Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Church accessibilty to date

County Visited Accessible % Accessible
Suffolk 90 73 81.11%
Cambridgeshire 119 94 78.99%
Hertfordshire 78 54 69.23%
Essex 316 187 59.18%
Kent 9 4 44.44%
London 1 1 100.00%
Sussex 4 1 25.00%

Total 617 414 67.10%    

Shellow Bowells, Essex

SS Peter & Paul is a redundant church converted to a private residence.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. The whole church is of 1754, and C18 churches are a rarity in Essex. Nave and short chancel separated by a heavy rather low chancel arch. Two arched N and two S windows. Front with gable and gothicized window.

SS Peter & Paul

Yet another church that Mee missed.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Blackmore, Essex

The Priory Church of St Lawrence is locked with no keyholders listed - I actually think this a criminal act and utterly outrageous. I'll let Pevsner & Mee explain.

ST LAWRENCE. Blackmore possesses one of the most impressive, if not the most impressive, of all timber towers of England. Outside it has on the ground floor lean-to roofs on three sides, then a square part with vertical weatherboarding, then again four lean-to roofs, the square bell-stage, which is straight,‘ and finally a shingled broach spire. Internally it possesses ten posts making a nave and two aisles. The tower itself stands on the centre six, three N and three S. The arched braces for the cross-beams run N-S thrown across the second and the fourth pairs. In addition there are smaller and lower arched braces in an E—W direction between posts 2 and 3 and 3 and 4. Above these are two tiers of cross-struts. It is a most elaborate piece of carpentry and looks very powerful. The church itself is Norman and has had aisles from the beginning. The explanation of this is that it was a priory church. The priory was founded for Augustinian canons c. 115-60 by Adam and Jordan, Chamberlains of the Queen. The W wall of the Norman church still exists behind the timber tower, with a doorway of three orders of columns with scalloped capitals. The arch is stepped and not otherwise moulded. Two large windows are above, and above these is a circular window. The first bay of the nave on the N and S has a plain pier but colonnettes placed in the angles. These also carry scalloped capitals. The arches are wholly unmoulded. A first pair of upper windows can also still be seen. The E parts of the priory church and all the monastic buildings have completely disappeared. There is no indication of a crossing. All that now tells of the Monastery is two blocked pointed C13 doorways at the E end of the S aisle. One of them no doubt led into the cloister. The priory was dissolved as early as 1527 so that certain C16 alterations to the church may well be connected with the adjustments necessary, when the church became parochial. The N aisle is early C14 (quatrefoil piers with many-moulded arches), but the S aisle clearly C16. The octagonal piers and the arches are of brick. Of brick also the arches and responds to the aisle E chapel (that is the parochial chancel chapel). The half-timbered W end of the S aisle and the C17 dormers on the N, and C19 dormers on the S side, add a touch of  irresponsible picturesqueness. - BRASS. Civilian of c. 1420; lower half lost. - Thomas Smyth d. 1594 and wife. Recumbent alabaster effigies, the heads on a rolled-up mat. The tomb-chest with decorated pilasters is not original, and the tomb is not complete.

Priory Church of St Lawrence (5)

BLACKMORE. Come to Jericho, for there is much to see. It is a house that has been made new, but stands on the foundations of one where Henry the Eighth often came. “He has gone to Jericho” his courtiers would say. A charming place is Blackmore, with cottages probably old enough for Henry to have seen, and fragments of a priory pulled down at his command. It was founded in 1152, but a few stones in the garden of Jericho House and parts of the church are all that is left of it. The west end of the church is Norman, with its doorway and the windows above, but it is concealed by a great timber belfry, one of the biggest and most remarkable of its kind in Essex. Built in the 15th century, it goes up in three stages to a shingled spire, rather like a pagoda. It has a west window of its own, with a wooden frame and tracery; and, remarkable as it all looks outside, it is more impressive still within, where the massive beams illustrate the masterly way the old craftsman built for all time. There is a porch which has kept some of its ancient woodwork, and in the aisle roof, looking towards the village, are attractive gables of the 17th century. In the nave medieval arcades join on to the Norman walls, and above, in a modern roof, are bosses that were here when Chaucer was writing his Canterbury Tales. Scattered about the walls are many stones and bits of carving from the Norman builders. The font is more than 500 years old, and there is a panel of 18th century glass showing the martyrdom of St Laurence. A medieval brass portrait shows a man very prim in his fur-trimmed gown; and on an altar tomb patched with brick lie Thomas Smyth and his wife from Elizabethan England.

In the churchyard sleep two Twogoods from Queen Anne’s time, each with a skull and crossbones on his grave. A quaint inscription on another gravestone tells of Simon Lynch, who found rest here in 1660, after being much persecuted for fearing God and the King.

Stondon Massey, Essex

SS Peter & Paul professes to be normally open but if it is closed provides a number you can call to arrange an appointment to view - not altogether satisfactory and naturally I found it locked. I can't remember why but this was a church I wanted to see - perhaps because of the Norman elements.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. Nave and chancel are Early Norman. Two original windows remain on the N side and two on the S, also both doorways, though that on the N is blocked. They are completely plain and unmoulded. The only later medieval addition of importance is the belfry, which is placed a little further E than the W end. It rests on four posts carrying two tie-beams and connected with them by arched braces. There are also beams in the E—W direction forming a square with the others. - FONT. Perp, octagonal. Bowl with quatrefoils carrying fleurons. - SCREEN. Plain one-light divisions with ogee arches and a minimum of panel tracery above them. - PULPIT and READER’S DESK. Dated 1630. Good work with strap decoration and bands of diamonds. - BRASSES of 1570 and 1513.

SS Peter & Paul (2)

STONDON MASSEY. It is one of the few places with which we can associate the Father of our Music, he whose music is living again, who wrote that:

Since music is so good a thing
I wish all men would learn to sing.

William Byrd’s connection with this scattered village near Ongar has brought a new interest to the place, and a stone has been set in the church wall recording the fact that Byrd lived here. His home was Stondon Place (now made new) and it is believed that he had some difficulty over his possession of it because its previous owner had been involved in a Popish Plot. Though we cannot be sure, it is also thought that Byrd may have died on this site in 1623.

Among the meadows which slope away east of the church still stands a brick and timber house that William Byrd would know, Stondon Hall; he must often have looked at its octagonal chimney stacks. Often also he must have come into this little church, for it has been here about eight centuries, and its flint and stone walls, with Roman bricks in them, were about the first work of the Normans here. Here is their doorway, with a great hole for a bar which fastened it, and facing it on the other wall is the arch of the other door blocked up, like some of their deep-splayed windows. There are 15th century timbers in the roofs supporting the bell-turret, a 15th century font, a screen a little younger, and a reading desk a little younger still. The Jacobean pulpit has a door with the original latch, very neat. In the chancel is the brass portrait of John Carre and his two Elizabethan wives; his merchant’s mark is on it. The fragment of another brass on the wall of the nave has been twice used, and what we see is the portrait of the wife of Rainold Holingworth.

It must always be regrettable that Stondon Massey is not able to claim with certainty the grave of William Byrd, but it is highly probable that they would lay him here. At the unveiling of the tablet in the church on the 300th anniversary of his death the Gentlemen and Children of the Chapel Royal were sent by the king to this church to make Stondon ring again with Byrd’s old melodies. He was our Shakespeare of music. He wrote masses, services, madigrals, songs, and pieces for the organ, the virginal, and the orchestra.

We had all too little of his work until 1920, when, by a fine imaginative stroke of the Carnegie Trustees, it was made possible to publish all that was available. Then for the first time the world realised that the estimates of Byrd’s contemporaries were just, that he was indeed one of the supreme masters of composition in all its forms. Then we realised also that that superb compliment paid him by the Vatican (where his grand Non nobis, Domine, is engraved on a plate of gold) was well merited. But there must be more Byrd music to come from private collections; only a few years ago a bundle of his unpublished manuscripts was found in the chained library at Wimborne Minster.

