Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Newmarket, Suffolk

Well this is going to be succinct; all three churches I visited were locked with no keyholder. St Agnes is Victorian and drab, All Saints is Victorian and better and St Mary is OK but heavily restored.

Pevsner is brutal:

Finally the CHURCHES, which at Newmarket can indeed be considered last.

ST MARY is the old parish church. It lies close to the old and now dilapidated quarter of MARKET HILL (with some weather-boarded cottages) and is so restored that practically all is new. The chancel was rebuilt entirely in 1856. C14 S arcade with keeled quatrefoil piers and castellated capitals and double-hollow-chamfered arches. Perp W tower with shingled spire. Perp S doorway with an angel in the apex of the arch. - PISCINA. c 13, with the angle shaft so often met with in Suffolk. Found at the time of the restoration. - STAINED GLASS. In the S aisle a window by Kempe  & Tower, 1907. - PAINTINGS. Big Italian or Spanish c 17 painting of the Virgin, with her Mother holding the Child Christ, and the little St John the Baptist. - Christ entering Jerusalem, by J Wood (1801-70).

ALL SAINTS. 1876-7. Bad, Geometrical, with a SW tower. - Inside a CARTOON by Burne-Jones of a large angel holding a bow and sheltering human beings. Inscription from Dante: ‘L’amor che muove . . .’. - STAINED GLASS. W window by Gibbs.

ST AGNES, Bury Road. By Carpenter, 1886. Red brick with an asymmetrically placed spirelet. Inside much decoration with Spanish tiles. The straight E end is made into one composition with the large REREDOS by Boehm, representing the Assumption of the Virgin (curiously Baroque in the treatment of relief), and the E.E. arches above it. - PLATE. Cup, Norwegian, 1707; three Flower Vases 1728.

St Mary (4)

All Saints (3)

St Agnes (2)

Newmarket has three churches that will appeal to a traveller who has no interest in the racecourse: the parish church of St Mary’s tucked away in the comer of a little square; St Agnes, a cosy modern building hiding in trees on the edge of the town, and All Saints, rebuilt last century (on the style of a church Charles Stuart knew well) with attractive arcades of which the capitals are carved with flowers growing hereabouts.

St Mary’s, the oldest building in the town, has lost much of its old work, but its structure is 15th century and so is its embattled tower, with a slender shingle spire and a massive arch. Its best possession is its series of window pictures in a gallery of lovely glass in light rich colouring by Christopher Webb. A red-winged Gabriel is   bringing the good news to Mary, and there is a scene of the marriage of Mary and Joseph, a fine Nativity with angels and shepherds, and the finding of Jesus in the Temple. They are memorials to the Hammond family, who are also remembered in the iron tower screen, at the top of which are two actual swords crossed in memory of a Hammond who fell at Le Cateau when the Great War was 22 days old. A brass tablet tells of another Hammond who was a chorister and sacristan for 70 years, and there is another tablet to Alice Rogers, who worshipped here for 60 years. An inscription tells us that a 17th century rector, Robert Cooke, died in the pulpit. Under the floor of the church lies the father of Cardinal Wolsey, a butcher of Ipswich at Newmarket.

The little church of St Agnes has hanging on each side of the altar lovely curtains of blue and gold brocade 200 years old, and a beautiful reredos by Sir Edgar Boehm with a fine sculpture of the Ascension. Glowing with gold on the sanctuary wall are rich mosaics of the Madonna, St Patrick, and St George, and there is a small panel of the garden of Eden with the serpent round the tree. Hanging on the wall is an oil painting of the Last Supper.

Snailwell, Cambridgeshire

St Peter is one of two round tower churches in Cambridgeshire - the other being Bartlow - and gives the impression that it is open with a sign saying "Please do go in and feel free to browse" but when I arrived at lunchtime yesterday it was locked. There is, however, a keyholder's phone number listed in the porch but, naturally, I didn't have my phone with me. I'll have to revisit.

I've been back twice since my first visit and found it open last week (Jul 14). It's a disappointing interior with the exception of the nave hammerbeam roof with angels - which I failed to record as I was in a hurry to get home...I'll try again next time I'm up this way.

ST PETER. With one of the only two round towers of Cambridgeshire (cf. Bartlow). The Snailwell tower is Norman throughout, of flint and pebble rubble as is the rest of the church too. Tall short nave with clerestory, lower chancel. Externally much renewed (by Rowe 1878). The chancel and S aisle E.E. (lancet windows), the N aisle early C 14. At that time also some of the chancel lancets were given Dec tracery (windows, especially the very handsome E window, internally shafted and with head-corbels for the hood-mould). C14 arcade of three bays with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. Chancel arch and window of 1878. - Perp clerestory and hammerbeam roof. Alternately the hammerbeams rest on the usual arched braces, and come out of the wall without them. In the latter case they have figures against their undersides. - ROOD SCREEN. With single-light divisions, ogee arches and little tracery above them. The finial of the doorway arch reaches above the cornice. - PARCLOSE SCREEN. With handsome cusped ogee-arches and very closely set panel tracery above. - SCULPTURE. Elaborately foliated E.E. cross sunk in a spandrel of the S arcade. - MONUMENT. Low tomb-chest with quatrefoil decoration in a recess in the chancel N wall. Cusped and crocketed ogee-arch with pinnacles l. and r.

St Peter (2)

SNAILWELL. From a dark pool here the Snail creeps forth to become a sluggish river winding to the fens. The pretty little village dreams among fine trees, elms and chestnuts shading the tiny green and keeping company with the creepered walls and rose-bowered porch of the church.

A very curious thing we found in this small shrine of St Peter, a tiny jewelled box on the altar with a few grains of sand in it from Jerusalem. On the wall also hang four Great War medals of Sir Kildare Borrowes, whose brother was vicar here.

