Friday, 20 April 2012

High Beech, Essex

Twice this week I have traipsed down to High Beech with the intent of finishing off the M11 corridor at the south west corner of my catchment area (including Loughton, the Chigwells, Buckhurst Hill and others) and possibly going back to Old Harlow to attempt ingress.

The first time I arrived to find that I had left my camera battery at home on the charger and today I discovered that I had a flat battery in the camera!

I'll try again next week - at least I now know that High Beech is normally open between 11 and 1 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

UPDATE: Aug 2012. Of course I came back to Holy Innocents after 1pm and found it once again locked but having gained entrance on my last visit there's little of interest inside.

Personally I prefer Pevsner's entry finding Mee somewhat overflowery even if this is a beautiful site.

HIGH BEECH. 1873 by Sir Arthur Blomfield. Right in Epping Forest, surrounded by old trees everywhere. Grey stone with a NW spire, transepts, and an apse.

UPDATE: 05/03/13. Passed by, unexpectedly, on the way to Waltham Cross and found it open (unfortunately preparing for a funeral)   and took the opportunity to take interiors - I was right last time this is an astonishingly dull church.

The Holy Innocents (2)


HIGH BEECH. It is the jewelled crown of Epping Forest; it was the beauty of it that attracted the greatest English poet of the Victorian Era to come here to live. It has little that man gave it save a few cottages and isolated houses and a modern church, but has the solitude of a noble beech wood Nature gave it, and we walk in it as in some great cathedral. In the tranquillity of these green shrines and grey altars our ancestors have walked for many generations, and here Tennyson loved to walk. He lived here through the first three years of the Victorian Era in which he was to be a shining figure.

It had been a painful farewell to Somersby, where the Tennysons had been living at the rectory, but things were financially difficult and they decided to come nearer London, and lived here till 1840, when they went into Kent. The poet had lost one pleasant brook at Somersby and was to find another at Boxley, but here in Essex it was Epping Forest that was his delight. He took a practical interest in furnishing the house, and we are told that he did not forget the kitchen things, and that he bought pretty and inexpensive furniture.

There was a pond in the park on which he would skate in his long blue cloak. He loved to go to his friends in town; and, coming back in the evening, would often notice "the light of London flaring like a dreary dawn."

It was in these days that he was engaged to Emily Sellwood, but they were too poor to marry; he was even too poor to travel, and one of the letters he wrote from here regretted that he would never be able to see the Eternal City and the dome of St Peter’s. There was a night when a great thunderstorm broke over High Beech, and the poet always remembered two experiences of this storm. One was that a friend saw a great fire ball come up the valley and burst over Tennyson’s pond "like 50 batteries of cannon"; the other was that when Tennyson went up to his mother’s room he found her on the floor, crying, "Oh, I will leave this house - the storms are very bad here."

These were his very early days, before fame and fortune found him. He longed in vain to see the Lincolnshire coast, but "the journey is so expensive and I am so poor." Yet he enjoyed life here, and here he lived in his imagination in the past and in the future. It may have been the thought of the submerged forest under the Thames Marshes that led him to write:

There rolls the deep where grew the tree,
O, Earth, what changes thou hast seen;

at any rate he wrote it here in Essex when working on In Memoriam, and here he wrote The Talking Oak and Locksley Hall; here he

Dipped into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rained a ghastly dew
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the worldwide whisper of the south wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging through the thunderstorm;
Till the war-drum throbbed no longer, and the battleflags were furled In the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World.

Here also he heard the bells of Waltham Abbey which inspired him to write perhaps the best known of all his verses, Ring Out, Wild Bells.

Little Laver, Essex

My planned visits finished for the day I set off properly for home and coincidentally passed through Little Laver and found myself a previously unknown about church - the Victorian St Mary the Virgin. Even though it's an apsidal church and it's open (bonus points) there's little of interest here and if, as Pevsner says, the font is Norman it has been so violently restored as to pass for a Victorian copy.

British History online says: The parish church of ST. MARY consists of nave, apse, south porch, and combined north vestry and organ chamber. The walls are of flint rubble. The porch is of timber. In 1872 the church was largely rebuilt and very little medieval work now remains.

Nothing is left of the pre-13th-century church except the font (see below). The nave was probably rebuilt in the 14th century. It retains two windows, much restored, of this date. The south window has a chamfered hood-mould externally and two much decayed head stops. The braced collar-beam roof appears to be partly ancient. The only other original feature is the trefoil-headed piscina, which is probably of the 14th century and which has been reset in the apse.