It was at Stondon Massey that Byrd spent the last 28 years of his life; he was a Roman Catholic and lived in the home of a member of his church who had been convicted of treason. The strongest evidence for the probability that he was buried here is the wish he expressed in his will that he might lie here by the side of his wife.


Doddinghurst, Essex

All Saints contains little of interest but I liked the rood figures (German or Italian and C16 or C17 respectively according to Pevsner and Mee) and there's some good C19 glass.

ALL SAINTS. Nave, chancel, and belfry. The bell-stage of the belfry has vertical boarding. It ends in a small, shingled spire. It stands on six posts with rather shallow arched braces and much diagonal trellis-strutting. Uncommonly large timber porch. The sides have each ten arched openings. The chancel is C19, the nave C13, see the s doorway with one order of colonnettes and a moulded arch with dog-tooth ornament. Nave roof C15, with tie-beams, king-posts, and four-way struts. - ROOD. The figures of Christ, the Virgin, and St John cannot be seen clearly from below; but seem to be German, early c16. - PLATE. Cup of 1562; Paten of 1567.

St George & the dragon (2)

West window (3)

East window detail

DODDINGHURST. Its church, which keeps some 13th century work, has a little spire on a weather-boarded turret, inserted 400 years ago through the roof of the nave; and the wooden porch, one of the best in Essex, with 20 lights in the sides and original tiebeams in its roof, is also 16th century. There is a 13th century doorway with some of the delightful ornament of its time, a 15th century nave roof, a Jacobean chair, and some 300-year-old panels in a modern chest. The painted figures of Our Lord and Mary and John on the roodbeam are thought to be Italian work of the 17th century. A parson of some note here was Nehemiah Rogers, fervent Royalist and friend of Archbishop Laud, and remembered today chiefly for his writings on the parables. He was buried here in 1660. The old stocks stand at a corner of the Common, and by the church is a tiny Tudor house in which the priest lived.

Kelvedon Hatch, Essex

There are two St Nicholas', a ruin in the grounds of Kelvedon Hall and the Victorian new build in the village. The new professes to be open daily (a note on the door so says) but was locked when I visited - it looks very run of the mill.

ST NICHOLAS. 1895 by J. T. Newman. Red brick with oddly stunted apse and dormers in the roof. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1674. - This church replaced an older one, close to Kelvedon Hall.

ST NICHOLAS. The old church is disused and at the time of writing neglected. It was built in 1753, but in general shape kept to the Essex tradition. Nave and lower chancel, and belfry. Red brick. The chancel has a Venetian E window, the nave arched windows. Also circular windows in both nave and chancel. Inside still some elegant tablets etc. of the later C18.

St Nicholas (2)

KELVEDON HATCH. It has two churches, but the old one is forsaken and has sent some of its treasures to the new. The old church was refashioned in the 18th century and stands by the woodlands of Kelvedon Hall. It has kept a few old brass inscriptions, a quaint one of 300 years ago telling how Richard and Anthony Luther were such truly loving brothers that they kept house together for 40 years “without anie accompt atwixt them.” Ringing in the little red spire of the new church is the medieval bell from the old one, and also here is the tall 14th century font, with tiny carvings of flowers and fruit, a mitre, and a captivating little head of a man with well-combed hair. The font cover is an elaborate piece of iron-work wrought by hand last century, and both pulpit and screen are excellent examples of the same craftsmanship. From the road to Ongar we glimpse the delightful timber and plaster house where the rectors used to live, built perhaps 300 years ago.


Bentley Common, Essex

Built in 1880 St Paul is a large Victorian new build which is unusually anodyne particularly given the liberal use of chunky alabaster - perhaps because it's remarkably light for a church of its age. Unusually stained glass is minimised giving a relatively airy feel - I'd rate this as good of its type.



St Paul (3)

Unusually this is the second church on this trip that both boys missed.

Shenfield, Essex

A rather uninteresting exterior contains a fascinating interior not least of which is the wooden north arcade. At the back of the church is an alabaster carving of Elizabeth Robinson and her baby. Her death in childbirth during the Civil War, when she was only 15, united the families of her husband and her father: one a Roundhead, the other a Cavalier.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. The most interesting part of the church is its timber N arcade of six bays, with slim piers (four attached shafts and four hollows in the diagonals) and four-centred arches. Timber also, but heavier timber, the sub-structure of the bell-turret. Eight posts grouped in pairs from W to E, big braces to hold the cross-beams, trellis-strutting along the N and S walls above. The shingled spire is specially tall and thin. - PEWS. Under the tower, c. 1600, plain. - PLATE. Cup and Cover of 1663; Salver probably of 1709. - STAINED GLASS by Kempe. E window 1883, Annunciation in S window 1896. - MONUMENT. Elizabeth Robinson d. 1652. Semi-reclining and shrouded, with infant in swaddling clothes in her arms. Alabaster. No superstructure.

North arcade

Elizabeth Robinson (4)

War memorial (2)

SHENFIELD. Like York’s famous Guildhall and a very few other churches we have seen, it has in its church an arcade of wood. The arches are not old, but the fine columns are 15th century, and each is hewn out of a great oak tree which may well have been growing when Magna Carta was sealed. They are fashioned in the style of stone pillars, with attached columns, and well moulded capitals and bases. Old timbers are the pride of Shenfield, for the tower is built of them too and rises to a shingled spire, all 15th century, with most of the church. The ancient rood beam is here, the aisle roof is 500 years old, and there are about a dozen pews of the 17th century with panelled ends. The east window has an attractive Nativity scene, and on several window-ledges we found relics old and quaint—a Bible of 1611, two churchwarden pipes of 1670, a cannon ball, and a small anchor. Tucked away in a corner is the monument of Elizabeth Robinson who died in 1652. She lies in alabaster on an altar tomb, a delightful figure of her child with her.

South Weald, Essex

St Peter is a surprisingly large church which has been Victorianised to within an inch of its life but despite this I rather liked it. Curiously all, or most, of the monuments have been removed to the tower which leaves an uncluttered interior. The liberal use pink alabaster in the chancel should be awful but strangely isn't although a sign warning that the sanctuary is alarmed would be helpful!

ST PETER. A large church in a fine position and with a surprisingly big W tower of c. 1500, ashlar-faced, with angle buttresses, battlements and a higher stair turret. The medieval church behind it consisted of nave, chancel and N aisle. Its S and E walls survive, but heavily over-restored, when they were reduced to being the S aisle of a new church with its own large chancel which took the place of the former N aisle. The arcade is reconstructed but, it is said, correctly. With its circular piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches it represents a C13 model. Older still and fortunately preserved is the Norman S doorway. It has one order of columns with zigzag-carved shafts, a carved lintel, an arch with zigzag decoration, and a tympanum with diaper ornament, little squares divided into two triangles. The new church is of 1868, designed by Teulon. - FONT. 1662, polygonal, with thick leaves sprouting up the stem. - COMMUNION RAILS. Of iron, designed by Scott. - STAINED GLASS. Two late C15 panels in the W window, probably Flemish. - E window and S aisle E window by Kempe; 1886 and 1888. - PLATE. Cup of 1564; large Cup of 1635; Paten of 1686. - MONUMENTS. Set of Brasses at the W end; returned to the church in 1933. All small. Civilian of c. 1450; Woman and Children of c. 1450 (originally husband, three wives and three groups of children); Civilian of c. 1480; Kneeling Children of c. 1500; A. Crafford d 1606; Robert Picakis and Allen Talbott, two Kneeling Children d. 1634. - Hugh Smith d. 1757. Standing wall monument with sarcophagus and grey obelisk. Against it large roundel with two profiles facing one another. Unsigned.

C15th Flemish glass (1)

c. 1450 (2)

c. 1500

SOUTH WEALD. It has a lovely walk through an old deer park, the path bringing us by a pleasant lake, and it is famous for old buildings. Weald Hall in the lovely park has been much refashioned, but has two 16th century wings, one with gables and solid-looking turrets, and one with a parapet and fine chimneys. Here sometime before she became queen lived the terrible Mary Tudor, and the lodge of the hall is known as Princess Mary’s Chapel. It stands by the road for all to see, with tall turrets, a fine doorway, and a broad window of seven lights. There are two old inns of the 15th and 18th centuries, and the 18th century Brook House.

