Friday, 24 August 2012

Great Baddow, Essex

St Mary is stunning, location and architecture are perfect, and naturally it's locked with no keyholder. It's obviously sometimes open, probably on weekends, because there's a Church Open sandwich board in the porch.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. A splendid exterior thanks chiefly to the Early Tudor brick clerestory with its stepped battlements on a trefoiled corbel frieze and its brick pinnacles. The chancel is a little lower and has an odd and rather daring large C19 dormer window with a straight brick gable. W tower and aisles C14, the tower with angle buttresses only at the foot, battlements and a tall leaded spire, the aisles with Dec windows (mostly renewed). S doorway also C14, see the keeled columns and keeled roll-moulding. Battlements were added in brick at the time when the clerestory was built. Addition also of the S and N chancel chapels with brick responds. The aisle arcades are of three bays and give evidence of an earlier church. They are E.E. The N arcade came first; one circular pier, the others octagonal. W respond on a head-corbel. Arches only slightly double-chamfered. The S arcade has all circular piers and normal double-chamfered arches. - PULPIT. The best early C17 pulpit in the county. Dated 1639, but in style entirely Jacobean, complete with a big tester on a long narrow back panel up the wall. The motif of the panels of the pulpit itself is little aedicules on columns. In the centres false perspectives. Strapwork along the sides of the back panels and on top of the tester. - PLATE. Flagon of 1627; Almsdish of 1675. - MONUMENTS. Brass of Jane Lewkenor d. 1614 (the figure nearly 3 ft long). - Monument to the Gwyn sisters, erected 1753. By Sir Henry Cheere. Big, with the usual grey obelisk, a cherub in front of it, leaning on a draped oval medallion with the portraits of the two sisters. Rocaille and foliage at the foot.

St Mary (2)

St Mary (3.1)

GREAT BADDOW. Here men have lived for thousands of years; their Stone Age and Bronze Age hoards have been found. Its old houses crowd together in winding streets, some backing into the raised churchyard. This churchyard comes into our history, for when the church was new it was a gathering-place of the peasants in their ill-fated rising of 1381.

The most striking feature of the church is the 16th century brickwork of the aisle, and the clerestory springing into view behind. The aisle has a neat crow-stepped parapet, and above the five windows lighting the nave is a corbel table running under the parapet, above which are six cone-shaped pinnacles. A leaded spire rises from the tower, a bell under a little roof of its own jutting out from it.

The oldest things the village has are a few Roman tiles in these walls; they must have been handled by Saxons in a building long since gone. The two arcades and the wide chancel arch give distinction to the church, and there is a touch of humour bequeathed to us by the carver of a bridled head from which one of the arcades springs, a warning against slander. The pride of the church is the Jacobean pulpit. Its elaborate canopy has pinnacles and pendants, and the pulpit has carvings of many beautiful devices. On the chancel wall is a brass portrait of Jane Paschall, who was laid to rest here a few years before they set up the pulpit. She is a fine figure in Elizabethan dress. Two more ladies share the only other striking monument, Amy and Margaret Gwyn, sisters who died in the middle of the 18th century, their portraits being on a marble oval below a cherub.

Here the scholar poet Alexander Barclay came in 1546 as rector. In 1508 he translated Brant’s Ship of Fools into English verse, and then became a monk of Ely, where he translated a life of St George.  Scholars owe a special debt of gratitude to Great Baddow, for here also was born Richard de Baddow, who in 1326 founded the  Hall which became famous as Clare College at Cambridge.

Little Baddow, Essex

St Mary the Virgin is a pretty church in a pretty village, actually all the villages round here are pretty, it's nice countryside, but was locked with no keyholder. This should be a matter of public outrage considering the contents.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. W tower of the C14 with angle buttresses on one side, a diagonal buttress on the other, W door with two niches, two-light Early Dec W window and battlements.Very wide nave which seems somewhat lop-sided, because it consists of a Norman nave of which the N wall with a plain doorway remains, and an early C14 S wall pushed so far to the S as if an aisle had been intended. This S part has a Dec two-light E window and in the S wall two low recesses, designed to form one group with the Piscina. It is typical Dec, with richly crocketed ogee arches. In them stand two very low tomb-chests with quatrefoil decoration. On the tomb-chest are two EFFIGIES of oak, a man and a woman, of c. 1320. The man lies straight, the woman slightly and very tenderly bent. The figure of the woman especially is of uncommonly fine quality. The architect of the church also appreciated sculpture. There are small heads used as label-stops and otherwise. - FONT. Circular trough with four handles, resting on a mill-wheel. - PAINTING. St Christopher, large, on N wall, C15. - STAINED GLASS. St Michael and the Dragon; also several fragments; all c. 1400 (E window). - PLATE. Large Cup of 1700, with bands of ornament. - MONUMENT. Henry Mildmay b. 1639. Standing wall monument with reclining figure, propped on elbow, between black columns which carry an open segmental pediment. Large kneeling figures of two wives below, on the ground trophies and oval inscription plate as background.

Consecration cross


Joseph Yell 1862

LITTLE BADDOW. It has a Nonconformist chapel two centuries old but in the walls of its church are tiles almost 20 centuries old, Roman tiles forming the arch of a door which may be the work of the Saxons. But it is for the treasures it has preserved from the 13th century that the lover of the old and the beautiful comes. Along the nave run richly carved arches with tiny heads peeping out from their massed foliage. Under each of these arches lies a carved oak figure in the costume of the days when the Black Prince went off to the wars. Here is a man in a long gown with hood and short sleeves, with a slit from the ankle to the knee to make walking possible. His companion is a lady with a veiled headdress touching her shoulders and pointed shoes peeping from her long gown to rest on a dog. The sides of their low tombs have carved panels with shields and support an iron railing with fleur-de-lys on the uprights, the work of smiths who may have fashioned armour for soldiers at Agincourt. There are only a hundred oak figures like these in all England.

In glowing colour St Christopher stands out on a wall in all the freshness of the 14th century, the Child holding a little cross from which waves a pennon. To the same 14th century belong the grotesque heads below the parapet of the tower, the hooded men and women forming stops to windows, and two gems of glass with St George on a turret and St Michael striking the Dragon.

In the sanctuary is a splendid tomb of 1639, holding all that is mortal of Henry Mildmay, who fought in Ireland. He lies with his head on his right hand and has a truncheon in his left. His two wives kneel at a desk, one an old lady in scarf and hood. They lived at Graces, a 16th century house a mile away with an avenue of elms a mile long running to the road beside the Chelmer river.

