservation: a mysterious circle with figures of strange beasts, and a human figure close to the pulpit. In fact there are traces of colour underneath the limewash all over the chancel. A number of votive crosses on the outside of the door arch were scratched by pilgrims and other travellers seeking the protection of St Vincent on their journey, and other graffiti can be seen around the doorway to the belfry turret - a fish and a windmill.

In the chancel there are some fine 15th century brasses and some handsomely lettered memorials of the 17th and 18th centuries on the walls and floor. There is a small and attractive early 19th century gothic organ; the 14th century font is also worthy of note.  The somewhat dreary appearance of the badly weathered wall cladding - part of the 19th century 'improvements' - belies the tranquil simplicity of the interior.  This cladding is in process of gradual removal as and when funds allow.  The most recent work can be seen on the east face of the tower.

I totally agree with "the tranquil simplicity" - it's lovely.

ST VINCENT. A small church, but with W tower with stairturret, S aisle and clerestory, and S porch. All this appears Perp, but the chancel has two small C13 lancet windows and the others of the early C14. And inside both the tower arch and the short arcade with low octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches are evidently C14. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with quatrefoil panels and shields on the bowl and blank arcading on the stem. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, 1568. - TAPESTRY. 1949, by Percy Sheldrick in the style of 1500, in memory of Reginald Hine, the Hitchin historian. - BRASSES. Man, two wives and children, late C15 (chancel). - Joane Dowman d. 1607 and children (chancel). 

St Christopher

St Christopher fish

Unknown brass (1)
Newnham. Its medieval church has facing it a row of cottages fashioned from the 17th-century malting house of the old manor. The church itself has kept its 14th-century porch, with the old roof and carved angels, and the three medieval centuries are still represented by the chancel of the 13th, the arcade and aisle of the 14th, and the clerestory of the 15th. The 14th century gave the church a tower by cutting off a bit of the nave and building two side arches within the original walls to support the weight. The font is 500 years old. There are fragments of medieval glass, an Elizabethan chalice, a bell of Shakespeare’s time with an inscription no one can understand, and two family groups in brass. One group pictures a 15th-century man with his two wives and four children, the other is of a Jacobean lady, Joane Dowman, with six or seven daughters.

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