Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sturmer, Essex

I've been close to St Mary several times but never had time to visit, it's always been on my way back home when time was running out - and I'm glad I found time to stop last week.

It's tiny with a Tudor brick south porch, a bijou tower and is old. Unfortunately it was locked but there was a keyholder sign although the address label for where the key was held had long since faded and fallen off.

The Norman arch and tympanum of the south door are very high quality - I wonder what is hidden inside the church.

ST MARY. Away from the village, amid trees, with Sturmer Hall to the W. An C11 nave the only evidence of which is the unrebated N doorway with a lintel decorated with a chequer pattern. C12 S doorway with one order of columns carrying scalloped capitals, zigzag in the arch, two heads like projecting knobs at the top of the door jambs, and a tympanum decorated with two ornamental crosses and two rosettes. The latter may mean sun and moon, but why two crosses? And why this completely unplanned arrangement? It looks like nothing but incompetence, and it seems an odd incompetence that cannot put two almost identical shapes on the same level. The chancel is Norman too, as shown by one small N window. It was altered in the E.E. style, when three smallish separate lancet windows were inserted at the E end. C14 W tower with diagonal buttresses and pyramid roof. Early C16 S porch of brick with stepped gable. The nave roof has double hammerbeams, but they are small and the spandrels are all decorated with rather thin tracery. - PLATE. Small secular goblet of 1676.

St Mary (2)

South door (1)


STURMER. Ancient Britons were buried in the mound we see here in a field, Saxon masons began the building of the little church, and 15th century men fashioned the timber framework of Sturmer Hall, now refaced with modern brick. The work of the Saxons is still seen in the nave and in the little north doorway no longer used, its tympanum carved with squares. The Normans re-fashioned the chancel and built the doorway on the south, which has weird heads below a tympanum crudely patterned. The porch is of Tudor brick with a crowstepped gable, and there is a studded Tudor door in the chancel. The nave has a double hammerbeam roof, decorated about 1500 with pierced tracery and carved wall-plates. One of the windows has two shields in 15th century glass. This small place is linked with our greatest naval victory, for we read here of William Hicks, who was a middy on HMS Conqueror when she sailed into Nelson’s last iight. He was rector here for 44 years, with a tale to tell the village children that must have made their history books seem dull.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Ridgewell, Essex

St Lawrence left me strangely flat, perhaps because of the glories of Sudbury or perhaps because it's not very interesting.

ST LAURENCE. All C15 except for an unexplained, probably re-used piece of C13 blank arcading in the N wall of the vestry. W tower with angle buttresses, some flint decoration at the foot, battlements and a higher stair-turret. Embattled S porch. Windows with Perp tracery. N arcade with piers with semi-polygonal shafts, small to the arches, and large, without capitals, to the nave; two-centred arches. Clerestory with embattled cill. N chancel chapel with octagonal pier and semi-octagonal responds carrying embattled capitals. Delicately detailed nave roof with collar-beams on arched braces, every second resting on shafts which stand on corbels. All beams and rafters moulded. - SCREEN. Four divisions of the dado remain, with elaborate tracery including mouchette-wheels. - PULPIT. C17, plain. - LECTERN. Octagonal with a heavy foot decorated with fleurons. Book-rest new. - PLATE. Cup of 1564. 

St Lawrence (4)

Be Still

RIDGEWELL. Many little Roman relics of far-off days have been dug up in this village. Its houses today gather about a spacious green. One of the older ones, Ridgewell Hill Farm, was built a year after the Armada and has kept three sides of its moat. It has carved bargeboards, chimney-stacks with eight-sided shafts, and original panelling in the dining-room. Moat Farm and Essex Hall belong to the next century. The church is mostly 500 years old, and has two valued possessions, a screen richly carved by 15th century men and an oak bier made about the same time. Also 15th century are the roofs of nave and chance] (the nave roof fine with leafy bosses, wall-plates, and little figures in niches in the brackets); the base of the lectern with its square flowers; two plain stalls in the chancel; and the font, which has old tiles in the platform by it. The doorway inside the porch is a hundred years older, and so is the north arcade. There is a peephole in the chancel arch, a little 15th century glass made up with a modern scene of the Crucifixion, and a graceful 17th century pulpit with panelled sides and a fluted frieze.


