Monday, 30 January 2012

Braintree p2, Essex

St Peter in Braintree was my final (locked) church of the day and was rather disappointing being a Victorian utilitarian new build. According to the church's website:

The cost of building the Church was funded from a bequest from Miss Frances Wakeham who died on 14th March 1893. Miss Wakeham left £4,500 towards the building of a second Church in the Parish of Bocking. Work began on 8th June 1896 and the nave, chancel and vestries being the completed first parts were consecrated by the Bishop of St. Alban’s (the Rt. Revd Dr. John Wogan Festing) on 18th June 1897.

Originally St. Peter’s was conceived as a single building to seat 300 people. However, it was felt that due to a possible increase in population, the Church needed the facility to be converted to seat 600. The early finances of the Church were such that the Church was often in debt and so no money could be raised to finance the building of a larger Church. To this day the Church has not been finished and just consists of the nave, chancel and vestries. The side aisles which were part of the original plan have never been completed.

The Church is built of yellow brick. The roof is surmounted by a belfry which was never finished. It has two bells which, silent for many years after being struck by lightning, have recently been rehung and are now in regular use. The visitor enters the Church by the south door and proceeds via a central aisle flanked each side with pews and five pointed arches. Above the small arches are five small windows (known as the clerestory windows). These windows are inscribed with the letters F and W (the initials of Miss Frances Wakeham).

St Peter (2)

Mee makes no mention of the church in neither his Braintree or Bocking entries.

Rivenhall, Essex

St Mary & All Saints is locked but with two keyholders listed. Having done externals I walked up the road without much hope but for once the keyholder was in; after asking if I could borrow the key she assumed I wanted to see the window and I asked myself what window?

The church, which has been extensively damaged over the years by repeated restorations, still contains three remarkable icons: the east window, the Wiseman monument and a Majolica rondel in the style of a Della Robbia rondel.

The East window is the glory of this church, although many other features play second fiddle, especially the Wiseman tomb and a good selection of hatchments. Four central rondels are French and date from circa 1180; in 1840 Rev Bradford Hawkins bought the glass from Chenu Church and had the East window created. The oldest glass is surrounded with later glass from the C12th, C13th and C16th. Chenu's loss means that Rivenhall now contains the oldest stained glass known in Europe.

Whilst acknowledging that St Mary has been restored to within an inch of its life, has had a new tower tacked on and is nowhere near original I must say that I loved it; plain and simple maybe but also light and airy and full of interest.

ST MARY AND ALL SAINTS. 1838-9. Brick, with the use original walls. Narrow, tall W tower with polygonal buttress and battlements. The nave has the same feature at the angles. Intersected window tracery as was popular in the early C19. Plain white interior with coved ceiling with thin narrow transverse ribs. - COMMUNION RAILS. With twisted balusters, 1700. - STAINED GLASS. The best in the county; assembled in the E window. Two large frontal figures of the C12 (from St Martin at La Chenu N of Tours). - Four roundels of c. 1200; of exceedingly good quality and of unknown but no doubt also French origin. - Horseman with helm, inscribed ‘Robert Lemaire’. - Demi-figure of a Bishop c. 1500. - Two HELMS of the late C16 and the C17. - MONUMENTS. Raphe Wyseman d. 1608 and wife. Standing wall monument of alabaster and marble, with tomb-chest, recumbent effigies on a rolled-up mat; the children kneel in the ‘predella’. - Thomas Western d. 1699, good monument with segmental pediment, scrolls, flowers, and cherubs’ heads. - William Western d. 1729. Big black sarcophagus in front of a big black obelisk; no effigies - Baron Western of Rivenhall d. 1844. By Clark of Wigmore Street. In the Gothic taste. 

St Mary & All Saints (2)

East window (1)

Ralph Wiseman 1608 (1)

RIVENHALL. We come here for some of the finest old glass in England, brought from France by a 19th century rector. In the east window are four roundels of Norman glass showing the Annunciation, the Madonna and Child, the Entombment, and Christ in Majesty. With them are two ecclesiastical figures, one in yellow holding a book, the other an abbot in green with crozier and golden ball. A figure of a knight comes from the 13th century; his name, Robert Lemaire, is in the background. The horse is richly caparisoned, and the knight, his head hidden by a huge helmet, wears banded mail and is grasping a sword. The rest of the window is filled with 15th century glass, probably Flemish; the most interesting scene is the Adoration of the Magi, in which a dark-faced Moor with gold earrings might be Othello himself. Another chancel window has three 15th century roundels, one of God the Father carrying a golden cross. In the nave are shields and 14th century ornament, with two 16th century medallions.

The church has been rebuilt but has kept some of its old possessions, and they still read here from a Bible of 1717. There are two coffin lids 700 years old, twisted altar rails of the 17th century, and a magnificent tomb of alabaster and marble, on which lie Ralph Wyseman of 1608 and his wife Elizabeth, a grand-daughter of the infamous Lord Rich. Ralph wears armour and a ruff, and rests his feet on a seahorse, a quaint creature seen again on a helmet hanging above. Elizabeth is wearing a beautiful headdress; and in front of the tomb kneel three sons and three daughters.

A memorial tells of Samuel Western, who died in 1699; and on the floor, copied exactly from the marbles of its day, is a gravestone of cast-iron, with the family arms. It belongs to Thomas Western of Queen Anne’s time, who married a daughter of a London ironmonger. The memory of a more famous member of the family is kept green by an elaborate Gothic monument with two female figures. It is to Lord Western, who died in 1844, having bought Felix Hall at Kelvedon and filled it with treasures collected on his travels. For 42 years he worked in Parliament in the interests of agriculture, and did much to improve our breeds of sheep. He was also a keen worker for prison reform.

Tudor Hall by the church has a chimneystack of the 17th century; and Rivenhall Place, in a park of 100 acres is partly Tudor too. From the remains of a far older house here Roman pottery and coins have been found; and when the foundations were excavated a corridor with concrete walls 18 inches thick was traced for nearly a quarter of a mile.

At Rivenhall was born Thomas Tusser, a famous small poet of Shakespeare’s day whose work was produced in our day in a volume issued at five guineas. He is unique. His long poem on Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandrie, beloved of generations of literary men on the one hand and the practical guide of centuries of reading farmers on the other, is an incomparable picture of agricultural life, a thoroughly competent and exhaustive account of farming, stock-breeding, and husbandry in all its parts, with the tasks for each season and servant, the management of great farms and small, of dairy and household, of men, implements, and animals. Yet Tusser was a failure as a farmer. All the wisdom, pathos, and humour of his Points are born of his own experience, and sad that experience was. He claims good lineage and gentle blood, but was sent by a pitiless father at an early age to serve as a chorister at the chapel of Wallingford Castle, Berkshire, where he was ill-clad and ill-used. It was in the days of the press-gang for choristers, when licensed officers would abduct children for the royal choirs, and Tusser was hustled from place to place where he was wanted. Eventually he reached St Paul’s, and from there went to Eton, where the notorious Nicholas Udall was headmaster,

Where fifty-three stripes given to me
At once I had
For fault but small, or none at all,
It came to pass, thus beat I was;
See, Udall, see, the mercie of thee
To me, Poor lad.

