Thursday, 27 October 2011

Birdbrook, Essex

Having set off home from Wixoe I detoured via Birdbrook - more varied my route home than detoured but you catch my drift. The exterior of St Augustine was nothing exciting and seemed to promise a dreary interior but on entering the church there was an overwhelming, pleasantly so, smell of linseed oil.

The smell is explained in the sanctuary and chancel; in the mid 1960s, the sanctuary was panelled throughout with carvings, by Ken Mabbitt (sadly Googling him is remarkably uninformative which is odd given the quality of this work), of the arms of the patrons of the church, and the shield of St Augustine on the north wall. From north to south they are of the Peche family, Edward I, Westminster Abbey, the Tyrrell family, Elizabeth I, Gent family, Alleyn family, Thompson family, Howard family, Rushe family and finally, Clare college, Cambridge. The communion table is decorated with a frieze of foliage incorporating such creatures as a mouse and birds, while the arms of the sedilia, on the south wall, has perching owls. The carving on the linen chest reflects the rural life of the parish, a woodman, reaper, fruit picker and a shepherd.

The chancel panelling matches the sanctuary, but with badges of the regiments of Birdbrook men killed in the First and Second World wars and the Korean war together with the names of the fallen. The arms of the choir stalls are carved with different animals or birds. To match the linen chest, the front of these stalls are carved with a frieze of oak leaves and acorns (significant, as all Mabbitt’s work was constructed in oak), nuts, vine leaves and grapes, amongst which there are birds, a butterfly, a bee, a squirrel and harvest mice. At the south west end of the choir stalls are tiny carvings of humorous faces in a medieval style. All this work dates to the late 1960s.

The stained glass of the east window was put in to commemorate the generosity of Mrs Edith Clara Young. The two stained glass windows on either side of the chancel depict, on the south, Inguar the Saxon thegne who was known as holding the land on which the church was built; hence the view of the church being constructed and Richard FitzGilbert, Earl of Clare, patron after the conquest; hence the scenes from the Bayeux tapestry. On the other side of the chancel are Walter de Wenlok, Abbott of Westminster Abbey and Dr. William Webb master of Clare Hall, Cambridge. Both of the portraits are authentic, taken from true likenesses. These two windows were executed by Rupert Moore.

The Joy here is in the thoroughly modern fittings and furnishings – I never thought I’d be so bowled over by refurbishments dating to the 60’s, 70’s and later but this has been so lovingly, and sympathetically, undertaken that St Augustine is a church to remember.

Martha Blewit 1681

Poppyhead (11)

Window (6)

Window (9)

BIRDBROOK. Some of its old houses have been here about 500 years with overhanging storeys resting on curved brackets. The church has something much older still, for in its walls are Roman tiles used by the 13th century builders. There are three striking lancet windows at the east, with stone heads keeping watch outside, and on the tracery of a 14th century window of the chancel is scratched the name of Thomas Cersey in ancient lettering. The lofty roof of the nave is 500 years old, and there is woodwork of the same time in the choir-stalls. The graceful altar rails are 18th century. In the sanctuary is a medieval coffin lid, and by the altar is something we have not seen before by any altar - a fireplace.

On a stone in the tower is recorded the remarkable experience of Martha Blewit who died in 1681 at the Swan Inn, which is still in the village. She married nine husbands, but the ninth outlived her, whereupon the parson of Birdbrook chose as his text at her funeral the words, "Last of all the woman died also." This same stone also records that in the next century Robert Hogan married seven wives, so that there were between these two people 16 marriages. A less exciting monument is to the antiquarian Thomas Walford, who went about England a hundred years ago and wrote a book called The Scientific Tourist.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Clare, Suffolk

SS Peter & Paul is a simply huge Suffolk wool church but, following a Dowsing visitation in 1643, strangely soulless. Having said that there are still various points of interest including the south door, the medieval eagle lectern and east window amongst others.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. The church stands in a spacious treeless churchyard, and one somehow does not consider it as part of the town, although this stretches around it in all directions. C13 W tower with a W doorway with two orders of shafts and a hood-mould with nailhead decoration. Lancet windows higher up. The W window of five lights is of course Perp, as is the frieze with shields and quatrefoils below it. The tower is unfortunately a little short for the church. Large Perp church, but inside it the arcade piers (six bays) are of the c I4 and re-used in the remodelling. They are quatrefoiled and keeled. Of the CI4 the s porch with its windows with Y-tracery. It is vaulted and has carved bosses. The second bay of vaulting was half cut off when the aisle of the C I4 building was widened later. To the E of the porch is a contemporary chapel (cf. St Gregory Sudbury etc.), and the arch of this towards the aisle is again C14. Beneath this chapel and the porch is a vaulted bone-hole. The rest of the church is all Late Perp, and mostly Early Tudor, except for the chancel, which was all but rebuilt in 1617-19, an example of the effortless Perp survival of those years. There are few (if characteristic) differences between the C15 and the C17 work. The motif of the stepped arches of the lights in the three-light window is the same. In the Perp Work it appears in S aisle and S chapel as well as N aisle and N chapel and clerestory. At the E end of the nave is the most easily remembered motif of the church, the two rood-stair turrets with their crocketed spirelets (cf. Lavenham). The clerestory windows are not doubled, as in so many East Anglian churches, but as all the windows of aisles and clerestory are slender and closely set, the effect has the same erectness as at Long Melford and Lavenham. The remodelling of the interior made it very airy. The C14 piers received castellated capitals, the arches crocketed hood-moulds. Shafts rise from the piers to the roof. Above the arches a string-course with demi-figures of angels and fleurons. Chancel arch and chapel arches go with the nave. - FONT. Simple, octagonal, Perp. - SCREENS. Remains of the rood-screen re-used at the entrance to the S chapel. Parclose screen at the E end of the S aisle, fine wide one-light divisions. - STALLs. Jacobean, some with Jacobean poppy-heads. - GALLERY in the porch chapel. Jacobean with balusters. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters, late C17. - DOORS. N and S doors and N chancel door with tracery and a border of foliage trail. - LECTERN. Brass, with a big eagle. The same type as at St Margaret King’s Lynn and Redenhall Norfolk (Oman’s type II). - PLATE. Richly embossed silver-gilt Cup, probably Flemish. - Cup 1562; Paten 1680; Flagon 1713.

UPDATE: Aug 2012 revisited to cover Clare Priory which was undergoing a large extension - I'm not sure I approve but it will be interesting to see once complete in 2013.