The church has one of the two Norman round towers in the county, just topping the high-pitched roof of the nave. The rest of the church comes from the 14th century, but it has been much restored. There are two medieval oak screens, pews with old poppyheads, a 600-year-old font, a jumble of old glass in the modern porch, and a lovely old relic of stone carving set above an arch; it is a stone cross delicately pierced and set in a roundel. The beautiful hammerbeam roof has three rows of carving in its wall-plate, and on the ends of the beams are six old wooden figures, three bishops and three men with shields. A medieval gravestone in the churchyard is that of a 15th century priest. It was found in the wall of the church. On the wall is a memorial to James Baker, who was clerk for 50 years.

From this small place William Flower went out to die for his i faith in 1555; he was martyred in St Margaret’s churchyard, Westminster. It was a bitter sight, for, his hand having been struck off at the stake, he was then knocked down into the fire, there not being enough faggots to burn him.

Denston, Suffolk

I finished the day at St Nicholas which, even before I got out of the car, instantly leapt into my top ten. To quote Cautley "the most beautiful and interesting of the smaller churches in the county".

Inside there is a wealth of woodwork from the roof carvings to screens, stalls and poppyheads as well as tombs, brasses and good glass and a very fine font.

ST NICHOLAS. Short W tower, probably of the late c 14. Excellent church, all Late Perp and of a piece. The building no doubt connected with the founding of a college by Sir John Howard and John Broughton in 1475. Nave, aisles, chapels, and clerestory have three-light windows, only those of the clerestory without transoms. The windows are tall and fairly close to each other. S porch with fan vault inside and a pretty crocketed and vaulted niche and castellated stoup outside. The N rood-stair turret and all the buttresses are of stone, not of flint with stone trim. Arcade of seven bays running without a break from W to E. Piers of lozenge section with concave-sided polygonal shafts without capitals towards the nave, i.e. running right up to the roof. They are crossed by a string-course below the clerestory windows. Good cambered nave and lean to aisle roofs. In the nave subtle alternation in the form of the tie-beams. Wallplate with affronted lions, hounds, hares, and harts. The arched braces of the nave have carving too. - FONT. On the bowl the Seven Sacraments and the Crucifixion in small figures against a rayed background. The figures are defaced. - PULPIT. Elizabethan; very simple. - SCREENS. The dado only of the rood-screen; much restored. - Parclose screens to the chapels. - Above the rood screen the ROOD BEAM, a moulded embattled beam, remains; a rare survival. - STALLS AND BENCHES with animal poppy-heads and animals on the arm-rests. The stalls have traceried fronts. Four MISERICORDS are preserved. One of them has a fine figure of a crane. - C 18 Box Pews in the S aisle.- SOUTH DOOR with tracery, c15. - COMMUNION RAIL. With slender twisted balusters; C18. - STAINED GLASS. The whole E window consists of bits of old glass. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Paten 1640.- MONUMENTS. Unknown couple of Early Tudor date, both represented dead, and both shrouded. Death is shown more frighteningly in him than in her. Good quality. - Brasses to Henry Everard d. 1524 and wife (26 in. figures; chancel floor) and to a Lady of c. 1530 (18 in. figure; nave floor). - ARMOUR suspended in the S chapel. The GATES to this chapel are of wood made to look like iron.

Font (1)

St Nicholas (1)

South aisle

DENSTON. It has the charm of thatched cottages round a green, a fine old hall in a park, and a big 15th century church, with oak trees growing outside and with far older oak trees turned to great purpose within. The array of woodwork is remarkable, touched into life by the imagination of the old carvers. There are old altar rails with twisted balusters, an old door with beautiful tracery, a 17th century altar table, and a panelled Jacobean pulpit with a battlemented trumpet stem; but the special distinction of Denston’s woodwork shows itself in the fine lofty roofs, on the screens, and on the pews and choir-stalls.

Only the lower part of the old chancel screen has survived, but it is a wonderful piece of work, with a beautiful cornice of foliage, tracery from which little flowers hang down, and a battlemented row of quatrefoils along the bottom. In the chancel are other traceried screens with cresting of foliage. On the ends of the choir-stalls various animals are carved, a hare, a haughty-looking dog, and other odd creatures and on a few misereres are flowers and foliage.

The pews in the nave are of two kinds, those against the walls being tall old  fashioned box-pews and those in the middle a fine set of low oak seats, all but two of them old. On their ends and elbows are animals such as rabbits or hares and dogs, many with heads raised as if to look up at their friends in the roof, where on the cornices are carvings of animals running, some strange and fanciful, but others quite clearly goats, hares, and dogs.

This little menagerie in a church is a fascinating one, but it is not the only attraction Denston has, for there are sights to be seen in stone and glass and brass. The porch is enriched by an elaborate fan-vaulted roof, a pinnacled niche, and two animal-headed gargoyles huge and hideous. The 15th century font has damaged carvings of the Seven Sacraments in which we can still distinguish a Crucifixion and a scene at a font, and below the corners of the bowl are figures of angels. Many fragments of old glass in the east window show two kneeling figures, a knight with raised arm, roses and lilies, shields, and conventional ornament; in modern glass in an aisle window are scenes of St Nicholas, one showing him as a bishop holding a model of the church, another appearing to sailors as they pray in a storm, and another kneeling before three little boys in a tub while a butcher looks on amazed at seeing them brought back to life.

On the nave floor is a brass portrait of Felice Drury as she was in the 15th century, with a veil headdress and a tight-waisted gown with a long sash. A very quaint pair of brasses in the chancel shows Henry Everard of 1524 and his wife, rather like two figures from an old pack of cards. She has a triangular headdress and a long heraldic cloak; he is in armour and has by him another head in a curious leaf-like design, perhaps a portrait of a second wife or daughter. Near the altar are two stone figures, shrouded and emaciated, lying under a marble table; and far more interesting as a nameless memorial is a group of things on one of the walls - a pair of lances, a funeral helm topped by a high-stepping horse, and a gay heraldic tabard on which three golden harts appear; it is known as the Robinson tabard.