High above the churchyard are the rookeries of the park, old but not so old as the church, which has Norman stones in its walls. It has been refashioned with modern windows, but has a Norman doorway carved with chevron and with old ironwork on its door. The door to the turret of the tower has been opening and shutting 500 years. In a window of the tower is medieval glass with two panels showing the Sacrifice of Abraham, and the Queen of Sheba in white and gold. In the tracery above are 17th century figures of four saints. On the wall of the tower is a medallion portrait of Francis Wollaston, a famous scientist who was vicar here a hundred years ago. He was Professor of Chemistry at Cambridge, where he was famous as an experimenter. The vicar who followed him for 53 years was the remarkable Charles Almeric Belli, a man of great energy who lived to be 95 and called in Sir Gilbert Scott to rebuild this nave and chancel. The oak chancel screen is the work of Scott, resembling a medieval screen. The chancel roof has a choir of angels. In the chapel beyond the gilt iron railings is a wooden cross from Flanders brought from the grave of Christopher Tower, who gave his life for us.

On the wall are brass portraits of an attractive group of children, little Robert Picakis aged seven, and Allen Talbot aged two, a bonny lad with curly hair who died in 1634. There are two groups of children in the clothes they wore in 1500, and a mother with 12 children of half a century earlier.

Lying here is the old owner of the manor, Lord Chief Justice Scroggs, bracketed equal-first with Jeffreys as one of the worst judges who ever disgraced the English bench. The son of an Oxfordshire butcher, he left Oxford an MA, and, preferring the Bar to the Church, escaped conviction for assault and battery during a drunken bout, reached the bench at 43, to become Charles the Second’s Lord Chief Justice in 1678.

There centred about this man the chief prosecutions in the bogus Popish Plot of Titus Oates, which, based on some petty Roman Catholic movement towards strengthening the position of that church in England, was magnified by Oates and his creatures into the story of a plot to assassinate Charles the Second and to massacre the Protestants. The part of Scroggs was to convict the prisoners, no matter how lowly or how exalted their status, to rant and roar them into silence, to act as prosecutor as well as judge, to maintain the evidence of Oates as little less than sacred, and to assert that any testimony advanced for the defence was blasphemous perjury.

All England was in a panic, for none doubted the truth of these fictions. Scroggs sent the innocent to the gallows in batches, adding insult and denunciation to the bitterness of the penalty to which he doomed them, asserting that it was better to hang one Papist than three felons. Titus Oates gave a political party its label, naming the opponents of the persecution Tory, after the Irish murderers of English settlers.

When the panic was at its height the accusers declared the queen and her physician to be implicated in the plot to murder the king; and a bill was laid before the grand jury naming the future James the Second as a Papist, to be excluded from the succession, and the king’s favourite the Duchess of Portsmouth as a public nuisance.

The tide had begun to turn; Scroggs’s heart failed him; he dismissed the grand jury before it could act. He now turned about, and acquitted persons falsely accused, traversed the evidence of Oates and his confederates, and was pilloried in broadsheets and publicly assaulted for his pains. Impeached for his offences, Scroggs was saved by Charles, who dissolved his Parliament and never summoned another; but he no longer dared to continue the unjust judge in office, retiring him with a pension of £1500 a year, to die two years later, in 1683, the scorn of his generation. Scroggs was a witty and powerful speaker, but without conscience or scruple, a paid ruffian of the Court, and a man of infamous private life. He is admirably pictured in Scott’s Peveril of the Peak, where he is shown after fear has taken possession of him and he knows not what to do with his prisoners.


Warley, Essex

Christ Church is a large brick built Victorian church which is, fortunately, kept locked. It has for a neighbour the uninspiring Roman Catholic Holy Cross & All Saints.

Neither Pevsner nor Mee cover Warley.

Christ Churh (2)

Holy Cross & All Saints (2)

Ingrave, Essex

I know on an intellectual level that I should dislike St Nicholas but I don't - it's splendid but sadly locked.

ST NICHOLAS. The most remarkable C18 church in the county. Erected in 1735 by Lord Petre of Thomdon Hall. The architect is unknown. He cannot have been far from Hawksmoor. Red brick. Massive W tower widened by recessed polygonal turrets, which rise above the parapet of the tower. This rests on an arched corbel frieze. Big inscription plate. The interior much plainer. Nave with central entrances from N and S; arched windows. Narrower chancel with arch on very thick imposts. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, with quatrefoil panels. - PULPIT. Panelled, probably c. 1735. - BRASSES. Margaret Wake d. 1466, wearing a butterfly headdress. - Sir Richard Fitzlewes d. 1528 and his four wives.

St Nicholas (2)

INGRAVE. It lies two miles from Brentwood by the lovely woodlands of Thorndon Hall and a medieval farm with a timbered house. The church is one of the rare 18th century buildings, with a big tower, and in it are some treasures from the lost churches of this and a neighbouring village. From old Ingrave church came the Tudor font and a 17th century communion table; and from West Horndon came the most beautiful things Ingrave has to show - a stately brass of Margaret Wake, who died in 1466, and a magnificent group of Sir Richard FitzLewes and his four wives. Sir Richard, who died in 1528, wears a rich tabard over his armour and his head rests on a crested helmet. Three of his wives wear heraldic mantles which give them great dignity. There are roundels and ermine, bugle horns and a dancing goat, and other quaint heraldic devices.

A bitter fate was soon to befall this family. In a few years time, so the story runs, John FitzLewes was burned to death with his bride on the night of his wedding, and his wealth passed to his sister, who became a ward to Henry the Eighth, he giving her in marriage to John, the son of the first Lord Mordaunt. They lie in one of the lovely tombs at Turvey in Bedfordshire.

Thorndon Hall and its 1500 acres passed to the Petre family who came here from Ingatestone in the reign of Elizabeth. In its 18th century Roman Catholic chapel lies James Radcliffe, the romantic Earl of Derwentwater who perished on Tower Hill in 1716. His was a tragic story.

When James the Second, flying in haste from the throne of England settled at St Germain in France, the second Earl of Derwentwater and his wife (a daughter of Charles the Second) joined him in exile. There in 1689 was born their son James Radcliffe, to spend his childhood with the young James Stuart, known in history as the Old Pretender. James Radcliffe came to England in 1710 and lived in his ancestral homes at Dilston in Northumberland and on Lord’s Island in beautiful Derwentwater.

Five years later the Stuarts raised their call again, summoning their friends to the hopeless task of regaining the throne for them. Radcliffe was wise, and he hesitated, but the king’s sister he had married accused him of cowardice, threw her fan at his feet, and cried : “Pick up that fan and give me your sword. I will take the field and you can stay at home.”

Stung to the heart, the earl picked up the fan and solemnly handed it back to his wife; then, drawing his sword, he cried, God Save King James, and set out for battle and the grave. With a small group of retainers he eluded the oificers who already had a warrant for his arrest, and joined the Jacobite Army. He fought with great courage at the battle of Preston, but was taken prisoner and carried to the Tower. There was a great trial in Westminster Hall, and he was condemned to death. So gallant was his bearing that he won the admiration of all, and his friends made great efforts to save him, £60,000 being offered to Sir Robert Walpole for his life, while his wife, in her remorse, went on her knees to King George the First to beg for his life. But there was no mercy for this tragic youth; he died in the cause of the companion of his childhood, one of the last of a faithful host sacrificed for a faithless House.

Hutton, Essex

All Saints was locked with a keyholder listed but as it looked to me a Victorian church I moved on and apart from the brass and the screen I don't think I missed much.

ALL SAINTS. Rebuilt by G. E. Street in 1873. A small church and not one of Street’s masterpieces. Of the medieval church the nave arcades with quatrefoil piers, moulded capitals and arches of one wave and one hollow-chamfer mouldings survive - typical C14 work. The chancel arch, and the nave roof belong to the same date. The bell-turret is also medieval, but probably of the C15. It stands on six posts, the distance between the first being much wider than between the others. Tall braces from N and S and trellis strutting from W to E. - LECTERN etc., metalwork in the typical Street style. - PLATE. Cover of 1567; Paten on Foot probably of 1648. - BRASS. Knight and Lady of c. 1525.