Woodham Walter, Essex

St Michael the Archangel is believed to be the first purpose built CoE church dating to 1536. Unfortunately it has had a damned good scrubbing and little of interest remains.

ST MICHAEL. A red brick church entirely, small, but historically interesting, in that it was built in 1563-4, and yet is essentially still Gothic.* It has, it is true, stepped gables at the W and the E end, where that of the N Vestry together with that of the nave form a pretty E view, but otherwise the windows are Perp, straightheaded with each light arched and cusped, the walls have buttresses, the arcade to the N aisle has piers superficially similar to the familiar four-shaft-four-hollow type (but the hollows are straightened out) and double-hollow-chamfered arches. The roofs also are of usual Perp types. - FONT. Large, octagonal, Perp, the stem decorated with tracery, the bowl with quatrefoils. - STAINED GLASS. In a S aisle window two heads and some scenes; C15. - PLATE. Cup of 1646; Paten on foot of 1706.

* The bell-turret and the E window are of the C19.

St Michael the Archangel (2)

WOODHAM WALTER. It has an Elizabethan inn among the cottages in the hollow, and a complete Elizabethan church on the side of the hill; and the wild common on the high ground inland has a romantic beauty.

The inn has carving of oak leaves and acorns and the tendrils of the vine on the woodwork of the overhanging storey, and the bargeboards on the gable add to its old-world charm.

The 16th century church is aglow with red bricks and has a red tiled roof and crowstepped gables; and it has some treasures saved from its predecessor. The most valuable of these is the font, tall and light with traceried panelling of the 15th century. There is medieval glass in the windows, seven roundels with glowing suns and the figure of a reaper in a green cap bending at his task. The reaper is the symbol of man’s labour five centuries ago; against the wall is a bronze symbolical of the work of our own century. It shows a doctor looking through a microscope, and is in memory of Henry Ayrton Chaplin, of the West African Medical Staff, who died in 1905 at Salaga while engaged in research. Over the design are these lines of Kipling:

Take up the white man’s burden,
The savage wars of peace:
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease.

One day this century the villagers had a great surprise. They received news that Henry Thompson, who had been their fairy godfather ever since he had come from Aberdeen to live among them at Warren Farm, had left £50,000 for the playing fields which he had established on his farm. He was one of the men who have made it impossible for honest folk ever to repeat the silly jokes about Aberdeen; he had lived here 30 years and laid out cricket pitches and football grounds on his own estate, and by his will he desired to carry on his benefactions for all time.

Ulting, Essex

All Saints sits right on the bank of the River Chelmer (I bet flooding is a problem) and is lovely. A sign on the padlocked gate at the top of drive forewarned me that it would be locked - they've had vandal problems - but a keyholder would be nice.

ALL SAINTS. By the river, with no village near. Essentially C13, see the lancet windows in chancel and nave and the S doorway. The W windows are of 1873, as is the Perp E window, and the belfry. - FONT. Of Purbeck marble; not square but octagonal with only one of the usual blank arches per side. The angles of the octagon are chamfered. - BENCH-ENDS. Two with poppyheads, re-used. - PLATE. Cup of 1570; Paten of 1571.

River Chelmer

All Saints (3)

ULTING. It lies by the part of the River Chelmer which was made into a navigable canal at the end of the 18th century. A few of its houses are 300 years old, and the church beside the tree-shaded canal is more than twice as ancient. It is a little building 45 feet by 18 feet almost entirely 13th century, but with a tiny turret and spire of the 15th century. The font, on six short pillars, has been here since the church was built; the nave roof and the piscina carved with a flower are 600 years old; the wall-plates of the chancel roof are a century younger; and two bench-ends fastened to a chest in the vestry were made when the Tudor Age began.

Wickham Bishops, Essex

St Bartholomew was built in 1850 to replace the old church of St Peter which I was unable to locate due to having an incorrect post code - this has now been rectified and I'll record St Peter at a later date. It is, frankly, hideous but open.

Pevsner incorrectly names St Peter:

ST BARTHOLOMEW. 1850 by Ewan Christian. Quite ambitious, of freestone with a tall steeple with spire. With the erection of this church the old church became superfluous.

ST BARTHOLOMEW. The old church stands 1 m. SW of the new. It consists of nave and chancel with a small belfry. The only remaining feature of special interest is the SE quoin of Roman bricks, evidence of the Early Norman origin of the church.

 Nave looking east

WICKHAM BISHOPS. In the fields, a few yards from the 15th century doorway of a cottage, we came upon an ill-used and deserted church with a shingle spire on a wooden turret. The Normans built it, using Roman bricks for the corners of the chancel and Roman tiles for a doorway. The doorway has been replaced with a medieval brick porch, and there is still hanging in it a door 500 years old. We found the tiebeams of the 15th century roof still strong, but the rest was a picture of desolation, with the pavement broken round the font, which had a lid 500 years ago to prevent the holy water from being stolen for black magic. On the altar is a gravestone with the word Resurgam, and we may hope it will be prophetic for the old church. Only its 600-year-old chest has been moved to the new church with the lofty spire.

Still ringed round with its moat is Wickham Hall, a timbered Stuart house with 15th century glass painted with lively little birds.

Langford, Essex

By coincidence St Giles was/is my 550th church visit and is also almost, if not, unique in having a west apse - a fact that I totally missed at the time! It must also be unusual in having a north eastern bell turret.

Sadly it was locked and heralded a run of disappointment for the end of this trip.

ST GILES. From the outside the church looks at first entirely C19, or the date of its restoration: 1882. It is only when one walks round that one sees a Norman apse, complete with three small windows. The impression is confusing, because an apse in England is only expected at the E end, and the apse at Langford is undoubtedly a W apse - indeed the only one surviving, although it is known that Abingdon about the year 680 had a church with apses at both ends. Langford also had originally an E apse as well. The type is in all probability to be derived from Carolingian and Ottonian Germany, where apses at both ends were quite frequent, though, it is true, not for village churches. Thus, even internationally speaking, Langford was a great exception, and it is much to be regretted that the E apse did not survive the late Middle Ages. Apart from the apse the only Norman evidence is the plain S doorway.