CLARE PRIORY. Founded for Austin Friars in 1248 by Gilbert de Clare, the earliest house of the order in England. Of the buildings most of the features which remain are early C14, namely one doorway in the former Cellarium, later the Prior’s lodging and later still the house of the Frende and Barker families, then a vaulted chamber at the s end of this range with one two-light window (single-chamfered ribs), the Lavatorium arches (see below), the doorway to the Refectory (see below), the Chapter House entrance from the former E walk, built, it is known, by Elizabeth de Burgh between 1310 and 1314, and the remains of the church which was indeed consecrated in 1338. The church was 168 ft long and had a chancel of six bays with a S chapel and s vestry, a narrow central tower, and a nave of six bays with N aisle but no S aisle. The last two bays of the N aisle were a chapel. Of this a doorway from the nave to the cloister remains, and in addition the s wall, the Sedilia with curious cusped blank arches against the back wall, and the blocked doorway to the S chancel chapel. The monument to Joan of Acre, daughter of Edward I, who died in 1305 was to the W of the sedilia and cut into them. Of the domestic buildings of the priory the walls of the cloister remain. In the E wall are the entrances to the Chapter House and the dormitory staircase. The Dormitory - a unique case - lay 12 ft further E, separated from the cloister range by an irregular quadrangular courtyard. The Dormitory at the S end overlapped the Infirmary. This has closely set upper windows in blank arches. Reredorter (i.e. lavatories) at the E end of the Infirmary and at r. angles to it. Of the Refectory in the s range parts of the walls stand up. In the S wall is a projection for the Reader’s Pulpit, at the W end of the N wall the Lavatorium, or friars’ hand-washing place. The Cellarium, i.e. W range, was converted into the prior’s residence in Early Tudor days, and of this time are the low mullioned windows with arched lights and the ceiling in the Hall, i.e. the room behind the C14 doorway. Then the Elizabethan period inserted a mullioned and transomed window in the front and a square bay (built of stone, not of flint) at the back. (Very fine C17 panelling in the upper room.) To the S of the Cellariurn is an irregular little wooden cloister of which the W and S ranges remain, complete but altered. The N range was of stone. The E range was widened to form a kitchen, which stood between Cellarium and Refectory. The date is probably the C15. Later on, in the C16-17, the cloister became an inner courtyard, and an entrance and back door were made through the S range.

You'd be hard pressed to tell:

Clare Priory (3)

Clare Priory (2)

Clare Priory (4)

SS Peter & Paul (2)

Chancel window (1)


CLARE. With delightful old houses, a fine and spacious church, something of an ancient priory, and the foundations of a proud Norman castle, it is as fascinating an old town as one could wish to see. Its name plunges us into history, for these lands belonged to one of the greatest of our ancient families, the long line of the Earls of Clare, which began with a follower of the Conqueror. Gilbert, the seventh earl, was one of the most powerful men in the land in King John’s miserable reign, and it was his son Richard who founded the priory. Another Gilbert, the ninth earl, married a king’s niece and then a king’s daughter, and only with the death of his son at Bannockburn did the long line come to an end. His daughter Elizabeth became the Lady of Clare, and it is through her that the name of this Suffolk town is on everybody’s lips at Cambridge, for she endowed and re-founded the second oldest college in the University.

What is left of the old priory is built into a house still called after it. There are parts of the cloister arches, old windows of the chapter house, massive buttresses, a vaulted roof, and some fine panelling and carving. Another building, once probably the refectory, is 60 feet long, and we noticed a fine old garden wall. It was here, in a lovely chapel built by herself, that they laid Joan of Acre, the daughter of Edward the First and his Eleanor. She had married the ninth Earl of Clare, 17 years before.

The castle across the Stour stands where a Saxon fortress stood, but only fragments of its foundations and its 13th century keep are left. The mound where the keep stood is about 60 feet high, and from it are fine views of the countryside.

A thrilling find of last century in these foundations takes us back to Edward the Third, for it is believed to be a treasure he lost, a golden crucifix and chain now in the keeping of Windsor Castle. It is ornamented with four big pearls, and so made that the figure of Our Lord can be removed.

The priory and the castle we look at with the eye of imagination, but not so the ancient church, for its beauties speak for themselves, and the Roman bricks in its walls are the oldest possessions Clare has. The tower is 13th century, with walls four feet thick, a fine doorway, and a lofty tower arch; but the body of the church was refashioned in the 15th century, and the chancel altered again in the 17th. The nave pillars are the 13th century ones raised on high bases and used again; and above them, below the big clerestory windows, are carvings of heads and angels and foliage. Both porches are 14th century and both have fine old doors richly carved. The south porch has a handsome vaulted roof, and over it is an 18th century sundial telling us rather abruptly to go about our business.

In this light and spacious interior are some interesting things. In Flemish brass, 400 years old, is an eagle lectern, with three dogs at the foot, said to be the gift of Queen Elizabeth and certainly one of the finest we have seen among England’s 50 old ones. In lovely old woodwork are choir-stalls carved in fine black oak, and a screen with beautiful tracery under a cornice of pairs of beasts supporting crowns. A 15th century chapel has a fine Jacobean gallery pew approached by a staircase and held up on posts, and attached to it are three old iron candlesticks. The east window is bright with heraldic glass made just after Shakespeare died, and a beautiful memorial window shows the Crucifixion, St Michael, and St George.

Among the other possessions of the church are a well-panelled 15th century font, a huge old ironbound chest, a 16th century bell, three chairs made of old poppyheads, a Jacobean table and altar rails of the same period, a modern pulpit effectively carved with tracery, and a big earthenware jar which belonged to the bell ringers 200 years ago. A lovely chalice used here is said to have come over with the Armada as a goblet.

The vicarage is an Elizabethan house justly proud of its panelling, and by the churchyard is a beautiful priest’s house built a few years before the Tudor Age began. Its gable is lovely with a traceried bargeboard, and one of the diamond-paned windows has a wooden corbel carved with heraldry. Some of the old houses in the town are finely timbered and plastered, and some have lovely gardens by the Stour. In the marketplace there is a house with a crypt covered by a huge vaulted roof, and on the front of the Swan Inn is a remarkable wooden sign, perhaps a window corbel 500 years ago. It is carved in relief with a swan chained to a tree, and has on the back a tree laden with fruit.

A cottage a mile away by the road at Chilton has the longest history of any house here, for it was a chapel in the 12th century, and still has Norman windows and some signs of the work of 13th century builders. In the Civil War it was used as a powder magazine.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Wixoe, Suffolk

St Leonard is kept locked but with a keyholder listed - sadly I'd run out of time so I admired the Norman dogtooth arch of the south door, took a couple of exteriors and left for home vowing to return.