The square font bowl is of the late 12th century and is similar in character to those in some neighbouring parishes. The base is an addition of 1872 and the carving of the bowl was probably re-cut at the same time.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. Mostly of 1872. - FONT. Square, c. 1200. The four sides have decoration with a trail of stylized foliage of the usual Norman type, three fleur-de-lis, sun, moon, a whorl, two roses, and two rosettes, and two four-petalled flowers or rather quatrefoils with rose centres. This latter detail especially makes it likely that the sculptural representations have been re-cut. - PLATE. Fragmentary Cup of 1562 and Cup of 1563; undated contemporary Paten.

St Mary the Virgin (1)

Holly cross

LITTLE LAVER. Its village group clusters about a deep wide pool which would have pleased old Izaak Walton; we found his disciples sitting patiently under the trees. The church, the great barn, and the manor house have all tiled roofs. The church walls are 600 years old and have heads at the windows; the chancel has been rounded into an apse. The wonderful font is famous hereabouts; it was made about the year 1200 and its sloping sides have fleur-de-lis, crescents, stars, and leaves, all perfect.

Moreton, Essex

Heading in a north easterly direction I stopped at St Mary. The last time I was here, in November 2010, a funeral was being conducted and I thought it would be a trifle insensitive to take exteriors or, indeed, interiors. I may be influenced by the fact that St Mary was open but even in pouring rain this is a lovely church in a lovely spot.

To be honest there's not a lot of interest inside, although the font is amazing, but its simplicity is part of its charm.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. Nave and chancel early C13 with lancet windows. The W tower of brick with diagonal buttresses and battlements was built in 1787. The church was much restored in 1868-9. - FONT. Square, of Purbeck marble, c. 1200. It has on one side the familiar row of shallow blank round arches, four in number, on two sides fleurs-de-lis, and on the fourth sun, moon, and a whorl. - PLATE. Almsdish of 1648; Cup and Paten of 1663.

St Mary (4)


Wallpainting (2)

I don't know what happened here and at Coopersale but Mee missed Moreton as well.

Coopersale, Essex

Turning for home I headed for Coopersale and the rain that had been threatening all day finally fell. I sat in the car until the shower passed and contemplated the not very interesting St Alban. It did look as though it might be unlocked but alas no.

Pevsner only mentions Coopersale in passing, and then only in connection with Coopersale House, whilst Mee missed it altogether.

St Alban (3)

Epping, Essex

St John the Baptist is a Victorian built barn of a building and so high church that at first I thought I was in a Catholic church. Inside it's noticeably Victorian and rather overblown but, for all that, I rather liked it (having read Pevsner perhaps the Edwardian influence suits Victorian buildings).

ST JOHN THE BAPTIST. Epping has no medieval church. But when it came to building a parish church of sufficient size, in 1889, the authorities were wise in the choice of their architects. They went to Bodley & Garner and got a church of remarkable dignity if not striking originality. The outstanding feature is the tower erected only in 1908-9, also by Badley. It stands at the street corner separated from nave and aisle which face the High Street with Dec windows. The tower is broad and strong with two large bell-openings on each side and three big battlements. It is all very serious, and no light relief is permitted. The motifs inside, e.g. the arcade pier and arches, are in a correct East Anglian C14th tradition. Much trouble has also been taken over the furnishing of the church. Reredos by Bodley and Hare, 1909; Rood Screen also by Bodley. - Stained Glass by Kemps (E window 1890, s aisle a window 1902).

St John the Baptist (3)

Reredos (1)

Nave looking east

EPPING. In the long and broad highway of this quaint market town is the very old and the new. A little before the road leaves the dense forest to skirt a wide common it passes Amesbury Banks, an ancient British plateau camp which some authorities claim as the scene of Boadicea’s last fight with the Roman legions. The camp covers 12 acres, its six-foot rampart 800 yards round, and the ditch within 10 feet deep and 20 wide. On one side is a depression through which ran a stream which provided the water for the defenders.

A double avenue of elms marches with the road across the common into the town. The wooden pens for animals on market day, and the old coaching inns and cottages, give the place an old-world look, but the magnificent church is modern. Its splendid pinnacled tower stands apart from it, with niches from which look down statues of saints and angels and one who was neither: Augustine, Alphege, Alban, Theodore, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel with a trumpet, and Archbishop Laud.

There is a great triptych behind the altar, and a pulpit with statues of the Evangelists. In a chapel is a gem of modern craftsmanship, a jewelled aumbry of copper with angels adorning it. The glass in one of the windows tells the story of the church, showing Henry the Second granting the manor of Epping with the tiny chapel of St John to the Abbot of Waltham, his jewelled crozier in his hand and a monk in a blue robe attending. In the scene is a dog, with other animals symbolising the neighbouring forest.

Foster Street, Essex

All Saints was built in 1874 but never consecrated, it's now a private residence.