I think there's only one picture I can post:

St Giles (3)

LANGFORD. Langford Hall has been here since the 17th century, but it is young compared with the church close by, a building of great interest to lovers of old and rare things. Almost certainly it was here in Saxon England, and until the 19th century restorers destroyed some of its character it can have changed little in 900 years. This church is almost unique in England in having a western apse, which is believed to be a survival from the first centuries of Christianity, when a separate baptistry was often built at the west end of a church. The apse has three little windows high up, with wide splays inside. Each is about two feet high, but only seven inches wide. One of the original doorways is here, its inner arch also splayed to allow the door to swing. Through a pane of glass in the plaster wall we can see the rough masonry of the Saxon builders. There is a 15th century font and a double piscina of the 13th century that has lost its pillar. Marks on the chancel floor indicate the foundations of an eastern apse, so that Langford has made itself famous and unique by saving the west apse and losing the east.

Interesting that Pevsner says Norman and Mee Saxon, personally I'd go with the former.

Maldon, Essex

You've got to love Maldon for no other reason than both of its churches are open.

All Saints and St Peter and has been so thoroughly restored that I mistook it for new build which turns out to be far from the truth.

St Mary the Virgin sits overlooking the Blackwater Estuary with a massive tower and is another shabby maiden aunt church. It's not without interest including rood screen figures, originally from Plaistow, of Christ, Mary and St John.

All that remains of St Peter is the tower, the body of the church collapsed in the 1650's and wasn't re-built.

ALL SAINTS. Long S side without a break between S aisle and S chancel chapel. The W tower lies back a little. It is unique in England in that it is triangular. It dates from the C13 and has lancet windows (also towards the nave), a hexagonal shingled spire and three spirelets. The rest is externally somewhat confusing; the nave of 1728, of brick, but gothicized, the N chancel chapel late C15 and the chancel and S chapel earlier C15. The architectural interest of the church lies in its S aisle, exceptionally lavishly executed inside. The exterior does not betray that. Of its windows all but one are C19. The easternmost is C14, but clearly later than the interior. It is of three lights, with ogee reticulation above, i.e. a Dec motif, but a band of Perp panelling below this. Inside it cuts into the arcading which distinguishes the aisle. This arcading is in two tiers. On the S wall there is first a tier of blank ogee arches with renewed capitals and renewed head label-stops and above this a rich framing of the windows by arches alternating with blank arches to fill the wall between the windows. The jambs and voussoirs of all these arches are decorated by trails of roses. On the W side of the aisle the lower tier of arches is higher, but the style is the same. The later C14 window mentioned above cuts into the Sedilia which are another unusual feature of this unusual aisle. A third is the Crypt below it, reached by a spiral stair in the outer wall. It is vaulted and has depressed-pointed transverse arches - also C14. Nothing is known that would explain the splendour of this aisle, reminiscent, though with a good many reductions, of the Ely Lady Chapel. The date of this is c. 1340, and that seems a convincing date for the S aisle of All Saints as well. Additional proof is the arcade towards the nave with its filletted quatrefoil piers of Purbeck marble and its finely moulded arches. The nave is wide and bare and has little atmosphere. A N arcade must have been ripped out in 1728, as the two C18 arches into the chancel and the N chapel now stand incongruously side by side. The S chapel has a three-bay arcade to the chancel with piers of the not unusual four-shafts-four-hollows section and moulded arches, the N arcade, also of three bays, has simply octagonal piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches. - MONUMENTS. Monument to Thomas Cammocke d.  1602, two wives and children; with kneeling figures, the man frontal, the wives in profile, the children in the ‘predella ’. - Mary Vernon d. 1647, with cherubs on an urn between columns, a conceit unusual before the c 18.

ST PETER (cf. below). Only the W tower remains, with angle buttresses, battlements and a higher stair-turret.

PLUME LIBRARY, founded by Dr Plume before he died in 1704. He made use of the site of the ruined church of St Peter, just E of the tower still standing and built there a two-storey house of red brick with quoins and keystones to the windows. The windows are of wood, of the mullion-and-transome-cross type. The library started with 6,000 volumes; on the ground floor is now a branch of the Essex County Library. Some of the original fittings are still inside. That an archdeacon of Rochester should have felt a library to be of more use to his native town than the rebuilding of a parish church is a noteworthy sign of the period about 1700.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. The E end quite near the Blackwater. Big, heavy W tower with uncommonly massive buttresses. Top brick with stepped battlements. Shingled spire on an octagonal weatherboarded base. The nave N wall revealed as Early Norman by a small window close to the porch. The S aisle all of 1886. The interior shows that the Norman nave was as wide as the present nave, quite a remarkable fact, proved by the responds of the Norman chancel arch which are wider than the present chancel arch, restored with C14 bits. - FONT.  Perp stem with bowl of c. 1700. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters, c. 1700.

Rood figures (1)

 Glass (15)

St Peter (4)

The Moot Hall, built in the 15th century and now used as the town hall, has 17th century panelling on its wall, and in the Council Chamber are portraits of Queen Elizabeth, Queen Anne, George the Third, and the town’s great benefactor Thomas Plume, who set up a library on the site of the lost St Peter’s church. The library is a fine little place with the atmosphere of Queen Anne’s day, solid old tables, photographs of kings and queens, panelled walls, and a Jacobean fireplace, and on the shelves some of the rarest productions of the booksellers of two or three centuries ago. The medieval tower of St Peter’s church is all that remains and the library is attached to it with 6000 volumes and a precious register in which are two entries, one of the burial of George Washington’s last English ancestor, the other of the christening of the captain of the Mayflower. It is remarkable, surely, that there should remain in this old library a book with these two entries. Lawrence Washington had been ejected from his living at the neighbouring rectory at Purleigh and finally came to Maldon, where he died; he lies in the churchyard. Both his sons emigrated to America, and John became the great-grandfather of George Washington. The boy christened in this church who was to grow up and become the captain of the Mayflower was Christopher Jones; he captained the ship which carried across the Atlantic the little company that was to grow into the United States under the leadership of the great-great-grandson of the man who died at Maldon. One more historic name brought to mind in, the church where Lawrence Washington lies is that of the Protector, for here lies the great-grandson of Cromwell’s sister Jane.

Among Maldon’s ancient buildings are three inns with delightful ironwork in their signs, the White Horse, the Bell, and the Blue Boar. Behind the modern front of the Blue Boar lies an old timber house, which was once the home of the Earls of Oxford; the oldest part of the house is the black and white overhanging storey from the 14th and 15th centuries. We may look down on the three churches of Maldon from the turret of the medieval town hall. St Peter’s is only a tower. The second is St Mary’s, with a Norman nave and a Norman stringcourse round the tower, and a porch of the 15th century. Norman work remains in the lower stages of the tower, but the rest was rebuilt in the 17th century, and the tower is now crowned by a small wooden spire. The other is the splendid church of All Saints, with the remarkable churchyard in which George Washington’s ancestor lies.

