Monday, 5 March 2012

Groton, Suffolk

This was turning into one of the more successful trips with Castle Hedingham, having been deemed safe, and Edwardstone both open and now St Bartholomew emulating them.

My initial response to St Barts was gentle excitement fuelled by the good collection of gargoyles but this was tempered by a slightly dull and antiseptic interior. There's nothing overtly wrong here by any means but it is rather boring when compared to the aforementioned churches. I will, however, give bonus points for being open.

ST BARTHOLOMEW. Chancel E window with reticulated tracery; Dec. The W tower contemporary or a little earlier. Otherwise Perp. Nave and clerestory, aisles, S porch. All embattled except for the chancel. Arcade of four bays. Oddly shaped piers with polygonal shafts, those to the nave without capitals, those to the arch openings with capitals. - PLATE. Cup and Cover 1726; Almsdish 1729.

St Bartholomew (2)

Adam Winthrop 1562 (5)

Adam Winthrop 1562 (2)

GROTON. Here in the year of the Great Armada was born John Winthrop, who left the Old England for the New and became first Governor of Massachusetts. We think of him in the church, where his father was buried and where there is a brass inscription to the first of his family to be lord of the manor, Adam Winthrop who died in 1562. The brass was taken to America and did not come back until 1878, and it was the American Winthrops who filled the 14th century east window with glass in memory of John himself. Most of the church is 15th century, but the lowest part of the tower is 200 years older. It stands among fine trees in a beautifully kept churchyard, and one of its old possessions is a chest strongly bound with iron bands.

John Winthrop married four times and had 15 children, his first two wives being buried with his ancestors at Groton. He early became infected by a belief that he was as great a sinner as John Bunyan thought himself to be, and in renouncing shooting for the table “except upon rare and secret occasions" he "covenanted with the Lord," taking the fact that he was a bad shot for a sign.

Abandoning his first intention of entering the church, Winthrop became a successful lawyer, his spiritual terrors somewhat abated, but a leader among the splendid type whom religious persecution was driving forth into the wilderness. When he and his associates decided on their exodus, the Pilgrim Fathers were already established in their new home. Winthrop sailed in 1629 in company with men of learning and refinement, of whom, during the next ten years, twenty thousand crossed the Atlantic in 200 emigrant ships. When Massachusetts was granted local government Winthrop was made its first Governor, and held the office until his death in March 1649. His first public act was to draw up a church covenant, and soon none but church members were admitted to civil rights. Sir Harry Vane (Milton’s "Vane, young in years but in sage counsel old") was sent packing for advocating entire liberty of conscience; already those who had fled from the Old World to escape religious persecution had begun to persecute in the New. Winthrop, who himself worked with his hands and dressed plainly, forbade the use of lace in clothing, abolished all frivolities in public life, and even ceased to use the names of the days and months, regarding them as superstitious. He was the narrowest of the Puritans, having all the great qualities but tolerance. All the miseries that hampered religion in America sprang from the absence of that one quality, yet the intolerant Winthrop helped to make the wilderness bloom and to transform a scene of primeval savagery into a thriving civilisation.


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