Bulmer, Essex

Turning for home I crossed back into Essex and headed for Bulmer (after a futile search for Middleton, which, once again, my satnav refused to accept exists and I saw no signs for it but then I was somewhat lost).

St Andrew took an age to find and, when I did, wasn't hugely rewarding - a very nice font, with a green man, and two good modern windows - but the setting was beautiful.

Font (4)

Window (1)


BULMER. Its finest possession has been in the church 500 years, a font beautifully carved and wonderfully preserved. It has an octagonal bowl and stands on a graceful panelled base. Seven of the sides have angels, double roses, and a shield bearing a thumb-screw; but the one we liked best shows a genial face between branches of grapes, with vine leaves coming from its mouth. The tower is 15th century and there are 14th century arches in the nave with a richly moulded doorway of the same age; but the chief interest of the building is in the 14th century chancel, which has a fine little arcade in the sanctuary wall, and a Tudor roof with canopied angels holding shields* and the instruments of the Passion. In two windows is a little old glass. An opening outside one of the walls is blocked with bricks which appear to be Roman.

* Either I missed these or they are no longer extant.

Sudbury, Suffolk part 3

I visited St Gregory in August but a service was under way so I only did externals. The beautiful exterior did not prepare me for the three wonders of this church.

The first, and most impressive, are the bench ends and misericords of the chancel stalls - without doubt some of the finest I've seen - but running them close are the font (or more correctly the font cover) and the original rood screen panel depicting Master John Schorn.

Even without these three this would still be an impressive church with much to see and admire - I'm rather surprised that Simon Jenkins, rather begrudgingly to my mind, only awards it one star.

ST GREGORY. The mother church of Sudbury. By the Green at the W end of the town, the third of its medieval parishes. Perp, built of flint. W tower with diagonal buttresses with five set-offs. SE stair—turret. At its foot on the S side MONUMENT. Tomb-chest with shields in lozenges and recessed niche above. Nave and aisles, clerestory, not with doubled windows. S porch with a chapel attached to its E side (cf. Clare Suffolk and St Botolph Cambridge). Tall transomed chancel windows. Brick vestry to the N of the E end, early C16. C14 arcades of four bays. Polygonal attachments to the piers towards nave and aisle without capitals, semicircular shafts with capitals towards the arch openings. The capitals on the S side simpler and earlier, on the N finer. The church is supposed to have been rebuilt by Archbishop Sudbury, who founded a college here in 1375 (see below) and was executed in 1381, and to have been remodelled c. 1485. Nice cambered nave roof, the E bays ceiled, flat chancel ceiling, painted with a pattern of squares and elongated hexagons, more Renaissance than Gothic in character. - FONT. Perp, octagonal. Bowl shallow with tracery motifs, probably late C14. - FONT COVER. One of the finest medieval font covers in the country. Tall, with two tiers of panels with ogee arches and gables, the upper tier placed so that its panels stand above the edges of the panels below. - SCREEN. One panel, at the W end of the nave, with a painting of Master John Schorn healing the gout by conjuring a devil out of a boot. - STALLS. Heads on the arms, MISERICORDS with heads etc. More panels of the screen dado used for the stall backs. - SOUTH DOOR. With tracery and a trail border. - MONUMENT. Incised slab with Normano-French inscription to the wife of the Sieur de St Quentin, c. 1325. Foreign, according to Mr Greenhill (S chapel floor). - CURIOSA. The skull of Archbishop Sudbury is preserved in the vestry.