It is not known when or why the church at Wixoe was dedicated to St Leonard. Nearly 180 medieval churches in England are dedicated to him, however. As patron saint of pregnant women and prisoners of war he would have been good to have on your side at a time when most women were undernourished and at risk in pregnancy and childbirth, and with many men involved in Crusades and other conflicts, including civil war.

UPDATE: Aug 2012 I gained access after several revisits and for a tiny church there's much of interest - nothing earth shattering but it packs a punch but what a shame the apse is no longer extant.

ST LEONARD. Nave and chancel with weather boarded bell-turret. Nave and chancel are Norman, as is seen in the treatment of the flint walling and also the S doorway with one order of shafts with scalloped capitals and a zigzag in the arch, and the outline of the N doorway.* All windows C19 or C20. - STAINED GLASS. E window signed by Cakebread, Robey & Co. c. 1892. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup and Paten; Cup 1706; Paten on foot 1728. - MONUMENT. The following inscription appears in large and dignified letters on a plate in the chancel floor: ‘The Entrance into the Vault of Henry Berkeley Esq. and Dorothy his wife containing Ten Foot Square.’

* The church originally had an apse (P. G. M. Dickinson).

South door

St Leonard (2)


WIXOE. It has a simple church with Norman masonry in its walls, a fine Norman doorway with bold zigzag, and a wooden bellcote with a bell thought to have first rung out about 1460, when the Red Rose and the White were struggling for the crown.


Stoke by Clare, Suffolk

You enter St John the Baptist through the north door and find yourself in a light but somewhat shabby nave which has traces of wallpaintings, some fine brasses and as a curiosity a doom painting at the end of the north aisle hidden away behind the organ (thus making it very hard to photograph). Why a doom painting would be located here rather than on the chancel arch is beyond me.

There are several fine brasses under various carpets and the Elwes chapel on the south side has some interesting modern glass.

ST JOHN BAPTIST. Big Perp church. The tower is Dec. It belonged to an aisleless church with a chancel and a N Vestry of two storeys. The ceiling beams of this and an upper doorway still exist in the N wall of the present chancel. When the new church was built in the C15 it was placed somewhat further N, so that the former nave S wall became the S wall of the aisle, and the W respond of the S arcade stood against the middle of the blocked former tower arch. The Perp windows are nearly all of the same design, with straight-sided arches to the individual lights. Nave and aisles and clerestory. Projecting transeptal S chapel, probably part of the other church. The arcade piers quatrefoil with keeled foils; castellated capitals of the same design as at Clare. The piers are probably re-used, also as at Clare. Double-hollow-chamfered arches. The chancel arch of the same design. - PULPIT. Richest Perp, the richest in the county, and very small. Two tiers of tracery panels. Money was left towards its making in 1498. - BENCHES. With traceried fronts and poppy-heads. - WALL PAINTING. Doom, at the E end of the N chapel, assigned to the 1550s by Mr Rouse. - (STAINED GLASS. Fragments of the C15 in the S transept, including a post-mill. LG) - PLATE. Flagon 1674. - BRASS. Unknown Lady, early C16, 18 in. figure.

Doom (2)

Alice Talkarne nee Alington 1605 (1)

South chapel window (1)

STOKE-BY-CLARE. Its church and its priory have much to remind us of one of our great reforming churchmen, Matthew Parker, who attended Anne Boleyn on the scaffold and was Archbishop of Canterbury under Queen Elizabeth. He was the last dean the college of priests which developed from the priory founded 800 years ago, and in some of the thick walls still standing are the hiding-places where he sheltered Nicholas Ridley. These old walls are in a park by the church, part of a house still called Stoke College. What is now the library was once a chapel and there are fragments of the old windows and kitchens. The brick tower of the priory porter is at the entrance of the churchyard.

The village church has grown from the priory church, keeping its crow-stepped south porch, a chantry on the north side, and the 14th century tower, which has a very old clock still striking on a bell from the priory chapel. The nave was restored by Matthew Parker when he became dean, and very familiar to him must have been the grand little 15th century pulpit, as fine a possession as Stoke has. Perhaps the smallest pulpit in Suffolk, it stands on a slender stem and is richly carved with beautiful tracery, the sides divided by pinnacled buttresses. More old carving is on the poppyheads and panels of the chancel stalls, and close by are two beautiful old chairs. The vestry has a 17th century altar table, and an ancient chest with elaborate ironwork in the form of two trees. The south chapel has still a little old glass, in which is something rarely seen in a window, a perfect windmill. We have seen one also in a window at Long Melford.

Three old people are here in brass, a woman who died about the time Matthew Parker came, and a man and woman of the generation after his. Buried here in the 18th century was John Elwes the miser, who lived like a beggar and died worth half a million. His miserly spirit was evidently inherited, for his rich mother starved herself to death. He was a good classical scholar. He lived on partridges, wore dirty old clothes, would not have his shoes cleaned lest it should wear them out, allowed the rain to fall through his roof, and one of his stories is that when he cut his legs on a sedan chair he had the doctor for one and looked after the other himself, he beating the doctor by a fortnight. Yet this mean fellow was three times MP. He thought of marrying a servant girl but his memory went and he probably forgot; he died a bachelor and happily left no progeny to carry on his life so not-worth-while.


Ashen, Essex

St Augustine was locked but with keyholders listed however I had neither the time, inclination or top up credit to track down the key so did exteriors and left.

ST AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY. One small lance window in the nave indicates a C13 origin. The W tower with diagonal buttresses and battlements was added about 1400, the brick stair-turret with the battlements on a trefoiled corbel-frieze about 1525. The chancel dates from 1857. - DOOR in S doorway, with damaged C13 ironwork. - BENCHES. A few fragments in the nave. Also an inscription in Roman capitals, dated 1620, which reads : ‘This hath bin the churching the mearring stool and so it shall be still’. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of c.1570. - MONUMENTS. Brass to a Knight of c. 1440, the figure 21 in. long (nave, E end). - Luce Tallakarne d. 1610, an odd design with termini caryatids and between them decoration with panels, a shield, and the inscription plates.

St Augustine (2)

ASHEN. From the street of this upland village we look over the Stour into Suffolk. Its flint tower was built about 1400, and the brick turret was new about 1520; but two of the bells (called Thomas and Alice) were made 600 years ago, and the third is 15th century. The church is small, but very old, the nave having been built by the Normans and the 13th century men. A porch of Shakespeare’s day covers a doorway 200 years older, making a frame for a door with 13th century hinges.