Many more stripes of Fate were to fall on poor Thomas, yet he had happy days at Cambridge and for ten years with a lord, whom he served as a musician before the plough became his music, as he used to say.

Twice married, he farmed in Suffolk and Norfolk, but in spite of his comprehensive knowledge he was a failure on the land, though one of its best poets. His poem at first comprised only a hundred points, to which were added as many Poyntes of Huswifery; and from this nucleus sprang the complete work. One of his best compositions is his Ladder of Thrift, in which occur these familiar couplets:

To take thy calling thankfully
And shun the path to beggary;
To grudge in youth no drudgery
To come by knowledge perfectly;
To pray to God continually
For aid against thine enemy....

None of his own business ventures flourished, and this poor country loving poet was eventually thrown into prison for debt. He showed others the way to succeed but could not succeed himself, and died in a London prison in 1580.


Sunday, 29 January 2012

Silver End, Essex

Silver End doesn't get a mention by Arthur (but he does mention Crittall in his Braintree entry (qv)) but according to Wikipedia:

It was conceived as a model village by the industrialist Francis Henry Crittall who established a Crittall Windows Ltd factory there to manufacture components for metal windows.

The original village is all 20's box cube white houses and is magnificent - if you like that style, which I do - and St Francis is a converted thatched barn in the heart of the village. It's locked but with keyholders listed; unfortunately I'd run out of time but suspect that an internal would have been unrewarding.

I really liked the church, the village and the Crittall ethic behind both; the only other barn conversion I've come across in Essex is at Duddenhoe End (qv)and both share the same rustic charm.

Pevsner - The village was started by Lord Braintree (then Mr Crittall) in 1926 in conjunction with a subsidiary factory for disabled men. The interest of the housing is in the flat-roofed houses by Sir Thomas Tait which are amongst the earliest in England in the International Modern Style. They were designed under immediate continental influence and especially that of New Ways, built by Peter Behrens in 1925 for Mr Bassett Lowke at Northampton. Some details look very dated now, especially the little triangular oriels, but on the whole the estate has aged well. The main development starts from a kind of circus (with a large house called Le Chateau) and goes along Silver Street and further on. Other houses at Silver End, e.g. Lord Braintree's by C. H. B. Quennell.

The church of ST FRANCIS, weatherboarded with a thatched roof was designed by Mr G. C. Holme, the editor of The Studio, in 1929.

St Francis (2)

Inworth, Essex

All Saints is perched on a mound on the road between Tiptree and Rivenhall with what initially looks to be a Tudor tower but transpires to be a re-built Tower of 1876-7 when the Rev AH Bridges restored the church. It has to said that he appears to have done a sympathetic job and it would be nice to have seen inside but the church was locked with no keyholder listed.

ALL SAINTS. Ambitious red brick W tower and W porch, competently if not sensitively done. The date is 1876, the architect seems unrecorded. The rest is Early Norman with the chancel E end of the later C14. The two C11 windows in the N and S chancel walls are memorable. They have the equal outside and inside splays typical of their date. The masonry stone, flint, puddingstone and Roman brick should also be studied. C11 also the low and narrow chancel arch inside. To its sides and in the adjoining nave N and S walls C13 blank arches (cf. South Shoebury). The ones by the side of the chancel arch are pierced by large squints. Above the chancel arch remains of late C13 WALL PAINTINGS, not easily recognized. In the lower tier a bishop next to a tower and also a boat with a sail and a man by its side. - SCREEN under the chancel arch, three bays. - BENCH in the nave with uncommonly carved back panels, early C16. - STAINED GLASS. C14-C15 fragments in a S window. - PLATE. Cup with incised ornament and Paten, both of 1571. 

All Saints (3)

INWORTH. Here lived Saxons on a Roman settlement, among the lovely hills and valleys of the Blackwater country. In the church, hidden by trees on a hilltop, are many Roman tiles, set in the walls by the Saxons. They give colour to the corners of the building and frame the Saxon arch of the chancel. The double-splayed windows, which the Saxon archers found so useful for defence, still admit the slender shafts of light through the thick walls, and one glows with a mass of fragments of rich glass of the 14th and 15th centuries, a kaleidoscope of rare beauty. The church has charming woodwork. From the year 1500 come the well moulded wall-plates of the porch, and the door within it. There is a richly carved seat just inside, and much fine medieval carving in the flowing curves and spandrels of the screen. Right and left of the chancel arch are remains of wall-paintings 700 years old. It is a little difficult to read their meaning, but a tower, a boat with a striped sail, and a few people, can be picked out of these fading picture stories.


Tiptree, Essex

I will not be rude about St Luke, even though, to my eye, there is very little of merit to be said for it. It was, however, open and that has to earn it some brownie points.

Victorian built, architecturally a dull external and a dire internal but it was warm, which is unusual, and it was open.

ST LUKE. 1855 by Ewan Christian, small; apsed, red brick, no tower.

St Luke (2)

TIPTREE. Where the great forest of Essex spread hundreds of years ago, fruit trees now stand in ordered rows. We came in spring, and found the 200-year-old windmill looking down on a pink and white cloud of cherry and plum and apple blossom, a lovely scene.

It is said that smugglers brought their contraband from the creeks, up the long hillside road, to conceal them in the brick tower of this mill. The great sails still jut out from its dark cone-like cap, an eerie landmark in the winter twilight.

Away beyond the heath towards Great Braxted stands an Elizabethan house with line transomed windows. It has a great Tudor fireplace and a rubble wall from a medieval priory.


Tolleshunt Knights, Essex

I would have missed All Saints if I hadn't been pointed in the right direction by a kindly monk, Fr Philip, at the Greek Orthodox monastery of St John the Baptist. I know what you're thinking since I did as well:

The Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist is a monastic community for both men and women, directly under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is located in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex

The community consists of men and women living the monastic tradition of a Christ centered prayer life for the monastic members. Currently, the majority of the community are nuns (15-20), with a smaller number of monks.

The Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist had its beginnings largely in the person of Elder Sophrony (Sakharov). After his departure from Mount Athos and his subsequent move to Paris, he was to live in a Russian old-age home, assisting the priest.

In 1958, Elder Sophrony had six people living around him, seeking the monastic life. Realising that such a situation could not continue, he went to Tolleshunt Knights to inspect a property; in the spring of 1959, the new Community of St John the Baptist was formed at the same property, under the omophorion of Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh (Patriarchate of Moscow). The monastery, from its beginnings, had both monks and nuns, due to Elder Sophrony being unable to oversee two separate communities.

The Monastery of St John the Baptist moved under the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1965, becoming Patriarchal; later, the monastery would also be titled 'Stavropegic'.

So now you know - slightly odd to find an orthodox monastery in the heart of east Essex but nice at the same time!