The church has an extraordinary triangular tower with Norman stones in its walls, and a group of huge traceried windows looking down on the street. Its buttresses have canopied niches in which stand six men Maldon is pleased to honour: Archbishop Mellitus, Bishop Cedd, the Saxon Brihtnoth, Robert Mantell who founded the priory, Sir Robert Darcy, and Thomas Plume. On the inside wall thus handsomely buttressed most beautiful arcading runs round windows and between them, while below the windows is a masterpiece of 14th century carving, a series of arches in which finely sculptured heads hide the point of meeting.

This is one of the most attractive walls in Essex. Five of these arches form canopies for stone seats, and one is a doorway leading to a crypt. This splendour of decoration, probably unequalled in the county, continues beyond the crypt entrance to another doorway with a door which has been on its hinges 600 years. There is a window in this wall with three 17th century medallions of the Good Shepherd, the woman of Samaria, and the martyrdom of Stephen, and another window by it is of interest because it comes from Maldon’s American namesake, a town founded by Essex emigrants about 300 years ago. It is a memorial to Lawrence Washington and it glows with colour and fine figures. St Nicholas is here as the patron of voyagers, St George is wearing a jewelled girdle, Joan of Arc is beautiful in blue and silver carrying a banner, and there are scenes showing the landing of Columbus, the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers, and George Washington signing the Declaration of Independence.

On a wall-monument with three bays from Tudor days kneels Thomas Cammocke in a central arch with his two wives kneeling,both looking towards him, their 22 children of all ages and sizes being represented in panels below their mothers. Thomas himself is here not unlike Mr Punch, but he was in truth a young adventurer who eloped with his second wife Frances Rich, whom he carried off on horseback. It was one of the romances of the day. Thomas was in the service of Lord Rich, and loved his daughter Frances, and in eloping they found themselves pursued by the irate father and driven to leap into the estuary and to swim half a mile against a strong tide. They reached the boat the other side of the river at Fambridge Ferry, and the father, seeing such an exhibition of courage, relented and allowed them to be married in All Saints, saying "Seeing she had ventured her life for him, God bless them." Thomas lived to be a prosperous citizen of Maldon, and gave the town its first public water supply.

Under the floor of the nave, somewhere near the font, lies a man whose greatcoat might have covered half of Thomas Cammocke’s great family, for he was reputed to be the biggest man alive in England, weighing 44 stones. He was Edward Bright, and it is said that when they laid him to rest in 1750 a special apparatus had to be fixed in the church for his burial. It was he who was descended from Cromwell’s sister Jane.

Maldon has on its roll of honour not only Thomas Plume, founder of a free school here and a chair of astronomy at Cambridge, but two men who went out to Massachusetts, joined the Parliament there, and helped to found a Maldon on the other side of the Atlantic; they were Samuel Wayte and Joseph Hills, each of whom became Speaker of the Massachusetts Parliament. Here there was born also John Rogers Herbert, who lived for 80 years of last century, became a Royal Academician, and did some of the frescoes for the Houses of Parliament. In the 17th century Stephen Knight, a butcher of the town, was burned alive in the persecution of Mary Tudor, and in the 17th century there came to the town its first Nonconformist minister, a man of great energy and enthusiasm of whom we may truly say that he did things like billio, for he actually was Billio - Joseph Billio, from whose ceaseless activity sprang the phrase that has now become so familiar.

Heybridge, Essex

The minute I set eyes on the tower of St Andrew I knew I was looking at something special and so it turned out. This is pretty much a Norman building with more retained features from the C11th century than anywhere else in Essex. There may be more beautiful buildings in Essex but few are so interesting.

ST ANDREW. A church almost completely Norman, with an impressive W tower, nave and chancel. The E end of the chancel alone (with its five-light Window) is Perp. The W tower, a little later than nave and chancel, is impressive for accidental reasons. It was laid out very broad, but stopped when it was hardly higher than the nave, and later covered with a big pyramid roof. Moreover, in the early C16 one very massive diagonal brick buttress was put up to prop it. Original NW stair turret, and original, though blocked, W doorway. In nave and chancel there are on the N side three original windows and one doorway, on the S side two doorways and two blocked but still noticeable windows. Inside the nave the splays of the Norman clerestory windows also still exist, not in line with the lower windows. The chancel roof has at the E end a hammer-beam truss, sign of its Perp origin, W of that tie-beams, with king-posts and four-way struts. The nave roof is similar, but one tiebeam carries queen-posts. - FONT. Square, of Purbeck marble with the usual blank arcading motif and some other motifs, almost entirely re-cut. - COMMUNION RAIL with twisted balusters, c. 1700. - DOOR with C12 ornamental iron hinges. - STAINED GLASS. Female Saint, late C13, N chancel window. - PLATE. Paten of 1617; Cup probably of 1705. - MONUMENT. Thomas Freshwater d. 1638 and wife. Big, with kneeling figures opposite each other. Corinthian columns l. and r.

South door

Priest's door

St Andrew (3)

HEYBRIDGE. A busy little spot by the River Blackwater, it has a narrow winding street with houses looking across the water to the spires of Maldon, and a plain church of its own that might be mistaken for a barn. It has seen changes in its 800 years, but remains one of the most remarkable churches of its size in Essex. It impresses us with strength and a touch of grandeur, and stirs us to think of the years that have gone since its Norman builders were putting Roman bricks in its walls and round its windows. It is without aisles or chapels, and its nave seems to be without a tower, for there is no arch. But from the outside we can see the lower part of a west tower, which has become part of the nave. It must have fallen centuries ago, for the timbers supporting its pyramid roof have been here 500 years. There are three Norman doorways, and even the 15th century one is under a Norman arch. Two of the doorways have ornament and are high and narrow; and in one is a door with hinges as old as the foundations, sturdy smithwork that has withstood eight centuries of wind and weather. There is a fragment of a panelled Norman font near the rood stairs, and a 15th century bell come down to rest.

One of the things that strike us here is the odd effect the medieval builders have given by changing their minds when they began to make a clerestory; there seems no other explanation of these windows suddenly cut off by the roof beams. But the roof is a fine one, enriched with 15th century carving of foliage and shields.

