Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Coddenham, Suffolk

St Mary is astonishing with a wealth of interest from the extraordinary hammerbeam nave roof to the richly engraved parclose screen but, like many Suffolk churches, has suffered at Dowsing's hand - this was probably once so much more.

I missed the alabaster altar piece which is a shame (it is now kept in the rood loft door) but loved the high church plaques and the curiously off-line north porch. I visited on my way home on a whim and was handsomely rewarded!

ST MARY. A Norman window in the chancel (N). Another chancel window with later C13 plate tracery. The chancel was much restored c. 1830. Good Dec nave W window. Dec also the S aisle, see the details of the arcade (different in mouldings from the N aisle arcade), the windows, the doorway, and the Piscina. The church has a NW tower, also Dec. Its battlements are decorated with flushwork arcading. The openings towards the church are continuous double and triple chamfers. Perp clerestory with flushwork arcading between the windows, rich stone decoration of parapet and battlements, and an Orate for John Frenche and his wife. Perp also the N porch, set at an angle to the aisle. Flushwork panelled front. Shields with the Symbols of the Trinity and the monogram of Jesus in the spandrels. Inscription above the entrance. The exciting fact inside is the double hammerbeam roof with two sets of angels. Good original N aisle roof too. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - STALLS. With two plain MISERICORDS. - (BENCH ENDS. Two, with poppy-heads and animals on the arms.) - PANELLING. Jacobean, in the aisles; good. - COMMUNION RAIL. Late C17, with twisted balusters. Partly instead of the rood screen, partly in the S aisle. - PAINTING. Christ shown to the Multitude. Large figures, by a Netherlandish follower of Caravaggio. - SCULPTURE. Alabaster panel of the Crucifixion (S aisle altar); C15. 1 PLATE. Set of 1790. - MONUMENTS. The Rev. Baltazar Gardeman d. 1739. Fine restrained piece with a pediment above and a cherub’s head below. - Philip Bacon d. 1666. Even more restrained. Only the long inscription, flanked by fluted composite columns and surmounted by a pediment.

2. Screen - 3 Kings

Plaque (2)

Nave roof (3)

CODDENHAM. Coming to see the treasures in its ancient church we are following in the footsteps of the wretched William Dowsing, the 17th century vandal who came to Suffolk’s churches, not because he loved them, but with his heart full of hate. It was his ambition to destroy every treasure and every piece of old glass in these churches, and only by being hidden underground did one of the most curious possessions of Coddenham escape him, the richly carved block of alabaster on the altar. It is a striking Crucifix, with three angels holding chalices to catch the blood from the wounds, and on the right of the cross is St John and the Roman soldier Longinus, bareheaded and holding a spear. Below are the three Marys, and on the other side are two soldiers wearing helmets and a third figure supposed to represent the Centurion. The Crucifixion may have belonged to a nunnery which stood 700 years ago on the farm land hereabouts.

The church has 13th century walls of flint and stone, a clerestory as old with ornate flint panelling outside, a 14th century tower, a Norman window, and a little turret for a sanctus bell. There are fragments of tiles from a Roman house which stood near by, and inside are pieces of a Roman vase. The nave has a fine hammerbeam roof with angels under canopies, and among other examples of old woodwork are the Jacobean pulpit and altar rails, two benches, a chest heavily bound with iron, and a small table made in Cromwell’s time. A rich east window shows the Kings and the Wise Men at Bethlehem, and another chancel window has a bit of glass older than the Reformation. The south chapel has a Georgian altar, and is panelled with Tudor pew-ends showing little scenes from the life of Christ, among them the Annunciation, the Nativity, the adoring Shepherds, Mary and her Child on an ass, and the Temptation in the Wilderness.

One of the tablets tells of Susan Wiseman, who played the organ for 54 years, and another of Robert Longe, who was vicar 55 years last century and gave the village its library. Also remembered here are two of the Bacon family in the 17th century. One is the famous Puritan statesman Nathaniel Bacon, who served on Cromwell’s Council of State and wrote a remarkable book about the development of the English Constitution. Here he sleeps, in the church he knew as a boy. The other member of the family is Captain Philip Bacon, who has a monument on the wall, a gallant sailor at a time when the prestige of our navy was low. His ship took part in the English victory over the Dutch off Lowestoft, and, going out again off the North Foreland in 1666, he was one of the first to die a hero’s death on that inglorious First of June.


No comments:

Post a Comment