All Saints is at the end of the long and winding road leading you to the monastery and is, probably understandably, kept locked. It looks like it once had a tower which collapsed and was replaced with an extraordinarily ugly belfry and someone has stuck some hideous solar panels on the nave roof but its location makes up for its faults.

ALL SAINTS. No village is anywhere near the church. Nor did the church at the time of writing give the impression of being much cared for. Nave (with a bellcote probably of c. 1880) and chancel. The details not of special interest. - FONT. Late C14, square with traceried panels. - MONUMENT. Knight of c. 1380, holding his heart in his hands. Much defaced.

Monastery of St John the Baptist (2)

All Saints (1)

TOLLESHUNT KNIGHTS. It has one knight all forlorn. We found him at the end of a lane running by the railway to a farm and a church, the church in the shade of a cluster of tall trees. The knight is in the 14th century chancel, a curious stone figure in plate armour holding a heart in his hands, as he has done for five and a half centuries and more.


Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex

Onwards then with a heavy heart because I was fairly sure that this second Saint Nicholas would share an incumbent with Tolleshunt Major and would be likewise locked - I was not disappointed in my expectations.

This was more than usually disappointing as, unusually, I'd researched the church, and as Mee makes clear, I really would have liked to have found it open.

It has to be said though that the exterior is very pleasing and, like its neighbour in T' Major, unusual for this area with a 'proper' tower and more of a North Essex/Suffolk feel to it.

ST NICHOLAS. All Perp with embattled W tower with diagonal buttresses, and embattled S side. In the N chancel chapel a brick window. The most attractive feature is the coved ceiling inside the nave with bands of stylized flower and leaf decoration, designed by the Rev. E. Geldart of Little Braxted at the time of the restoration of 1897. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with shields and rosettes in the panels. - MONUMENTS. Brass panels, convincingly explained as the bottom strip of the border of a large German brass panel of c. 1400 (cf. Wensley, Yorkshire). In the corners the lion of St Mark and the ox of St Luke, in the middle the Virgin and Child with, to the l. and r., St Bartholemew and St Philip. - Brasses to a man and woman of c. 1425, to Anthony Darcy d. 1540 (very curious; it is either a copy of a C14 figure or such a figure re-used; the figure is c. 4 ft long), to a woman of c. 1540, to Philippe Darcy d. 1559. The two brasses of 1540 are palimpsests of older brasses. - Monument to an unknown person; in the chancel S wall. Recess with depressed segmental top and a quatrefoil frieze above. Indents of brasses in the back wall. Perhaps also used as an Easter Sepulchre. Converted into a Sedilia. - Monument to Thomas d’Arcy d. 1593 and wife, with the usual kneeling figures.

St Nicholas (3)

TOLLESHUNT D’ARCY. Winding roads with cottage doors opening on to them give a charm to this old-world place under the elms. We come into its church by a porch of 500 years ago, with carved figures on the corners of the parapet and angels at the door. The door into the nave has still the draw-bar which bolted the door when it was new, 500 years ago.

It is in the chapel that we find the treasures linking this place with the great days of the Tudors, the chapel of the Darcy family who lived at the hall next door and gave the village its name. Their portraits are in brass. Here lies Antony, in the armour he wore before the Armada. Here is Philippa, wearing a French hood, her daughter beside her. On the wall is a brass which is a spoil of the monasteries, for on the other side is an abbot of 1400 in mass vestments. Unnamed brasses of a man in the armour of Agincourt and of a woman in a veil are on the wall, and earlier still is a gem of Flemish work from a brass of about 1375. It is a rare fragment with the Madonna and Child, St Bartholomew, St Philip, the lion of St Mark, and the bull of St Matthew on a rich background of grape vine. Both sides of it are engraved.

The sculptor has added to the treasures here, with an armoured figure of Thomas Darcy kneeling face to face with his wife Camilla, an elderly woman in ruff and gown. They built the bridge which leads across the moat, and on the brick piers are their sculptured coats-of-arms and the date 1585. Inside the timbered house are doors of great beauty and a room lined with panels carved with a mermaid, an eagle, and a child. In the grounds is a dovecot with a quaint roof.

There has passed away in this village in our own time a man who had been its physician and friend for 67 years, the wonderful John Henry Salter. He left behind him a diary covering about 30,000 days written in eighty volumes and running to about ten million words. He had a wide practice in the county, and in the old days would take long journeys, sometimes using two or three horses a day.

He was a volunteer soon after the Crimean War, he served as a major in the Great War, he had shot big game in Russia, he performed scores of operations before anaesthetics were known, he loved dogs and painted them, he loved flowers and painted them, and this was one of the notes in his diary:

I have discovered how to keep well. I never have more than two meals, with nothing to eat or drink between. I go to bed at night, and wake up five hours later as sure as clockwork. The rest of the day I work.

We see his natural history collection in the Chelmsford Museum.

Tolleshunt Major, Essex

Buoyed up by two open churches I progressed to the Tolleshunts and the reason that I covered ten churches in half the time I usually would - five of the next eight churches were locked with no keyholder listed. To my mind the justifiable locked church was at Tolleshunt Knights which, to be fair, is very isolated but the rest seem inexcusable.

Having got that off my chest St Nicholas is magnificent with a four square tower, a beautiful churchyard and a fantastic setting - such a shame it's kept locked.

The adjacent Beckingham Hall gatehouse is pretty spectacular too.

ST NICHOLAS. A humble church of nave and chancel, with a nice S porch added in 1888 to the designs of the Rev. E. Geldart, rector of Little Braxted. In front of this small church, probably about 1540-5, Stephen Beckingham of Beckingham Hall decided to place a brick W tower, much too big for the older building. It is patterned with diapers of blue brick, has diagonal buttresses with four set-offs and very low battlements. The W windows are of three and two lights, the bell-openings of three with a depressed pointed head. Original roofs. - FONT. Placed against the S wall. Half an octagon, Perp, with rosettes and shields. - PAINTING. On the S wall remains of a C15 figure. - PLATE. C17 Cup.

St Nicholas (2)

Beckingham Hall

TOLLESHUNT MAJOR. Whoever loves stone must here love brick, for the 16th century builder has shown us what he could accomplish in decorative moulding in bricks in a country house and a village church. The two-storeyed gatehouse and the boundary wall of the courtyard of Beckingham Hall were set up in the reign of Henry the Eighth, when the tower was added to the neighbouring church. The mouldings of the windows in the upper stages of this tower are as neat as stone could be, while blue bricks make patterns up the tower. There are vaulted brick canopies over niches in the walls of the nave, and by the altar is a 13th century coffin lid carved with a cross. The church stands in open country facing a pond, and from the battlements of its tower is a glorious view of the Blackwater estuary and the trees on Mersey Island across that sparkling band of water.


Little Totham, Essex

Heading for the Tolleshunts I passed a sign for All Saints so did a U-turn and found an unexpected church, I'd not included it as a church on my Google map so it really was unexpected.

All Saints sits beside a Hall in the back of beyond and was, amazingly, open. Again it's a very simple church with a stunning Norman south door and a handsome C17th monument to the Sammes family. Although it's suffered under the hands of an over zealous restorer it retains much of its original charm.

