Monday, 23 January 2012

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.


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