Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Willian, Hertfordshire

Willian lies just outside my travel border but, having seen photographs of All Saints on Flickr, I added it to the trip as it fell close enough to Buckland and Ardeley (which I still didn't get into as the keyholders were out) to make a detour.

The exterior has some truly amazing grotesques on the tower including a man with a bible and Death which were exciting but not exciting enough to make up for the fact that the church is kept padlocked and no keyholder is listed.

ALL SAINTS. In the chancel is a C12 blocked doorway. The rest appears C14 and chiefly C15. The chancel E window is specially attractive with two orders of shafts inside. Early in the C19 the E end received some blank Dec arcading and a reredos to match. - SCREEN. Little of the C15 left. - CHANCEL SEATS. With poppyheads; also one with an elephant and castle and one with St John’s head on the charger. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, 1718. - MONUMENTS. Brass to Richard Golden d. 1446, frontal, in priest’s vestments. - Epitaph with the two usual kneelers to E. Lacon d. 1625 and an even humbler one with kneelers to John Chapman d. 1624. - Sir Thomas Wilson d. 1656 and wife, with two frontal busts in oval niches above long inscription.

Grotesque (19)

Grotesque (12)

Still, the vicar, or whoever, does have an interesting sense of humour:

Welcome (1)


Willian. Many who come on this homely place with its green and its ponds, its tall trees, its medieval church, and its thatched vicarage 400 years old, must think it an endearing English scene, fit to be preserved for ever; and so it is to be, for it stands within the green belt bought by Letchworth’s Garden City.

Limes and chestnuts strive to out-top the gargoyles of death and the other dread powers peering out from the 15th century tower. Graver medieval heads, 14 in all, support the chancel roof, and tiny heads below them add to the delicate arcading. The 15th-century woodcarvers added their quaint fancies to the posts of the choir stalls, where we see a sphinx-like monster with barbed tail above the Baptist’s head on a charger; and strangest of all is a perfect little elephant bearing a howdah with openings carved like medieval church windows. Part of a Tudor screen is left in the 15th century chancel arch, which matches the arch of the tower. The walls of the nave and the chancel are the work of Norman masons.

Two vicars of long ago are here in brass and stone, Richard Goldon having a portrait brass of 1446 on the chancel wall, and John Chapman, who died in 1624, appearing as a small kneeling figure in stone with his wife. By the altar kneel more stone figures, Edward Lacon with his wife and three children. The father, who is in armour, died in the year Charles I came to the throne. Thirty years later, when Cromwell ruled in Charles’s place, another monument was set here with the busts of a man and his wife looking out from dark recesses. He is Thomas Wilson, who died while he was serving as Prefect here under Cromwell’s military system of local government, when the whole of England was divided into ten areas and each area was ruled by a major-general.

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