All Saints (2)

HUTTON. It lies on the road from Brentwood to Billericay, but its delightful church is down a lane, by the limes in which the rooks have a village all their own. So thoroughly was the church restored last century that little remains of its medieval walls, but most of the wooden porch of the 14th century has been replaced on new dwarf walls. The beam over the outer arch is carved with trefoils, richly traceried heads make beautiful the four windows in the sides, and there is a bargeboard of great beauty. The roof of the nave is as old as Parliament, and is continued over the tiny aisles, resting on the original clustered columns. A brass of about 1525 shows an unknown man in armour with his wife and their 16 children. The church also has a splendid modern screen with oak statues of St George, Joan of Arc, Sir Thomas More, and Bishop Fisher. Another imposing piece of craftsmanship is the high font cover, with a relief of a woman clinging to a rock; it is a memorial to a Mrs Hamilton who perished in a wreck.


Stock, Essex

Heading for a sweep of the villages in the Brentwood area I had very low expectations but was pleasantly surprised by this visit.

All Saints is fairly unprepossessing but does house four good windows, two by Reginald Bell and two by his son Michael Farrar-Bell. The interior has been much restored following the detonation in 1940 of a land mine which badly damaged the south side of the church, the nave roof, the stained glass and tracery and the belfry and little else of interest remains. The belfry, which Pevsner calls 'The most interesting part' is sadly locked.

ALL SAINTS. The most interesting part of the church is the belfry. Square ground floor with four posts set so as to form a Greek cross with four small corner spaces. The W arm serves as the entrance to the church. It has a doorway with three tracery panels over. The N and S arms have one three-light traceried wooden window each. The tracery differs slightly. The centre is braced from N to S as well as E to W. The arms have N-S braces. Trellis-strutting above from E to W and N to S. The upper part of the belfry has a stirrup on the E side. Tall bell-stage and tall thin broach spire. The weatherboarding is dark and vertical below, white and horizontal above. Of timber also the S porch, with six ogee-arched openings on the W and E sides. The doorway has blank panel tracery above. The church itself is of less architectural interest. The E chapel of the aisle and the chancel are of 1848. The front of the S aisle is heavily renewed. N arcade inside of three bays with octagonal piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches, that is C15. The chancel roof has recently been prettily painted, somewhat in the taste of Sir Charles Nicholson. - CHAIRS. In the chancel two richly carved late C17 chairs. - BRASS to Richard Twedye d. 1574, in armour.

Reginald Bell east window (1)

Reginald Bell south chancel window (1)

Michael Farrar-Bell south nave window (1)

Michael Farrar-Bell south nave window (8)

STOCK. On the hills between Chelmsford and Billericay, it has a pleasant green made bright on one side by the vivid red of a row of almshouses, and has at one end one of the most delightful timber spires in Essex. It rises on the belfry of the 14th century church, the belfry being also of wood, older than the church itself. Above the doorway of the belfry are three square windows with lovely tracery, and inside is one of those amazing timber constructions characteristic of this part of England. So huge are the curved beams that the biggest oaks in the forest must have been felled for them. The arrangement of the beams makes a pleasant design, all meeting in a grotesque boss.

The medieval masons were still extending the church in the 15th century, adding an aisle and leaving us the quaint round face of a monk looking down on it. There are four poppyheaded bench-ends from the pews of that period. On the wall behind the pulpit is the brass portrait of Richard Twedye in his 16th century armour, set in an old altar stone with two consecration crosses. It was he who built the almshouses on the green, as a comfort for the declining years of four knights fallen on hard times.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Great Easton, Essex

Another St Mary the Virgin which I have visited several times (it's more or less my next door village) in order to try and persuade myself that I am missing something, sadly each time I do I come away thinking that I'm not.

I recently had reason to revisit my entry for Great Easton and found that I hadn't done interiors and was exceptionally harsh in my assessment; not only that but I got the dedication wrong - my only defence is that SS John & Giles was one of my early visits and I was comparing it to some of the great churches I visited before coming here (also I didn't know what I was looking at then).

Having said that this is not the most interesting of churches but does have a Carl Edwards window, an interesting altar and reredos of 1912 and rood statues of indeterminate age; it's nave is also fundamentally Norman.

I still think the squat tower is ugly but, with a more educated eye, found much more interest here than previously.

ST JOHN: AND ST GILES. Nave and chancel and C19 belfry. The nave is Norman, see the S doorway with one order of columns (scalloped capitals). The E half of the nave has noticeably thicker walls, an indication that originally it carried a crossing tower. The chancel is E.E., with lancet windows. - PLATE. Cup and small Paten on foot of 1634; Paten on foot and large Stand Salver of 1686; Flagon of 1712. 

Carl Edwards 1975 (1)

 Statues (2)

Reredos (1)

GREAT EASTON. Its oldest possessions are the Roman tiles in the walls of the church, but next in age comes what is left of a Saxon fort, a mound about 20 feet high surrounded by a dry ditch. It is in the grounds of Easton Hall, an old house with Tudor chimneys and a wing with 15th century roof timbers. The hall is close to the little green where a tall peace cross stands proudly, and is only one of Great Easton's old homes. Another opposite the green has a beehive and other devices worked in plaster; others of the 16th and 17th centuries line the lane; and by the footbridge over the River Chelmer is a timber-framed farm with Tudor chimneys, its next-door neighbour a perfect 15th century house with traceried bargeboards.

Norman builders fashioned the nave of the church, which has walls so thick at one part that it is believed to have had a central tower. Two of its five bells are 15th century, and all are doomed to ring in an unattractive wooden turret set up 100 years ago. The chancel is 13th century and has kept its ancient piscina and scratch dial. The vestry is built round a Norman doorway.

The exterior is dull and the interior is duller; it's almost a transplanted style from south of the A120 dumped in Uttlesford. The only redeeming interest is that it may once have been a cruciform church which has, at some stage, been reduced to the sad mess it is today - so, actually, that's not redeeming.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Chipping Ongar, Essex

St Martin was a chance visit - I passed it on my way to Greensted. I found it open  which was nice but I didn't warm to it - it felt over restored and soulless, Pevsner found more of interest than I did.

ST MARTIN of TOURS. Uncommonly complete Norman village church. Nave and chancel, both with characteristic masonry, Roman brick quoins, and small windows. Two plain chancel doorways also survive, and a W window high up in the gable. The E end is altered, but traces, especially inside, prove that there were originally three or four windows and two above them in the gable which was higher than now. The date of the belfry is probably C15. Dormers in the roof 1752 (VCI-I.). The S aisle was added in 1884. Nice W gallery on two Tuscan columns. Chancel roof with arched braces supporting collar-beams and additional arched braces carried to a pendant hanging from the collar-beam. The Royal Commission dates the roof early C17. The nave-roof is simple, with arched braces on head-stops and tracery between the braces and the tie-beams. King-posts in addition. - PULPIT. Panels with diamond-cut frames and thin strapwork, c. 1600. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters, c. 1700. - PLATE. Paten of 1705. - MONUMENTS. Nicholas Alexander d. 1714, epitaph with two cherub’s heads at the foot. It might be by Edward Stanton. - Mrs Mitford d. 1776. By Nollekens. Epitaph with the usual obelisk and two cherubs against it and an urn between them; one stands, the other sits and sobs.

Nicholas Alexander 1714

Sarah Mitford 1776

Lady chapel Annunciation

CHIPPING ONGAR. It is one of those small Essex towns instinct with the thrill of history. One after another there come to mind the moving scenes of its historic past. To some it will seem that the chief appeal of this long street with gabled houses and overhanging storeys is in a little room the passer-by is invited to look at, the room in the house of a pastor where David Livingstone lived, serving his probation before he set out on his lifework in Africa. The boy at the mill had come down from Blantyre and was training here with the minister, and there may well be those who remember hearing of the nervous young man who had hardly strength to lead his congregation at prayer, who gave out hymn after hymn while he summoned up courage to preach and then fled down the steps and into the street, afraid. Yet in the end he passed the test, and from here set out to carry on his preparation elsewhere for the work which was to win him immortality.