All Saints

FOSTER STREET. It is a quiet corner of our countryside but how far our thoughts run out as we stand by a grave in this hamlet, in the fields two miles from Harlow! For 200 years the Baptists of Harlow used this spot as their sacred ground, and so it is that a father and his two daughters lie here, Benjamin Flower with Sarah and Eliza. They lie in an altar tomb weathered and worn, a hundred years old and little known, yet as we stand by it we think of great crowds singing, and perhaps of a dire catastrophe, for it was Sarah Flower who wrote the words of Nearer My God to Thee and her sister who wrote the music. It has been sung for about 100 years in every church where English hymns are sung, and it was to its pathetic strains that the Titanic sank down into the waves.

Benjamin Flower was a London tradesman’s son who failed in business and, taking a traveller’s job abroad, found himself in Paris in the Revolution. He came home to edit a Cambridge newspaper, and, alone among provincial editors, he denounced the war with France. He was tried at the bar of the House of Lords for censuring the political conduct of a bishop, and for his daring he spent six months in Newgate. Here Eliza Gould visited him, she having also suffered for her Liberal opinions, and on his recovering his freedom she married him and they settled at Harlow, where he founded a printing business. They had two daughters, who found themselves motherless in 1810 and fatherless in 1829, and then devoted themselves to literature and music. Sarah wrote a religious drama called Vivia Perpetua, and many hymns set to music by her sister and sung at Finsbury Chapel. It is Nearer My God to Thee that has established her fame for all time, but her hymn He sendeth sun, He sendeth shower, with its refrain, Father, Thy will, not mine, be done, is typical of a character of singular charm and fervour.

Sarah married William Adams, a scientific man who devised a joint known to every railway engineer, the fishjoint which connects rails so that fast traffic can safely pass over the link. She died from tuberculosis in the year of revolutions, 1848. She was the last of the three to come to this grave.

Harlow, Essex round two

St John is a redundant church now used as an arts and recreation centre. It's a new build that Mee doesn't mention (actually Mee doesn't refer to Harlow New Town at all, even though it was built by 1949 and my edition was published in 1951!). I, surprisingly, rather liked it.

ST JOHN THE BAPTIST, 1839-40. Yellow brick, in the lancet style No aisles with W tower and original STAINED GLASS in the E windows.

After a bit of online detective work I found its entry on the British Listed Buildings website:

1839 Church of stock brick in Flemish bond. Tall nave lower chancel and west tower with taller stairs turret at north east,battlemented. Roofs ridged and gabled with eaves clad with grey slate and leaving raised and stone-coped gables. Style severe Early English with lancets. Chancel buttresses angle type, as those of tower, all gabletted with 2 off-sets. Dentil cornice of headers at eaves. Sill band of stone.

St John (2)

St Andrew is another redundant church in what was the village of Netteswell but which is now subsumed by the New Town. Not reall my cup of tea but the inside sounds interesting.

ST ANDREW. Nave and chancel in one, C13, and C15 belfry. The belfry has four arched bell-openings in a row on each side and a short broach spire. It stands on two posts and a tiebeam with arched braces. The chancel has lancet windows. Other windows are Perp insertions. It is not possible to decide to what work the brick panel in the S wall near the W end can allude which has the arms of Abbot Rose of Waltham who ruled the Abbey from 1497 to 1500. - PULPIT. Incorporating a frieze with a vine pattern, dated 1618. - BENCHES. Two in the nave with plain poppy-heads. - STAINED GLASS. Two small C15 figures in a N window. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1641; Almsdish of 1656. - BRASS. Thomas Laurence d. 1522 with wife and children. - Also a brass of 1607.

St Andrew (3)

NETTESWELL. It was given by our last Saxon king to the abbey of Waltham which he loved so well, and there is on the wall of the 700-year-old church a brickwork panel with the emblems of Abbot Rose of Waltham who died in the last year of the 15th century; it shows a double rose between two long-tailed lions, with a crozier and a hare below. In the church is a pair of medieval lancets facing across the nave, with precious old glass in them. One has the angel, lion, ox, and eagle which were the symbols of the writers of the Gospels; the other has three Marys, two fondling little children, and the third a perfect little study of the Madonna in blue and child. It is a gem of 700 years ago.

There is a figure of another Mary standing by an 18th century monument. She was the wife of William Martin, lord of the manor, a most remarkable lady who sleeps in St Margaret’s Westminster. She saw seven sovereigns on our throne and long before she died (at 97) she set up this monument, by which she stands with remarkable portraits of her brother Robert Crosse and his son Thomas.

There are brass portraits of two families of Tudor and Stuart days, one showing Thomas Laurence and his wife and their five children, the other John Bannister with his wife, three sons, and a baby in swaddling clothes. The font at which these children would be christened is 700 years old and still has the staples by which it was locked against witches. On the wall is a mass dial by which the villagers of those days would tell the time.