Stansfield, Suffolk

With no noticeboard, but lots of thieves beware signs, I had to Google All Saints to find its dedication and was unsurprised to find it locked. This is a shame as it's an attractive church, large and, if it follows the pattern of its immediate neighbours (Hawkedon & Denston), is probably rather interesting inside.

ALL SAINTS. Quite big; not in the village. Nave of c. 1300, W tower (with three niches round the W window) Dec. Chancel Dec. The side windows with tracery including the motif of the four-petalled flower. E end with two niches outside to the l. and r. of the window and a Piscina with ogee arch squeezed into the corner of the SE window.- PULPIT. Jacobean. - SCREEN. The base only. - CHEST. c 14; iron-bound. - STAINED GLASS. Fragments in the chancel. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup and Cover; Patens 1666 and 1685.

All Saints

STANSFIELD. It wanders up to a hilltop church looking over the countryside through the trees. Most of the church is 500 years old, though the work of Norman builders is in its walls, and the chancel (still with its consecration crosses) is 14th century. The fine tower, 75 feet high, and the lofty nave both have old roofs. Some of the windows have a medley of ancient glass. There is a Jacobean pulpit, a rough old ironbound chest, and panels of the ancient screen. The screen has rare carving in its spandrels, lovely flowers, a pair of birds, and two smiling lions.

The village had a queer parson in the 18th century, Samuel Ogden, described by a clever contemporary as exhibiting "a black and scowling figure, a lowering visage, embrowed by the honours of a sable periwig." He preached brilliant sermons in a growling voice, peppered with epigrams which were probably not understood by anybody in his congregation. He mourned the death of George the Second in Latin, heralded the wedding of George the Third in English, and announced the birth of the Prince of Wales in Arabic, but with all his eccentricities he was a popular preacher, and Dr Johnson, who admired his solemnity, said of him that "he fought infidels with their own weapons."

Hawkedon, Suffolk

St Mary impresses as you approach on the narrow road from Somerton but stuns when you arrive at the village. Situated in a walled churchyard in the middle of the village green, dominating the village the church immediately attracts you.

The interior matches the exterior with interesting glass, poppyheads, a recycled Queen Anne royal arms (converted to GIIR) and a Norman font amongst other furnishings.

Whilst in many ways this is a modest church it is utterly charming and must be somewhere on my favourite list, not top ten but definitely somewhere.

ST MARY. The church lies in the middle of a wide green surrounded by houses. Its only noteworthy feature is its S porch with a brick top. Pretty trefoil frieze. The porch has an outer stoup. - FONT. Square, Norman, with angle-shafts and big coarse leaf motifs. - PULPIT. Plain, Jacobean. - SCREEN. Dado with fine tracery. The painted figures are almost obliterated. - STALLS. The front of the stalls with tracery survives on the S side. - BENCHES. A whole set, with poppy-heads and unusual seat details. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters; C18. - PAINTING. Transfiguration; above the E window, almost unrecognisable *. - STAINED GLASS. Considerable fragments in the E window. - PLATE. Silver gilt Cup and Cover, undated; silver-gilt Flagon 1659. - BRASS. Civilian and Wife, c. 1510, 17 in. figures, much rubbed off.

* I saw no signs of either the wall painting or the brass.

East window (3)

Poppyhead (7)

Font (2)

HAWKEDON. We may look down on it from sloping fields and see the landscape with fair cottages and barns and haystacks huddled together, and a little 15th century church standing boldly on the green, watching over all. Within the lofty nave are old benches, their poppyheads adorned with flowers; the chancel has stalls with traceried panels from the ancient screen, and fragments of glass in the east window have flowers and heraldry, heads and saints, which have seen the passing of many centuries. In our own time has been discovered a queer medieval painting of the Transfiguration; it is above the east window. The font is the patriarch of the village, with foliage probably carved by a Norman mason, the gem of all hereabouts is Thurston Hall, a lovely timbered century house with many gables.

Somerton, Suffolk

St Margaret is another church that left me with mixed feelings - is it being gently neglected or is it a wild life reserve? Either way it's plainly largely unused and seems to be rather unloved. Having said that, however, a keyholder is listed and although not terribly interesting inside there is an a squint between the Lady chapel and the chancel and good gargoyles and grotesques on the tower.

ALL SAINTS. Norman nave. Small N doorway with one order of shafts carrying scalloped capitals and an undecorated arch. Early C14 chancel and chancel chapel, surprisingly spacious. The chancel has one cusped lancet W of the chapel. The arcade pier has big filleted shafts and spurs in the diagonals. In the chapel also one cusped lancet. The neighbouring window is segment-headed. The E window is a Perp insertion, but has the early C14 shafting preserved inside. A curious device is the shafted squint which leads into the chancel Piscina. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, simple. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - COMMUNION RAIL, now in the place of the rood screen. Jacobean or Early Stuart. - PLATE. Cup, Paten, and Almsdish 1761.

St Margaret (2)


North door

SOMERTON. It has spacious views and a little 13th century church with a Norman doorway no more used. In the 15th century tower are three bells which first rang out in Elizabeth’s day, and in the porch is still the medieval door with its original ironwork. There is a traceried 15th century font with carvings of a chalice and a rose, a Jacobean pulpit, and a chancel screen fashioned from old altar rails. Among fragments of ancient glass we noticed an ugly face and a lovely rose. In the sanctuary is a stone in memory of John Maddy, who became rector here at the end of the 18th century and stayed for half of the 19th.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Hartest, Suffolk

Hartest as a village is simply stunning but I'm in two minds about All Saints. On the one hand I like its simplicity and the lady chapel where the door has been replaced with glass to create  a wonderfully light space but on the other it has been savagely restored and feels soulless. I think I'll plump for I quite like it for the details rather than the whole.