But far, far back we go beyond the fame of David Livingstone, for here is a mound crowned by a ring of living trees where once stood the wooden keep of a Norman castle, and there is little doubt that a castle stood on it before the Conqueror came, for in its walls is a medley of Roman tiles which strongly suggest that they were put here by the Saxons. On such foundations as they found the Romans set up one of their great strongholds. The mound is 230 feet across, encircled by a moat 50 feet wide, with the water still in it. On the town side was a courtyard with a rampart 80 feet wide, and even beyond this men have traced a rampart which embraced the whole of Ongar, a remarkable example of a town enclosure of feudal days.

Here lived one of the famous Norman barons, Richard de Lucy, Chief Justice in the reign of Henry the Second. He took the side of the king against Becket, and Becket excommunicated him. Weary of strife, the judge became a canon in a priory he had founded in Kent, Lesnes Priory at Erith, within whose quiet walls he died. Across the Darent, not far away from the ruins of Lesnes, are the ruins of the castle of another friend of the king excommunicated by Becket, William de Eynsford, who, also weary of strife, gave up this world and lived for the next, leaving his castle deserted, not to be lived in again for eight hundred years.

Richard de Lucy would see the church in the shadow of his high keep much as we see it now. The walls of the nave and the chancel are of the same rubble and Norman bricks as in his day. Through the little Norman windows the worshippers would see the keep against the sky. There are narrow Roman tiles outside these windows, and it is believed that Saxons put them there. There are Roman tiles at the corners of the walls and over a blocked-up Norman doorway; the light of a Norman window falls also on the gallery. A chancel window of a century later, a triple lancet, is one of the very early uses of brick by our English builders.

There is a captivating peephole in the chancel wall which faces this, a hole about 13 inches by 6, opening from a tiny chamber in the thickness of the wall. Outside the wall are hinges and the socket for a bolt, and above is a hole which seems to have held a roof beam. From all this it is supposed that this tiny chamber was the cell and the grave of one of those strange anchorites who shut themselves up from the world, immured in the wall with a little hole through which they could fix their eyes on the altar. The roof the anchorite would see is still above the nave, with a Norman corbel surviving from the earlier roof, and a carving on one of the timbers of a man with toothache. Through this roof in the 15th century they pierced a space for the massive timber belfry, and about 200 years ago they set on the spire the weather-vane in the form of a pennon which still turns in the wind.

The pulpit is 17th century; it would be new when they laid here beneath the chancel Jane Pallavicine, the daughter of one of the less known Oliver Cromwells, the Sir Oliver whose claim to fame rests on his lavish entertainment of James the First. There is a monument by Nollekens to Sarah Mitford; the fashionable sculptor has given her angels on her tomb, one weeping and one placing a wreath. On the wall is one of those pathetic wooden crosses from the battlefields, brought from the grave of Henry Austin Noble, who died for us a month before the Armistice. There is a window to him with St Martin in it.

This is one of the rare places where the chapel appeals to us as well as the church, for the Congregationalists have been established in Ongar since 1690, and the most famous men of Ongar have been two Nonconformists -David Livingstone, who trained here for the ministry, and Isaac Taylor, who was pastor here. Livingstone must have known this chapel, and may have preached in it for his tutor-pastor, Richard Cecil, of whom we read in the story of Stanford Rivers. Isaac Taylor lies behind his church, and with him lie his wife and their daughter Jane, who (at their house at Lavenham, over the border in Suffolk) wrote at least one thing known to every child, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. There is a tablet in the chapel to them, and though a schoolroom now stands over their graves we may lift up a panel in the floor and read their simple stone.

The Taylors of Ongar

IT was said of the Taylors of Ongar that it was impossible to be one of them and not write. They did more than write; they painted, engraved, and invented, and Sir Francis Galton cited them in his famous list as examples of the diffusion of hereditary talent. The line took its rise in a 17th century Worcester metal-worker and engraver, specimens of whose work are in the British Museum.

He was the father of the first Isaac Taylor, who, born in 1730, walked to London and worked as a silversmith until he proved himself an engraver of merit, whereupon he was entrusted with the plates for Goldsmith’s Deserted Village. His son Isaac was educated at Brentford and then worked in his father’s studio. After engraving plates for Shakespeare, the Bible, and Thomson’s Seasons, he entered the ministry at Colchester, and arrived at Chipping Ongar at 51, pastor of the Congregational Church. Here he spent the last 19 years of his life, teaching his children and his flock, and writing biography, travel, and other books for the young, while his wife wrote moral and instructive lessons for children and parents. They had many children, among them the two girls and their brother Isaac.

The third Isaac, born at Lavenham in Sufolk in 1787, an artist with brush and graver, helped his father, illustrated his sister’s books, and wrote books of his own, one on the Natural History of Enthusiasm. But it was the sisters, Ann and Jane, who immortalised the family. They wrote their early poetry in moments stolen from lessons. Not until 1804, when Ann was 24 and Jane 21, did their first volume appear. Bringing them fame and £15, it brought poetry for the first time to the lips of millions of children. In their Poems for Infant Minds were such familiar verses as My Mother and Little Star, with other pieces which have long been part of the nursery heritage of the world. Scores of editions were printed; the book was translated into foreign tongues, and soon children everywhere were repeating the lines of Ann and Jane Taylor. They wrote other books for children, tales, fables, and especially hymns, many of which are sung in all our churches. Jane died here unmarried in 1824; Ann became the wife of the Revd Joseph Gilbert, whom she accompanied to Nottingham, where she lived the last 41 years of her life.

In 1866 an odd thing happened, 60 years after Ann’s poem My .Mother had appeared. A writer in a literary weekly called attention to the last stanza in the poem and asked that it should be altered. These are the lines:

And when I see thee hang thy head,
Twill be my turn to watch thy bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed,
                                   My Mother.

For God who lives above the skies,
Would look with vengeance in His eyes,
If I should ever dare despise
                                    My Mother.

The critic, 60 years after, “in the name of all the children of England,” proposed a change which should remove this threat of vengeance, suggesting that Tennyson should make the alteration. To everybody’s surprise, however, Ann Taylor, then 84 and long forgotten under the name of Ann Gilbert, herself vigorously replied, acknowledging the justice of the criticism, adding that it was “a favour now to have any critics at all,” and drafting new lines ending:

For could my Father in the skies
Look down with pleased or loving eyes
If ever I could dare despise
                                       My Mother?

Norton Mandeville, Essex

Other than its setting there is little or nothing of interest at All Saints; the exterior is pleasant enough, but nothing to write home about, while the interior is stripped bare.

ALL SAINTS. Small C12 fragments re-used in the walls and a small fragment of a spiral-carved Norman column with projecting moulding, considered by the Royal Commission to be part of a Pillar Piscina, tell of an earlier church on the site. The present nave and chancel seem C14. The belfry of the C15 (?) rests on a tiebeam with king-posts inside. - FONT. Square, with attached angle columns, of Barnack stone, late C12. - PULPIT. Plain, C18. - SCREEN with plain one-light, ogee-headed divisions. - BENCH-ENDS. With coarsely carved poppy-heads, C16, probably late. - PLATE. Early C17 Cup; Paten and Almsdish given in 1703.

All Saints (2)

NORTON MANDEVILLE. Here, facing a spacious modern farm, is one of the smallest churches in Essex, a Norman church made new 600 years ago, built to hold the hundred people of that time and never enlarged. The Norman stones peep out from the flint walls of the 14th century. The children are still christened at the Norman font, a good one with a round shaft carved out of each corner. It has the staples with which it was padlocked against witches. Round about the font are tiles which have preserved their varied pattern under the feet of 25 generations. The nave keeps its original roof with moulded capitals and bases on the kingposts; the end beams support the 15th century bellcot and from their brackets painted carvings of the lion and the unicorn regard each other disdainfully across the nave. The modern screen has eight heads carved for the old screen by a medieval craftsman, and in the nave are six open benches with poppyheads shaped by a Tudor carpenter.