Benchend (1)

Benchend (3)

Misericord (6)

John Schorn (1)

The mother church of the town is St Gregory’s (built by Simon of Sudbury), standing at a quiet corner with a medieval porch and a lofty tower. It has stood as we see it since the 15th century, but has a relic of its earlier days in a stone to a wool merchant’s wife who lived here in 1275. The lovely old door of the porch opens into a great white church, elegant and lofty, and with fine old roofs. On each side of the high chancel arch is a delightful figure of a curly-haired girl carved in stone, and seen through the arch the blue chancel roof is charming, painted with spiral bands and gold stars and angels on the cornice.

The chancel has 20 fine choir stalls with medieval carvings under the seats, and figures on the armrests. In two facing windows are three of our patron saints and three figures of the church (Augustine, Bede, and Gregory). Across the chancel still stand the lower panels the old rood screen, painted with saints last century, and close by them is a charming pulpit of our own time, daintily shaped like a wine glass.

The treasure of the church is the ancient cover of its modern font, one of only three covers of its kind. A richly traceried piece of craftsmanship of the 15th century, 12 feet high, its gorgeous tabernacle work is gay with its original red and gold, and it has in its diminishing stages traceried windows with pinnacled canopies. What is exceptional about the cover is that the lower part pushes ingeniously telescopewise.

Hanging by the tower arch is a painted wooden panel of the medieval knight of whom it is said that he conjured the devil into a boot; in case we should doubt it the great boot is here to see, and the owner stands with his hand raised in rebuke to the devil sitting inside. The knight, who is wearing a red gown with a black hat over his bobbed hair, is Sir John Schorne, a Buckinghamshire rector of long ago, who appears with his boot on several English screens.

In a small medieval chapel is a massive altar tomb with a mysterious inscription which is an epitaph’s way of saying that a rich man has gone to heaven; it is to Thomas Carter who died in 1706:

Traveller, I will relate a wondrous thing. On the day on which
Thomas Carter breathed his last a Sudbury camel passed through
the eye of a needle; if thou hast wealth, go and do likewise.

There is outside the porch another altar tomb which has lost its brass; it is close to the great gateway which leads from the church to the workhouse - for so low are the mighty fallen in Sudbury that Simon of Sudbury’s college has now become the home of the poor.

Simon was Sudbury’s great Archbishop of Canterbury in the 14th century and there he lies, but his old town has a grim relic of its greatest son. He looks down from a boss in the roof of an aisle and a big stone in the floor at the east end marks the grave of his father and mother. But in a niche in the vestry is a little box behind an iron door in which is the head of Simon, cut off by Wat Tyler’s followers on Tower Hill and set over London Bridge, where it remained six days. It may now be seen, a grim sight reminding us of the head of Cromwell which we found also in this county. It was perhaps some satisfaction to the people of this town that the last of Wat Tyler’s rebels was killed or captured in this market-place in the year when the rebels slew this good old man*.


* Some take a rather different view, including Wat Tyler's supporters, as he was the instigator of the original Poll Tax.

Sudbury, Suffolk part 2

Having visited Sudbury in February and the subsequent discovery that All Saints was not the only church in town I returned to visit St Gregory and St Peter.

St Peter is a CCT church right in the heart of Sudbury and is, externally, stunning but I found the interior a bit of let down. This may have been due to a book fair being conducted in the nave but I just found the whole too forensic and sterile.

Having said that I did like elements such as the rood screen dados, the reredos and the south chapel altar as well as the interesting crucifixion graffiti in the south chapel.

Thinking that I might be being a bit harsh I went to the excellent SimonK's site to see what he made of it and must say that when I visited I had a warm welcome and was positively encouraged to take photos!