The church is almost hidden behind a farm, and in finding it we come upon a 16th century barn and a group of fish-ponds.

Harlowbury Chapel, Essex

I returned to Harlow last week to visit the three churches I missed first time round and some others in the vicinity. Harlowbury Chapel is little more than a cowshed now but retains some noticeably Norman windows and is really rather charming. It is, of course, locked.

Pevsner: FORMER CHAPEL, Harlowbury. Norman. Nave and chancel in one, with a C15 king-post roof. The chapel has its original three E windows and N doorway (with columns with waterleaf capitals). Also two original N and one original S windows.

 Harlowbury Chapel (3)

Harlowbury Chapel (5)

HARLOW. A little old-world town of much delight, it has a church full of fine things, a manor house of great interest, and a fine little Tudor chantry-house with a lovely porch and 16th century glass illustrating the months. The oldest parts of the manor house are Tudor, but it is the successor of a house given by Edward the Confessor, 900 years ago, to the Abbots of Bury St Edmunds. In a corner of the garden is a granary built by the Normans, still with its Norman doorway and windows, and with a kingpost roof of the 15th century. It was built as a chapel, the private shrine of the old abbots, who rested here on their journeys to London.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Albourne, Sussex

Having taken the eldest son back to Brighton Uni I decided to visit Hurstpierpoint on the way home as I had a vague feeling that there was a family connection here. Unfortunately a wedding was in progress so I failed to gain access but a quick search on Flickr means a re-visit in June is definitely on the cards.

On the way back to the A23 and home I stopped at Albourne, for no other reason than I could, and visited the disappointing Victorian re-built St Bartholomew. Sadly it was locked so I missed the Norman chancel arch and old stalls.

It has to be said though that this is a truly beautiful area even if it is littered with Victorian re-built churches.

 St Bartholomew (2)

Albourne. Its lonely church has been rebuilt with flint, but it has kept its Norman arch, magnificent with its carving of chevrons, its 14th-century bell, and the 13th-century arch enclosing the altar. It has the smallest chancel for miles around, and has some old stalls and a plain east window.

The great house is Albourne Place, once the home of the Juxons. Bishop Juxon who attended Charles I on the scaffold stayed here with his brother in the Civil War, and is said to have saved himself from Cromwell’s men by seizing a trowel as they passed by and pretending to be a bricklayer.

In Albourne village there is a farmhouse, with fine herringbone brickwork, in which was born James Stanley the inventor of the tricycle and of a number of improvements in the manufacture of the bicycle.


Friday, 6 April 2012

Sheering, Essex

St Mary is apparently normally kept locked but when I visited a lady was doing the flowers and let me have a look around. Following a recent fire (Jan 2010 and you can still smell the smoke) caused by an ancient heating system, which they were on the verge of replacing, it's all very pristine inside but a little insipid. The real interest here is the fantastic Corbels, Gargoyles and Grotesques including a man fighting off a lion; the two clock faces proclaim 'Work and Pray' and 'Today is Yours'.

Annoyingly I missed the C14th glass in the chancel window tracery having written it off after a cursory glance at the main Victorian bog standard window - another lesson learnt perhaps.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. Norman nave, see the NW quoin strengthened with Roman bricks, and some fragments of diapering loose inside the church. Unbuttressed W tower of the C13, completed or restored and embattled in the C16 in brick. The rest Early Perp, including the five-light E window. - STAINED GLASS. In the head of this window a complete Coronation of the Virgin with two censing angels and eight orders of angels, late C14 and well preserved. - PLATE. Cup with band of ornament, 1561; Paten probably also 1561.

St Mary (2)

Gargoyle (2)

Grotesque (1)

Work and pray

SHEERING. Its cottages line the road from Harlow to Hatfield’s broad common, but the church stands down a lane behind three huge chestnuts which shade the remains of the whipping-post. It is 14th century, famed for its rare and beautiful glass, and has been lovingly restored and its ancient treasures safeguarded. The tower is 650 years old, and on each side of its arch indoors is a smaller arch forming an arcade at the end of the nave, There is a priest’s room over the porch, and in the vestry is a window through which he would watch the altar. He must have been proud of his lovely door and doorway into the chancel, both remaining in all their beauty after five or six centuries. The door has a narrow border of quatrefoils and beads, and the ironwork is shaped into fleur-de-lys for hinges. Original, too, is the woodwork of the doors of the nave, held together by wooden pegs.