There are two little pews 500 years old, a nave roof about the same age, a carved chair of the 18th century, and a curious panel of 1620 which tells us it has been the marrying stool and "so it shall be still." In the nave are brass portraits thought to be John and Frances Hunt, who would be alive when the victory of Agincourt was the talk of the land. John, in armour, stands on a lion; and looking up at Frances is a little dog with bells on its collar.


Poslingford, Suffolk

My run of good luck had to end and so it proved with St Mary the Virgin - locked with no sign of a keyholder. I took the exteriors and headed off for Clare.

ST MARY. Very restored. Norman nave with one N window, a fragment of the N doorway, and a good s doorway with one S order of shafts with finely decorated scalloped capitals and some geometrical decoration on the abaci. Tympanum with stars, rosettes, and interlace. W tower of the late C13 with triple-chamfered arch towards the nave. Chancel with late C13 windows. Nave with one Dec window with reticulated tracery. Nice Perp S porch of brick with three brick niches above the entrance and brick windows. Nice niche inside a Perp nave window. - SCREEN. Tall, with two-light divisions, segmental arches and tracery over. - PAINTING. C13 scrolls in a chancel window.

St Mary the Virgin (3)

POSLINGFORD. It has some delightful thatched cottages with a myriad colours in their gardens, and a medieval church. Most of the church is 15th century, but its ancient brick porch, with niches under its crow-stepped gable, shelters a Norman doorway adorned with exquisite flowers. In the embattled tower is an old chest and a bell brought from the ruined Chipley Abbey a mile away. The chancel has traces of red wall-paintings, including a figure with a gabled building in his hand, probably representing the founder of the church; in the vestry is a copy of a Doom painting revealed last century and unhappily destroyed. The best possession of the church is the 15th century screen with grand tracery and arches, and little flowers hanging from it.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Pentlow, Essex

This was my third attempt at finding SS Gregory & George (success was due to making a note of the address before departure) and, despite it being locked with no keyholder listed, I was blown away - regular readers will no I'm a sucker for a round tower and an apse.

Having read Mee and Googled the church I do really wish it was left open - it sounds fascinating.

The Church (St. Gregory,) is an interesting structure of great antiquity, having a semicircular east end, and a round tower, containing five bells. The architecture is a mixture of the pure Norman and pointed styles, and the large stone font has a wooden covering, ornamented in the florid style of the time of Henry VII. The walls of the tower are of flint, 4 feet thick. On the north side of the chancel is Kemp’s Chapel, in which is a very fine tomb, on which are recumbent effigies of Judge Kemp, his lady, and his son John, who died in the early part of the 17th century. Round the tomb are 14 kneeling figures of children. The Chapel window is filled with stained glass, and the roof is divided into compartments, with Gothic quartre-foils. In the chancel is a curious old tomb of the Feltons, who were connected by marriage with the noble family of Hervey.

ST GEORGE. Nave and chancel are Norman. The apse is completely preserved, with its three windows. As for the nave the W doorway survives. It now leads into the tower, one of the round towers of Essex, and a late one, C14 according to the E windows. It may replace an earlier one, but when the nave was built, there obviously was no tower yet in the W, or else the doorway would not have been enriched by columns (one order with decorated scalloped capitals) and the little animal’s head above the arch. The N chapel was added to the chancel in the C16. It has stepped brick gables to the W and E and Late Perp windows. The E window seems C15 and may be re-used. The chapel has a charming panelled tunnel-vault. It houses the MONUMENT to George Kempe d. 1606, John Kempe d. 1609, and his wife, three recumbent effigies on a tomb-chest with kneeling children against the front of the chest. The Royal Commission assumes that the chapel was built for this monument. But can that really be the case? Another MONUMENT in the chancel. Edmund Felton d. 1542 and wife. Tomb-chest with shields on cusped panels; no figures. - FONT. Square, with angle colonnettes, Norman. The sides decorated with a cross and interlace and leaves, a star, branches etc. - all very stylized. - FONT COVER. Square with muted front. Niches with nodding ogee arches. The canopy with buttresses, canopies etc., crocketed and ending in a finial. - PLATE. Cup and Cover of 1724; Paten also of 1724; Flagon of 1722.

SS Gregory & George (3)

Among the old houses of Pentlow are Paine’s Manor with a carved beam of Shakespeare’s day; Bower Hall of about 1600 with original chimneys and a 15th century barn; and Pentlow Hall of about 1500, with much old woodwork, a line bay window of Elizabeth’s day, and an oriel with 16th century glass showing a hawking scene and shields. It is charming from the churchyard, looking under a great cedar and across the moat still wet. The fine church tower is remarkable as being one of the six round towers of Essex, with walls four feet thick. It was probably added in the 14th century to the nave and apsidal chancel built by the Normans, and protects the Norman west doorway, which is carved at the top with a muzzled bear. The 15th century chancel arch is wide and very high, and a flat arch leads to a chapel of about 1600. There is a 16th century chest, a 17th century table, twisted altar rails a little younger, and scraps of 14th century glass in the east window. But finer than anything is a huge Norman font elaborately ornamented on its four sides, the cover a rich piece of 15th century work with canopies and pinnacles. A Tudor altar tomb in the chancel is the sleeping-place of Edmund and Frances Felton, and a great tomb in the chapel has figures of George Kempe of 1606, his son John who died three years later, and John’s wife Elinor in an elaborate headdress and tight-waisted gown. The men are carved in their furred robes, and on the front of the tomb are kneeling figures of the children of John and Elinor, eight daughters with their hair brushed back, and four curly headed sons in cloaks. It is an impressive monument to three generations of an Essex family in the days when Shakespeare was writing his plays.

A window of St Gregory and St George is in memory of Felix Edward Bull who began his ministry in 1877 and preached for 50 years; and a testimonial hanging on the organ tells of Sarah Clark, who played her first voluntary in the year the Crimean War began, and her last two years after the shadow of the Great War was lifted from Europe. For 66 years she was organist, and for 43 she was at the organ while Felix Bull was in the pulpit, a wonderful fellowship of prayer and praise in this small place.

Stanstead, Suffolk

St James is pleasant enough but was somewhat outshone by Glemsford and Boxted; I did, however, really like the grotesques on the south porch.

ST JAMES. Small; mostly Perp. Earlier the W tower with small lancets and the N doorway and the chancel doorway: early C14.