ALL SAINTS. Nicely placed in a dip. All Perp, unless the arcades with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches are earlier. They are certainly earlier than the arches into the chapels. W tower much repaired with brick. N porch of knapped squared flint, over-restored. Three niches over the entrance, and shields with initials l. and r. - PULPIT. Jacobean, good, with two tiers of the usual short blank arches. -PLATE. Cup perhaps Elizabethan; Paten 1710. - MONUMENT. Lt. Harrington, R.N., d. 1812. By Henry Westmacott. An anchor and, hanging from its top, a ship’s sail. Large Green by the church, with a number of nice houses, especially the CROWN INN.

South Porch

Grotesque (3)


HARTEST. It lies snugly in a valley with pretty cottages gathered about its green and a church hiding in a corner. Most of the church is 15th century, but the base of the tower and the arches of the nave are 14th. The aisles have splendid roofs with embattled cornices, the handsome pulpit is Jacobean, and in the old north porch still hangs a venerable door with iron studs.


Hawstead, Suffolk

As I've said before if the quality of a church can be measured by the number or photographs taken then All Saints, with 176, must be up there with the best of them. Here we are getting into the meat and drink of this trip.

The interior is stuffed with monuments and brasses, roof angels and good glass. It also plays host to the Drurys - Great Grandparents on both sides of the tree. I rather think Simon Jenkins must have found it locked, for I can think of no other reason for its omission from his definitive list.

This, I suspect, will be a long entry so I'll cut straight to Pevsner:

ALL SAINTS. Norman doorways, N and S, with one order of shafts and one of zigzag in the arch. Chancel of c. 1300 (see the chancel arch and the side windows), but with a Perp E window. Perp W tower, N and S sides, and S porch. The porch has flushwork decoration on the buttresses, the W tower a higher SE stair-turret, flushwork decoration on the battlements, and a base with emblems. Frieze of shields above the W doorway. The shields refer to Sir Robert Drury (see below) and the end of the c 15. Very tall tower arch. The nave has windows whose sills form seats. The nave roof must once have been very fine, but it was over-restored in 1858. It is Latest Perp, and money was still given for building it in 1552. Alternating hammerbeams with angel figures against them and arched braces. Wall-plates with shields and small quatrefoils. Pretty Perp chancel roof, canted and panelled with the monogram of Jesus and arabesques. - PULPIT. Early c16. LG) - BENCHES. Some with poppy-heads. - FAMILY PEW. Jacobean, with some marquetry work. - STALLS. With blank tracery along the fronts and poppy-heads. - SCREEN, late c 15, with the SANCTUS BELL fixed to the top rail. LG) - COMMUNI0N RAIL. Now in the tower arch. With turned balusters; c17. - LECTERN. With two book-rests, C.1500; minor - STAINED GLASS. Some C15 and later glass in a nave N window (roundels) and the chancel SW window. E window by Heaton & Butler, 1856. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup (?); Cup and Paten 1675. - MONUMENTS. Few churches in Suffolk possess as many as Hawstead. Cross-legged Knight, fine carving, late C13 (chancel N). The efligy lies on an early C 14 tomb—chest with blank pointed-trefoiled arcading in an early C 14 niche. The niche is richly adorned with thick foliation along the arch moulding and has big buttresses l. and r. and a top cresting. - Brasses to a boy of c. 1500 (10in.), a girl of c. 1530 (8 in.; both S aisle E), and Ursula Allington c. 1530 (17 in.; chancel floor). - Tomb-chest for Sir Wilby Drury d 1557. Lozenges on the tomb chest; brasses on the lid. - Elizabeth Drury d. 1610. Semi-reclining figure. Alabaster. Under the back arch a fine cartouche. Good allegorical figure seated frontally on the arch. - Sir Robert Drury d. 1615. By Nicholas Stone. Black and white marble. Big black sarcophagus. Two columns carrying two arches. Above the spandrel between the two, high up, demi-figure in oval niche. The oval is held by two allegorical figures.  - Sir Thomas Cullum, signed, according to Mr Gunnis, by Jacinthe de Coucy, 1675. Coloured plaster. Big and black. Fluted Ionic pillars, strangely voluted top. Sarcophagus in the middle, painted to appear pietra-dura. The surround of the inscription plate is treated in the same way. - Finally a group of late C 18 to early C19 tablets, all variations on the same theme of the urn with or without mourning allegorical figures. The earliest is the finest. Lucy Metcalfe. Signed by Bacon Sen. 1793. Roundel with the relief of Benevolence on the base of an urn. - Viscountess Carleton d 1810 by Bacon jun. The female figure lies on the sarcophagus and holds the inscription scroll. - Christopher Metcalfe d. 1794. A woman mourns over a sarcophagus. Signed Bacon London and S. Manning (i.e. Bacon jun.), — Signed by the same C. B. Metcalfe d. 1801, Philip Metcalfe d. 1818, and Frances Jane Metcalfe d. 1830.

Glass (14)


Sir William Drury 1557 (2)

HAWSTEAD. Even its trees are famous, for the three great planes which, with stately limes, help to beautify the road to Bury St Edmunds are among the oldest in the country, and are said to have been the gift of Francis Bacon to his friend Robert Drury.

For generations the home of the Drurys, Hawstead Place, where Queen Elizabeth spent some happy days in 1578, survives only as a farm, but we found the piers of its 17th century gateway still standing, its moat still wet, and its gardens delightful. The almshouses are from the days before Waterloo; the old guildhall has been converted into cottages.