ST PETER. Perp: although large and convincingly expressing the wealth of a prosperous wool-manufacturing town, this church was built as a chapel of ease. W tower of c. 1460-85, with a pretty copper spirelet of 1810 that tells much in distant views. Nave and aisles, clerestory with a doubling of windows. Chancel and chancel chapels. The aisles embrace the tower. S porch two-storeyed, three niches in the front. The ground floor was intended to be vaulted. No N porch. Tall arcades of five rather narrow bays, the piers with four attached shafts and four small hollows in the diagonals. The chancel redecorated by Bodley, 1898 . Vestry under the chancel. - By Bodley also the tall reredos. - Handsome BALCONY right above the chancel arch and the former rood. - ROOD SCREEN. Dado with completely repainted figures. - PARCLOSE SCREENS. Very rich, though with only one-light divisions. But the arches are broad and there is much cusped tracery. - DOORS. S and N doors with tracery. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp. The bowl with cusped pointed quatrefoils. - PAINTINGS. Moses and Aaron (N aisle, W end), from the C18 reredos. Painted by Robert Cardinall, early C18. - EMBROIDERY. Alderman’s Pall, C15. Among the embroidered motifs small kneeling figure in shroud, with prayers from the Vulgate. - Preaching Cloth, i.e. Pulpit Frontal, Jacobean.


South chapel altar

Grafitti (2)

St Peter’s stands on Market Hill with Gainsborough in front. It is nearly all 15th century, but has Norman stones in its tower. The curious angle of its west wall is due to the fact that houses stood close up to it in other days. It has fine old traceried doors, a 17th century nave roof panelled in blue and gold, fine screens, a medieval font once used as a cattle trough, two medieval choir-stalls, and a pair of fine chairs with 16th century carving; on one chair is a man with a wide-brimmed hat and on the other a Nativity with three shepherds, an ox, and an ass looking on. Over the two doors are two faded paintings of Moses and Aaron by a Suffolk pupil of Sir Godfrey Kneller.

The elaborate decoration of the chancel is by George Frederick Bodley, whose reredos shows the Annunciation and the Crucifixion in deep relief under golden canopies. Much finer, however, is the oak reredos in the south chapel, with the Last Supper above and the Nativity below; it has shepherds with their crooks, angels under canopies, and richly painted tabernacle work.

Three fragments of medieval England St Peter’s has, a piece of embroidery of 1500, rood screen panels with eight painted saints, and a long narrow oak canopy which once sheltered a crucifix; it is still where it would be then, over the lofty chancel arch. The embroidery, the great treasure of the church, is known as the Sudbury Pall and is still used at the burials of aldermen. It is of maroon velvet with a fringe of green and gold, and round it are floral ornaments worked in gold and silver thread with kneeling figures in white shrouds. Above the figures are fine scrolls with prayers on them. There is a more modest example of embroidery in the royal arms on the cloth of the Jacobean pulpit.

Chilton, Suffolk

Despite the fact that my satnav denied all knowledge of a Chilton existing in Suffolk, St Mary was easy to spot as I headed back towards Sudbury looming over an industrial estate.

St Mary is a CCT church and is kept locked but with very clear directions, by foot or car, to the keyholder's house - unfortunately, this being a Tuesday mid-morning, the keyholder was out. This is a pity as I would have liked to have seen the Crane monuments, I may return.

ST MARY. On no road, about 1/4 m. from Chilton Hall. There is no village near either. Flint, but with a C16 W tower of brick. The Crane Chapel at the NE end also of brick. Moreover, a Tudor brick window of two lights in the nave N wall next to a very tall transomed straight-headed stone window also of two lights. The S windows are equally tall and transomed, but of three lights and arched. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, simple. - SCREEN. Only the dado survives. - STAINED GLASS. In the tracery of the E window of the Crane Chapel two original figures. - MONUMENTS. Alabaster effigy probably of George Crane d. 1491. - Alabaster effigies of Robert Crane d. 1500 and his wife. - Sir Robert Crane d. 1643 with his two wives. This monument was prepared in 1626. The sculptor was Gerard Christmas, and the price in the contract is £50. Tripartite composition of the shape of the so-called Venetian window. Columns of touch. Three niches. In the middle one Sir Robert kneeling frontally, in the other two the two wives in profile.