St James (2)

Grotesque (1)

Glass (3)

STANSTEAD. From its hillside it looks across to distant woods and pastures new. A lychgate by its green leads past tall trimmed yews to the church porch guarded by snarling dragons. Most of the church is 500 years old, but there are bits of Norman masonry still in its walls. The panelled font is 700 years old with a floral pattern in ancient ironwork on its cover. One of the windows has 14th century heraldic glass, and the chancel roof has delightful angels on its corbels.


Long Melford windows

Boxted, Suffolk

The unprepossessing exterior of Holy Trinity contains an astonishing interior with an array of monuments and ledger slabs to the Poley family. Both the nave and chancel are light and airy and contain roof angels, hatchments, wooden corbels, box pews and the north aisle has a gallery.

It is hidden behind a screen of trees but from the car park, and churchyard, you get the reverse view across the valley to Glemsford, with the big house nestled at the bottom of the hill - it is a glorious view.

A palimpsest brass to Richard Poley (1468-1547) and his wife Ann, on the north side of the chance}, is the oldest surviving Poley monument. There are also many floorstones and seven hatchments (1756-1849) to the Poley and Weller-Poley family.

On the south side of the chancel is the tomb chest, with what I thought were stone but are actually oak, effigies of William Poley (d. 1587) and Alice his wife (d. 1577). He is dressed in armour, with his head on a helmet. She has a prayer book with the arms of Poley and Shae, and rests on a pillow inscribed "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord", A.D. 1579. The figures were restored and the black paint removed from the stonework in 1992.

HOLY TRINITY. The church lies in the grounds of the house, an ancient timber-framed mansion made to look too new. The church is above the house and separated from it by a wide expanse of grass. Flint and stone. Low arcade with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. Interesting hammerbeam roof in the chancel, interesting because Jacobean. Attached to the N E an C18 brick chapel. In it the most interesting feature of the church, the Poley MONUMENTS. There are notably two, Sir John d. 1638 and Dame Abigal, the latter erected in 1725. Both have standing efligies in arched niches and crowning pediments with rounded centres. In all else they differ characteristically. Sir John’s monument must be of the ending C17 and is certainly the work of an outstanding sculptor. Mrs Esdaile has attributed it to Bushnell. Sir John stands with one hand on his hip, in a self-assured and a little mannered attitude. The costume is that of his day, not of that of the sculptor. To the l. and r. standing putti pulling away a big drapery which seems to hang from the top of the monument. The top of the niche has a shell pattern. All the decoration is rich and lively - garlands, foliage borders, etc. Dame Abigal’s monument is demonstratively less demonstrative. It is of alabaster (Mrs Esdaile says the last English monument in that material), and has only flanking pilasters; the head of the niche is undecorated. - An earlier Poley monument in the chancel: William d.1587 and his wife. Two recumbent effigies, a late example of oak carving for a funeral purpose. - PULPIT. Jacobean, with tester. - POLEY PEW. Jacobean parclose screen with balusters carrying arches and achievements on top. - COMMUNION RAIL. Three-sided, with twisted balusters. - STAINED GLASS. Some original glass in the E window of the Poley Chapel, e.g. the figure of a king. - PLATE. Almsdish ?1674; Cup, Paten, and Flagon 1708.

Holy Trinity (2)

 William Poley 1587 (1)

 South to Glemsford

BOXTED. For six centuries it has been the home of the Poley family, whose gracious house can be seen from the church, enshrined in a wooded valley, and with a Tudor bridge across its moat. The 15th century flint church has an elaborate panelled porch and splendid original roofs. Many old treasures are sheltered here: rails on three sides of the altar, a fragment of glass with a crowned head, a 15th century font, and a Jacobean pulpit with a canopy.

Two imposing monuments have wooden figures of William Poley and his wife, rare treasures, for there are not more than a hundred ancient wooden figures in the land. Here they are with their jewels. William, who built the hall and died the year before the Armada sailed, is in armour with his bare head on a helmet, and his wife has three necklaces. In richly carved niches stand figures of Sir John Poley who died in 1638, in armour with his gauntlets at his feet. His wife has golden ear-rings, and John is shown with a gold frog hanging from an ear, the symbol of a high Danish order bestowed on him.


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Glemsford, Suffolk

St Mary is stunning, with commanding views over the surrounding countryside - both the building and the location are outstanding. Sadly the interior, whilst beautiful, suffered a visitation from Dowsing in 1643 so it is light on monuments but does have a very good octagonal 15th century decorated font.

ST MARY. Dec W tower and Dec nave arcades (octagonal piers, double-chamfered arches, the N side apparently earlier than the S). Perp aisle walls and windows, chancel chapels, clerestory, and porches. The S aisle, S chapel, S porch, and N chapel have flushwork panelling, the N aisle and N porch have not. Large three-light windows, mostly transomed. S doorway with tiny canopied niches in one arch moulding. Money was left for a S window in 1447, a N window in 1454, N clerestory windows in 1474/5 (‘according to the design of the first one newly made in that wall’). Good N aisle roof with carved beams. - FONT. Octagonal. Panelled stem with four small figures. Bowl with two Signs of the Evangelists, head with crown, head with mitre, angel with shield, and Virgin of the Annunciation (?). - SOUTH DOOR. With tracery and a scroll along the edge. - (REREDOS in the S aisle C18. LG)

St Mary (3)

Font (1)

Towards Boxted (NW)
GLEMSFORD. It is the village (a wandering place with a great church and a glorious view) where Wolsey’s faithful servant came to end his days far from the glamour and peril of the Court. It has a fine house with an overhanging storey which may have been here in his day; one of its upright posts is carved with a figure of the Archangel Michael, who has his sword uplifted to sly the dragon. Below St Michael is an angel which gives its name to the neighbouring inn.

Most of the church, with its lofty aisle and porch, is 15th century, but the chancel has an arcade with slender pillars 700 years old. There is a huge iron-bound chest ravaged by the death-watch beetle, and a Jacobean pulpit with grapes and strange birds on the brackets of its book-rest. The oak reredos, with its carving of the Annunciation, was set up in memory of George Coldham, vicar here for 54 years last century. The treasure of the church is the 15th century font, its bowl carved with a fierce winged lion, a dragon, and four heads (a bishop and an angel, a king and a queen), with a curious little figure supporting the bowl.