ALL SAINTS. A good Late Norman S doorway is the most rewarding piece of the church. It is of two orders of columns and decorated with certain unusual motifs. The columns for instance have square blocks with rosettes round their waists - rather a low waist-line, that is about one third up. The voussoirs combine roll-mouldings with a kind of three-dimensional double-saltire frieze. One frieze runs parallel, one at r. angles to the door opening. An earlier Norman N doorway, quite plain. C13 lancets in the nave on the N and S and also the chancel N and S. Handsome E end with three stepped single lancets. Early in the C16 a big W tower was added, of squared flints. But the enterprise was stopped and the tower later finished in timber, weatherboarded, with a pyramid roof. Inside, original roofs with low tie-beams. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, bowl decorated with tracery. The font is quite unusually interesting, because the carver used apparently what were to him eight current tracery motifs. They are indeed such as one sees frequently in church windows. But although the date is no doubt C15, the Dec motifs of cusped intersection and of ogee reticulation are still there. Otherwise the motifs are those of three- and four-light panel tracery and the Perp type with straightened reticulation, both with and without transome. - PULPIT. Incorporating bits of the C17. - DOOR in N doorway. With iron hinges with large and small scrolls; c. 1200. - ORGAN. Early C19 Gothic. - MONUMENT. Sir John Sammes and wife, mid C17, but still in the Jacobean tradition. Standing wall monument with two large kneeling figures opposite each other by a praying desk. Each figure against an arched niche. Below a deep arched recess with the equally large kneeling figure of the son.

All Saints (2)

Sammes Monument (6)

Peacocks (2)

LITTLE TOTHAM. The villagers live in a group of cottages a mile north of the old hall, among whose barns and trees the small Norman church is almost lost to view. The central part of the hall is 500 years old and has good timbering. Close by is a pond covered with lilies in due season. Pines, poplars, and young chestnuts give beauty to the spacious churchyard. We come into the church through a magnificent Norman doorway, a lovely example of about the year 1160, the shafts and the three orders of the arch elaborately carved. There is another Norman doorway blocked up. The 15th century font has on all its eight sides miniature carvings of varied styles of window tracery. The ancient craft of the smith, too, is well represented in the ironwork of the doors, foliage work of the 12th and 13th century. On a marble monument lie Sir John Samms and his wife, facing each other in prayer, he clad in his armour of Stuart days.


Great Totham, Essex

For the first time in a week or so last Friday was cloud free and sunny but bitterly cold and, on a whim, I decided to do a church run. Setting off late mid morning I had an unrealistic list of 9 churches south of Colchester planned but on the way passed, and visited, Great and Little Totham.

St Peter was clad in scaffolding being erected and did not look promising but it was open and held some interest including the Champion de Crespigny chapel and a hidden brass to Elizabeth Coke of 1606. It's very plain inside with a north aisle and has been heavily restored but for all that I rather liked it.

ST PETER. Nave and chancel probably C14. N aisle by J. Clarke, 1878. C15 roofs. - PAINTINGS. Remains of figures in the NE corner of the nave and the splay of a S window; C15 to early C16. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1630. - BRASS to Elizabeth Coke d. 1606 and daughter (chancel).

St Peter (2)

All Seats Free

Elizabeth Coke nee Pilborough 1606 (7)

GREAT TOTHAM. Very ragged looks our Essex coast on our maps; would you see it spread out as it is, come to Beacon Hill at Great Totham, and gaze seaward.

The cottages of this small place, great no more, range along a group of roads at the foot of this fine viewpoint, while the island of Osea, which belongs to it, lies away out in the Blackwater estuary. The churchyard is a place of charm, with trim lawns and roses surrounded by limes and pines, while a creeper climbs the porch of the red-tiled church. Here are one or two windows of the 14th century, and among the timbers of the roof are many that were hewn 500 years ago. A modern shingle spire rises from a wooden turret. In the chancel are portraits in brass of two Elizabethan Elizabeths, wearing ruffs. There are fragments of 16th century glass, and near the pulpit is a huge clock quaint enough to raise a smile however dull the sermon may be.


Thursday, 26 January 2012

Little Tey, Essex

St James the Less is a conspicuous example of early Norman architecture and shares many similar features with Great Tey and Wakes Colne which are of like date. The Church comprises a single cell nave and chancel with apsidal end, with a south porch of 19th century construction and a north vestry, probably early 20th century in date. The Church is simply furnished with pews, font, pulpit and Holy Table. Its principal feature is the extensive, and extensively damaged, wall paintings.

The Church has early Norman features and the roof is thought to be of 13th century origin. The bell tower at the west end appears to have 15th century framing. The Church was probably built in the second quarter of the 12th century, c. 1130. It consists of rubble with ashlar and there is dark brown puddingstone used in the quoins of the west wall and as a double ornamental course around the exterior of the apse. Caen stone has been used for the tympanum above the south door and has Norman lozenge diapering.

The apse contains an original north east window and there are also original windows on both sides of the nave.

There are two main schemes of wall paintings, one dating to the 13th century and the other to the 14th century. Until May 1996, large areas of the paintings were still covered in limewash, distemper and synthetic modem paint. Since this latter coating was applied, in the 1960s, extensive and serious flaking had occurred on all areas of the painted wall surface, and it was as a result of the flaking paint that the wall paintings were discovered.

During the late 1980’s and early 90’s two areas of painting on the north wall were uncovered. However, it was not until the summer of 1996 that the main scheme of paintings was uncovered and conserved by Tobit Curteis Associates.

It was discovered that a scheme of paintings dating to circa 1280 originally ran around all the walls of the church. Of this scheme, only the paintings in the apse are now readable. These depict a Passion cycle, starting with the Last Supper and ending with the scene of Noli Me Tangere. Although they are badly damaged, the detail is extremely fine, particularly on some of the faces, such as that of the dead Christ in the Crucifixion. Around the top of the paintings is a band of fleur de lys decoration, which is particularly characteristic of this period.

On top of these paintings, there was a second scheme, painted in circa 1320. Painting over earlier paintings was extremely common as styles and fashions changed and this case is no exception. From the fragments that survive in the apse, it appears that there was a second Passion cycle painted over the first. Although the subjects seem to have been the same, the layout of the individual scenes was different and in some areas the remains of the later paintings appear to clash with the figures in the earlier scene. This is particularly evident in the Washing of Feet and the Three Marys at the Tomb.

In addition to the scenes from the Passion, a number of other 14th century paintings were found. On the north wall is the morality scene of the Three Living and the Three Dead, of which only the figures of the Three Living survive. Also on the north wall, in its traditional position above the north door is the fragmentary scene of St Christopher. On the South wall is a very fine depiction of the Virgin and Child with the Virgin holding the Christ Child on her hip.

Although identification of the scenes might appear difficult, the iconography that was used in a particular period tends to be standard. Therefore a small fragment of painting can be matched with a more complete painting or manuscript of the same period, and the subject of the damaged wall painting will become clear.