The window over the altar was long ago a treasury of glass, and much of it remains. The figures in the tracery are where they were when the chancel was built, revealing to us the eight orders of the Heavenly Host, whose names every monk knew, though they are here set down. Above them is the Madonna, having just received her crown from the enthroned Christ, two attendant angels swinging enormous censers. With their glowing colour and their simple dignity these portraits are among the best in any window in Essex.

Behind a glass frame is another example of medieval colour, a consecration cross with flowered ends, drawn in a red circle on the wall. Still here are fragments of the Norman font, and a stall on which were carved 500 years ago the heads of a king, a queen, and two knights in their helmets. Lost for centuries and found under the straw in a neighbouring barn, this stall is now back in the chancel*.

* either I missed this stall as well as the glass or it's no longer extant (looking at the nave/chancel pictures I think the latter).

Magdalen Laver, Essex

St Mary Magdalen is not, to my mind, an interesting church either architecturally or internally but it was nice to find this somewhat isolated church open.

ST MARY MAGDALEN. Nave with blocked Norman window in the N wall and two blocked circular windows in the W wall. W doorway with Roman brick dressings, chancel with remains of C14 looking windows. Most of them belong to the restoration of 1875. W tower of timber, weatherboarded. It is probably C16 and in any case replaces a small C15 one for which the tie-beams with queen-posts still survive in the W part of the nave. The tower has a centre with four posts carrying beams with queen-posts. The posts are cross-strutted. There are narrower N, S, and W aisles outside the square formed by the four posts. The tower aisles have pent-roofs, and above the bell-chamber is a pyramid roof. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with traceried stem and quatrefoils carrying shields. - SCREEN. Interesting because of its relatively early date, probably not later than c. 1350. On each side of the door six openings, separated by slender circular shafts with shaft-rings, and carrying an ogee arch. Circles with quatrefoils in the spandrels. Straight top. - HELM. C16, in the nave. -  PLATE. Cup, small Paten, and large Flagon of 1665.

Nave roof

Glass (2)

William Cole (1)

MAGDALEN LAVER. Far from the road stands the ancient church, looking across the trees and fields to a network of wireless masts on the far horizon. The farm is its only neighbour now, but here once stood a Roman house. The Norman builders of the church picked up the red bricks from the ruins and set them in the corners of the nave. In the 15th century a wooden tower was added to the church. Some of the beams are of prodigious size, and it is an elaborate affair, with a pent-roof halfway up and a pyramid over the bell-chamber. The door, decorated with tiny four-leaved flowers, has swung on its iron hinges about 500 years, and the heavily riveted door into the belfry has also been opening and shutting for centuries in its Norman archway. One of two fonts between these doors has rich 15th century carving. There is fine work by a 14th century woodcarver in the screen, which has cusped arches below a row of circles enclosing quatrefoils, linking beauty with boldness; it is a masterpiece.

Facing the midday sun on the outside wall is another carving in marble, the 200-year-old monument over the tomb of William Cole. It has cherubs with torches on each side, and an inscription recording that he was Sheriff of Essex and treasurer of St Thomas’s Hospital in London.

A tablet in the chancel reminds us that its remoteness did not save this place from the troubled days of the Civil War, for it tells us that George Kendleton was exiled during the Commonwealth.


Old Harlow, Essex

I grant you that Old Harlow could be treated as a completely separate entity from the new town but, to my mind, only at a stretch. I also grant that it's a rather pretty place but I mistook St Mary & St Hugh for a Victorian church and only realised my mistake when I read Pevsner. As he says the church is hideously over restored, however the interior sounds interesting so I'll try and gain entry next time I visit.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. Alas so thoroughly restored in 1878-80 that it is virtually a Victorian church. Only the fact of a crossing tower remains as evidence that Harlow belonged to that type very unusual in Essex. Between the medieval church and the present rebuilding lay another rebuilding of 1709. - CHEST. In the S transept. Italian,  C17, with scenes in shallow relief and pokerwork. - STAINED GLASS. In the N vestry small C14 figure of the Virgin seated, only about 12 ins long. - PLATE. Flagons of 1618 and 1623; large Cup and Paten of 1639; two Candlesticks of 1697; Spoon of 1709. - BRASSES. An uncommonly large number collected in the N transept. Especially noteworthy: Knight and Lady c. 1430 (19-in figures); so-called Robert Doncaster d. 1490 and wife (2-ft figures); Thomas Aylmer d. 1518 and wife (10-in. figures); Richard Bugges d. 1636 and wives (3-ft figures); W. Newman, d. 1602 and wife, plate with standing figures and inscription between them: Veritas mihi dulcior vita; in the floor of the crossing Civilian and wife, late C15 (16-in. figures, perhaps of Robert Doncaster and wife). - MONUMENTS. Alexander Stafford d. 1652 and wife, with large kneeling figures facing each other, a type rather out of date in 1650. - John Wright d. 1659, wooden tablet with small figures of Faith, Hope, and Charity on top.

