Thursday, 25 October 2012

Chipping Ongar, Essex

St Martin was a chance visit - I passed it on my way to Greensted. I found it open  which was nice but I didn't warm to it - it felt over restored and soulless, Pevsner found more of interest than I did.

ST MARTIN of TOURS. Uncommonly complete Norman village church. Nave and chancel, both with characteristic masonry, Roman brick quoins, and small windows. Two plain chancel doorways also survive, and a W window high up in the gable. The E end is altered, but traces, especially inside, prove that there were originally three or four windows and two above them in the gable which was higher than now. The date of the belfry is probably C15. Dormers in the roof 1752 (VCI-I.). The S aisle was added in 1884. Nice W gallery on two Tuscan columns. Chancel roof with arched braces supporting collar-beams and additional arched braces carried to a pendant hanging from the collar-beam. The Royal Commission dates the roof early C17. The nave-roof is simple, with arched braces on head-stops and tracery between the braces and the tie-beams. King-posts in addition. - PULPIT. Panels with diamond-cut frames and thin strapwork, c. 1600. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters, c. 1700. - PLATE. Paten of 1705. - MONUMENTS. Nicholas Alexander d. 1714, epitaph with two cherub’s heads at the foot. It might be by Edward Stanton. - Mrs Mitford d. 1776. By Nollekens. Epitaph with the usual obelisk and two cherubs against it and an urn between them; one stands, the other sits and sobs.

Nicholas Alexander 1714

Sarah Mitford 1776

Lady chapel Annunciation

CHIPPING ONGAR. It is one of those small Essex towns instinct with the thrill of history. One after another there come to mind the moving scenes of its historic past. To some it will seem that the chief appeal of this long street with gabled houses and overhanging storeys is in a little room the passer-by is invited to look at, the room in the house of a pastor where David Livingstone lived, serving his probation before he set out on his lifework in Africa. The boy at the mill had come down from Blantyre and was training here with the minister, and there may well be those who remember hearing of the nervous young man who had hardly strength to lead his congregation at prayer, who gave out hymn after hymn while he summoned up courage to preach and then fled down the steps and into the street, afraid. Yet in the end he passed the test, and from here set out to carry on his preparation elsewhere for the work which was to win him immortality.

But far, far back we go beyond the fame of David Livingstone, for here is a mound crowned by a ring of living trees where once stood the wooden keep of a Norman castle, and there is little doubt that a castle stood on it before the Conqueror came, for in its walls is a medley of Roman tiles which strongly suggest that they were put here by the Saxons. On such foundations as they found the Romans set up one of their great strongholds. The mound is 230 feet across, encircled by a moat 50 feet wide, with the water still in it. On the town side was a courtyard with a rampart 80 feet wide, and even beyond this men have traced a rampart which embraced the whole of Ongar, a remarkable example of a town enclosure of feudal days.

Here lived one of the famous Norman barons, Richard de Lucy, Chief Justice in the reign of Henry the Second. He took the side of the king against Becket, and Becket excommunicated him. Weary of strife, the judge became a canon in a priory he had founded in Kent, Lesnes Priory at Erith, within whose quiet walls he died. Across the Darent, not far away from the ruins of Lesnes, are the ruins of the castle of another friend of the king excommunicated by Becket, William de Eynsford, who, also weary of strife, gave up this world and lived for the next, leaving his castle deserted, not to be lived in again for eight hundred years.

Richard de Lucy would see the church in the shadow of his high keep much as we see it now. The walls of the nave and the chancel are of the same rubble and Norman bricks as in his day. Through the little Norman windows the worshippers would see the keep against the sky. There are narrow Roman tiles outside these windows, and it is believed that Saxons put them there. There are Roman tiles at the corners of the walls and over a blocked-up Norman doorway; the light of a Norman window falls also on the gallery. A chancel window of a century later, a triple lancet, is one of the very early uses of brick by our English builders.

There is a captivating peephole in the chancel wall which faces this, a hole about 13 inches by 6, opening from a tiny chamber in the thickness of the wall. Outside the wall are hinges and the socket for a bolt, and above is a hole which seems to have held a roof beam. From all this it is supposed that this tiny chamber was the cell and the grave of one of those strange anchorites who shut themselves up from the world, immured in the wall with a little hole through which they could fix their eyes on the altar. The roof the anchorite would see is still above the nave, with a Norman corbel surviving from the earlier roof, and a carving on one of the timbers of a man with toothache. Through this roof in the 15th century they pierced a space for the massive timber belfry, and about 200 years ago they set on the spire the weather-vane in the form of a pennon which still turns in the wind.