St Mary (3)

CHILTON. It has a lovely old hall of mellow red brick with an embattled corner turret and a bridge of many arches astride its moat. The little 15th century church stands remote in the fields alnost hid by tall elms, its brick tower battlemented with flint and pinnacled with stone. There is a panelled 15th century font and a Jacobean altar table, but it is the splendid monuments of the squires of Chilton that attract all eyes. Sir Robert Crane of Shakespeare's day kneels on the vestry wall in his Stuart armour and baggy red breeches, with a wife on either side, and earlier Cranes are sleeping here on their fine altar tombs. One is a long-haired man in armour, his head resting on his helmet, his feet on a strange beast, his wife in tight-waisted gown and SS collar. The other is a merchant with his money-bag at his waist and a quaint animal at his feet looking round at these last vestiges of his master’s opulence.

Acton, Suffolk

Whilst trying to find my next stop, Chilton, my satnav took me to Acton so I took the opportunity to visit All Saints which was, unfortunately locked. A helpful sign stated that it is kept open in daylight hours from June to August and gave directions for the keyholder who was sadly out.

This necessitates a revisit as I have heard about the brasses here and would love to 'acquire' them - also Mee makes it sound interesting.

ALL SAINTS. S aisle and S Chapel of c. 1300 (Y-tracery). W tower base of c. 1300. The rest of the tower 1913-23. N doorway and N chapel Dec. Arcades with piers with four polygonal shafts, those to nave and aisles broader and stronger and without capitals. Between the chancel and the N chapel big Dec.- MONUMENT. Tomb-chest; on top a slab formerly with a foliated cross; cusped arch, and ogee gable. -  COMMUNION RAIL. Late C17. - BENCH ENDS with poppy-heads, one of them with a pair of moorhens. - BRASSES. The brass to Sir Robert de Bures d. 1302 is one of the oldest and one of the finest in England. The figure is 6 ft 6 in. tall. He wears chain mail, over his head as well, no helmet, and a long surcoat. His legs are crossed and the feet are on a lion. His hands are in prayer. Exquisite engraving. - Alyce de Bryan, c. 1435. Under a triple canopy. The figure is 4 ft 9 in. long. - Henry Bures d. 1528. Knight in armour, 3 ft figure. - MONUMENT. In the SE chapel the monument to Robert Jennens d. 1722, adjutant of the Duke of Marlborough. Attributed by Mrs Esdaile to Thomas Green. It was put up, and the chapel built for it, by Jennens’s widow. Standing wall monument. Reredos background with fluted pilasters. He lies comfortably semi-reclining on a mattress. His elbow rests on a pillow and his head is propped up by his hand. He looks towards his wife, who is seated by his feet. Minute details of the dress very competently carved. Emotionally the figures are perhaps less convincing.

All Saints (2)


ACTON. It has a notable house in Acton Place, standing in a park with fine trees, for it includes part of the mansion begun by the Duke of Marlborough’s aide-de-camp Robert Jennens. His miserly son William, who was nearly a millionaire, hardly spent a penny in his 97 years. In the vestry of the restored medieval church Robert Jennens reclines in marble, with a seated woman gazing down on him. It is interesting that the sculptor has shown him in a rich coat and a wig, and not in the rather foolish Roman costume so fashionable in our 18th century monuments. The church has some remarkably massive buttresses, a roof renewed with oaks from Acton Place, and a collection of old pews with carved poppyheads, one bearing the carver’s name, C. Newson. They show fowls eating corn, a dove with an olive leaf, acorns, grapes, flowers, and foliage. Some of the pews have panelled backs with arches of tracery, the spandrels also being filled with carving.

But the fame of Acton lies in its remarkable little portrait gallery in enduring brass. Here is John Daniel in his Elizabethan ruff and gown, and quaint little figures of Edmund Daniel and his Margaret and their five sons, all Elizabethan. Alyce de Bryan of the 15th century is shown as a widow with her little dog playing on the folds of her mantle, and Henry Bures of 1528 is in armour with a long sword strapped to his waist. All these portraits any church might have, but there is another, one of the oldest brasses in England, which experts have called the finest military brass in existence, because of the richness of its detail and the splendid engraving. It is a portrait of Sir Robert de Bures of 1302 as a cross-legged warrior in chain mail covered by a tunic open in front. He wears a broad belt and has a great sword and a shield with two lions. His hands are together in prayer, and his feet rest on a smiling lion. The de Bures chapel is a fitting home for this rare treasure. It is divided from the chancel by a fine 13th century arch with some of the heaviest and most gorgeous ornament of cusping we have seen, the cusps ending with figures of angels which have lost their heads.