The manor house stands near Norton Heath a mile away, a beautiful timbered and gabled building, with 1613 on its chimney.

Greensted, Essex

St Andrew is, partially, lays claim to be the oldest extant wooden church in the world and possibly the oldest wooden building in Europe. It has recently been tree ring dated to sometime between 998 and 1063; the oak walls of the nave are classified as remnants of a palisade church or a kind of early stave church.

Personally I found the interior dark and gloomy and rather dull but the exterior is fascinating as is the fact of its age.

ST ANDREW. The church is famous all over England as the only survival - and what an unlikely survival - of a log-church. Moreover, it can with some probability be dated c. 1013, the year of the passing through of St Edmund’s body. The nave is built of oak logs split vertically in halves and set vertically in an oak sill. The present sill and the brick plinth belong to the restoration of 1848 (Thomas Henry Wyatt) which is also responsible for the nave roof. But the Tudor dormers of timber are original save for two and worth some study. The chancel of brick is early C16 (one S window and the S doorway), its E end C18. The W tower is also entirely of timber, in the Essex tradition. Its date is uncertain. It has the usual internal construction, is externally weatherboarded and painted white and carries a shingled broach spire. - PAINTING. Small arched panel of St Edmund, c. 1500. - STAINED GLASS. Head of a man; c. 1500 (W window).

St Andrew

Saxon split oak nave walls (2)

West window (2)

GREENSTED. It is a shrine of universal pilgrimage, unique in its sylvan setting and unique in one of its possessions, a wooden church with Saxon timbers built into its walls. It is the Saxon church in which St Edmund’s body rested on its last journey.

Even if its timbers were not so captivating for their great age (1013), the picture of this primitive church would draw the pilgrim to it. Its 19th century dormers, its neat porch with a red-tiled roof harmonising with the low roof of the nave, the little shingled spire on the wooden tower, and the red brick of the chancel wall, draw us into this rugged churchyard where roses bloom amid cypress trees. Giant survivors of the forest make a perfect background for a church whose walls stand much as they were when the monks of Bury St Edmunds, having, in their fear of the Danes, carried the body of their saint for safety to the walled city of London, brought it back and rested it in this forest sanctuary on its way.

Here are the oldest wooden walls of Old England; come close to them and run your fingers along the shaped timbers and feel the marks of the adze made by the Saxon carpenter. The trees they felled to build this church were growing when the Romans came; they felled a score of oaks and split each trunk in three, using the outer beams as a palisade and the central planks for the roof and the sills. It is interesting to see how these Saxon carpenters made this place. Roughly adzing off the upper ends of the uprights into a thin edge, they inserted them into a groove in a beam running along each side of the nave. They fixed their bases on a wooden sill, but a century ago they had so rotted that a dwarf wall was placed below them, their height being reduced by about a foot. There are 21 logs on the north wall with three extra ones where a door once stood, and 16 logs on the south, through which wall we enter. The Saxon nave is 29 feet long and 17 feet wide. The original roof was thatched and was lighted from a window in the timbers of the west wall and from others in the chancel.

The church was much refashioned in the 16th century when the chancel, the beautiful priest’s doorway, and the charming tower and belfry were added. A small painted panel of the martyrdom of St Edmund shows him wearing a crown but clothed in a loin cloth and bound to a tree pierced with arrows shot by soldiers, one of whom wears Roman armour. The panel is probably all that remains of a 15th century screen*, and keeping company with it is another medieval portrait of the saint in a roundel of the west window; it shows his crowned head.

One possession the church has more curiously linked with the martyrdom of St Edmund, the wooden covers of a Bible and a prayer book, made from the timbers of what is believed to be the actual tree under which Edmund was martyred. The tree was growing at Home in Suffolk and had become a giant nearly 20 feet round when it fell 100 years ago. Tradition had long fixed on this as Edmund’s tree and it is remarkable that when the tree fell a Danish arrowhead was found in the trunk. The arrow is still in existence. The fine lectern on which this interesting Bible rests was carved in our own time by a local craftsman, from an oak growing at Greensted. It is a skilful piece of craftsmanship, likely to go down the ages with the 18th century pulpit, the medieval piscina, and the odd stoup cut 700 years ago in one of the great timbers of the wall.

* This was stolen in January of this year.

Stanford Rivers, Essex

The rather unprepossessing rendered exterior of St Margaret conceals what is an interesting and lovely interior. Chief points of interest are the 1952 FW Skeat east window, a stained glass window in the south nave window, some Norman windows and a fine collection of brass.

ST MARGARET. C12 nave with original W window high up, two N and two S windows. The W window is blocked by an intriguing slab with a primitive figure carving. The chancel is Dec, see the windows (but the E window is C19). Good N porch of timber; late C15, now blocked. Belfry on four posts as usual and with leaded broach spire. Nave roof with tie-beams on braces and king-posts. - FONT. Of the usual Purbeck type of  c. 1200, but of Barnack stone. Octagonal with two shallow pointed arches to each side. - SCREEN. Bits of the tracery have been re-used in the W gallery. - BENCHES. Eighteen oak benches; plain ends with two buttresses each. - COMMUNION RAIL. With turned balusters, mid C17. - PLATE. Set of c. 1780 in silver on copper. - BRASSES. Hidden below the altar (see Royal Commission).

South chancel windows

East window FW Skeat 1952 (1)

South nave window (1)

STANFORD RIVERS. A narrow avenue of lofty limes leads us to the door of a church four times as long as it is wide, with Norman windows in the nave and a chancel made new in the 14th century. By one of the nave windows is an old sundial. The bell-turret added 100 years after has a graceful leaded spire. The work of an artist of 600 years ago remains in faint outline on the splay of a window, two figures appearing in colour under gabled canopies. Other medieval craftsmanship is in a gallery with nine traceried heads from the old chancel screen, and about 20 of the old carved pews are still in the nave. Portraits of some of the old inhabitants who sat in these pews are here in brass. Robert Borrow is with his wife, who wears a headdress of about 1500; the infant Thomas Greville is here; and framed in an arch are Anne Napper and her six sons. All these lads would thrill at the tales brought to the village about Francis Drake, who was knighted by Elizabeth three years before this monument was set on the wall.

There is another little tale we remember here, of David Livingstone. While qualifying for his mission to Africa he was sent down to Essex to study for three months; it was a probationary period, and upon the report of his tutor, the Revd Richard Cecil of Chipping Ongar, depended his acceptance or refusal by the London Missionary Society. Part of his task was to prepare sermons and submit them in writing to Cecil, who would read and correct them if necessary, where-upon the student had to learn the sermon by heart and preach it to one of the village congregations round about. The minister of the chapel here being taken suddenly ill, the young Scotsman was called upon to take the evening service, and all went well until the sermon, when Livingstone slowly read out his text - and paused. He said afterwards that it was as if midnight darkness had descended upon him. The sermon, so perfectly memorised until a moment before, had fled, and his mind was filled with blank terror. “Friends,” he haltingly said, “I have forgotten what I had to say,” and abruptly he left the pulpit, and fled.

Yet the real man showed itself, even here. He had to visit a relative on the far side of London, and, too poor to ride, he set out at three o’clock on a bitter November morning to walk 27 miles. It was so dark that he fell into a deep ditch, but he reached London, discharged his business, and set out on the return journey. A few miles out he found a lady lying unconscious by a trap from which she had been thrown, carried her to a house, made sure that she was not badly hurt, and continued on his way, only to lose himself completely. He was about to lie down in a ditch for the night when he stumbled on a signpost and plodded on, reaching home at midnight after 21 hours of walking, footsore, speechless with fatigue, but triumphant, as he was to be so often in the years to come.