The reason for the severe losses seen throughout the church are twofold; the first is what may be termed ‘natural deterioration’, which includes causes linked with the environmental conditions within the building; the second, and by far the most serious is the deliberate scraping down of the walls in preparation for later decorative paint schemes. In order to provide a sound surface for such redecoration, all loose limewash, including any which contained wall paintings, was scraped off.  The way that layers of paint had built up in some areas indicated that this process must have occurred on a number of occasions, from perhaps as early as the 18th century.

ST JAMES THE LESS. Nave and chancel without a break, and belfry with a pyramid roof. Several small Norman windows. S doorway with a tympanum decorated with Norman lozenge diapering.

St James the Less (2)

Wallpainting (1)

Wallpainting (2)

LITTLE TEY. The walls of its church remain as the Normans built them, with their diaper work still in the tympanum of their door, and the round apse continuing on the walls of nave and chancel without a break, for there is no chancel arch. The church is so small that 50 paces would complete the round of it, and so low are the windows that a child can peep through them. There is a tiny 16th century turret with a bell dated 1701. Indoors is a hutch-shaped chest of Tudor workmanship, and in the windows are a few fragments of flowers in glass of the 15th century.

In the reign of Charles Stuart the rector was Erasmus Laud and it is said here that some of the wrath felt by the people of Colchester for his famous namesake, the Archbishop, was poured on his unhappy head.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Great Tey, Essex

Great Tey is an attractive village with an elevated situation, allowing the sturdy tower of its noble church to be seen for some distance, particularly from the south. This interesting church stands in an extensive and cared-for churchyard and certainly dominates the houses clustered around it. It is a magnificent tribute to the craftsmen of the 12th and 14th centuries and is a bold and silent witness to the faith which has been proclaimed within its walls for over eight centuries.

The earliest part of this building (which is but a fragment of its former glory) is the Norman Tower, which was erected about 1160 as the central tower of a cruciform church. It is not known who had it built, but possible names have been suggested, including Richard de Lucy and Baron Eudo (whose name is also associated with the building of Colchester castle). The Norman builders incorporated many Roman bricks and tiles in the masonry of this tower. West of it once stretched a long Norman nave and aisles, with Norman arcades.

The chancel was rebuilt during the early part of the 14th century, when the present transepts and probably also the aisles of the nave took their shape.

The church was a large and magnificent building when complete and it was not until the early years of the 19th century that serious trouble was discovered. The building was inspected by Wm. Tite and James Baedel (architects), who reported that the whole church, except the chancel, was dilapidated. Lead from the south aisle roof had been taken and used for bullets during the Civil War and grave danger was being caused by the northwest pier of the tower. This contained the spiral staircase and had weakened, transferring the weight of the tower to the north nave arcade and pushing the columns on the north side of the church some 5½ inches out of perpendicular. It was calculated that the cost of restoration would be £700 and the response of the church folk to this must have been the most embarrassing and regrettable mistake of their history. They decided that the price was too great and that the nave should be demolished and replaced by the present western annexe, designed by James Baedel of Witham. This was done in the year 1829 and the bill for the work came to £1,400 – exactly double the price of the proposed restoration.

More restoration work was proposed in 1896 when James Brooks (who designed several famous London churches) drew up plans for re-seating the church and removing the western gallery. These were not entirely carried out, but in 1897 the tower was further strengthened and the bells re-hung; 25 cartloads of crumbling mortar, broken stones and bricks were taken from the tower and replaced by 8000 bricks and six tons of Portland cement. The chancel was restored in 1902, when many of the present furnishings were inserted.

Despite its chequered history, a tremendous amount of beauty and antiquity can still be seen both outside and inside the church.

It is worth standing back and viewing this church as a whole, and imagining its great nave stretching westwards of the fortress-like tower, which is 18 feet square and is one of the finest of its period. It is unbuttressed and has corner-quoins of stone and Roman brick. The brick, which is many years older than the tower, can also be seen framing the six recesses above the north and south transepts and the large single windows in the stage above. Flint and stone rubble appears in the masonry, also known as brown ironstone. This mixture of building materials gives the tower a variety of mellow colours. The belfry stage has large double Norman windows, with stone colonettes, flanked by single openings. The embattled parapet is a later edition. The circular staircase turret in the northwest corner is also embattled, and is crowned with a distinctive weather vane, dated 1793. Beneath the arch of the eastern belfry window is a large carved stone head.

The early 14th century chancel is a fine example of Decorated architecture. It is strengthened by buttresses and has three double windows on the north and south sides, which have beautiful tracery and hood-moulds resting upon corbel heads. The priest’s doorway on the south side is noteworthy. Its hood-mould is carved with fleurons (flowers), foliage and ball-flower ornament and rests upon worn corbel heads. The superb five-light east window completes this chancel, and is flanked by interesting corbels. One appears to be a climbing monkey and the other a strange creature, thought by some to be a crocodile.

The north transept has a fine three-light mid 14th century window, with distinctive and very beautiful tracery. Its counterpart in the south transept matches the chancel windows and the east window of this transept is in the perpendicular style of the late 14th century. Carved into the south face of the south transept‘s eastern buttress, about 2 - 3 feet from the ground, is a mediaeval Mass dial.

The western annexe, of 1829, although a poor substitute for the former nave is, with its flanking porches, not unattractive and the four triple west windows are quite distinctive.

You enter the church by the south vestibule porch, on the north side of which can be seen the capitals of the first Norman arch of the nave arcade. These have been filled with a 15th century arch, which may have been an early attempt to counteract the weight of the tower. Above the inner entrance arch are the framed Royal Arms of Charles II.

The south transept is an attractive side chapel, with a trefoil-headed piscina in its south wall, showing that there was an altar here in the 14th century. The two windows in this chapel contain some interesting stained glass. In the tracery of the south window are four lions in the roundels and in the centre light of the east window is a human figure (maybe an apostle), in Continental Glass. These are the only fragments of ancient glass in the church. Nearby is the early 15th century octagonal font. In the stem are differing two-light traceried panels and the bowl, which has fleurons on its underside, has blank shields on its panels and some mutilated stone heads protruding at the comers. Its attractive oak cover, in memory of a churchwarden who died in 1975, is a simple but pleasing contribution of craftsmanship of our own times.

The tower is supported by simple Norman arches to the east and west, whilst those on the north and south are 14th century pointed arches, the capitals of the northern arch being more richly carved and decorated with fleurons.

The western gallery, which is built over the vestry, has an iron set of Royal Arms, dating from 1829. On the north side of the gallery is a handsome clock, which was presented to the church by the Rector in 1830. Square stones set in the wall beneath show the names of the Rector and Churchwardens at the time of re-modelling. To the south of the vestry entrance stands an unusual painted chest on wheels. This is unique in Essex and its original use is unsure. Some consider it to be Flemish or Dutch and made as a money or dower chest. Others reckon it to be German, and used for German troops. Some authorities date it from the 17th century, although one expert says that among the paintings on it are a man and woman in 16th century dress. Nearby, and now forming part of a seat near the main entrance, are three mediaeval bench-ends, of which the centre one has panelling on one side.