The church stands amid smiling fields where the authors of Domesday Book found a Saxon church and built their own in its place. In the churchyard is a cross to four children of the old hall who died before they had lived a year. There are two Norman doorways, their simple ornament still bold and dignified. The tower has the arms of its 15th century builder. In the interior are the old stone seats by the walls of the nave, a piscina which served for three centuries before the Reformation, and the font, bearing marks of the iron staples to which its lid was clamped to guard the holy water from witchcraft 700 years ago.

Under a richly ornamented arch lies Eustace FitzEustace, who may have been christened at the font when it was new, for here he has rested in his armour, his legs crossed with his dog at his feet, since the last Crusade was nearing its close in 1270. He is the patriarch of a wonderful company of figures in brass and marble. Near the chancel arch are the 16th century portrait brasses of a forgotten boy and girl. On an altar tomb, over which is his helmet with a dog on it, are excellent brass portraits of Sir William Drury in armour, his two wives and their 13 daughters, but his sons have vanished. His quaint inscription has the prayer:

Who yet doth live, and shall do still, in hearts of them that knew him.
God grant the slips of such a stock in virtues to ensue him.

A massive marble tomb has a bust of a second William Drury, killed in 1589 in a duel over a point of precedence; and here also is Sir Robert Drury, who sleeps with his wife and their four-year-old daughter of Shakespeare’s day. Her inscription is a gem of simple pathos:

She, little, promised much, too soon untied,
She only dreamt she lived, and then she died.

But most famous of all is the alabaster figure of Sir Robert’s elder daughter Elizabeth, aged 16, the beautiful girl with whom Prince Henry, Charles Stuart’s brother, is said to have been in love. Guarded by two watchdogs, she lies with her head resting on an arm, while a gentle woman scatters flowers over her.

John Donne, who with his wife and children was the guest of Sir Robert at Drury House, the family’s London home, wrote several Latin epitaphs here, but Elizabeth’s moving lines he wrote in English:

Her pure and eloquent blood
Spoke in her cheeks and so distinctly wrought
That one might almost say her body thought.

The poet was not yet Dean of St Paul’s but had just entered on his five years’ residence in the Drury household. Elizabeth was of the same age as the poet’s wife at the time of his marriage, and the girl’s  death so sadly impressed him that he mourned it in his poem "An Anatomic of the World, wherein, by occasion of the untimely death of Mistress Elizabeth Drury, the frailty and the decay of this whole world is represented." Ben Jonson reproved its author for the ardour with which he had written, saying that "if it had been written to the Virgin Mary it had been something," to which Donne replied that he "described the idea of a woman, and not as she was."

Among the other monuments here are the massive marble tomb, elaborate with pillars and heraldry, of Sir Thomas Cullum, whose 17th century helmet hangs above it; a marble figure of Benevolence in memory of Lucy Metcalfe; and the alabaster figure of Mary Buckley, Viscountess Carleton, who died in 1810. There is an inscription to Elise Galeer, a devoted companion for half a century, and another to Paul Merlin who fell while leading his men in 1915.

Three centuries of the Cullums are represented in the windows. Two were rectors here, one in the 17th century and one in the 18th, and are shown lifesize in a nave window, seated on either side of a Crucifixion scene. A fine modern window to the last of his line to live at Hardwick House, Bury St Edmunds, has St George and St Gery, a 6th century bishop of Cambrai. In another window with a
Crucifixion are medallions of old glass.

A modern statue of the infant Christ gazes from below the tower window towards a rich 13th century chancel, which has a splendid 15th century roof of painted panels with handsome gilt bosses, and on a fine 15th century screen hangs a little sanctus bell which was ringing in Shakespeare’s days. Angels are carved on the grand old nave roof, whose beams are supported by corbel heads. There are beautiful lamp brackets, and ancient carved benches, some with dogs for armrests, a handsome old pulpit with linenfold panelling, and a grand chest with three locks.

The home of the Drurys is a name, but their fame is secure in the undying verse of a poet who loved the beautiful child of their house. They gave the church its tower, which bears their arms, and were long lords of the manor. Sir Robert Drury, a 15th century barrister, was elected Speaker in 1495, and had a hand in beneficent legislation. In 1501, on the ground that his home was a mile from the church and the road subject to "inundations and other perils," he obtained the sanction of the Pope to build a private chapel. He witnessed the signature of Henry the Eighth to the treaty of peace with Scotland, accompanied the king to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, was given precedence next to Sir Thomas More in the Privy Council, and permitted to convert 2000 acres of land into parks and fortify his home.

Of his three sons, Sir William Drury, whose brass portrait is in the church, was a famous soldier under Elizabeth, who came to visit him here. He built the great Drury House from which Drury Lane took its name. His younger brother Dru Drury was a trusted courtier of Queen Elizabeth, and was sent to Fotheringhay to share with Sir Amyas Paulet the custody of Mary Queen of Scots. He would read the horrible letter in which Paulet was urged to murder his prisoner in secret, and would participate in that stout veteran’s refusal. The Speaker’s third son, Robert, founded the Buckinghamshire branch of the family, but it was here in 1527 that the most famous, member of the family, his son Sir William, was born. Educated at Cambridge University, he won fame as soldier, sailor, and ambassador.


Great Welnetham, Suffolk

St Thomas a Becket is a rather strange looking building with a weatherboard bell turret and brutal render but inside is a light and airy church. I suspect a rather heavy handed Victorian restorer has been at work here and I'm afraid that it lacks the allure of many of the other churches in the area.