Here sleeps George Cavendish without memorial, though indeed he has no need of one, for his life of his master, Cardinal Wolsey, is his everlasting monument. As we see Wolsey in Shakespeare, noting the firm bold lines in which the character is drawn, following his speeches and sighing over the tragic greatness of his fall, we feel that here is the authentic man, body and spirit; and it is almost certain that Shakespeare derived his details from Cavendish’s manuscript. Cavendish knew the cardinal better than anyone else, in his public life and in the secrecy of his chamber. Son of a Court official, he married a niece of Sir Thomas More, but at the age of 26, as Wolsey said, "abandoned his own country, wife, and children, his own house and family, his rest and quietness" to serve him as gentleman usher. He was with Wolsey in his greatest triumphs; he remained with him, constant, solicitous, loving, and loyal, to the tragic end. On Wolsey’s death Cavendish was strictly examined as to the acts and sayings of his master, and though in peril of his life he answered with such valiant candour that the hostile council declared he had served the cardinal like a just and diligent servant.

Retiring to Glemsford, Cavendish wrote the beautiful story of Wolsey’s life and conversation which stands as one of the earliest great biographies in our language. It remained in manuscript for a century, and then, in 1641, a garbled version of it was printed. Not until 1810 did it appear complete. Shakespeare had the manuscript, and we know that the words he makes Wolsey speak are the words George Cavendish wrote down.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Today's Visitation

Glorious sun and clear blue skies inured me to the bitter north easterly as I set off on a route planned late last night - and it turned out to be one of the most successful of recent times.

The planned trip was mainly, in fact I think all, South Suffolk and ran as follows:

Boxted, Stanstead, Glemsford, Pentlow, Poslingford, Clare, Stoke by Clare, Ashen, Wixoe and, maybe, Birdbrook.

The trip didn't go quite as planned but was well worth it - updates as the photos are processed.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Margaretting, Essex

Having driven round in circles I finally stumbled across St Margaret down a tiny lane and stranded across the other side of a mainline rail crossing - the crossing gates seemed to close every two minutes.

After doing exteriors I was somewhat underwhelmed but decided I had time to collect keys and do interiors, and thank goodness I did.

There is a bit of everything here from a Flemish east window to old corbels via the remains of the rood screen passing by John Tanfield's monument of 1625 with a sprinkle of an unknown brass and a dash of hatchments.

As a whole St Margaret left me feeling a bit cold but, as they say (or perhaps not in this case) the Devil is in the detail and the details here are wonderful - and that includes the railway crossing.

ST MARGARET. The church should be visited by all for its splendid C15 timber W tower, on ten posts (like Blackmore). The free-standing posts are connected from N and S by three pairs of arched braces. From E to W between posts two and three and posts three and four on both sides there are also arched braces, but lower and smaller. Cross-strutting above these. Outside, the tower has a vertically weather-boarded ground floor, the roof is hipped on N, S, and W, but straight on the E and higher than the nave roof. The bell-stage is straight on again and on it sits a broach spire. Bell-stage and broach spire are shingled. The two-light W window with a little tracery is original, the N and S windows renewed. The N porch also is of timber and contemporary. Four-centred doorway with traceried spandrels, cusped barge-boarding and one-light side openings. The rest of the church is also essentially C15 and early C16, but all windows are renewed. The S arcade has first one bay, then piece of wall and then another three. The piers are of four shafts with deep hollows between them, and the arches four-centred with double-hollow-chamfered moulding. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with quatrefoils carrying flowers, a crown, a mitre, a head with tongue put out. - SCREEN. Only the dado remains, with elaborate blank tracery. - STAINED GLASS. In the three-light E window the Tree of Jesse, much restored, but yet impressive as a complete C15 composition: four medallions with two figures each in the side lights, Jesse, three medallions and the seated Virgin in the centre light. - PLATE. Large Cup and Paten of 1563. - BRASS. Knight and Lady, mid C15, the figures c. 22 in. long.

East window glass (14)

East window glass (1)

Unknown brass (2)

Tracks (1)

MARGARETTING. The timber belfry with four bells four centuries old, and a rare Jesse window, give renown to this little village on the Roman road. No lover of beauty passes it by. The church is surrounded by trees. The thick wall of the nave is Norman, but most of it is 15th century. The timber walls of the porch have lovely open tracery and the door has its original wood and iron. The medieval masons rivalled the woodcarvers; every corbel in the nave is their work, the lion of Mark, the angel of Matthew, the eagle of John, and the ox of Luke, sharing their task with grotesque heads. More delicate are the symbols they carved round the font, rose, crown, mitre, acorns, leaves, square and compass, and a face with a protruding tongue.

The wooden screen must have been very beautiful; the few panels left have five-leaf traceried heads and spandrels with owls and leopards and roses. The two doors still hang on their old hinges, bringing us into the chancel with an east window brilliant with colour and human appeal. It represents the Tree of Jesse, and there runs up through three divisions a vine-stem encircling 12 round panels with 24 figures. Flying freely above Jesse is an angel, in the middle division all wear golden crowns, in the bottom panel are David with a harp and Solomon with his temple, and at the top are the Madonna and the Child. In the side panels are Old Testament figures, Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph and the rest, all with their names.

But the most interesting thing about this group is the record it gives of the life of the time. It was the work of Flemish artists 500 years ago and the men of Jesse’s line might very well be burghers of Antwerp or any other town in the Low Countries. Cloak and hat and every detail reflect the life the artists knew, and in pose and colour remind us of the lovely paintings of the golden age of Art.

There is a hint of the rich costume women wore in the 15th century in a brass on the chancel wall, where, resplendent in jewelled headdress, with a pomander box hanging from her girdle, a lady stands by a man in armour, with their seven children below. Farther along the wall in the nave is a family group of 1600, kneeling figures of the Tanfields painted on a small tablet of alabaster.

A door in a 16th century brick arch at the end of the nave leads us to the belfry, with its gigantic timbers. Three posts to right and three to left are linked by arches and made firm by slanting beams, and above go great braces to support the bell-chamber and the shingled spire. In the tower are four bells which rang at all the weddings of our royal Bluebeard.


Galleywood, Essex

St Michael was locked with no keyholder listed and is nearly impossible to decently photograph surrounded as it is by trees and cables - I did my best and went for a walk through the wooded common.

Mee is circumspect, so I suspect I didn't miss anything of interest here.

ST MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS. 1873 by St Aubyn (GR). In the Dec style, with a stone spire. 

St Michael (3)

GALLEYWOOD COMMON. A scattered village on the high ground south of Chelmsford, its glory is in its wild common, which we found a mass of living gold. The modern church stands on this wonderful gorse carpet, and its spire rises 127 feet high. A racecourse encircles the common and the church as well - an odd assemblage, though races were held at Galleywood long before the church came. Eight bells ring merrily in the steeple, which looks down on a churchyard beautiful with trees and flowers.