More interesting 15th century woodcarving can be seen in the priest's stall, where a further four bench-ends have been incorporated. The tops of these have small carvings, the most interesting of which can be seen in the eastern bench-end of the seat - showing a Scotsman in a kilt, and complete with bagpipes! He faces east.
The chancel is of noble and dignified proportions and the lovely window-tracery can be further appreciated from the inside. The 14th century moulded wall plates of the roof still survive at the tops of the walls.

In the south wall is a fine 14th century piscina, with an ogee-headed trefoil arch, flanked by mouchette and dagger carvings. The water in which the sacred vessels and the priest's hands were cleansed at the Eucharist was poured down the octofoil drain. The stone forming the back of the piscina recess has small incised crosses, which can only indicate that this slab once formed the mensa (or top stone) of a small altar in pre-Reformation times.

West of the piscina is the triple sedilia. These were seats for the Celebrant, Deacon and Sub-deacon at High Mass. Much of the stone canopy work is a very careful and worthy 19th century reconstruction. The simple arches at the rear are original however, as are also the semi-circular responds at the east and west ends.

Most of the furnishings of the church date from 1902, including the reredos. The altar is a 17th century Communion Table and of the same date is the chair on its north side. The pulpit is clearly earlier than the other furnishings and may well date from 1829, although some authorities believe it to be as early as the 17th century.

The memorials of the church are all of 19th and 20th century date and are not of great architectural interest. Several commemorate members of the Lay family, and the glass in the east window was inserted in 1861, in memory of J.W. Lay. On the north chancel wall is a small tablet to the Rev‘d J .B. Storry, who was parish priest here during the 1829 remodelling, who gave the clock in the gallery and who was here for 43 years, until his death in 1855. His successor was Rector here for 38 years.

ST BARNABAS. In Norman times this must have been a magnificent church, and one would like to know the reasons for this display in this particular place. The crossing tower is one of the proudest pieces of Norman architecture in the county. The nave had aisles or at least one aisle, and there were no doubt a chancel and transepts. As it is, the chancel and transept have only C14 features and the nave was pulled down in 1829. The tower is of four stages with much Roman brick for dressings. The lowest stage must have communicated with the roofs. The second has on each side small coupled groups of three arches, the third two large windows, and the fourth the bell-openings with a colonnette and side windows. There is a circular stair turret higher than the tower. The battlements are later. Inside, the plain E and W arches are preserved. The C14 chancel is also a fine piece of work, with a very large five-light E window with flowing tracery, and two designs of Dec motifs in the tracery of the two-light N and S windows. The N transept N and S transept S windows are of the same date. So are the (much restored) Sedilia: three arches on shafts with nobbly foliage in the spandrels. The stump of a nave of 1829 is flanked by porches, and in the S porch one circular pier of the Norman nave is still recognizable with a low capital with angle volutes. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with shields in circles or quatrefoils. - PULPIT. Plain, C17, with decorated lozenge-shaped centres of the panels. - BENCH-ENDS. C15, with traceried panels and poppy-heads, used in the Reader’s Desk. - PLATE. Cup with band of ornament, and Paten, both of 1561.

St Barnabas (2)


Poppyhead (2)

Corbel (20)

GREAT TEY. A huge Norman tower, 18 feet square and with many windows, proclaims to us from afar that we are drawing near a place which was a centre of busy life in ages past. This massive tower has Roman bricks in it, large and small; in the walls and in the arches of the windows we find these relics of Roman Britain, looking down on a great churchyard and towering above 16th and 17th century cottages.

In the neighbouring fields are farms with roofs and timbering of the 15th century, whose owners worshipped in the Norman church when splendid buildings clustered about the central tower. One pier remains of them all, buried in a modern wall; only the beautiful 14th century chancel and transept, indeed, remain to share the splendour of the tower, for the Norman nave and aisles were pulled down in our own time.

The outer walls of the chancel have beautiful tracery in the east window, and there is neat carving of heads and grotesques on many projecting stones, the most remarkable being a crocodile and a climbing monkey. The stones on which the gable rests are carved with grotesques and ballflowers, while a bishop and a bearded man look down on all who enter by the lovely priest’s doorway.

Two of the tower arches are Norman but the side arches have mouldings of the 14th century. Both the piscinas are of that time, one elaborately carved and the other backed by part of the Norman altar top with three consecration crosses on it. The font has been here 500 years and has heads on its bowl. On four 15th century poppyheads in a reading desk are a crowned head and a kilted man playing bagpipes. On a 17th century chest are paintings of a man and a woman. The fruit and flowers on some medieval woodwork has been copied in a modern window.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Eight Ash Green, Essex

All Saints - I think enough said.

All Saints


No mention by Mee.

Fordham, Essex

All Saints is an impressive building but utterly stripped of interest - it's normally kept locked but I got access since a nice man was working on the floor and allowed me in. To be honest having gained access I don't really think I gained much.

ALL SAINTS. Mostly C14. The chancel comes first, with cusped windows of two-lights under one pointed arch - an early C14 form, but dated here by the Royal Commission c. 1330. W tower with diagonal buttresses, the W wall early in the C19 repaired in brick. N and S aisle arcades C14 with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. The outer walls of the aisles and their windows rebuilt c. 1500 with regular bands of brick. 

All Saints (2)


FORDHAM. There are Roman bricks in the walls of its 14th century church, which was given a new aisle and a porch by the Tudor builders. A modern pulpit has little carved panels 300 years old, and there is a monument which shows us the head of a rector’s son who died of smallpox in 1715. He was John Pulley, a captain in the navy, and we see him with his long curly hair and cravat. Below is a little carving of men-of-war with sail set on a stormy sea. Close by, with a great walnut tree before it, stands Fordham Hall, part of it as it was in medieval days. It is not the only ancient house the village has, for there is a farm as old, a Tudor inn, and about half a dozen buildings of the 17th century, including a weather-boarded barn of seven bays.


Greenstead Green, Essex

The following week, on a bitterly cold but bright day, I set off on another north of Colchester voyage taking in Greenstead Green, Fordham, Eight Ash Green, Great and Little Tey.

St James the Great is a Victorian built church with an plethora of external corbels - I really shouldn't like this but I do. It's well designed, beautifully executed and, to my mind, should be commended as a C19th mimic. Unlike at Holy Trinity in Halstead Gilbert Scott really hit the nail on the head here.

ST JAMES, Greenstead Green. 1845 by George Gilbert Scott. The upper stage of the W tower is octagonal and accompanied by four pinnacles. Spire on top. The church is in the Dec style.

St James the Great (3)

Corbel (37)

East window

Mee missed this church in my edition.


Twinstead, Essex

St John The Evangelist is described on the village website as "a beautiful and rare Arts and Crafts church", I'm not so sure and think I side with Pevsner who says "Red brick with a wild mixture of black and yellow brick decoration outside and with bands and trellis inside. It is all very much in the style of Butterfield. The large, low, pointed window in the chancel, almost like a triangle, is also an oddity."