ST THOMAS A BECKET. Small. Nave and chancel and N aisle. Weather boarded bell-turret of 1749. The chancel is c13 with N lancets, and finely if simply detailed Sedilia and Piscina. The nave perhaps of the same date. Circular, quatre-foiled w window. The N aisle is Dec. Two-bay arcade. Tiny clerestory. - FONT. Perp, octagonal. - PULPIT. With panels of c. 1500. - STAINED GLASS. Plenty of fragments in the chancel SE window. - PLATE. Cup 1658; Almsdish 1691;Flagon 1717.

St Thomas a Becket (2)

Window (9)

North aisle

GREAT WHELNETHAM. A village high up beside the River Lark, it has a little church without a tower but with 700 years of history behind it, and with a churchyard yew which has kept it company for centuries. By the priest’s doorway into the nave we noticed a small stone carved with a twisted snake design. A small porch with unusual traceried windows takes us into an interior lit up by lovely windows. Some have precious fragments of old glass. The east window shows David with his sling, St George, St Nicholas holding a boat, Joan of Arc, and tiny scenes from their lives, all in memory of the village heroes who died in our own time The little windows of the clerestory are of varying shapes. The font was carved with roses by a 15th century craftsman, but the finest stonework here is the 14th century sedilia, three lovely arches thrown up against a green background. In the oak pulpit are some old carved panels. Near the altar is a tablet to Henry George Phillips whose ministry in the 19th century lasted 57 years. But his record did not equal that of Thomas Lord of the century before, for he was rector 62 years. Much of the north wall of the chancel is tiled in memory of a clerk who died in 1911 after 31 years service. Some of the tiles are plain, others show crowns and monograms and doves. The charming white Elizabethan rectory is one of the few remaining that are thatched with reeds.

Little Whelnetham, Suffolk

Last Friday saw me in Suffolk in an attempt to finish off the North West quadrant of my search area (an attempt that almost succeeded in that I've only got Stradishall, Hundon and Haverhill to visit having done Snailwell and Newmarket today). I visited 9 churches, gained access to 8 of them and saw some of the finest interiors in this corner of Suffolk to date.

St Mary Magdalene is a small church in an idyllic position - secluded and tranquil. To the east of the existing chancel are the remains of the Norman apse and inside are roof angels and lion head corbels. There's a rather peculiar lectern which also grabs the eye.

Pevsner: ST MARY MAGDALEN. Small. Dec W tower and chancel. Nave mostly Perp. Nice Perp brick porch with stepped gable. The nave roof has the unusual rhythm of one pair of principals with hammerbeams and then two simply with arched braces. Figures against the hammerbeams. In the nave E wall below the roof a sexfoiled circular window. It is said that traces of a Norman apse were found E of the present chancel. In the nave S wall inside a piece built in that may belong to a former Norman Pillar Piscina. (In the chancel low-side window with iron grille. LG) - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, simple. - SCREEN. Only the dado remains. - BENCHENDS. With poppy-heads and tracery.

Lectern (3)

William Bauley 1705 detail

Cross, I was livid

LITTLE WHELNETHAM. Two of its buildings take us back to medieval England. One is the pretty patchwork farm at Chapel Hill, which has grown out of the broken shell of a priory; the other is the church, which has the foundations of a Norman apse, and has a 13th century tower with a 600-year-old window still keeping its wooden shutters. It looks beyond the old trees in the churchyard on to far horizons. By a solid oak door we enter a light 15th century nave where figures of queens bear up the original hammerbeam roof. Over the 14th century chancel arch is a dainty window. Near the altar are two quaintly carved chairs, one with people and animals, the other with a child and somebody reading. A lovely oak screen shuts off the tower.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Great Saxham, Suffolk

St Andrew has, apparently, been described as 'one of the prettiest churches in the county, both in itself and in its setting' - I agree with the setting but not the church. To me this is a fairly run of the mill building...particularly when compared to its neighbour at Little Saxham...but it has some interesting flint work and the setting is beautiful.

The real interest here is in two extraordinary windows and the John Eldred brass and monument.

To quote from the church guide:

The most important monument in the church is that of John Eldred who died in 1632. He was a fabulously wealthy Tudor merchant, the first to import nutmeg into England, returning in 1588 ‘in the richest ship of English merchants’ goods that ever was known to come into this realm’. Shakespeare alluded to him in Macbeth - ’Her husbands to Aleppo gone, master o' the Tiger'. His  painted portrait bust is set in the south wall near the altar and his tombstone is now on the floor of the chancel, having originally formed the top of an altar tomb beneath his bust. It has a brass effigy of him in his furred gown and ruff as an alderman of London. The inscriptions under his bust and on the floor which record his life and extensive travels, notably to Babylon and the Middle East, are well worth reading. The coats of arms are those of his family, his wife’s family and the city of London, as well as the cloth-workers, East India, Levant and Russia Companies, of each of which he was a member. He was also a founding member of the Virginia Company.

The church has important sixteenth- and seventeenth-century glass in its east and west windows, brought back from former French and Swiss monasteries by William Mills in 1815 and installed by his father. The large scenes in the east window include continental heraldry and medieval costumes. There are various New Testament scenes, notably in the centre Christ taken down from the cross and his circumcision with a priest holding a knife. Below that a newly married young couple are receiving a bishop’s blessing.

The west window under the tower contains exquisitely coloured glass pieces from the former monastery at Raperswil on Lake Zurich, which are well worth close inspection. There are miniature shields of merchant guilds around a Virgin and Child. Below them a male figure in seventeenth-century dress is speaking to the nimbed figure of a monk in brown habit. To their right is the date 1632. The main scene below them shows the baptism of Christ.

