Tuesday, 25 October 2011

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.


No comments:

Post a Comment