There is a gravestone with a cross boldly carved 700 years ago, a recess in the sanctuary, where Thomas Freshwater has been kneeling with his wife since William of Orange landed, and a tiny man and a delightful little lady; he is John Whitacres of 1627, a quaint figure in brass; she has been in the tracery of a chancel window since the 13th century, graceful and stately in spite of her small size.

Heybridge Basin, Essex

Initially I thought St George was a Catholic church as it's a re-used Nissan hut but actually it is CoE.

At the end of WWI the Goldhanger Airfield Sergeants mess hall was bought by Mr & Mrs Bentall and given to the parish in memory of their son 2nd Lt Ernest Bentall who was KIA in 1915. The church was dedicated, to Saint George, by the Bishop of Colchester on 4th March 1920 and has remained in use ever since. It is of timber construction covered in plaster on the outside with a small bell tower as its only addition since its military use.

St George (2)

Neither Mee nor Pevsner visited.

Goldhanger, Essex

A surprisingly successful trip began with St Peter with an imposing tower but a rather dull interior. Having said that it does host an ancestral tomb, Thomas Heigham d.1531, and a rather nice pulpit.

ST PETER. The N side of the church shows its C11 origin: one chancel window, the nave E angle and one nave window. Much re-use of Roman brick. C14 S aisle mostly of flint, but also incorporating Roman bricks. C15 W tower with diagonal buttresses and some flint and stone decoration. The S arcade inside is of the C19. - STAINED GLASS. S chapel S and E windows of 1858, typical of their date. - MONUMENT. Tomb-chest with black cover-plate, one brass to a woman and indents of other brasses. The monument was to Thomas Heigham d. 1531.

Thomas Heigham 1531 (1)


GOLDHANGER. It stands remote, close to the Blackwater estuary, and down by its sea-wall is a mound of red soil, one of 200 still seen beside the Essex estuaries, sites of potteries in days before history. In this mound Roman pottery was found in
carefully constructed flues, and the experts say that here some potters settled in Caesar’s day, working an already ancient site. There is no doubt that the Romans were here, for their bricks are in the church walls, set here by Norman hands. The deeply splayed windows of the Normans have now brilliantly coloured portraits of the saints. The bold tower, the chapel, and the three-bayed roof of the nave are medieval. In the chapel is the altar tomb of Thomas Heigham and his three wives; one of their portraits is still in brass on the tomb, showing her in Tudor costume.

The big churchyard, with its many chestnut trees, is a pleasant place to linger in on an autumn day, when creeper clothes the porch in a glowing mass of red and gold.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Thorpe Morieux, Suffolk

I accidentally missed an entry for St Mary which was an unscheduled visit. After Brent Eleigh I needed to fill up but almost got to Stowmarket before finding a garage - how do Suffolkonians cope without modern gadgets like petrol stations?

Anyway I went past St Mary the Virgin on my way to Preston so stopped. Unusually on the south side the graveyard is very small with a large yew in front of the porch making it impossible to photograph successfully and with the sun in the south east my north view was a disaster. This is a big church but rather dark and gloomy inside and felt cold. The setting, however, is glorious.

ST MARY. All C13 to C14. The chancel Piscina in the angle of the SE window with its angle shaft and stiff-leaf foliage must be C13. The tower looks c. 1300, the nave c. 1320-30. The chancel windows are renewed and represent a date c. 1300. The nave buttresses are V-shaped (cf. Raydon; LG). - Fine C14 timber porch with traceried bargeboards and simply traceried three-plus-three side openings. - FONT. Plain, square, C13, on five supports. - DOORS. S and W doors with quatrefoil borders. - SCULPTURE. An elaborately carved bracket with embattled cresting. Late Perp. What did it originally belong to? - PLATE. Paten 1708; Flagon 1751; Cup 1765. - MONUMENT. John Fiske d. 1764. Nice restrained standing wall-monument. No figures. The centre is a cartouche with a coat of arms.

Hatchment (2)


THORPE MORIEUX. It has a few thatched cottages, a Tudor farmhouse, and a 60-year-old church with a high 15th century tower. In the 14th century porch is an ancient panelled door. The church has a magnificent 13th century font, and in the south wall is a fragment of stone which was found embedded in a piscina, carved with fruit and foliage. The fine Tudor house is across the meadow; it has a grand Elizabethan porch.

Milden, Suffolk

Without doubt the best was saved for last on this trip - the glory that is St Peter. On first sight it didn't appear to be anything special with a bellcote instead of a tower but as you step into the porch your are confronted with the familiar zigzag Norman door and inside there's a light and spacious nave and chancel. Its simplicity reminded me strongly of Tilty. The font is also Norman as is the south nave lancet window and with no stained glass to impinge the light streams in. In the chancel lies a severely damaged monumental effigy to James Alington d.1627, who turns out to be in the family tree as he stems from the Horseheath branch, which was once much bigger and ornate:

A description of 1908 speaks of "A large mural monument of various kinds of marble, consisting of a naked and emaciated figure in a shroud of a man of full size, lying near the floor, just above him 'Via omnis camis'. Over this figure is a table, supported by two angels in front holding books in their hands. On the table is the recumbent figure of a man in armour . . ." then follows a description of the figure as seen today. The record continues, "He lies under a table arch the centre of which is supported by a naked boy. In these two arches are two tables of black marble with inscriptions. On each side of the arch are two purple pillars with gilt Corinthian capitals, and outside of these a pyramid, and beyond them a boy standing on a pedestal. Beneath that to the west is Labour, to the east Rest. Over the cornice which is straight, is a shield of arms in a circle under an open compass pediment, supported by Corinthian pillars, the outer ones of white, the inner ones dove coloured. On a strip of black marble under the arms is this: "Death hath added to the ornament of this place the blessed memorial of the right virtuous and learned gentleman."

ST PETER. Nave and chancel. The W tower was demolished as unsafe in 1827. Norman nave; see one S window and the S doorway with zigzag arch on plain imposts. The rest has lancet windows, much renewed and perhaps not reliable. (Good king-post roof. LG) - PULPIT. Jacobean. - (BENCHES. Dated 1685. LG) - PLATE.Cup c. 1600; Paten 1696; Paten 1783. - M0NUMENT. James Allington d. 1626. Excellent recumbent alabaster effigy. Handsome frames of the two inscription tablets. The surround is not in its original state.

Nave looking east

South door (1)

Organ pipes

MILDEN. We may come to its church at all seasons for a splendid view of the broad and fertile valley of the Brett, or in springtime to walk under a golden canopy of laburnum to a porch with roses climbing over it.