Pevsner: ST ANDREW. Rebuilt in 1798, and gothicized since. The tower and the S porch are medieval, the tower below perhaps pre-Perp, the front Perp. In addition two humble Norman doorways were preserved, N and S. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, simple. - PULPIT. Jacobean with two tiers of the usual blank arches. - BENCHES. Some, with  poppy-heads. - STAINED GLASS. In the E window some extremely good German early C16 glass, mixed up with much that seems Flemish and Swiss. Swiss glass of minor value in the W window. - MONUMENT. Monument and brass to John Eldred, 1632, a merchant who, as can be read in the inscriptions, had travelled to Syria, Arabia, Egypt, and - as it is called - Babilon. The monument has a frontal bust in a circular niche and no date of death inscribed. The brass is of the traditional medieval composition.

East window (6)

East window (5)

John Eldred 1632 (4)

John Eldred 1632 (3.1)

GREAT SAXHAM. From this tiny place, a few miles from Bury, John Eldred, the merchant whose travels are in the Hakluyt records, set out at 80 on his last great voyage into the Unknown. We see his grave and his brass portrait in the church in the park, where, near the rectory turned farmhouse, is the old tree he used to sit under, Eldred’s Thorn; but the home he built and named Nutmeg Hall (proud that he was the first to bring back nutmegs in his cargo of spices) was burned down over 100 years ago, and the stately house grown up near its site disdains the Nutmeg and prefers the name of Saxham Hall.

An avenue of limes brings us through the park to the 14th century church mostly made new two centuries ago, but with two Norman doorways in walls inlet with panels of crosses and keys, with a porch and a tower 500 years old, with an old nave roof, with new and old poppyheads on the pews and life like pelicans on the chancel stalls, with a pulpit and a font both carved, and with richly glowing windows. The west window is crowded with miniature scenes from the Bible, with four saints, and 50 small coats-of-arms in vivid colours, beautiful 16th century glass brought from a German abbey. From France and Switzerland in Waterloo year came the glass in the east and south windows, the east showing figures in medieval dress, the south with medallion scenes in the life of Christ.

They are the glory of the church, but in the end it is the ancient mariner John Eldred who draws us again, for here by his grave is his bust in ruff and pointed beard over a brass skeleton on a black stone, and in front of the altar is his portrait in brass. He wears his fur-lined gown and has round him six shields, including those of the Russia and Turkey Merchants and the East India Company, with just such a ship as he set sail in to Babylon, Egypt, Arabia, and Holy Land, and a verse beginning:

Might all my travels me excuse
For being dead and lying here
He was one of the leading commercial figures in London and arrived home after five years of travel with "the richest ship of merchants goods that ever came into this realm."

Friday, 11 May 2012

Little Saxham, Suffolk

Having been unable to church visit for almost a month due to the truly appalling rain we've been having, my will cracked on Wednesday and I decided on a long promised visit to the Saxhams in Suffolk. The weather was decidedly overcast with occasional showers but I could resist no longer - of course had I left it until today I'd have got much better exteriors...the sun is finally back.

Though technically outside my perimeter, several family tree members are entombed in both villages so a special trip was required.

I have to say that, despite the dubious weather, St Nicholas is probably my favourite church that I've visited to date - well certainly in Suffolk and it's definitely in the top five.

The tower is the crowning glory of the church. Of the 41 round towers in this county it is certainly amongst the finest. The lower part is probably Saxon and was built for defence purposes against Danish raiders. Later, in the early 12th century the Normans added the superb blank arcading round the bell-stage - its wide mortar joints indicating its early date. Originally the tower was probably detached, with access by a rope ladder to the opening, which is now on the inside of the church, above the tower arch.

The south door is early Norman with a plain panelled tympanum above. The key escutcheon is 14th century, the adjacent former handle-mounting is Norman, and the door hinges are medieval. Just inside the church on the left is a blind Norman arch. Pevsner believed it to be the original north door moved to this position in the 14th century when the north aisle was built, but Norman Scarfe has suggested that it would have made an appropriate background for the font which would have originally stood here.

The vestry was built as a chantry chapel in 1520, and dedicated to Our Lady and St. John the Evangelist, by Sir Thomas Lucas (my children’s 16th Great Grandfather and one of the reasons for my visit). He married Elizabeth Kemys from Monmouthshire and was appointed Solicitor-General to Henry VII, having been promoted to that office from the household of the King’s uncle, Jasper Tudor. To his credit, Lucas was no friend of Thomas Wolsey, being sent to the Tower in 1516 for speaking scandalous words of the Lord Cardinal.

Sir Thomas Lucas loved the litle Church of Saxham, and in his will he decreed that the chancel bee renewed aboute embattiled as the Church is by myne executors at my charge. His executors, however, failed him. Whilst the tower and nave are indeed crenellated, the chancel remains unadorned. Under the archway between his chapel and the chancel, Sir Thomas built a table-tomb for himself. However, after he died in 1531, he was buried in London and his chantry chapel was taken over by the Crofts family who made it their own memorial chapel. Sir John Crofts (my 152th Great Grandfather) bought Sir Thomas’s mansion, Little Saxham Hall, which was similar in design and magnificence to Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk. It was demolished in 1773. The vestry, which is kept locked, now houses the massive baroque monument to William, 1st Baron Crofts (d.1677) and his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Spencer of Wormleighton, by Abraham Storey. The Lucas tomb was replaced in the roughest possible manner with fragments of it being used to block up the archway. In his Dictionary of British Sculptors, 1660- 1851, Rupert Gunnis wrote,

Storey’s monuments are of great importance, his finest being one commemorating Lord and Lady Crofts at Little Saxham, Suffolk, which was erected about 1678. This has a life-sized, semi-recumbent figure of Lord Crofts in full peer’s robes, while his wife reclines on a lower table.

It is signed on the right hand side, Story Fecit, and the initials A.S. appear on the seal which His Lordship is holding. The shield at the bottom carries the arms of Crofts impaling Spencer.