Elizabeth Randal nee Sibley 1750

St Mary (2)

Bike & Box

HARLOW. A little old-world town of much delight, it has a church full of fine things, a manor house of great interest, and a fine little Tudor chantry-house with a lovely porch and 16th century glass illustrating the months. The oldest parts of the manor house are Tudor, but it is the successor of a house given by Edward the Confessor, 900 years ago, to the Abbots of Bury St Edmunds. In a corner of the garden is a granary built by the Normans, still with its Norman doorway and windows, and with a kingpost roof of the 15th century. It was built as a chapel, the private shrine of the old abbots, who rested here on their journeys to London.

We can come to the church by an avenue of great limes or by another entrance near one of the most magnificent copper beeches in Essex. The church is in the shape of a cross, which is uncommon in this part of the county; and, though it has fragments of medieval work and a Norman window, it has been rebuilt more than once. Destroyed by fire in 1708, it was raised again in a poor style; and was finally rebuilt with a tower and spire and a fine peal of bells.

A coffin lid with a raised cross is thought to mark the grave of a rector buried in 1326, John de Stainton.

Most of the old monuments are in the transepts, a wooden tablet 250 years old in memory of a Bishop of Ely, a curious wooden monument with Faith, Hope, and Charity on pedestals in memory of John Wright in the 17th century, and sculptures of Alexander Stafford and his wife Julian at prayer. She it was who in 1630 founded the almshouses by the lychgate, still with their original bargeboards and a nail-studded door. A wooden panel which she may have seen has the Lord’s Prayer in a beautifully carved border.

Under the lectern are brass portraits of a 15th century couple and their nine children; but the great collection of old brasses is in the north transept, mounted on a board on the wall. They show over 30 figures of men and women and children, all alive in Tudor and Jacobean England. One is Robert Druncaster, secretary to Henry the Seventh; another is Thomas Aylmer with his family of 12; and a third is William Sumner of 1559, a link with the old order, for he was the last tenant of the Abbot of Bury. Two Elizabethans are here with their children, and a third is shown with Death holding a dart beside him, perhaps because he was a park-keeper and died while shooting a deer. John Gladwin is a grim-faced old man of 95, with an inscription telling of his tedious lawsuits; Robert Lawson wears a fur-lined robe; Francis Reve and his wife are kneeling; and there are big figures of Richard Bugges and his two wives, he in armour with a lace collar and a walking-stick.

A lovely little sculpture by William Theed shows a baby on a cushion in memory of John Perry Watlington who died in 1862. One of the windows is to his kinsman, the first Bishop of Melbourne. In the vestry is a 600-year-old glass panel of the Madonna, and in a big transept window is glass of many periods, 14th century canopies, Tudor badges, and scenes from Solomon’s life, lions holding shields, a portrait of Queen Anne, and a head of Charles Stuart with his martyr’s crown coming down from the sky. Another transept window has two angels of about 1700. The fine west window has modern figures of Bible characters. A splendid Italian chest stands on the floor below, fashioned in the 17th century with poker-work panels and carvings of cupids, grotesque animals, and armed men.

The church has memories of several heroes of the battlefield. We read of General Sir Godfrey Thomas who won the DSO by his gallantry near Arras in 1917; of Sir Evelyn Wood, VC, who died here; and of Colonel John Neville Marshall who won the VC a few days before the Armistice, leading parties of men under intense fire to repair a broken bridge, and falling as he rushed across it at the head of his battalion. Here was born the writer of one of the hymns that have sung their way round the world, Nearer My God to Thee. She was Sarah Adams, and lies with her sister (who wrote the tune for the hymn) and their father in a graveyard two miles away, used by the Baptists of Harlow for 200 years. It is at Foster Street.


Latton, Harlow, Essex

St Mary at Latton has been utterly subsumed by Harlow's development and nothing, apart from the church, remains of Mee's 'charming place'. This was the first church that got me riled by being locked since it sounds fascinating inside (having Googled it the interior is very plain but the monuments look good) but as I fully expected to find all the churches locked I'm not sure being riled was justified.

Also, to be fair, I heard a report on the radio recently which said that Essex has the worst rate of church crime in the country (but whether this is because of frustrated visitors breaking in to see our churches or not was not reported).