A Norman doorway with zigzag leads to a 13th century nave with old carved beams aloft. Here is a rough-hewn old font, a Jacobean panelled pulpit, and many 17th century pews for big and little folk. An alabaster figure of James Alington has lain under a canopy in the chancel for 300 years. He is in armour and baggy breeches, his head rather uncomfortably pillowed on books, his epitaph bedecked with fruit and emblems of mortality.

On a stone on the opposite wall is this interesting inscription:

In memory of Thomas Hawkins, his son Robert Hawkins, and his son’s son George Faulkner Hawkins, who each in unbroken succession between 1814 and 1926 served as warden of this church. One generation shall praise your works unto another.

It is a fine tribute to a grand record of service spanning 112 years.

Monks Eleigh, Suffolk

I'm in two minds about St Peter; on the one hand it has suffered a severe Victorian restoration which has left a fairly nondescript interior whilst on the other its location, a Jacobean pulpit and a fabulous west door commend it. I think I'll give it a B+.

ST PETER. A big church. Big Perp W tower with flushwork decoration. Stair-turret on the S side not at the angle. Set-back buttresses continued near the top in polygonal shafts which end in the pinnacles. W doorway with fleuron decoration and hood-mould on two big heads. Niches l. and r. Nave and aisles and clerestory. N and S porches. The chancel is of 1845 . Interior with arcades differing on the N from the S. S arcade with concave-sided octagonal piers (dated C14 by Cautley). N piers normal octagonal. On the S side double-chamfered arches, on the N one chamfer and one sunk quadrant moulding. Ceilure at the E end of the nave roof. - FONT. An odd form, dated C13 by Cautley, and an odd C17-looking cartouche. - PULPIT. With Perp traceried panels. - SOUTH DOOR with tracery. - ALMS BOX. Plain square pillar with the date 1636.

West door


Glass (1)

MONKS ELEIGH. Its church stands high above the green, with splendid vistas of the countryside round Lavenham. It has a grand 15th century tower with flint and stone panelling, and a doorway with niches and carvings of Bowers and quaint crawling figures. The turret soars just above the battlements with a clock bell hanging above it facing all the winds that blow. There is a square 13th century font with an ancient cover like a leafy spire, an Elizabethan chalice, and a Jacobean almsbox on a pillar. But the treasure here is the pulpit, with panelled sides and small flowers hanging from its lovely tracery; it is 500 years old.

Preston St Mary, Suffolk

St Mary is Victorian rebuild with an early porch, a Norman font, two Elizabethan boards - a  Royal arms triptych and Decalogue - and copious amounts of medieval glass arms. I never imagined I would (or could) meet two Suffolk churches on one trip that I found bland but there you go.

ST MARY. The W tower was rebuilt in 1868. Dec chancel - see one old S window and the Piscina in the E jamb of the SE window. Perp aisles and clerestory. The arcade piers have four filleted shafts and squares in the diagonals. Low tomb recess in the N aisle. N porch with rich flushwork panelling. Three-light windows with tracery. Three niches above the entrance. - FONT. Norman, square, with rosettes, stars, intersected arches, a tree of life, and inter-lace. - ROYAL ARMS and TEN COMMANDMENTS. Painted, of triptych shape, Elizabethan, i.e. exceptionally early, as Commandment Boards go. - STAINED GLASS. About fifty heraldic pieces in the aisle E windows and the clerestory windows. Made, it is said, for Robert Reyce of Preston Hall, d. 1638, a noted antiquarian. - In the S aisle a window by Ward & Hughes, 1884; terrible. - PLATE. Paten 1624.

EIR arms (1)

Exodus Chap XX

Font (2)

PRESTON. A grand old yew receives us into the churchyard, with a church which was here before the days of Magna Carta. The 14th century chancel remains, but the nave, with clustered columns supporting its clerestory, is a century younger. The 15th century porch, with its panelled flint work and graceful buttresses, is among the finest of Suffolk’s fine porches; over its entrance is a lovely canopied niche and within is an altar tomb thought to be that of the porch builder. The massive font, with its elaborate inter-lacing, is Norman; the screen is modern but blended with fragments of the old. For 300 years Robert Ryece and his wife have been sleeping by the altar, not far from their hall, which is now a farmhouse. Their memorial stones are appropriately adorned with heraldic brasses, for Robert was an antiquary and a keen student of heraldry. Over a door is a wooden panel with Queen Elizabeth’s coat-of-arms painted to his orders, and into the windows of this church he placed the heraldry of 167 Suffolk families. Some of this glass can still be seen in the aisle and clerestory windows, and it is all described in a Breviary of Suffolk, published 300 years after Ryece had written it.

Brent Eleigh, Suffolk

As if to prove my point about Lavenham St Mary, the next church I visited, contained one of the best wallpaintings I've come across but also a slightly ludicrous, pompous monument to Edward Colman - vastly huge and really rather out of place.

This is a nice building with box pews, a nice Jacobean pulpit and the paintings - pretty much perfect.

ST MARY. Not big. Dec nave with Perp N windows. Perp W tower. - FONT. Octagonal Purbeck bowl, two blank pointed arches to each side. - FONT COVER. Jacobean, pretty. - PULPIT. Simple, Jacobean. - Box Pews. Some are Jacobean the majority C18. - BENCH END with poppy-head. - SCREEN to the SE chapel. Early C14 with shafts with capitals instead of mullions, and ogee arches. - SOUTH DOOR. A rare piece, early C14 with blank reticulated tracery. - REREDOS. Early Georgian, with fluted pilasters. - COMMUNI0N RAIL. Three-sided, with twisted balusters, Early Georgian. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1694. - MONUMENT. Edward Colman. By Thomas Dunn, 1743. Standing wall-monument. Reredos background with broken pediment. Semi-reclining figure in loose dress gesticulating towards us. Above a putto with a crown. Two more putti on the pediment.

The paintings were revealed shortly after this entry was made as noted by a footnote.


Edward Colman 1739 (1)

BRENT ELEIGH. It is a tiny old village in a glorious valley near Lavenham, to which it is linked by the motor road in the valley and the ancient grass-grown road along the ridge of the hill, an enchanting walk missed by the motorist. We remember the fields yellow with cowslips and the banks of the stream blue with forget-me-nots. Trees of all sorts creep up the hill, surrounding the 600-year-old church and its trim acre of grass-grown mounds. In a porch with charming unglazed windows an ancient door with long iron hinges and an ornamented handle opens on an old-world scene. The whole church is filled with high box-pews, the older ones carved with flowers, the great manor pew enclosed in two old screens. The pulpit with its graceful book-rest and the twisted rails running round three sides of the altar are Jacobean; the arcaded medieval font has a 17th century cover rather like an eight-legged stool. Lines of old timbering pattern the top of the walls. In the chancel is a massive wall-monument to "that good man Mr Edward Colman who died in 1739, last of an ancient family." He reclines under a canopy, wearing a curious floppy cap, three jolly cherubs watching over him.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Theydon Bois, Essex

St Mary the Virgin is a dogs dinner of a building. I'm afraid I can find no redeeming features as it's locked and, to be honest, I'm not sure I'd want to set foot in this monstrosity.

