Tuesday, 8 November 2011

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.

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