William Crofts was brought up in the household of the Duke of York and accompanied the royal family in exile. When Lucy Walters died in Paris in 1658, her son by Prince Charles - James, the future Duke of Monmouth – was entrusted to his care. John Gage, writing in 1838, describes the madcap Crofts, as one of those choice spirits who were at once the delight and discredit of the court of the merry monarch. He was one of the Gentlemen of the Bedchamber and was raised to the peerage, probably for raising money for his future monarch.

Charles II used to visit the Crofts at Saxham when he came to the Newmarket races. He attended a service here on 17th April, 1670, when he listened to a lengthy sermon from George Seignior, a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

The King was impressed by its theme and had the sermon printed by His Majesty’s special command. (A copy is in the West Suffolk Record Office.) Pepys recorded this visit to Saxham in his diary but some of the pages of his manuscript have been cut out; because, Gage says, from memoranda remaining, it seems to have been a scene of debauchery.

On the east wall of the vestry there are two monuments: a fine one to Elizabeth Crofts, who died on 1st October, 1642, with a fulsome eulogy four cherubs and a rare topless bust. This is an unusual feature for the Commonwealth, but foreshadows the liberated age of the Restoration. Secondly a good classical monument signed by William Palmer, a prominent sculptor who had worked under John Nost, to Anne Crofts who left this world for a better Sept. 22 1727.On the west wall there is a rather heavy monument to her husband, William Crofts, who died in 1694.

Two parts of the original rood-screen are now in the Tower archway with fine carvings of lions, birds, rabbits, a dog and squirrels facing each other in the spandrels. The oak extending Stuart bier is a rare survival and a wealth of poppyheads are delightful: one is a beautiful praying figure, while the rest are exotic animals. Many medieval ones, easy to differentiate from later replicas, survive.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised but to my astonishment Simon Jenkins makes no reference to St Nicholas – I know he only chose 1000 churches, and that any such choice is bound to be subjective, however, his selections, or rather omissions, appear more and more baffling.

Pevsner: ST NICHOLAS. The most spectacular Norman round tower in Suffolk. Round the top a rhythmical order of arches on columns. In the four main directions they hold deeply recessed two-light bell-openings, in the diagonals two lower blank arches. Billet frieze along the sill-level. The tower arch into the nave is tall, and s of it is a blank arch on colonnettes with coarse volute capitals. It is the re-used Norman N doorway. All these Norman arches have strong roll mouldings. Norman also the s doorway, also with volute capitals and also with a roll moulding and an outer billet frieze. Dec N aisle with its three-bay arcade (very elementary continuous mouldings) and its clerestory windows over. The s porch belongs to the same time. Finally the Perp contribution: the nave and chancel s sides with uncusped, rather bald tracery, the E window, and the N chapel. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - COMMUNION RAIL. Brought recently from Little Livermere. With c 18 balusters. Coming forward in the middle in an elegant double curve. - SCREEN. Only the dado survives. - STALLS. The fronts have openwork flat tapering balusters, a Jacobean motif. - BENCHES. With reclining animals as poppyheads. One end has a kneeling and praying figure instead, and one end is traceried. - BIER. A C17 bier in the N aisle; a rare survival. - PLATE. Two Patens 1799. - MONUMENTS. Thomas Fitzlucas d. 1531, erected before his death (he was buried in London). Four-centred blank arch with cresting. Inside, the panels with lozenges and quatrefoils with shields which faced the sides of the former tomb-chest. - William, Baron Crofts, d. 1677, by Abraham Storey, signed by him and with his initials on a badge which the baron holds. Big standing monument of white and black marble. Two semi-reclining effigies, he above and behind her, i.e. a conservative motif in the last quarter of the century. ‘Modern ’ on the other hand the back architecture, with columns carrying a large open scrolly pediment. - Mrs Ann Croftes d. 1727. By W. Palmer.

St Nicholas (3)

St Nicholas (4)

Poppyhead (28)

Poppyhead (12)

St Nicholas (8)

LITTLE SAXHAM. Its delightful group of thatched cottages look through odd-shaped windows at one of the most curious round towers in England. It is Norman, with blank walls lit only by a narrow west window with zigzag ornament up to the top stage, where arches and windows give an unusual and striking effect something like a round loggia. Very lightly the tower carries its 800 years. Gargoyles are round the parapet, and inside is an arch nearly four times as high as it is wide, and a low recess which appears to have been a seat flanked by small pillars with crude capitals. The Normans also built the nave walls, and the south doorway is as they left it, grand with chevron carving. The chancel, the aisle, and the porch with a scratch dial were finished about 500 years ago, and a touch of the old colouring is left on a pier. Dogs, ducks, and pelicans perch as poppyheads on the fine old benches. The Jacobean pulpit has a carved sounding-board. Bits of the old screen are preserved on each side of the altar. The east window pictures four saints: Nicholas with a child, Peter and Paul with books, and Edmund with arrows. Close by is an oval of old glass with the Croft arms in bright colours. Coloured shields are round a nameless tomb in the wall, some more on the chancel memorial to Sir Thomas Lucas, solicitor-general to Henry the Seventh.

It was Sir Thomas who built the manor. Only part of a moat and some foundations in a field remain of this house where Charles the Second was entertained and where our two most famous diarists used to come. Charles came to stay with William, first and only Baron Crofts, whom we see in the church reclining with his wife in a massive black and white monument, he with a crown and she with a book. It was in the charge of this Madcap Crofts, as he was called, that Charles placed the son known at that time as James Crofts, and later as the ill-fated Duke of Monmouth. Pepys was here on one of the king’s visits, but all he records is a glimpse of the king reeling drunkenly to bed; while John Evelyn tells of how, finding himself at Bury St Edmunds, he came along here to call on this same William Crofts and found him dying.