ST MARY. By Sydney Smirke, 1850. A small rather ugly brick church, with an unconventional SW tower with spire. The roof goes low down on the s side and has dormer windows. - PULPIT. Nice piece in the C18 style with back panels and a small canopy. By Paul Waterhouse.

St Mary the Virgin (2)

It's marginally better in B&W

St Mary the Virgin (2.1)

THEYDON BOIS. Hereabouts is the most beautiful piece of the forest of Epping; the village has part of it as a great green, round which old cottages stand. In the churchyard are two stately oaks. The church, not yet a hundred years old, was built by Sydney Smirke, architect of the impressive Reading Room of the British Museum, his contribution to the masterpiece of his brother Robert. The low spire is covered with copper, and in the red brick tower are two bells from the medieval church which stood in the valley of the Roding. Also in the tower is a remarkable board painted with the arms of James the First, with the king’s head below. A fine example of modern woodwork is the walnut pulpit by Paul Waterhouse, its sounding-board of simple dignity. There is good modern glass with striking portraits of Saint Hubert and Saint Nicholas.

One of the windows is in memory of that noble pioneer woman Frances Mary Buss, who lies in the churchyard. It shows the scene in Pilgrim’s Progress in which the Interpreter bids his servant Great-heart conduct Christiana and her companions to the house called Beautiful, "and they went singing." Frances Buss was the daughter of a Punch artist and illustrator of books. In the middle of last century she started a school for girls in Kentish Town and developed a new system which revolutionised the methods of teaching. When she died in 1894 her North London Collegiate School was one of the most famous secondary schools in England.


Woodford Bridge, Essex

I suppose I ought to mention St Paul which I passed on my way from Walthamstow to Chigwell if only in passing (pun intended). It was, unsurprisingly, locked, exteriorly devoid of interest and I only mention it because it's in my catchment area. Although, of course the interior could be fascinating - we'll never know.

St Paul (2)

Loughton, Essex

St John the Baptist is a cruciform Victorian church built in the Norman vernacular and is really rather splendid - this is how all Victorian churches should be, so over the top that it almost transcends vulgarity.

St Mary is Victorian and was under scaffolding and was probably locked but as I couldn't find anywhere to park, and wasn't very interested in another new build interior, I can't be sure.

St Nicholas is the most interesting of these three Victorian buildings and the interior sounds even more so - so obviously it's padlocked shut and no keyholder is mentioned.

ST JOHN THE BAPTIST, Church Lane. 1846 by Sydney Smirke. It is a surprise here to find him using the fashionable Neo-Norman. Yellow brick is the material, which does not help the Norman spirit. The plan is without aisles, but with transept, crossing, and crossing tower. The vaults used throughout are no doubt plaster. Enlarged 1877.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN, High Street. 1871-2 by T. H. Watson. This is the church in the present shopping centre of Loughton. St John the Baptist and St Nicholas are both in more marginal (and leafier) positions. Nave with bellcote at the E end and apse. Yellow and red brick. Nave and aisles, the arcades with circular piers ending in capitals of the most riotous naturalism, a quite exceptionally large variety of native flowers and leaves; for the High Victorian fan very useful to study. The clerestory has trefoil windows outside, but the rear-arches are of two low 7 lights with a separate circle above.

ST NICHOLAS, Rectory Lane. The old village church of Loughton, or rather near the site of the old village church. For the present church was entirely rebuilt in 1877. It is very small, with nave and bellcote and a short chancel. - STAINED GLASS. Two kneeling figures of c. 1500 in N and S windows. - BRASSES of 1541, 1558, 1594, and 1637. E of the church a very Gothic churchyard monument of 1860, in the shape of a shrine with a steep-pitched roof.

St Mary

St John the Baptist (1)

St Nicholas (3)

Thomas Willingale 1870

LOUGHTON. It is on the edge of Epping Forest, and it must for ever be proud of the Village Hampden who saved the forest from being stolen from the people. It has lost its old church, of which but a stone or two and a fragment of the churchyard wall
remain, but on its site a church was built last century "in memory of all who lie in the churchyard."

In the new church are a few things from the old one: a little glass of two kneeling figures older than the Reformation, a charming little cupboard of the 16th century with a tiny painting of the Annunciation three inches deep, and four brasses with 26 people on them. Three of the brasses are 16th century; George Stonard in armour with his wife, John Stonard with two wives, and William Nodes with eight sons whose names are all given. The other brass is 17th century and shows Abel Guilliams kneeling with his wife and their ten children. In one of the windows is a charming figure of St Winifred in memory of a lady of Loughton who died in Samoa.

It was Thomas Willingale who made Loughton famous last century by his brave fight for the rights of the people to the freedom of Epping Forest. He was a poor villager who made a scanty living by gathering wood and grazing animals there. But in the middle of last century, when the lands of the people were being everywhere enclosed, even the Crown rights of Epping Forest were sold and the villagers were robbed of their rights. Willingale was then an old man, but the thought of this injustice was too much for him, and he flung himself into the battle for the preservation of a beauty spot and of customs as old as history. The Corporation of London came to his assistance in the end, and after 15 years of battles in Parliament and the courts a Royal Commission found that the old man was right and that the enclosures were illegal.

A vast sum of money was spent before Epping Forest was declared free for the people again, but in the end Queen Victoria went down and opened 6800 acres as a public place for ever.

Buckhurst Hill, Essex

Heading for St John the Baptist I saw a second tower which turned out to be the URC church of St James. The tower is all that remains of the old church and looks incongruous.

St John The Baptist is Victorian built and dull but has some good glass.

Strangely neither Pevsner nor Mee cover Buckhurst Hill.

St James (2)

Glass (3)

Chigwell, Essex

I meant to visit three of Chigwell's churches, St Winifred, All Saints and St Mary, but somehow missed All Saints in Chigwell Row.

St Winifred was locked with no keyholder and I can only describe it as decidedly odd.