Great Waldingfield, Suffolk

St Lawrence was padlocked with no sign of a keyholder which is a shame as this is a resplendent building in the heart of the village and there seems to be no apparent reason for it to be kept locked. So I took exteriors and moved on, accidentally, to Acton.

ST LAWRENCE. (Built by John Appleton at the end of the C14. L G) Perp, with some flushwork decoration, chiefly of a chequerboard pattern. W tower with diagonal buttresses of four set-offs. Nave and aisle. Clerestory with single, not double windows. Inscription on the S  side in the battlements: ‘Pray for the (soul)’ - probably of John Appleton. S porch with flushwork. Its entrance and the S doorway have fleurons in the jambs and arches. The N porch is presumably of the restoration of 1827-9. The chancel was rebuilt in 1866-9 by Butterfield. Interior with tall arcades. Piers with four shafts and four small hollows. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with heavy quatrefoils. - BENCH ENDS. With poppy-heads. - COMMUNION RAIL. From St Michael Cornhill in the City of London. With twisted balusters, and enriched with leaf and garlands. Probably by William Cleere c. 1670-5. - STAINED GLASS. The E and W windows by Gibbs 1869 and 1877; a N aisle window by Westlake, 1877, two in the N aisle by Lavers, 1885 and 1887, and one in the S aisle, 1882, by the same. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup, repaired 1618; Almsdish 1701.

St Lawrence (3)

Headstone (1)

GREAT WALDINGFIELD. The villagers occupying its snug little cottages enjoy the peace of a secluded corner of the countryside, but they are in touch with great scenes and great names. They can lay hands on fragments of London and of the Eternal City; they can see and touch something seen and touched by Pharaoh. The lofty clerestoried church is 14th century, and has a fine tower. The south porch, with a mitre over it, has flowers in its arches, and the old west door has tracery and foliage on its panels. Below the clerestory windows are quaint heads and more flowers. One of the windows has a medley of delicately coloured old glass in which are two crowns, four flaming suns, and two golden canopies. The chancel is a treasury of surprise and interest. Panelling the lower part of the sanctuary walls is a mosaic of marble fragments collected from ruined temples in Rome by two ladies of the parish. The pieces were fitted together by an Italian artist and brought home intact. There is granite here from Mount Sinai, and with it pieces of syenite, once part of a colossal statue of Rameses lying in the sands of Egypt.

The woodwork of the chancel is believed to have been carved by Grinling Gibbons for Wren’s fine church of St Michael in Cornhill, where it remained until last century. There are fine spiral rails, some worked into the choir-stalls and some at the altar; other woodwork includes poppyheads with flowers, foliage, dragons, and birds. The remainder of the woodwork from St Michael’s sanctuary we found at the vicarage, fluted columns with cherubs and foliage capitals, and splendid panelling carved with festoons of flowers and fruit.

Here lies John Hopkins, a son of Gloucestershire who was vicar here in the 16th century. Here he died, having linked his name forever with that of Thomas Sternhold by setting our people singing Psalms. They produced the first metrical version of the Psalms set to modern music, and their book was a bestseller before the Spanish Armada came, more copies of it having been sold since than of any other book except the Prayer Book and the Bible. In three centuries this treasure of the church has run into over 600 editions. Old Thomas Fuller counted Hopkins one of the best poets of Tudor England and he was more than a poet, for he was filled with deep sympathy for the suffering and oppressed, and he wrote verses for Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Little Waldingfield, Suffolk

St Lawrence, and Little Waldingfield, are, quite simply, beautiful. Amongst its treasures are two fine porches, a fantastic font and some excellent brasses.

The interior is light, airy and, unlike many south Suffolk churches, feels relatively untouched by both Dowsing and the Victorians - OK the glass, as you'd expect, has gone but any restoration that was done has been exceptionally sympathetic.

