Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Thornham Magna, Suffolk

Arthur treats Thornham Magna and Parva as a single entry but they are decidedly distinct entities.

St Mary Magdalene, much like Boxted, is essentially a mausoleum to the Henniker family - which in many ways is no bad thing because it's a beautifully maintained church (albeit heavily Victoriansed) but for me it's lost its zest.

ST MARY. Dec W tower. The chancel also originally Dec, see the S doorway and the Angle Piscina. The rest Perp, especially the S porch. Front with flushwork panelling. Entrance with shields in the spandrels and niches l., r., and above. The latter has a little vault. - STAINED GLASS. A S window by Morris & Co., c. 1901-2; three large figures. Other windows mainly of c. 1850 (restoration of the church 1851). - PLATE. Cup c. 1630; Paten 1726; Flagon 1731; Almsdish 1807. - MONUMENT. Lord Henniker d. 1821 and wife. By J. Kendrick, one of his major works. Standing monument. Two large allegorical female ļ¬gures by an urn on a high pedestal. On the urn the profiles of Lord and Lady Henniker.

St Mary Magdalene (2)

South porch

Burne Jones (2)

THORNHAM. It is the name of two villages, Great and Little, lying east and west of the finely wooded Thornham Park, home of Lord Henniker, set in 400 acres. About 25 acres of gardens surround the house, which has still in its walls part of the original Tudor, and many ancient treasures in its rooms. The embroidered linen covers and hangings are still in the room where Charles the Second slept. Part of the house was rebuilt in the style of a French chateau, and has a wonderful room of white and gold panelling illustrating La Fontaine’s Fables. There is a portrait of Richard Cromwell, and the pictures include works by Reynolds, Romney, and two painted by Landseer when he was staying here.

The 15th century church of Thornham Magna, with a churchyard like a garden, is in a corner of the park, shaded by magnificent trees. Small and narrow, a subdued light filtering through the stained windows, it has a fine embattled and pinnacled tower. One imposing marble monument is to Lord and Lady Henniker, who died late in the 19th century. Two graceful women’s figures support an urn on which are the faces of Lord and Lady Henniker. There is a modern brass memorial with a portrait of Major General Henniker of the Coldstream Guards, who served in Egypt and South Africa, and is buried here.

A window to the fourth Lord Henniker has the disciples and soldiers at the Tomb; another lovely window to Major Albert Henniker was given by friends he met in South Australia. He died young in the first year of this century, and his window is a noblr tribute. Of exquisite colouring and design, it has three glorious figures of saints and angels above with trumpets, a remarkable inscription saying:

Through such souls alone, God, stooping, shows sufficient of His light  for us in the dark to rise by.

Elms border the narrow pathway to the miniature church of Thornham Parva, which is the real treasurehouse of this countryside, with something Saxon still left in its walls and a rare medieval painting. The little church will seat about 50 people and is kept in spotless order. Its curious little tower has a thatched roof`, and there are two Norman doors, a tiny Saxon window, and an old mass dial. A narrow stairway leads to a bow-fronted gallery. The beautiful modern oak pulpit and benches were a gift by Lord Henniker in memory of two aunts. The font is 13th century. Faint traces are still seen here and there of old paintings on the walls: a king wearing a crown, and a fragment of St Catherine’s wheel.

But the greatest treasure here, one which would be a proud possession even for a cathedral, is a 600-year-old painting, wonderfully preserved. The centre panel has the Crucifixion scene with the Madonna and St John, while under canopies at the sides are figures of eight Saints: Dominic, Catherine, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, Edmund, Margaret, and Peter the Martyr. Known as the Thornham Parva Retable (a retable being a raised shelf or ledge behind an altar), it is recognised as one of the notable examples of 14th century work and has been up to London on exhibition.

Here we come upon two faithful servants of the Hennikers last century, and the inscription to them by the 4th Lord Henniker says, " Thine own friend and thy father’s friend forsake not "; and we found here a parish clerk in his 40th year of service whose father served the Hennikers for 70 years, probably a Suffolk record for long service.


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