Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Rougham. Suffolk

St Mary is huge, and by huge I mean enormous, and lies a fair distance from the village itself. It is a striking building but oddly sterile inside. The benches have all lost their poppy heads being sawn off at the base and what must have been a fantastic (it still is fantastic but not what it should be) angel adorned roof has had all its angels mutilated.  My first reaction was that Dowsing had done a very thorough job here but it transpires that he never visited Rougham, whoever the responsible (?) iconoclasts were they went to town.

One of the specific items I wanted to record was the brass to Sir Roger Drury but whilst being overawed by the sheer scale I completely forgot about it. Another trip is in order and perhaps a second visit will warm me to the interior - it didn't.

UPDATE - re-visited 20.02.13 and recorded the Drury brass which is very fine.

ST MARY. S aisle and the very special S porch, chancel, and N aisle all Dec; tower and much re-modelling Perp. The S porch has three-light side openings not with mullions but with strong shafts. Ogee arches and straight top. Finely moulded entrance arch. The S and N aisles both have simple Dec E windows. W lancet in the S aisle. The other S aisle windows Late Perp without tracery. N aisle and clerestory embattled with enriched lozenges as decoration. Perp N aisle windows. The chancel is not embattled. It has a large five-light  window with reticulated tracery. The W tower has below the top a lively frieze of tracery motifs and a parapet with flushwork decoration. On it were recorded John Tillot and ‘Drury’, no doubt Sir Roger (see below), and no doubt both as donors. On a N aisle buttress the date 1514 and the name of a rector. Dec arcades with piers of four strong shafts and in the diagonals four thin ones without capitals. Double-chamfered arches. The chancel arch is of the same design. Nave roof with hammerbeams. Headless angels against them. Wall-plate decorated with quatrefoil friezes. - FONT. Octagonal, with simple arches of different forms. - BENCHES. A whole set, ends with tracery patterns of great variety. Poppy-heads. The figures on the arms have been cut off. - STAINED GLASS. Bits in the N aisle E window. - PLATE. Set 1683. - BRASS. Fine large brass of Sir Roger Drury (death date blank) and his wife who died in 1405. The figures 4 ft long.

Nave roof

Roof Angels (1)

ROUGHAM. It is only a small village, but it takes us back through the ages to three graves lined with Roman bricks. Two of these burial chambers were found in barrows south-west of Eastlow Hill and in them were the ashes of men buried with iron lamps for the dark journey. The charred bones of one were in a glass jar; the other’s glass urn had broken, but with it were pottery, a coin, a tear bottle, and some gilded bones. All these we have seen in Bury St Edmunds Museum.

We may go into the third of these ancient graves, a low underground room almost hidden by bushes and nettles in the tumulus known as Eastlow Hill. Under its rounded vault of Roman tiles was found a long leaden coffin with the bones of a man who had lain in English earth for 16 centuries, and had with him his passage money to the other world, a coin dropped from his mouth. He may have lived in the Roman villa whose foundations were discovered in a field near by. Long after his day the Drurys were the great men of Rougham, and we read of Sir William entertaining Queen Elizabeth to a costly and delicate dinner; but the house to which she came has given place to a modern house in Tudor style set among oaks and banks of rhododendrons, a gorgeous sight in early summer.

Among the cornfields half a mile from the village is the church, approached through a lych gate with massive beams and a figure of Christ in memory of a vicar who preached for 47 years and died when the Victorian Era died. In the churchyard the trees shade stone coffins found buried in the nave. A noble building it is, spacious and light, with a battlemented and pinnacled tower 500 years old and a sundial on the porch. This many-windowed porch, the nave, the chancel with its canopied sedilia between winged figures, the font, the piscinas and east windows of the 15th century aisles, all are 600 years old. The nave has a splendid medieval hammerbeam roof with angels and apostles, all headless. The east window of the north aisle has in its medieval glass a purple-robed king with a gold sceptre, the Madonna and Child, pelicans, and many fragments. Below is a fine old bench with a carved back.

The other treasures of the church are brasses, one showing the shrouded figure of Robert Drury who died in 1621; the other, said to be the oldest monument of this old family, has portraits of Sir Roger Drury and his wife Margery. He died in 1410, and is seen here in armour. His wife has a dog at her feet.


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