ST LAWRENCE. All Perp. The distinguishing feature is the two rood-stair turrets with their crocketed spirelets. W tower, nave and aisles and clerestory. The arcades have quatrefoil piers with embattled capitals and carry arches of one wave and one hollow with little decorative ogee gables. The same motif over the aisle windows and also over the doorways. That on the S side is decorated with crowns, faces, and big square fleurons. S porch of brick and flint, roughly striped. N porch of brick. The front has a stepped gable in front of a steep plain gable. The latter carries a pinnacle. Niche for an image below this. The chancel E window looks plain C17 Gothic. The roofs in the nave, cambered on arched braces, and in the aisles are original. - FONT. Octagonal, with the Signs of the Evangelists and four frontal figures of monks with books. - PULPIT. Jacobean; good. - READING DESK. With panels with similar motifs. - WEST DOOR . With a band of quatrefoils. - NORTH DOOR. With a band of foliage trails outside, a band of shields and quatrefoils inside. - CHEST. Good C15 chest with traceried front. - BRASSES. John Coleman d. 1506, 2 ft 6 in. figure (by the E wall of the N aisle). - Robert Appleton d. 1526 and wife, 20 in. figures. - John Wyncoll d. 1544, 19 in. figure.

North porch

Font (7)

John Wyncoll 1544 (1)

LITTLE WALDINGFIELD. Its 15th century church has a fine tower with four stone priests instead of pinnacles. Unfortunately they have lost their heads; and so have the angels by the handsome south doorway, which is enriched with flowers and heads and a crown. On the north side there is an old brick porch now blocked up. The nave has battlemented piers supporting unusual decorated arches, the Jacobean pulpit is finely carved with little arches and foliage, and a beautiful desk for the vicar looks as if it were made of material from a pulpit. There are old benches with poppyheads, some fragments of old glass, and an ancient chest with rough ironwork and an arched lid. The 15th century font has angels supporting the bowl, which is carved with the symbols of the Evangelists and four seated figures holding open books. Nearby is a Jacobean table once an altar.

One of the little sights of the church we do not see, for it is under the organ, a brass showing John Colman of 1506, with his wife and 13 children. Another brass half-hidden by the organ has a portrait of a Tudor clothier, John Wyncoll, in a doublet and furred gown; and still another, seen quite well, shows Roger Appleton of 1526 and his wife, he in armour with a long sword strapped to his waist, she in a headdress rather like the one Sir John Tenniel loved to draw for the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland. Very interesting it was to find on the wall above this old couple a brass in memory of a 20th century Appleton from Boston, Massachusetts, whom we take to be a descendant of Roger and his wife.

Near the church is an old house called the Priory, with a vaulted crypt and a fine timber roof. It may have belonged to a monastery.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Great Cornard, Suffolk

I'd say that technically Great Cornard is a suburb of Sudbury rather than a village in its own right nowadays and that St Andrew is a very Essex style of church - not without some merit but, to be honest, not to my taste.

To my mind the best parts were a surviving poppy head, the rood screen dado and the south aisle window.

The village near which Gainsborough painted Cornard Wood is now more or less a suburb of Sudbury.

ST ANDREW. Flint. C14 W tower. It has diagonally placed niches l. and r. of the W window and carries a shingled spire. C16 brick stair-turret. The S aisle is of 1887. Low N arcade with piers of Sudbury type. - FONT. Simple, octagonal, Perp. - WALL PAINTINGS. Framed texts on the N aisle wall; Elizabethan. - PLATE. Paten 1710.


Rood remnants (1)

SE Aisle window (2)

Oddly Mee has no record of Great Cornard, although he does cover Little Cornard.


Sible Hedingham, Essex

Another trip to, predominantly, south Suffolk began with a visit to St Peter where, unbeknownst to me,there is a monument to my children's 19th great grandfather Sir John Hawkwood (I'll leave it to Arthur to fill you in on him).

