Thursday, 8 September 2011

Wormley, Hertfordshire

The exterior of St Laurence does not forewarn you of the treasures it contains, rendered walls and a wooden bellcote 'tower' screamed restoration. However, although it is over restored enough of the old remains to provide huge interest.

On the south side of the chancel is the Purvey tomb. William Purvey was steward to Sir Robert Cecil, auditor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and joint lord of the manor. His wife Dorothy was granddaughter of Sir Anthony Denny, a favourite of Henry VIII, and one of the counsellors of State for Edward VI. William Purvey died in 1617 at the age of 59, leaving £100 for the erection of this memorial in alabaster. The work is said to have been executed by William Cure the younger, master mason to both James l and Charles I. Also on this side of the chancel is a tablet to Richard Gough, the well known antiquary, whose historical notes are now preserved in the Bodleian Library. On the north side of the sanctuary is a tablet to the memory of Angelette Tooke, daughter of William Woodliffe. The date of her death is May 31st 1598.

There are some interesting brasses on the floor of the sanctuary. On the north side can be seen the figures of Edmund Howton and Ann his wife, and five sons. There are probably some daughters missing. There is part of a marginal inscription showing the date 1479. Adjoining this is a gravestone with a brass fragment in Latin, which reads:

"Here lies John Cleve, once Rector of the Church of Wormele who died 22nd. October AD. 1404, whose soul may God accept."

On the south side is a fine brass of Angelette Tooke and Walter Tooke, her husband, their 8 sons and 4 daughters. The stone and brasses originally formed the top of an altar tomb. Angelette Tooke’s memorial tablet is on the north wall. She was the daughter of William Woodliffe and aunt of William Purvey. On the south side may also be seen the brass to John Cok, his wife (with her medieval headdress) and ten sons and daughters. Between the two figures is a strip of brass with trees and a dog pursuing a hare. Above is a small representation of the Trinity. The incomplete marginal inscription is as follows:

"Here lyeth John Cok, Yeoman., and Al... passed God out of this transsitorie ..."

The date is about 1470. Two other brasses of Richard Rufton and Edward Shambroke, both Rectors of this Church, were lost, probably during the rebuilding of the chancel.

ST LAURENCE. To the N of the house and away from the village. A small church consisting of nave and chancel only, to which in the C19 a S aisle, S porch, and stone bellcote were added. One N window of the nave and the N doorway prove the Norman date of the nave. The chancel has been too much restored to preserve any original features. - FONT. Norman, circular, of very uncommon design. An upper frieze of broad upright leaves, and below this panels separated from each other by thick cable mouldings. In the panels rosettes and groups of upright leaves. - PULPIT. Jacobean, with termini-caryatids at the angles. - PAINTING. Last Supper, presented by Sir Abraham Hume of Wormleybury in 1797. Ascribed to Palma Vecchio and purchased from a monastery of Rocchelin Canons near Verona. - PLATE. Flagon, 1625; Pewter Almsdish, 1699. - MONUMENTS. Two white memorial epitaphs, both with sculpture by Westmacott; one to Lord and Lady Farnborough, 1838 and 1837 (with a large kneeling female figure), the other to Sir Abraham Hume d. 1838 (with portrait bust).

William & Dorothy Purvey 1617 (3)

Walter & Angelette Tooke c1590 (2) copy

Pulpit (1)

Wormley. Its 17th-century manor house on Roman Ermine Street has come down in the world, split into two cottages which share the old chimney stack between them; but at the end of an oak avenue is a church which has grown through the centuries, beginning with a Norman nave and north doorway and ending with a new little bellcot and a south aisle of last century, in which part of a Norman window and a Norman arch have been reset. The old timbers remain in the roofs of the nave and the porch. There is a fine Norman font with ears of corn and cable moulding, a Jacobean oak pulpit with quaint portraits of men and women, and an interesting collection of family groups in brass. One shows an Elizabethan couple with their 12 children, another has 15th century Edward Howton with his wife and three sons, and a remarkable brass shows his contemporary John Cok, with his wife and ten sons, the Trinity appearing above them and dogs chasing a hare below them. Almost reaching the chancel roof is the grand marble-and-alabaster monument of a Jacobean couple, William and Dorothy Purveye, who are sculptured on ledges one above the other, with Dorothy’s child cousin, Honoria Denny, kneeling in a niche below holding a skull. The Pilgrim Trust has in our time restored the monument to its original beauty, and made legible the old inscription which tells us that William Purveye left money for the poor of the parish and “p00re schollers in Cambridge” Last of these portrait memorials is the bust of Sir Abraham Hume, who lived at the Bury in the park beside the church and gave the splendid altar painting of the Last Supper by Giacomo Palma, the 16th-century Venetian. Sir Abraham died in 1838, the year after his daughter Lady Farnborough, who is also here kneeling at prayer.

Wormley was the last home of Richard Gough, whose 74 years of happy and fruitful industry closed here in 1809. The son of an East India merchant, he was born in London, and before going to Cambridge at 17 was already a good Latin scholar and the author of an elaborate work on world geography. As an undergraduate he planned his British Topography, and on leaving the university spent 20 years in giving effect to his scheme. Inheriting a fortune, he had means and leisure such as few travelling scholars have enjoyed.

For more than 20 years he tramped England, exploring every county, examining its churches and public buildings, sifting and pondering deeds and charters, and making an immense number of notes on sculptures and inscriptions. His Anecdotes of British Topography followed an exhaustive work on Carausius, the 3rd century Roman who made Roman Britain mistress of the narrow seas, and this was succeeded by a masterly edition of Camden’s Britannia, a labour of love which cost him 16 years of toil.

These books, like his Sepulchral Monuments of Great Britain, covering the period between the Conquest and the end of the Tudor Age, were brilliantly written, and finely illustrated and printed. Almost to the end of his days he pursued his travels, enriching his collections, maintaining friendships with scholars and antiquaries throughout the country, and blessed at home by unclouded happiness. At his death he bequeathed his books and manuscripts to Oxford.

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