Pevsner: ST MARY THE VIRGIN. Not in the village but until recently in the grounds of Mark Hall. These are now re-emerging as Harlow New Town, and St Mary will soon find itself the principal church and the one ancient monument of the most alive of the New Towns. The church is ancient indeed. Recent investigations have brought out a Norman window in the S wall and the arch of the Norman S doorway, both dressed with Roman bricks. Another brick doorway also discovered recently must be C16 and may have belonged to a rood-loft staircase. Late C15 N chapel of brick with two-light stone windows. C16 W tower with diagonal buttresses, a three-light W window and battlements. The N side of the church was refaced in the C18.  - PAINTINGS. Scanty remains in the N chapel of a cycle of late C15 wall paintings. - MONUMENTS. Recess between chancel and N chapel. Tomb-chest with three large panels with quatrefoils and shields. On the lid brasses of Sir Peter Arderne d.1467, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and his wife. Figures of 3ft length. Heavy canopy of three arches, the middle ones damaged. Fleuron frieze and crenellations. - Other brasses to William Harper and wife (d. c. 1490; chancel; 2ft 3in. figures), to Frances Frankelin d.1604, woman in boldly ornamented dress (chancel floor). - James Altham d. 1583 and wife. Monument with the usual kneeling figures. Children kneeling in the ‘predella’. - Sir Edward Altham d. 1632, erected 1640. Monument with flanking figures of angels. - Lady Campbell d. 1818 by G. Garrard, R.A.; no effigy; cherubs’ heads at the foot.

Corbel (1)


Carving (2)

Norman door & window

LATTON. A charming place, it shares a wild common with its big neighbour Harlow, but has a medieval church of its own in the park of Mark’s Hall. It has fragments of Roman Britain in its walls, bricks handled by the Saxons and the Normans and worked into this 15th century church.

Between the little chapel and the chancel the founder lies in an altar tomb, richly panelled under a carved canopy. He is Peter Arderne, and on the tomb is his brass portrait showing him in his judge’s robes, his wife beside him in a rich horned headdress. On the floor are brasses of other Ardernes, a man in armour and a woman in a veil. More magnificent is the dress of Frances Frankelin, laid to rest here in 1604. The brocaded silk, engraved in brass, is a work of art, and the brasses of her son and daughter show the lovely clothes the children wore then. There is Jacobean costume on the brasses of Emanuell and Margaret Wollaye close by. On the walls of the chancel are two monuments of another family flourishing here 300 years ago, James Altham and his wife kneeling in alabaster in front of a prayer desk, their three sons and eight daughters in a row below.

But it is the little chapel of which we may have a peep over Peter Arderne’s tomb which brings back olden times. Heads of strange beasts guard its windows outside, and inside a wagon roof curves down to coloured and gilded mouldings, under which frescoes can be traced on the walls. Over the arch of the tomb many faces remain of a Nativity scene; wings of angels appear on the splays of a very narrow peephole, and above it the sculptor has suggested the Almighty appearing in a cloud. On another wall is a painting of St Christopher at the ford. A handsome chantry chapel this must have been in the dying days of the medieval age.

A curiously roofed barn a mile away recalls that time of change. Within is all that is left of Latton Priory, lovely 14th century arches of the monastic church; yet so deserted had it become that it is on record that its last prior, John Taylor, walked out of it in 1534 and that it then fell into secular uses.

Little Parndon, Essex

On the northern fringes of Harlow was rebuilt in 1867/8 though whether to a new plan or not I don't know. I can forgive this as a new build because of its apse which are all too rare round these parts. Again kept locked which is a pity since the interior sounds interesting with memorials and some furnishings from the old church being retained. My edition of Pevsner (paperback 1954) has no reference to Little Parndon but I understand later additions do cover St Mary.

St Mary (1.1)

LITTLE PARNDON. Here, in this tiny village in the lovely country by the River Stort, lies a slave, poor Hester Woodley, in a grave with elaborate carvings on its stones. She is, we think, only the second slave we have found in an English grave, the other being at Teston in Kent. She was apparently a black woman from Africa, and we have not been able to discover how she came to Little Parndon, but here she was a faithful servant of the Woodleys until she died in 1767. She lies outside the porch of the modern church, and it is explained that she belonged to Mrs Bridget until that lady died, when by reciprocal agreement she passed to her daughter. There is an hourglass on the stone to remind us that the sands of the time of slavery were running out when they laid Hester Woodley here to rest in her 68th year; even then there was living that poet who was to write with truth that slaves cannot breathe in England.

There lies in the church, with a marble monument on the wall, Sir Edward Turnor, who sat for Essex in the Parliament of the Commonwealth and kept his seat after the Restoration, when he was made a judge and took part in the prosecution of the men who tried the king. He became Speaker of the House of Commons. A little while after they laid him to rest there was born in the village another friend of the Stuarts, Charles Radcliffe, who took part in a Jacobite rising and was found guilty of treason. He was only 22 and would probably have been pardoned, but he broke out of Newgate with 13 other men and joined the Stuarts in exile on the Continent, becoming secretary to Prince Charles Edward. In 1745 he was captured on a ship carrying arms and in the following year was beheaded on Tower Hill under the sentence passed on him 31 years before. He bore himself courageously, and his dying speech was printed.