Navestock, Essex

At first I thought St Thomas the Apostle was locked but applying more force to the latch I found it was open and was informed by the two flower arrangers I found inside that it is always open. I loved this curious church with its semi octagonal tower base and the arcade which appears to be stone but is in fact timber covered with lath & plaster. It is a light and airy building full of interest.

ST THOMAS THE APOSTLE. At the time of writing a neglected, almost derelict-looking church. Nave N wall with plain Norman doorway. S aisle, S chancel chapel and S arcade E.E Circular piers and double-chamfered arches. The pier at the E end of the arcade and the W end of the S chancel chapel is of oak and polygonal, almost like fluted. What date can this possibly be? One blocked lancet in the S chapel, one long lancet in the S aisle. Early C14 chancel with Dec windows - the E window of three-lights with reticulated tracery. In the nave N wall at its E end a wide recess, E.E., with a shaft on the l. carrying a stiff-leaf capital. Probably in the C15 a S porch was added and also - a more ambitious enterprise - a timber tower. This stands to the W not of the nave but the aisle. It is oblong and has N and S aisles and in addition a W aisle connected with the others by triangular pieces - a rare arrangement. The tower is carried on four heavy posts, each with an octagonal shaft attached diagonally towards the centre. These shafts carry rib-like arched braces meeting in the middle in a foliage boss. - DOORS. Three with ornamental hinges; one (N doorway) is C12, the other two C13. - ORGAN. Early C18, bought from Lord Southwood’s house at Highgate, London. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1624; two Flagons, inscribed 1626 and 1630. - MONUMENTS. Mainly to the Waldegrave family, and singularly modest. Edward W. d. 1809, by Bacon jun, with a Weeping female allegorical figure bent over military objects, and a triumphant cherub higher up. - Seventh Earl Waldegrave d. 1846, with bust by Behnes. Also John Greene d. 1653, with frontal demi-figure. - Anne Snelling d. 1625, tiny reclining marble figure with tinier baby in her arms.

South arcade

George Edward, 7th Earl Waldegrave 1846

John Greene 1653 (1)

NAVESTOCK. A colossal barn, tall limes, and a huge chestnut keep company with its church, which has a shingled spire rising from an astonishing wooden belfry. The surprise of it is inside, where 15th century beams and ancient ladders seem to be in great confusion, With masses of woodwork all about us. Looking closer, we see that the four chief uprights are moulded at the capitals, and that four great beams curve up to meet in a boss of carved foliage. The belfry woodwork is oak splendid and unashamed, but the wood in the church is so covered with whitewash that we might think it stone. We see it in the wooden arch of the 14th century chancel, and in another arch across the 13th century chapel, both arches rising from an oak pillar which ends the line of round stone piers built about 1250, when the church was doubled in width.

The oldest masonry is in the north wall of the nave, which has a plain doorway of the 11th century. Four doors in the church are of remarkable age, and have well preserved their ironwork though some of the wood has been renewed. One is in the ancient Norman doorway; others of the 13th century are in aisle and chapel; and double doors of Chaucer’s day lead from the aisle into the bell tower. The porch is 15th century, and in a corner by the modern font are coffin lids of two priests about 600 years ago, one with a raised cross.

On the 17th century gravestone of little Jane Marchant, who was only 15, are two delightful lines:

So fair a blossom, so exquisitely good,
That I want words to make it understood.

In the chancel are two striking 17th century monuments, much in contrast. One has a simple alabaster figure of Ann Snelling holding her baby; the other is the bust of John Greene, a judge who seems proud of his family, for he is shown with a display of heraldry, many of the shields having the stag’s head seen again on a helmet above.

The great folk at Navestock have been the Waldegraves, many of whom sleep here. Their old house has gone but its park with a lovely lake is left, and there are monuments to remind us of them. There is a bust of the seventh earl who died in 1846; a relief of the eighth earl’s eldest son who fell at Alma; and another relief, carved by John Bacon, to the fourth earl’s son, who distinguished himself in Sir John Moore’s campaign and was shipwrecked when nearly home. The carving shows a boy unfurling a flag, his mother weeping below.

Two older monuments take us into circles more distinguished still. One is a Latin inscription to a daughter of James the Second, Henrietta, wife of that Lord Waldegrave who, as one of the king’s counsellors, had to fly with him at the Revolution. The other is an enormous wall tablet telling of the next two generations of Waldegraves, of Henrietta’s son James, the first earl, who was an able ambassador; and of her grandson the second earl, who moved for a few brief moments in the centre of the English stage. He was James Waldegrave, too, a friend of George the Second and tutor to the Prince of Wales. He married a niece of Walpole who was one of the beauties of her day and was seven times painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Waldegrave is chiefly remembered, however, as the man who became Prime Minister for five days (June 8-12, 1757). It happened in the early summer of 1757, and he had no wish to fill the office, but allowed himself to be nominated to please the king. His ministry never came into being, however, and nobody can have been more pleased than he when in place of it was born the famous ministry of Newcastle and Pitt, during the life of which England became supreme at sea, in India, and in North America.


Stapleford Abbotts, Essex

Here at St Mary the trip made a turn for the better when I found it open but only because a nice couple were arranging flowers. Whilst this is not a particularly interesting church either externally or internally, the husband of the duo did unlock the vestry to show me the C14th glass portraying Edward the Confessor. Afterwards I dallied in the churchyard admiring the view and a partridge shoot which was ongoing in the next door field.

ST MARY. Yellow brick W tower of 1815 and hideous church of 1862, by T. Jekyll of Norwich. The walls faced with a crazy-paving pattern. The windows with geometrical tracery. Nice small N chapel of brick, built in 1638. The windows, a remarkable fact, are round-arched and no longer Perp. - PULPIT. Nice late C16 piece with blank arches in the panels. - HELM in the N chapel, late C16. - STAINED GLASS. Very fine, small early C14 figure of Edward the Confessor (N vestry). - PLATE. Cup, Paten, larger Paten and Flagon, all of 1687; Almsdish of 1692. - MONUMENT. Sir John Abdy d. 1758. Standing wall monument with large putto standing by an oval medallion with frontal, rather vacant, portrait. Broken pediment on brackets at the top.

St Mary (2)

Window (4)

STAPLEFORD ABBOTS. Close to where the River Roding flows under the Ongar road is the slope of this village, where a lane leads us to a 19th century church with a brick tower and a 17th century chapel. There is elaborate 17th century carving on two chairs and a beautiful pulpit, and the 17 men and one boy who fell in the Great War are remembered by a marble panel of a vigorous St George killing a green dragon, and a window with a soldier trumpeter. But we must go into the vestry to see the finest window, a perfect example of 14th century glass showing Edward the Confessor with his sceptre and ring, his features and his divided beard exquisitely outlined in brown. In the chapel is some 17th century heraldic glass; a 16th century helmet painted with a cap of maintenance, the old badge of nobility;  and a cherub holding a stone portrait in relief of Thomas Abdy, an 18th century lawyer. The Abdys were the great family here from 1650. A path across the fields and a stately avenue from the road leads to their old home of Albyns.

A brick house designed by Inigo Jones, it has in it part of the home built for Sir Thomas Edmondes, whose twelve volumes of diplomatic correspondence are an important source of Elizabethan history. The house is known for a wonderful staircase, carved with the Arts and the Virtues; for its panelling; and for its plaster ceilings. The transomed windows look out on to a square courtyard, and there is a gallery running 100 feet from bay to bay.

Lambourne, Essex

Although the exterior of St Mary & All Saints is fascinating - particularly the Norman north door - it was the interior I particularly wanted to see. Sadly the church was locked with no keyholder listed so this was not to be.