The pulpit is 17th century; it would be new when they laid here beneath the chancel Jane Pallavicine, the daughter of one of the less known Oliver Cromwells, the Sir Oliver whose claim to fame rests on his lavish entertainment of James the First. There is a monument by Nollekens to Sarah Mitford; the fashionable sculptor has given her angels on her tomb, one weeping and one placing a wreath. On the wall is one of those pathetic wooden crosses from the battlefields, brought from the grave of Henry Austin Noble, who died for us a month before the Armistice. There is a window to him with St Martin in it.

This is one of the rare places where the chapel appeals to us as well as the church, for the Congregationalists have been established in Ongar since 1690, and the most famous men of Ongar have been two Nonconformists -David Livingstone, who trained here for the ministry, and Isaac Taylor, who was pastor here. Livingstone must have known this chapel, and may have preached in it for his tutor-pastor, Richard Cecil, of whom we read in the story of Stanford Rivers. Isaac Taylor lies behind his church, and with him lie his wife and their daughter Jane, who (at their house at Lavenham, over the border in Suffolk) wrote at least one thing known to every child, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. There is a tablet in the chapel to them, and though a schoolroom now stands over their graves we may lift up a panel in the floor and read their simple stone.

The Taylors of Ongar

IT was said of the Taylors of Ongar that it was impossible to be one of them and not write. They did more than write; they painted, engraved, and invented, and Sir Francis Galton cited them in his famous list as examples of the diffusion of hereditary talent. The line took its rise in a 17th century Worcester metal-worker and engraver, specimens of whose work are in the British Museum.

He was the father of the first Isaac Taylor, who, born in 1730, walked to London and worked as a silversmith until he proved himself an engraver of merit, whereupon he was entrusted with the plates for Goldsmith’s Deserted Village. His son Isaac was educated at Brentford and then worked in his father’s studio. After engraving plates for Shakespeare, the Bible, and Thomson’s Seasons, he entered the ministry at Colchester, and arrived at Chipping Ongar at 51, pastor of the Congregational Church. Here he spent the last 19 years of his life, teaching his children and his flock, and writing biography, travel, and other books for the young, while his wife wrote moral and instructive lessons for children and parents. They had many children, among them the two girls and their brother Isaac.

The third Isaac, born at Lavenham in Sufolk in 1787, an artist with brush and graver, helped his father, illustrated his sister’s books, and wrote books of his own, one on the Natural History of Enthusiasm. But it was the sisters, Ann and Jane, who immortalised the family. They wrote their early poetry in moments stolen from lessons. Not until 1804, when Ann was 24 and Jane 21, did their first volume appear. Bringing them fame and £15, it brought poetry for the first time to the lips of millions of children. In their Poems for Infant Minds were such familiar verses as My Mother and Little Star, with other pieces which have long been part of the nursery heritage of the world. Scores of editions were printed; the book was translated into foreign tongues, and soon children everywhere were repeating the lines of Ann and Jane Taylor. They wrote other books for children, tales, fables, and especially hymns, many of which are sung in all our churches. Jane died here unmarried in 1824; Ann became the wife of the Revd Joseph Gilbert, whom she accompanied to Nottingham, where she lived the last 41 years of her life.

In 1866 an odd thing happened, 60 years after Ann’s poem My .Mother had appeared. A writer in a literary weekly called attention to the last stanza in the poem and asked that it should be altered. These are the lines:

And when I see thee hang thy head,
Twill be my turn to watch thy bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed,
                                   My Mother.

For God who lives above the skies,
Would look with vengeance in His eyes,
If I should ever dare despise
                                    My Mother.

The critic, 60 years after, “in the name of all the children of England,” proposed a change which should remove this threat of vengeance, suggesting that Tennyson should make the alteration. To everybody’s surprise, however, Ann Taylor, then 84 and long forgotten under the name of Ann Gilbert, herself vigorously replied, acknowledging the justice of the criticism, adding that it was “a favour now to have any critics at all,” and drafting new lines ending:

For could my Father in the skies
Look down with pleased or loving eyes
If ever I could dare despise
                                       My Mother?

Norton Mandeville, Essex

Other than its setting there is little or nothing of interest at All Saints; the exterior is pleasant enough, but nothing to write home about, while the interior is stripped bare.