Great Parndon, Essex

Out to the west of Harlow and on the edge of the Pinnacles Industrial Estate sits St Mary the Virgin which still believes it is situated in Great Parndon. Now shared by the CoE and Methodist communities (which seems to me to be an excellent decision) it was, of course, locked so I didn't get to see the poppyheads, brass or old glass mentioned by Mee.

Pevsner: ST MARY. All C15, including the unbuttressed W tower. The only exception is the Victorian transepts. Nave and chancel without structural division. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, with traceried stem and a bowl decorated by quatrefoils carrying roses. - BENCHES. A few old poppy-heads. - BRASS. Rowland Rampston d.1598 (chancel floor).

St Mary the Virgin (2)

GREAT PARNDON. It lies in undulating country carved out by Todds Brook, the medieval church on high ground in a ring of stout chestnuts. Just inside is the lovely font, tall and slender and rich in carving, floral bosses enriching its panels, flowers breaking out from the lower moulding, and cusped panels gracing the sides of the stem - a treasure for so remote a church.

In the chancel is a brass of a civilian who died in Armada year, one Rowland Ramston; and in a window are the arms of Lord Burghley, his greatest contemporary, who also died that year. In the same window are gems of 15th century glass, the head of a woman with tears in her eyes, and an angel’s head on which is set a cross. Three windows of modern glass are brilliantly coloured, one showing Queen Victoria kneeling in her youth before the King of Glory; one showing Edward the Seventh in a similar scene, peacemaker kneeling before the Prince of Peace; the third showing the donor, who lived to be 90. He was Joseph Todhunter, who passed away having seen four sovereigns and paid these tributes to two. A splendid St George between two blue-winged angels is in the memorial window to this good old man.


Harlow, Essex

St Mary Magdalene is the only one of the five churches I visited in Harlow that openly admits to being located in the town - the others, despite having been subsumed by expansion, still cling on to their former village names.

For a Victorian build I rather liked the church and its collection of grotesques protecting the tower battlements. As expected it was firmly locked but I can't imagine it contains much of interest since it replaced a chapel built in 1834.

Neither Pevsner nor Mee appear to mention it.

St Mary Magdalene (2)

Grotesque (33)

Epping Upland, Essex

I've been meaning to visit Harlow for ages and last week took advantage of a window of opportunity to visit Epping Upland, five Harlow churches (which still leaves three to go), Magdalen Laver and Sheering.

Sadly, but as anticipated, all the Harlow churches were firmly locked but so too was All Saints in Epping Upland. This is a shame as this strangely attractive church, with a lengthy, but narrow, nave and a beast of a tower, is in a beautiful location and sounds interesting.

Pevsner: ALL SAINTS. The mother church of Epping which was originally the hamlet Epping Street. All Saints consists of a nave and chancel in one. Badly over-restored. There is no safe indication of a date, but the fact that the windows have all been renewed as lancets indicates a C13 origin for the church. This is corroborated by the nave Piscina (the church was perhaps lengthened to the E later) which is original and clearly E.E. Late C16 W tower of brick with diagonal buttresses and battlements. -  COMMUNION RAIL. Of Roman Doric colonnettes, probably late C18. - BENCHES. A few with poppyheads in the nave. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1639; Paten, Flagon and Almsdish, presented 1768. - BRASS. Thomas Palmer, Professor of Common Law at Cambridge, d.1621, the figure 2 ft 6 ins. long.

All Saints (3)

All Saints (4)

EPPING UPLAND. It lies in the undulating country between Epping Town and the River Lea, and has many farms which have seen the centuries go by. The 13th century church is almost hidden by the limes and pines clustering round it with quaint tombstones 200 years old lying in their shade. The church is 120 feet long and only 21 feet wide, the absence of a chancel arch emphasising its odd shape. The 16th century tower, enriched by a corbel table, has seven bells, one attached to the outside wall.

We come into the church by a 15th century door of broad oak boards; another door, in the tower, is old enough to have a wooden lock. There is a Jacobean chair, a font cover of the same age, and a group of seats with Tudor poppyheads; but the most fascinating possession is a square poor-box with a handle, called a·collecting shovel. On the chancel wall is a brass portrait of Thomas Palmer in his robes as a Cambridge professor of Shakespeare’s day. There are also memorials to the Conyers family, who commissioned James Wyatt, the destroying architect of so many churches, to build the new Copped Hall for them. Standing in a park of 400 acres, it is built in white brick and stone, one of the biggest houses in Essex.