ST MARY AND ALL SAINTS. A church of quite exceptional charm and historical range. It consists of C12 nave and chancel and C15 belfry, but the exterior and interior were re-modelled boldly, naively and very successfully in the Early Georgian age. Norman windows on both sides, a plain Norman S doorway and a more elaborate N doorway, with one order of columns, an arch decorated by zigzag and a fragmentary tympanum diapered with carved stars. The other windows are C18, pointed in the nave, arched in the chancel. The W doorway with a canopy on carved brackets is dated 1726, the W gallery inside 1704 (the gift of an ironmonger of London). This hides much of the substructure of the belfry which outside is crowned by a leaded broach spire. But more unusual and ingenious is the way in which the C15 roof construction was hidden. The tie-beams are plastered and have Greek-key friezes along their undersides, and one king-post with its four-way struts is clothed in rich acanthus leaves. The chancel arch is low and broad, of segmental form and rests on thick coupled brackets. - FONT. C18, with baluster stem. - REREDOS with Corinthian pilasters and a Gothick ogee arch round the E window. — CHANCEL STALLS with fine openwork foliage carving. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - WALL PAINTING. Upper half of a large figure of St Christopher; C14, of high quality. - STAINED GLASS. Fine small panels of C17 Swiss or German glass. - MONUMENTS. Brass to Robert Barfott d. 1546 and wife, with children below; 18 in. figures; chancel floor. - Many C18 and C19 monuments to the Lockwood family, mostly unsigned, the most ambitious that of John Lockwood, erected in 1778. Largish figure of Hope with an anchor and an urn. By Joseph Wilton.

North door (1)

North door (2)

LAMBOURNE. It is at the edge of the ancient forest of Hainault, and from its high ground above the River Roding it looks across to Epping Forest running along the horizon. On this high ground stands the church, with two Norman doorways through which we pass no more. It is the glass of the east window that strikes us as we come in, a modern scene of Bethlehem in memory of Lord Lambourne. In another chancel window are small gems in quieter tones, a group of five panels brought from Basle, painted about 300 years ago. They represent the choice between Good and Evil, the Adoration of the Wise Men, the Incredulity of Thomas, Christ and Peter on the sea, and the Shepherds. A nave window is in memory of a man who loved to ride about these uplands, and lived to ride in that last Wild charge from which he never returned, against the Russian guns at Balaclava. He was George Lockwood, aide-de-camp to Lord Cardigan.

Engraved in brass are the portraits of a Tudor mercer with his wife and their family of nine sons and ten daughters; and there is a wall monument to Thomas Winniffe, who became Dean of St Paul’s and Bishop of Lincoln, and retired here during the Commonwealth. The pulpit is of his day, and some of the old stalls. There is a gallery of 1704.

Lambourne Hall was built in Queen Elizabeth’s day on the site where lived a warrior bishop who fought in Italy for the Pope and crushed the peasant rising against the taxes of Richard the Second. He was Henry le Despenser, of whom perhaps the best that can be said is that he was loyal to Richard after his fall.

Havering atte Bower, Essex

The setting for St John the Evangelist is stunning; it sits on the green with an unusual semi detached tower but was, sadly, locked. Entirely Victorian but for all that this is pleasing building.

ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST. By Basil Champneys, 1875-8, that is an early work of his. Flint, with Dec windows and an arcade in the Essex tradition. A little freer only the S tower with an open E-W passage through, a higher stair turret, and openwork battlements. - FONT. C12, of Purbeck marble, octagonal, with two shallow blank arches on each side.

St John the Evangelist (3)

Corbel (4)

Havering Palace

HAVERING-ATTE-BOWER. Kings and queens have walked here, and wherever we turn we come upon their memory. Here came Edward the Confessor seeking solitude, praying even that the nightingales might be silent. Here Edward the Third invested little Richard as his successor, and from here Richard as king set out for Pleshey with a band of men to trap his uncle Gloucester. Here, too, lived and died Henry the Fourth’s queen, Joan of Navarre, who sleeps at Canterbury.

The portrait of Joan on her tomb at Canterbury shows her as a woman of outstanding beauty, yet she was regarded as a witch, having been accused by her confessor of plotting the death of her stepson Henry the Fifth. Duchess of Brittany when her husband died, she became Regent for theeldest of her eight children. In 1403 she married Henry the Fourth, was crowned at Westminster, and was voted a dowry of 10,000 marks a year. When the king died Henry the Fifth seems to have continued to love his stepmother, though at Agincourt her son Arthur fought against him and was brought captive to her door. Four years later, however, came this horrible accusation and the Council deprived the Dowager Queen of all she possessed, taking her from Havering-atte-Bower to the security of Leeds Castle in Kent and Pevensey in Sussex. The charge appears now to have been a gross piece of injustice and corruption. Henry the Fifth on his deathbed wrote a letter setting his conscience free from blame for having taken the queen’s dowry, and so Joan was set free and what remained of her dowry was returned to her. For the remaining 15 years of her life she was held in high honour by Henry the Sixth.

Historians have always wondered why, in those days when witchcraft was a dread reality, the queen was never brought to trial. An examination of her household accounts (preserved at the Record Office and at John Rylands Library) reveals that Joan was exceedingly well furnished with food, luxuries, and servants during her three years of restraint; and it is now believed that the charge of witchcraft was trumped up so that the Exchequer, almost emptied by the wars in France, should receive the benefit of her dowry, which was a very substantial sum in those days.

The oldest site identifiable on which these royal homes stood is at Havering Park, where an 18th century house with a tower hides in a splendid group of trees. It was the place for the queens when their kings were hunting in Hainault Forest, and the last king to come was Charles Stuart, who was here to meet his wife’s mother, the notorious Marie de Medici. She hoped to settle in England, and Parliament could only be rid of her by a gift of ten thousand pounds.

It is possible still to make out the terraced walks of the royal gardens, and there stands in Pyrgo Park an oak 20 feet round which, if its story were true, would be one of the most famous trees in England, for the story is that under this tree Queen Elizabeth sat when they brought news that the Great Armada had gone down. We cannot vouch for it.

The big village green is on high ground from which the hills of Kent are sometimes seen. Beside the oldest of its elms are two relics of village life long ago, the stocks and whipping-post of about 1700. The church by the green is a handsome 19th century building, with heads of lions in the porch roof under the tower. The chancel is enriched with panelling, the font is Norman, and there is a memorial showing a sorrowing woman and a scene in a harvest field. The oldest gravestone is that of Thomas Cheek, who was Lieutenant of the Tower and died in 1688, the year of the Revolution which doomed the Stuart dynasty for ever.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Chigwell Row, Essex

I set out expecting to find most of the churches on this venture into south Essex locked  but was pleasantly surprised to find the majority open. All Saints, however, was not but I was not unduly concerned as it is a Victorian creation and undoubtedly the interior would be as drab as the exterior - not the worst I've seen but nor the best.

ALL SAINTS. 1867 by Seddon ‘excellent of its sort’ (GR). Yellow stone with white stone dressings. NW tower, low three-bay entrance porch with wheel window above. The style of the church is C13. Inside arcades with thickly carved stiff-leaf capitals. The chancel was rebuilt in 1918-19.

All Saints (4)

CHIGWELL ROW. From its highest point we look out over the Thames valley to the Kent hills, and below us is the famous Hainault Forest where kings and abbots hunted and the LCC now reigns over 1100 acres of rolling fields and woodland. So close it is to London, yet all around is wild and natural, the nightingale sings in the thicket, and many big trees increase their girth undisturbed, though the giant of them all, the Monarch Fairlop Oak, fell a century ago, when it was 45 feet round the trunk and had 17 branches each as big as an ordinary oak.

Thomas Day, author of Sandford and Merton, used to come from his home near by to pay a formal call on the oak every first Friday in July, a practice started by his namesake Daniel, a Wapping pumpmaker who came here to collect rent. The pumpmaker gave his friends an annual feast of bean and bacon under this tent of leaves 300 feet round, and when he died in 1767 his coffin was fashioned from a fallen branch.

An avenue of limes and chestnuts leads to a house close to the 19th century church with a tower of our own century, and it seems fitting that this church among the trees should be graced with much fine woodwork. The east window pictures in lovely colours the opening of the worship of the Lamb. On the wall an arch-angel with grey-blue wings of enamel honours the names of the fallen.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Cambridgeshire revisits

Last Friday I revisited seven Cambridgeshire churches viz: Landwade, Burwell, Landbeach, Hardwick, Harlton, Little Shelford and Great Shelford. I gained access to all of them except Little Shelford which was firmly locked.