St Mary was, coincidentally open and compensates for a dull exterior with a great interior - nice wall monuments, some fantastic glass, a fascinating brass to Samuel Harsnett, Archbishop of York, and 17 Hatchments, the most in Essex.

ST MARY. A village church also, though enlarged in 1886 to more than twice its original size. The original church was Norman and still has its s doorway with one order of rather tall columns, one-scallop capitals, a curved lintel, an arch with zigzag decoration and a tympanum with carved diaper ornament, little squares, divided into two triangles. C15 N arcade with piers of the familiar four-shafts-four-hollows profile. C15 roof with tie-beams, king·posts and four-way struts. C15 belfry on eight posts, two against the N and two against the S wall, the remaining four forming a square in between. The usual arched braces connect the wall-posts with the square. Beams along the N and s sides of the square, and cross-strutting. Outside, the belfry is weatherboarded, painted white and has a leaded broach-spire. The C19 chancel was decorated by Bodley: stencilled walls, painted ceiling, alabaster and marble REREDOS, flanked by paintings of angels on both sides. The PULPIT also by Bodley. - STAINED GLASS. Easternmost N window by Kempe 1902.- PLATE. Paten of 1559; Secular Cup with Tudor roses and sunflowers, 1605 or 1610 ; Cup and Paten of 1633; Paten of 1633; Flagon of 1713. - MONUMENTS. Brass to Samuel Harsnett, Archbishop of York, d. 1631, bearded with cope and mitre. Frontal figure about life-size. The archbishop had been vicar of Chigwell and founded the Grammar School here. - Thomas Colshill d. 1595, and wife, small, with the usual kneeling figures facing each other.

Annoyingly I missed the Norman door in my excitement at finding St Mary open.

Samuel Harsnett 1631 (1)

Glass (13)

Thomas Colshill 1595 (1)

CHIGWELL. It is nothing like what Dickens called it, the greatest place in the world, but it has great charm in its woodland scenery, set in the valley of the River Roding between the two forests of Epping and Hainault. Chigwell has still the 17th century King’s Head Inn which Dickens brings into Barnaby Rudge as the Maypole, and its grammar school has still the original building set up by Archbishop Harsnett, who was vicar here in 1631. There is a bust of him in the hall. William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was a pupil at this school. The school hall rises to the full height of the building and is a fine place. The modern chapel has windows of four scenes from the Pilgrim’s Progress, all the characters being shown as boys. Woolston Hall is a house with iron gates of the 18th century and chimneys of the 17th; Rolls is a fine house built round a 16th century block and has 17th century chimneys.

Avenues of clipped yews lead us to the old doorways of the church the Normans built; we come into it through one of their doorways, with cushion capitals on its shafts and a tympanum set in an arch of four orders. The nave and chancel are modern, but the aisle and part of its chapel were the nave and chancel of the Normans. The roof is 15th century. There are eight medieval posts in the west end of the aisle, with massive beams supporting a bell-turret above which rises a copper spire. There is a window of Ruth and Naomi, a sculpture of the Annunciation in the sanctuary, and two wall monuments of the 16th and 17th centuries, the first to Thomas Colshill, who kneels in marble with his wife and two daughters, the second a glittering tablet to George Scott, who died at Woolston Hall. Two brasses are of remarkable interest for widely varied reasons. One is a tablet erected by the busmen of London to an old friend of theirs who lived here, George Shillibeer, described on the brass as the founder of their calling - and truly so, for he ran the first buses in London and introduced the word omnibus into our language. The other brass is one of the most famous in England, the last of the five we have showing an archbishop. It is in a recess in the chancel wall, and on it is Samuel Harsnett who rose from being vicar here to be Archbishop of York, but came back to Chigwell to rest by the old church he loved. We see him on his brass, a fine bearded figure in full robes with his crozier and a book and with cherubs about him, shields-of-arms and the symbols of the Evangelists, and this unusual inscription: "Here lies Samuel Harsnett, formerly vicar of this church. First the unworthy Bishop of Chichester, then the more unworthy Bishop of Norwich, at last the very unworthy Archbishop of York." Remarkable characters were both these men.

George Shillibeer, born in London in 1797, left the Navy as a middy to learn coach-building. Setting up in business in Paris, he built two buses for a patron there, returned to London, and in 1829 placed on the streets the first omnibuses seen in England. Drawn by three horses, each carried 22 passengers, and plied between Paddington and the Bank of England at a shilling a head.

At first his only rivals were stage coaches, which covered the same journey in three hours at a cost of half-a-crown a passenger. Shillibeer furnished his vehicles with free newspapers and magazines, and dressed his conductors first in naval uniform and afterwards in velvet. In a year he had a dozen buses on the roads, and in spite of opposition from rivals, and from householders who felt that his buses vulgarised the streets, he prospered until, starting a service in opposition to the London and Greenwich Railway, he lost heavily, and several times had his property seized for licence fees.

This arrest of his industry ruined him, and the man who had transformed passenger traffic was driven off the streets. Later he invented an improved funeral hearse, which long bore his name. Beggared by his success in transporting the living, he retrieved his fortunes by carrying the dead. He died at Brighton but has lain here since 1866. All our buses sprang from his idea.

Samuel Harsnett, who has slept at Chigwell since 1631, was the son of a Colchester baker, who sent him to Pembroke College, Cambridge. His life was a succession of escapes and preferments. At the outset of his clerical career he denounced an aspect of Calvinism and was in turn denounced for Popery; made licenser of books for the Press, he narrowly averted imprisonment for passing a seditious work which he had not troubled to read. While Master of Pembroke and vice-chancellor of Cambridge University he was accused of over 50 offences, including absence from duty, slackness with accounts, and Romanising tendencies; yet, although his resignation was inevitable, he still enjoyed the favour of James the First, and proceeded from the bishopric of Chichester to that of Norwich, and from Norwich to the archbishopric of York.

A high churchman, he offended many people in many places by his arbitrary conduct, and his relentless persecution of quiet men and women who dared to worship according to their conscience. He left writings to keep his fame alive, among them a treatise exposing those who professed to cast out evil spirits, a masterly production from which Shakespeare borrowed the names of spirits mentioned by Edgar in King Lear, and from which Milton derived ideas for L’Allegro. It was to mark his thankfulness for his advance from a vicarage to an archbishopric that he built and endowed his school here and gave the church a gallery for its scholars. His library he left to his native town. Dying in Gloucestershire, he was brought here in accordance with his wish to rest at his wife’s feet.