Despite the size of the church this is a surprisingly spartan interior - or perhaps not, it's almost in Suffolk (and has a very Suffolk feel to it) and I suppose Dowsing came to visit - but is light, airy and appealing. I rather liked the reredos.

ST PETER. Except for the W tower a church dating from about 1330-40. The window tracery is typical and not of special interest.* The W window of the tower also belongs to that period, although the tower itself with its angle buttresses carried up in four set-offs and its stepped battlements is of early C16. Buttresses are also carried down into the inside the church. The quatrefoil clerestory windows are not original, but the back-splays may indicate that the form is correct (cf. Little Sampford). The arcades between nave and aisles and the chancel arch have octagonal or semi-octagonal supports and double-chamfered arches. The most interesting feature of the church is the MONUMENT in the S aisle, a low tomb-chest like a seat, decorated with six cusped panels holding shields. Big ogee arch flanked by buttresses. The spandrels have Perp panelling. The monument is considered to be a cenotaph for Sir John Hawkwood d. 1394 who, the son of a tanner at Sible Hedingham, rose to be a condottiere of the Florentine army and the son-in-law of a Duke of Milan. He is buried in Florence Cathedral, where a fresco by Paolo Uccello commemorates him.

* But the chancel E window was made during the C19 restoration of the church.

John Hawkwood 1393 (1)

Reredos (1)

Reredos (2)

SIBLE HEDINGHAM. Among its inns, houses, and cottages, some with 15th century roofs, Tudor and Jacobean detail abounds, but the chief interest centres in Hawkwoods, a timbered and plastered 16th century house with a hound and a coronet over its doorway. The house perpetuates the name of a family which, settled here from the time of King John, produced a towering lawless man who became the wonder and terror of medieval Italy.

Roman tiles in the walls of the church tell of the days of Caesar’s Britain, but it was a 14th century Hawkwood who raised the present church. Over a window of the grey embattled tower, in which rings a bell 600 years old, a bold hawk is carved as an architectural pun on the family name, a conceit variously repeated indoors. An angel guards the entrance to the 16th century porch, which has roof bosses carved with the Bourchier knot, and the star of the De Veres, whose great Norman castle is in the next village. In a corner of the tower is a little nail-studded Tudor door leading to the stair turret. The wide nave has two arcades, and a modern font on a 15th century stem. Two bays of the roof spanning the south aisle are 16th century, and have finely carved timbers showing stars and boars. The chancel has two Jacobean chairs.

But the pride of the church is the place in which it is believed lay Sir John Hawkwood, who was brought here wrapped in cloth-of-gold from his tomb in the Duomo, Florence, where we have stood before his memorial. Here in Sible Hedingham, unless our history is false, they laid him in 1394, in a magnificent tomb of which now remains only a canopied recess, resplendent with hawk, boar, pelican, and hunting figures.

It was on the petition of the king that Florence delivered up the warrior who was to her as saint and hero. The name of this son of a tanner was to resound for a generation throughout Europe. He went to the wars with Edward the Third and the Black Prince, and fought at Crecy and Poitiers. Seeking fresh worlds to conquer, he moved on into Italy and there formed what was called the White Company. He lived avowedly to foment war, regular or guerilla, on the widest scale. "God give you peace," was the greeting to him of two gentle friars. "God take away your alms," he answered them; "know ye not that I live on war, and that peace would undo me; and that just as I live on war so do you on alms?" Where rival cities were so many petty republics constantly at war, Hawkwood and his dauntless men-at-arms were almost continuously in demand. He fought for Pisa against Florence, for Perugia against the pope; he fought for this man today and that man tomorrow. When his White Company was taken over by the pope Hawkwood fought for him.

Renowned and terrible, a magnificent hireling, he passed from command to command until in 1390 he settled down permanently as General of the Florentine forces. There as ever he was a brilliant commander, and when he died in 1394 he was given a magnificent funeral, and his portrait by Giotto is in a great procession of figures placed in the cathedral. Tradition has it that Richard the Second brought the body home and that it was buried here.