Having said that I rather liked it but mainly for the Wyncoll brasses rather than the church itself.

ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST. 1860. Nave, chancel and bellcote. Red brick with a wild admixture of black and yellow brick decoration outside and with bands and trellis inside. It is all very much in the style of Butterfield. The large low pointed window in the chancel almost like a triangle, is also an oddity. - STAINED GLASS. In the chancel Crucifixion etc. by Hardman. Remarkably good. - BRASS to Marie Wyncoll d. 1610 and husband, also five daughters (nave N wall).

St John the Evangelist

Mary Wincoll nee Gaudy 1610 (1.1)

TWINSTEAD. Here is a family from the England of Shakespeare and Raleigh, their portraits engraved on enduring brass. Isake Wyncoll is bareheaded in a long-sleeved cloak, his wife Marie has a richly embroidered dress and a ruff, and below are their five daughters, two in round hats. They are in the nave of a church they would fail to recognise, for it was refashioned 250 years after their day, its companion a giant old cedar in the corner of the churchyard. There are three high chancel arches, a carved chair of about 1700, a panelled chest of the 18th century, and a marble stone to Robert Gray who was rector of the old church for 44 years. His successor Henry Shortland stayed 40 years, and he it was who made the building new.


Alphamstone, Essex

St Barnabas has been so over restored as to be rendered antiseptic which is a shame as the exterior sort of points to a once interesting building - I think but it's hard to be sure so I'm going to sit on the fence here.

CHURCH . Nave, lower chancel and belfry. All much restored by Sir Arthur Blomfield. Norman one blocked N window, C13 the completely plain N doorway. The rest mostly C14, windows especially and SEDILIA. The latter of three seats, framed in one, with the PISCINA, cusped pointed arches on detached shafts. S arcade (also C14) of three bays with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches.  FONT. Of the familiar Purbeck type, square, with five shallow blank arches on each side, C12. - FONT COVER. Handsome, if modest, C17 piece. Semi-globe with ribs crowned by a finial of openwork scrolls carrying a ball.

St Barnabas (2)


ALPHAMSTONE. In narrow winding lanes its houses are strung out, several of them 17th century and one a 16th century farm. The churchyard has a fine outlook over the Stour valley, and marks the site of a far more ancient burial-place in the Bronze Age. Urns dug up hereabouts are in Colchester Museum. From the wooden bell-turret three Tudor bells ring out, but the nave walls may be as old as the 12th century, and the south aisle and the chancel with its splendid sedilia are 14th. One of the porches has timbers 500 years old, and the other is about a century younger, but both the doors have been here since the time of Agincourt. There are two chests and a communion table, all about 300 years old, and a 12th century font bowl with a 17th century cover. The chancel has two of the low medieval windows which have long puzzled our antiquarians. They have kept their ancient iron grilles, and are believed to have been used at mass, when a bell was rung from them for the people outside to hear. In several windows is 14th and 15th century glass, including blue and gold roundels, fragments of suns and tabernacles, fleur-de-lys and cups. A sad tale is told of the old glass of the church being sold for what it would fetch in Sudbury market at the beginning of last century.

Lamarsh, Essex

From Wiston to Lamarsh and that rare thing an Essex Church with a round Tower but if I'm brutally honest that was the only interest I found here. Holy Innocents is utterly lacking in interior interest and almost entirely lacks merit - however I will give it marks for the round Tower, being open and location.

Holy Innocents (3)


LAMARSH. Its cottages are dainty, its tower is rare and ancient, one of the six round towers in Essex and one of only three known to have been built by the Normans. It was partly restored about 250 years ago. The odd-looking spire with its little dormer windows is modern, but one of the lancet windows is 12th century. The nave walls may be Norman, but the chancel was refashioned 600 years ago. There is 15th century woodwork in the ten bays of the screen. Tudor builders added the brick porch, which shelters a doorway and a handsome door just as old. Fine trees surround Daw’s Hall, a 16th century house with a 14th century crowned head carved on a boss over one of its doors.


Wissington, Suffolk

Wissington, or locally known as Wiston, plays host to the splendid Norman church of St Mary the Virgin with a wealth of remnants from that time including the Chancel arch, several windows and a later font but best of all are the C13th wallpaintings which are amongst the best I've seen.

To my surprise Simon Jenkins doesn't mention it.

ST MARY. A delightful group, with the church above the farm buildings. Nave, chancel, and apse all Norman. The only addition is the pretty weather boarded bell-turret with its pyramid roof. Unfortunately, however, the Norman church was made more Norman in 1853. The apse was rebuilt on the old foundation and given a rib-vault, and the windows were made grander externally than they had been. But their inner splays are all right. It is possible that the Norman church had a tower over the chancel space, such as still survives in many Norman churches (cf. e.g. Fritton, Ousden). Chancel arch with one order of shafts and zigzag in the arch. Sumptuous tall S doorway. One order of shafts with odd spiral-fluting on the l., horizontal zigzags on the r. Tympanum on a segmental lintel stone, with chip-carving. Zigzag and other decoration in the arch. Simpler N doorway. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with panelled stem, and bowl with demi-figures of angels. - (STALLS. Two, with MISERICORDS. LG) - WALL PAINTINGS. A comprehensive cycle of c. 1250-75, of which much survives, even if only fragmentarily. The quality can never have been more than provincial. On the S wall of the nave two tiers, the upper with stories from the childhood of Christ, the lower with stories from the lives of St Margaret and St Nicholas. The scenes of the upper tier are framed by arcading with trefoiled arch-heads and roofs and turrets over; the lower panels are simply rectangular. On the upper tier Annunciation (only part of the angel remains), Nativity, Annunciation to the Shepherds (two scenes), Adoration of the Shepherds (two scenes), Adoration of the Magi (two scenes), Dream of the Magi (three men naked in one bed), Flight into Egypt, Murder of the Innocents (two scenes), then a window, then Presentation in the Temple and Christ among the Doctors. Among the scenes below St Nicholas with the three boys in the pickling barrels is recognizable, and the Miracle of the Cup (ship with sail). St Margaret is seen spinning, then part of the body in the scene of the passion, then Beheading, Burial (?), Ascension to Heaven (?). - On the N wall W of the doorway stories of St John Baptist. The Beheading can be recognized. In the tympanum of the doorway two women wearing hats. E of the doorway three tiers. In the upper tier St Francis’s Sermon to the Birds. The tree on which the birds are perched has a stylized scrolly shape, as if it were done in metalwork. The Passion of Christ is in the middle tier. Entry into Jerusalem, Last Supper (both much defaced), Christ washing the Apostles’ feet, Betrayal (?), Christ carrying the Cross, Crucifixion, Pieta, Resurrection. The stories of the bottom tier have almost completely disappeared. On the W wall the Last Judgement in three tiers . Above the N doorway is a dragon.- STAINED GLASS. The E Window by Wilmhurst & Oliphant (T K), c. 1853. - PLATE. Elizabethan Chalice; Paten 1697.