West Hanningfield, Essex

If I thought nearby Woodham Ferrers was a hotchpotch, SS Mary & Edward is a veritable smorgasbord of restoration  but I loved the porch and tower, particularly the tower which has a New England feel to it.

However my faith in humanity was restored by finding it open and welcoming. Whilst it's not overly exciting I did find some relations, in the shape of Clovilles and an Alington, here.

ST MARY AND ST EDWARD. The timber W tower is built on a Greek cross plan with the square upper part provided with an odd W oriel. Broach spire. On the ground floor to the S two Gothick windows. The construction inside is specially interesting, with arched braces in all four directions, buttressing struts in the arms of the cross, and on the upper floor of the centre arched braces diagonally across like ribs and meeting in a centre key-block with a grotesque face. The church itself has a Norman nave, as witnessed by the rear-arch of a N window, the remains of a C13 chancel (see the traces of E windows) a C14 S arcade and S aisle, a C15 timber porch, and an early C16 chancel. Most of the windows are probably of c. 1800: Gothick. The S arcade of five bays stands on octagonal piers and has double-chamfered arches. The chancel has two- and three-light N windows of brick, probably C17. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, small. - COMMUNION RAIL. Late C17 with alternatingly heavily twisted and turned balusters. - CHEST. Of the dug-out type, 8 ft long, heavily iron-bound. - PLATE. Cup of 1709; Paten on foot of 1709. - BRASS to Isabell Clouvill d. 1381, demi-figure. 

SS Mary & Edward (3)

Isabel Cloville 1361 (3)

Glasss (3)

WEST HANNINGFIELD. The long grass of the churchyard was aglow with primroses when we called to see the treasure of the village, the amazing dug-out chest which has been here 600 years. It is bound with iron and has two lids, both very hard to lift, and is over eight feet long. It would come here about the time the new font was set on the Norman base, the carvers giving it trellis work and roundels on the stem and ballflowers and quaint heads round the bowl. There is a charming portrait in brass of 1361, the oldest brass but one of a lady in all Essex. It shows the head and shoulders of Isabel Clouville in the delightful veiled headdress of her time. There is a shield of the family arms in 15th century glass and an altar tomb in which lie a 16th century John Clouville and his wife. In the window above the tomb are two little heads of women with a Tudor rose between them.

A very curious feature here is the 15th century wooden belfry at the end of the nave; it is planned like a cross, each arm two stages high, the centre rising a stage higher and crowned with a spire. The interior is a medley of old beams and, mounting a rough 16th century ladder, we find the curved braces meeting at a grotesque face. It is all a little like some goblin barn rather than a belfry.

(I very often wish I could have Mee's untrammelled access after reading his entries.)


Woodham Ferrers, Essex

The graveyard at St Mary the Virgin has a commanding view across the Crouch valley and, since the church was locked with no keyholder listed, is what I admired most here.

St Mary itself looks like a converted grain barn and is a hotch-potch affair but I would have liked to have seen Cecilie Sandys' monument.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. Nave and aisle, chancel, belfry. With the exception of the latter essentially built between c. 1250 and c. 1330. The N and S arcades come first, three bays with alternating circular and octagonal piers, alternating also in a N-S direction across the nave. Moulded capitals and double chamfered arches. Niches in the last pier and E respond on the S side. Clerestory C19, but with C13 splays. The chancel arch is of the same style, but the chancel in one way noticeably later. The windows have bar-tracery with quatrefoils in circles. That can hardly be earlier than c. 1275. The aisle windows have usual two-light Dec tracery. There was originally an early C16 W tower, but it has been demolished, and the tower arch bricked up. Patches of flint and stone flushwork on the l. and r. remain to indicate the character of the tower. The S porch is of timber, with six cusped arched openings on each side and a pargetted gable. The belfry rests on a big tiebeam, not on posts, as usual. - FONT COVER, ogee-shaped of thin ribs. - PAINTING. Doom above the chancel arch, C15, with Christ seated in the centre, angels on the l. and r, souls below, and the mouth of Hell in the r. corner. Hardly recognizable. - PLATE. Large Cup and Paten of 1668. - MONUMENTS. Cecilie Sandys, wife of the Archbishop of York d. 1610, erected 1619. The usual alabaster design with a kneeling figure in profile, but in addition Father Time on the left, a missing figure on the r., and Victories on the semicircular pediment. What will be remembered as exceptional and enchanting is the background behind the figure and the whole area of the pediment, all carved into an arbour of roses. 

St Mary the Virgin (3)

Woodham Ferrers

Woodham Ferrers (2)

Mee explains the mystery of Bicknacre.

WOODHAM FERRERS. Its houses line a winding uphill street, and the church stands behind with a good view of the valley of the Crouch. It is a wide open building of the 13th and 14th centuries, having lost its tower. It has a 14th century font and four l5th century benches. The wall over the high chancel arch shows in a faint pink all that remains of a medieval Doom painting, in which Christ sits on a rainbow; and there are bright yellows and blues in the 14th century shields of France and England in a window. A delightful monument is a son’s tribute to his mother; it shows Cecilie Sandys, who survived her husband, Archbishop of York, living in the Elizabethan house he had built a mile away, still standing. She kneels in painted alabaster, a lady of Jacobean days, below a graceful trellis covered with flowers, Father Time with an hourglass in his hand lurking in the shadow of a column behind her.

Along the road is Bicknacre, where a solitary arch stands like a shadow of the priory which stood here from the 12th century until 1507, when its last canon died in it.


East Hanningfield, Essex

Disappointingly, and for no apparent reason, All Saints is kept locked although a contact number is noted if you wish to arrange a tour - I didn't. Architecturally uninspiring and heavily restored, I took externals and headed onwards. On my way to Woodham Ferrers I noticed Old Church Road and spent awhile trying to spot the old church but to no avail; it was standing in Mee's day but couldn't find it. Unlike at Thundridge a quick Google only shows that the original church burnt down in 1883; I suspect nothing remains.

ALL SAINTS. In ruins and at the time of writing completely neglected, with bushes and weeds growing rank inside the nave and aisle. Brick chancel of the early C16, with two-Light brick-windows in the S wall. Nave with two-bay N arcade. The pier is of brick, octagonal and heavy. In the nave S wall is one four-light window of brick.*

* Wall paintings removed to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

All Saints (3)

EAST HANNINGFIELD. Far from any town it stands, on a ridge with long views every way. Wide grass borders to the highway give a charm to its neat cottages and the modern church has a prosperous look. The vicar’s garden boasts the oldest well in the county, 480 feet deep. Close to the village are two Elizabethan farms with diagonal chimneys, but the church of medieval days is a ruin down the hill. It has given to South Kensington a wall-painting of great value, a treasure 600 years old showing Adam with his spade, Eve with her spindle, and Catherine with her wheel. For many years this painting was exposed to the open sky in the ivied ruins of the nave by the old chancel, now only used for funerals.


