Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Toft, Cambridgeshire

Architecturally St Andrew is decidedly run of the mill but the fittings are incredible, from amazing modern corbels to two wooden roof angels - not thought to belong to the original fabric - via an extraordinary chancel window and fabulously carved sanctuary chairs (note the the chancel painted ceiling) and the remnants of an alabaster reredos that has suffered a Dowsing hatchet job. This place is amazing and yet fails to get a mention by Simon Jenkins - more and more I question his decisions, even though he had restricted himself to 1000 best of show in England and I'm only doing bits of 4 counties.

The church was locked but, after a couple of phone calls by an ex keyholder, the parish chairwoman opened it up and showed me around. Not my ideal condition to visit, since I always feel that if I do my usual leisurely inspection then I'm taking up my guides time and so rush; but she reminded me of one of my favourite aunts so I toed the line.

ST ANDREW. Chancel and N aisle rebuilt 1863, W tower 1894. How far can features of the church be taken to represent medieval evidence? For instance the remarkable alternation of Perp and Dec two-light windows in the aisle? Or the arcade piers? - SCULPTURE. Considerable fragments of an alabaster altar, the two standing saints very good indeed. 

Corbel (4)

Corbel (3)

Roof angel (1)

East window (7)

Sanctuary chairs (1)

Bishop & Henry VI

TOFT. On the edge of this village of demure cottages is a cunningly thatched house near a church rising with stately grace from the meadows.

Here came the fanatic Dowsing on his destructive round of the churches of Suffolk and Cambridge, and he left the alabaster reredos a mere fragment of lost beauty. St Christopher’s hands are gone, and St Hubert has lost his head, but is a delightful little figure still, in a white gown lined with red and touched with gold, still carrying the key St Peter gave him to cure hydrophobia. His dog is licking his shoe, and by him is a hart with golden horns, for he was the huntsman converted by a vision of the Cross between a hart’s antlers. Dowsing smashed the glass saints, too, but fragments have been saved in the east window of this 15th century church*, made new last century, when the north aisle was added and the tower was rebuilt in memory of Edward Powell, rector for 49 years. Two oak angels guard the tower arch and 12 stone ones support the old nave roof. There is a plain old font and an oak pulpit of Tudor linenfold.

* Actually these were relocated from a Cambridge college and reset here but I forget which one.

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