Friday, 9 September 2011

Radwell, Hertfordshire

All Saint's unprepossessing exterior conceals an astonishing array of monuments and brasses - it's like the Tardis! Sadly apart from the monuments it's very sterile with little or nothing else of interest.

ALL SAINTS. Small church, mostly of the C19. No tower; but at the W end of the nave the last bay has an arch as if for a tower. - Carved ROYAL ARMS above C14 chancel arch. - COMMUNION RAILS. Early C17 square tapering balusters. - PLATE. Chalice, 1576 (1566?); Paten, 1793; two C18 plated Chalices and Patens. - MONUMENTS. Brass to William Wheteaker, wife, and son who d. 1487; small figures (chancel). - Brass to John Bele d. 1516 and two wives (nave). - Brass to Elizabeth Parker d. 1602 (chancel). - Two small epitaphs with kneeling figures, 1595 and 1625. - Monument to Mary Plomer d. 1605, the one object in the church describing a visit. Plinth with kneeling children, pilasters l. and r., achievement on top, and nearly life-size frontally seated effigy with baby by her side. Her foot rests on a skull, her hand holds an hour-glass. The carving is thoroughly rustic. The creases in the sleeve are still done with exactly the same carving convention as at Chartres about 1150.

John Parker 1595 (1)

William Plomer 1625 (1)
Mary Plomer 1605 (1)

Radwell. Here the River Ivel becomes a placid lake, with many a brood of waterfowl sheltering in its reeds. The mill has ceased to work, and trout are hatched in the quiet waters. The old folk of Radwell are here for us to see in the small medieval church above the river. The oldest feature is the chancel arch of about 1340, but the walls are probably earlier; it was refashioned in the 15th century. It has a pillared font of the 15tll century, a Tudor chalice, two ancient bells, a Jacobean chest, and Jacobean altar rails; but its best possessions are three interesting sculptures and brass portraits of three centuries.

The brass portraits show us William Wheteaker and his wife, their son between them in his priest’s robes, holding a chalice; he was vicar here in 1492. Small brass figures by the pulpit are of John Bele and his two wives in 16th-century dress; one wife has two little sons with her, the other has lost the portraits of two daughters. A fine big brass shows John Parker’s wife in the rich dress and cap of Queen Elizabeth I’s days. There is another Tudor John Parker, "lord of the manor and of all this little town," sculptured with his wife and son kneeling one behind the other. Facing them is a lady sitting in a chair, a stiff little statue of Mary Plomer, "vertue’s jewel, bewtie’s flower." She must have been a neighbour of the Parkers, and her death (in 1605) must have been a village tragedy, for she was only 30 and she was bringing her 11th child into the world. She wears a ruff, and over her head is a mantle; her baby lies in swaddling clothes beside the hourglass in her hand, and at her feet kneel the other ten children. She was a dear lady, we gather from her epitaph:

So that the stone itself doth weep
To think of her which it doth keep.
Weep, then, whoe’er this stone doth see,
Unless more hard than stone thou be.

Kneeling close by is Will Plomer, dressed in his armour, who, left alone with these ten little ones, took another wife to mother them; her monument is with the rest, decorated with three quaint animals.

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