St Mary the Virgin (2)

Wallpainting (4)

Font (1)

WISSINGTON. By a farmhouse at the end of a lane stands its little Norman church, full of rare and sacred treasure. There are two richly carved doorways and a splendid chancel arch with two rows of zigzag and flowers on one of its pillars, all the work of the Normans. The 15th century font has angels on its bowl, some with shields and some with crown, lute, and dulcimer; while more angels support it and eight battered lions guard its base. The church still has an Elizabethan chalice and a barrel organ for the hymns.

But the rarest treasures are the 13th century frescoes. In the time of Charles Buck, who preached here for 56 years of last century, the church was restored and the east wall of the chancel was replaced by a rounded apse. The limewash which had covered the nave walls since the Reformation was removed and wonderful frescoes brought to light. Over the west gallery are traces of a Vision of Paradise with figures of angels, elders, and Blessed Souls. The north wall has scenes from the Passion, and on the south the Annunciation is portrayed with a Nativity and other scenes from the childhood of Jesus. Here also are two miracles of St Nicholas, and scenes from the life of St Margaret. The best preserved pictures show a fierce long-tailed dragon and St Francis preaching to the birds.


Nayland, Suffolk

Onwards to St James in Nayland and the discovery of a church that I would undoubtedly put in my top ten list. There's not a huge amount to see but what there is is stunning; the setting is lovely, the exterior is intriguing and beautiful and the quality of some of the fittings is extraordinary. I can't do it justice and recommend the Suffolk Churches Site's (mentioned before) review.

ST JAMES. A surprising sight from Church Street owing to the rich SW porch attached to the W tower and entered from the W. The porch was built of stone by a clothier, William Abell, in I525, and rebuilt in 1884. It is panelled and castellated and has a (new) vault with many tiercerons but no liernes. The unbuttressed W tower is C14 (but with a brick top of 1834 - a terrible pity), and so are the chancel with its five-light E window displaying flowing tracery, the W window of the N aisle with intersected tracery, and the shape of the former S window. The rest is Perp. Handsome S aisle front with rood-stair turret. This seems the aisle referred to in a will of 1492-3. Arcades of six bays with finely moulded piers. Attached shafts with capitals only towards the arch openings. From shields in the spandrels of the arcade rise shafts which divide the clerestory into pairs of windows. The chancel has a clerestory too. No chancel chapels. - SCREENS. Eight painted panels of c. 1500 from the former rood screen are hung up in the S aisle. Indifferent quality. (Also early C16 screenwork below the W gallery. LG) - FONT COVER. By R. Y. Goodden. - WEST GALLERY. Simple C18 work. - NORTH DOOR. With linenfold panelling and a border of vine trails. - ALTAR PAINTING. Christ blessing bread and wine. By John Constable, 1809 and much less tied to the well-tried-out mannerisms of the late C13 than his picture of 1804 at Brantham. - STAINED GLASS. N aisle W window by Kempe, c. 1908. - PLATE. Cup 1562; Paten and Flagon 1825. - BRASSES. Large double canopy (N aisle), c. 1440. Upper half of a Lady with butterfly head-dress under a canopy (Mrs Hacche), c. 1485. Original size c. 3 ft (nave). - Civilian and wife under double canopy, c. 1500 (nave). The figures are 3 ft long. - Civilian and wife with pedimented head-dress, probably Richard Davy d. 1514 (N aisle); 18 in. figures.

St James (2)

South West Porch (1)


NAYLAND. Constable, who was born a few miles away at East Bergholt, delighted in this village of old houses, and in the church is the altarpiece he painted for Nayland. With it are eight more pictures, curious faded portraits on wood 500 years old. Close to the church is an old little house with an overhanging storey and miniature windows; and in the meadow called Court Knoll is the site of an island village of the Saxons, only a memory now and with nothing to show.

A goodly company of Nayland’s clothiers and their wives once had their portraits in brass in the church, but most of these are gone, and it is William Abell, the 16th century clothier who built in stone, who left the most lasting memorial. He set up the bridge which here crosses the Stour into Essex, and added to the 14th century church (where he lies) the porch with three canopied niches over a pinnacled doorway, a king’s head on each side of it, and a face with a vine sprouting from the mouth as a boss for the vaulted roof. The other porch has a 15th century linenfold door carved round with vines.

Strange gargoyles stare from the 600-year-old walls, and queer heads look down from the windows of the 19th century tower on the flowerbeds and rose paths of the churchyard. Other odd faces, one with its tongue out, are on the old hammerbeam roof which stretches with carved spandrels the whole length of the nave and chancel; there is no chancel arch. Floral bosses dot the aisle roofs. Yet two more faces are at the small priest’s doorway. Pews, pulpit, and font with the winged creatures of the Evangelists and emblems of the Passion are all of our own day. Several Bibles in a case belong to the days when they had to be chained, and with them are books from the old church library. Of the brasses only a 16th century man and his wife are left, fine portraits under a double canopy.

Through 30 clerestory windows the light streams in, but we must strain our eyes to make out some of the paintings fixed to the nave wall, for 500 years have faded them. Saints, priests, and kings are portrayed on eight panels from the medieval screen, other bits of which are in the pews at the west end. Cuthbert we can see, the head of St Oswald, Edmund with sceptre and arrow, Pope Gregory holding a cross; and then comes the best of all, Edward the Confessor, followed by a royal figure thought to be Charlemagne. Several of the windows have modern pictures in glass, one by Kempe in the north aisle showing in radiant colours the Madonna with Luke and John. But the masterpiece here is Constable’s painting, let into the carved stone reredos over the altar, a beautiful picture of Our Lord blessing the bread and wine. A few years earlier he had painted an altarpiece for Brantham, another of his beloved Suffolk villages, but after Nayland’s picture was finished he rarely strayed from landscapes, for he had now found his place in art.

Here we remember the immortal Constable and here we discover a man whose fame is lost. In the vestry is the tomb of a man who was known in his day all over England as Jones of Nayland. While he was here from 1777 to 1800 the vicarage became the centre of that small circle which, in the early 19th century, expanded into the High Church party. It was this William Jones who wrote the hymn sung at so many baptisms, "In token that thou shalt not fear"; and Nayland has to thank him for the nucleus of its organ, parts of which are believed to be the work of Bernard Schmidt, organ-builder to Charles the Second.

William Jones was a descendant of Cromwell’s brother-in-law, Colonel John Jones, who was executed at the Restoration as one of the judges of Charles Stuart; William set apart the anniversary of the king’s death as a day of penance. Educated at the Charterhouse and Oxford University, he filled various church livings, and in 1777 arrived here as a scholar and a talented musician. The vicarage became the centre of a little circle from which sprang the High Church party of the age, with Jones as its leader. It was here in 1784 that his Treatise on the Art of Music was published, giving him a foremost place in musical scholarship; it was for this church that he wrote his Ten Pieces for the Organ, various anthems, and his famous hymn tune, St Stephen. Reduced to poverty with advancing years, he was overwhelmed with the death of his wife and followed her to the grave in the last year of the 18th century.