Friday, 9 September 2011

Wyddial, Hertfordshire

Externally St Giles is architecturally easy on the eye but inside it's a real eye opener with lots of good brass (I particularly like Margaret Plumbe's) and some nice Jacobean screens in the north chapel with a very good modern copy in the tower arch but its crowning glory is the Flemish glass in the north aisle depicting some of the Passion sequence.

The glass has been reset surrounded by hideous Victorian glass and is very mixed up. The sequence runs starting at 9 o'clock and going clockwise, I think, as follows:

Looking north the window on the left - 9. The betrayal with Peter cutting off the servant's ear, 12. Christ's trial before the Sanhedrin, 3. Christ before Caiaphas. 6. Christ before Pontius Pilate.

The right hand window - 9. Crown of thorns. 12. Pilate washing his hands, 3. Either Christ's arrest in the Garden or his mocking & beating at the house of Caiaphas, 6. Scourging of Christ.

ST GILES. A Perp church, over-restored in the C19. Unbuttressed W tower, C19 S porch. The special and great interest of the church is its N aisle and N chancel chapel, both built of brick and dated by a brass inscription 1532. The windows are of the usual three-light type under one arch, all of brick.* The arcade of three bays has brick piers of the usual type with semi-octagonal shafts and hollows in the diagonals. The arches are treble-chamfered, the middle chamfer being hollow. The arch to the N chapel is also of brick. This triumphant entry of brick into church building is a significant sign of the Tudor age. The N chapel has SCREENS to W and S of elaborate early, C17 design and BOX PEWS to match in the aisle. - STAINED GLASS. In two N windows eight smallish panels with Scenes from the Passion; Flemish mid C16. - PLATE. Paten, 1734. - MONUMENTS. Brass to John Gille d. 1546, with wife and children (chancel). - Brass to Dame Margaret Plumbe d. 1575, large demi-figure praying (chancel wall). - Epitaph to Sir William Goulston d. 1687, with twisted columns carrying a scrolly broken pediment and marble busts in grey niches above the inscription.

* A late C16 N doorway is of stone. 

Margaret Southwell & Plumbe nee Neville 1575 (2)

Glass (6)

Glass (1)

Wyddial. Among its wide fields, threaded by lanes and grassy tracks, with great thatched barns and little thatched cottages of all shapes and ages, we come on a 15th century church scarcely looking its age, but this is confirmed by a broken brass on the chancel wall telling us that the brick aisle was added in 1532 by George Cannon.

The only seats in his aisle are three enormous box-pews over four feet high*. In the windows are eight vigorous little pictures in 16th century Flemish glass showing the approach of Judas, and the Trial, the Scourging, and the Crucifixion. A screen under the tower exactly copies two Jacobean screens, pierced and ornamented with grotesque figures. They enclose the chapel of the Goulstons, whose bygone importance as lords of the manor is marked by numerous memorials, one of 1687 with twisted columns holding up the pompous busts of Sir William and his wife Fredeswyde.

Before the altar are brasses to earlier lords of the manor, one of 1546 showing John Gille with his wife and eight daughters, the sons being missing; but the best portrait brass is a fine head and shoulders of Dame Margaret Plumbe, whose first husband, Sir Robert Southwell, was much occupied in suppressing the monasteries and putting some of their money in his own pocket. It was not his only profitable venture, for he helped to put down Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion and secured some of his lands in the process. Another lady, Margery Disney, who died in 1621, has a curious memorial painted on wood and topped by a skull and crossbones. Over the door hangs the white ensign flown by HMS Inflexible at the Battle of Jutland.

Opposite the church is Wyddial Hall, an 18th-century house built over some 16th-century cellars; and a mile away is the 17th-century house Corney Bury, with three gables and a pillared porch.

* These have been broken up and been re-used to clad the north aisle.

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