Danbury, Essex

I've been busy elsewhere so it's taken me almost a week to process the photos of my last trip which was planned to run as follows: Danbury, Bicknacre, East Hanningfield, Woodham Ferrers, West Hanningfield, Galleywood and Highwood. I couldn't find Bicknacre church nor Highwood (the SatNav, and road map, refused to acknowledge the existence of Highwood in Essex)so I had time, just, to add Margaretting to the trip.

All of these villages being south of Chelmsford I was expecting to be disappointed with both the architecture and the locked status of these churches but St John the Baptist, Danbury, surprised me on both counts.

The overwhelming feature of interest are the Gilbert Scott designed pews each with a set of poppyheads. These were based on a block of three surviving medieval pews and are very good replicas - the workmanship is outstanding.

On top of this are three wooden effigies of knights, two dating from between 1272 and 1307 and the other a little later, and some nice brasses to members of the Mildmay family.

All in all a promising start to the day!

ST JOHN THE BAPTIST. The church and its churchyard lie within a roughly oval, poorly preserved Earthwork. The church is remarkably roomy. Nave and aisles together are wider than they are long. Chancel, S chancel chapel and N Vestry form one straight E end. The oldest part is the N aisle wall with cusped two-light windows with a quatrefoil in the spandrel. This must be c. 1300. The rest is essentially C14, the arcades of three bays with the typical quatrefoil piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches (on the N side dying into a  vertical continuation of the pier), and the W tower with diagonal buttresses, a W door with niches to the l. and r., a W window with two ogee lights and a quatrefoil in the spandrel, and a later recessed, rather tall, shingled spire. In the tower arch towards the nave is a pretty GALLERY of c. 1600. The N aisle has its original early C14 trussed-rafter roof, boarded over later in the E parts with ribs resting on oak head-corbels. The S aisle and S chancel chapel were rebuilt by Gilbert Scott in 1866. Squint from N aisle to chancel, and small squint-like window from Vestry to chancel. - BENCHES. Four in the nave with poppy-heads and various beasts on the shoulders. - PAINTING. At the E end of the N aisle remains of the original ornamental painting, a frieze of scrolls with little leaves, red, black, grey and yellow, c. 1300. - HELM in N aisle, late C16. - PLATE. Paten of 1667; foreign; Cup of 1771; Spoon of 1774; Paten of 1808. - MONUMENTS. In low recesses in the N and S aisles three oak effigies of Knights. All these are cross-legged, the N aisle ones earlier than that of the S aisle, late C13 and very early C14. They are all three remarkably different in attitude and mood; not at all shopwork. The earlier ones have their hand on the sword, but one of the two is bent more lyrically than the other. The younger one is in an attitude of prayer.

Poppyhead (70)

Poppyhead (76)

Wooden effigies (4)

Here lyeth

DANBURY. It is over 600 years since the funeral processions of the three knights of St Clere drew all the neighbourhood up the deep fern-lined lanes to the hilltop church. It is over 600 years since the medieval craftsmen laid on their tombs these oak sculptures which are the admiration of all Essex.

Each of the three knights lies with his legs crossed and his feet resting on a lion, his face peeping out from the close-woven meshes of chain mail. Each wears a tabard with its folds realistically carved. But each knight has a different aspect, an attitude which may have some forgotten meaning. One is drawing his sword, the second is vigorously thrusting his sword back into a sheath which a little dragon is biting, the third has his hands folded at prayer.

The story of the embalmed knight of Danbury begins in 1779, when a lady of the manor, Mrs Frances Ffytche, died and a grave was dug for her near a recess containing one of the wooden figures. At about 30 inches below the pavement the workmen laid bare a huge flat stone under which was a lead coffin. There was no name on the coffin and the workmen hurried for the rector, who called a conference with his churchwarden and a Mr White, who has left a record of this discovery.

It was decided to open the coffin, in the great expectation of seeing the bones of the knight whose statue in wood they knew so well. Inside the lead coffin they found an elm coffin, firm and entire, and inside this was a shell three-quarters of an inch thick and covered with cement. The lid of the shell was removed and to the great surprise of all there lay revealed, not his bones, but a man in the vigour of youth, his flesh firm and white. He was clad in a shirt of linen, round the top of which a narrow piece of crude lace had been sewn with bold stitches. The man was five feet long, his limbs were in excellent symmetry, his teeth were perfect. The preservation of his body was due to a curious liquid which half-filled the coffin. Flowers and herbs in abundance, perfect in form, were floating in the liquor.

After some of the villagers had been to see this ancient inhabitant of Danbury the coffins were replaced, soldered up in the leaden cover, and lowered once more into the grave. Those who had seen the coffin opened had looked upon the perfect figure of one of these three knights, 500 years old.

The knights rest by the foundations of the Norman church they may have seen taken down, to be rebuilt in the 13th century and re-fashioned in the 14th, when the nave arcades and the tower were added. From the battlements of this tower springs a spire cased in copper, wooden shingles, and lead, a landmark for miles, for the church stands on the summit of a hill 365 feet high, in an old encampment used by the marauding Danes and possibly furnished with its rampart by the Romans, or inhabitants long before then.

There is carving 500 years old on four benches with moulded rails, and three poppyheads with weird beasts. Modern lovers of this church have carried on the medieval craftsman’s idea, so that today all the pews are ornamented with lions and dragons. The gallery in the tower is a good example of 15th century woodwork; the balusters are Elizabethan. There is a 13th century piscina with quaint masks and neat 14th century niches on either side of the fine tower doorway. A helmet enriched with a lion rampant hangs in the aisle above the Mildmay tombs, and there is a brass alms dish of 1631 with Adam and Eve carved on it. In the lovely park at the foot of the hill the bishops of Rochester lived for 30 years, and the east window, with the Crucifixion, was Bishop Claughton’s gift when he celebrated his jubilee. Hanging here is a piece of the wooden walls of Old England, an oak tablet cut from the battleship Britannia and inscribed with the names of the 250 men from the village who did not come back from the war. It is a lovely village they laid down their lives for, with old houses which have stood for generations looking down on England over commons on which dwarf oaks and stunted holly trees brave the winds from the North Sea.