ALL SAINTS. Small C12 fragments re-used in the walls and a small fragment of a spiral-carved Norman column with projecting moulding, considered by the Royal Commission to be part of a Pillar Piscina, tell of an earlier church on the site. The present nave and chancel seem C14. The belfry of the C15 (?) rests on a tiebeam with king-posts inside. - FONT. Square, with attached angle columns, of Barnack stone, late C12. - PULPIT. Plain, C18. - SCREEN with plain one-light, ogee-headed divisions. - BENCH-ENDS. With coarsely carved poppy-heads, C16, probably late. - PLATE. Early C17 Cup; Paten and Almsdish given in 1703.

All Saints (2)

NORTON MANDEVILLE. Here, facing a spacious modern farm, is one of the smallest churches in Essex, a Norman church made new 600 years ago, built to hold the hundred people of that time and never enlarged. The Norman stones peep out from the flint walls of the 14th century. The children are still christened at the Norman font, a good one with a round shaft carved out of each corner. It has the staples with which it was padlocked against witches. Round about the font are tiles which have preserved their varied pattern under the feet of 25 generations. The nave keeps its original roof with moulded capitals and bases on the kingposts; the end beams support the 15th century bellcot and from their brackets painted carvings of the lion and the unicorn regard each other disdainfully across the nave. The modern screen has eight heads carved for the old screen by a medieval craftsman, and in the nave are six open benches with poppyheads shaped by a Tudor carpenter.

The manor house stands near Norton Heath a mile away, a beautiful timbered and gabled building, with 1613 on its chimney.

Greensted, Essex

St Andrew is, partially, lays claim to be the oldest extant wooden church in the world and possibly the oldest wooden building in Europe. It has recently been tree ring dated to sometime between 998 and 1063; the oak walls of the nave are classified as remnants of a palisade church or a kind of early stave church.

Personally I found the interior dark and gloomy and rather dull but the exterior is fascinating as is the fact of its age.

ST ANDREW. The church is famous all over England as the only survival - and what an unlikely survival - of a log-church. Moreover, it can with some probability be dated c. 1013, the year of the passing through of St Edmund’s body. The nave is built of oak logs split vertically in halves and set vertically in an oak sill. The present sill and the brick plinth belong to the restoration of 1848 (Thomas Henry Wyatt) which is also responsible for the nave roof. But the Tudor dormers of timber are original save for two and worth some study. The chancel of brick is early C16 (one S window and the S doorway), its E end C18. The W tower is also entirely of timber, in the Essex tradition. Its date is uncertain. It has the usual internal construction, is externally weatherboarded and painted white and carries a shingled broach spire. - PAINTING. Small arched panel of St Edmund, c. 1500. - STAINED GLASS. Head of a man; c. 1500 (W window).

St Andrew

Saxon split oak nave walls (2)

West window (2)

GREENSTED. It is a shrine of universal pilgrimage, unique in its sylvan setting and unique in one of its possessions, a wooden church with Saxon timbers built into its walls. It is the Saxon church in which St Edmund’s body rested on its last journey.

Even if its timbers were not so captivating for their great age (1013), the picture of this primitive church would draw the pilgrim to it. Its 19th century dormers, its neat porch with a red-tiled roof harmonising with the low roof of the nave, the little shingled spire on the wooden tower, and the red brick of the chancel wall, draw us into this rugged churchyard where roses bloom amid cypress trees. Giant survivors of the forest make a perfect background for a church whose walls stand much as they were when the monks of Bury St Edmunds, having, in their fear of the Danes, carried the body of their saint for safety to the walled city of London, brought it back and rested it in this forest sanctuary on its way.

Here are the oldest wooden walls of Old England; come close to them and run your fingers along the shaped timbers and feel the marks of the adze made by the Saxon carpenter. The trees they felled to build this church were growing when the Romans came; they felled a score of oaks and split each trunk in three, using the outer beams as a palisade and the central planks for the roof and the sills. It is interesting to see how these Saxon carpenters made this place. Roughly adzing off the upper ends of the uprights into a thin edge, they inserted them into a groove in a beam running along each side of the nave. They fixed their bases on a wooden sill, but a century ago they had so rotted that a dwarf wall was placed below them, their height being reduced by about a foot. There are 21 logs on the north wall with three extra ones where a door once stood, and 16 logs on the south, through which wall we enter. The Saxon nave is 29 feet long and 17 feet wide. The original roof was thatched and was lighted from a window in the timbers of the west wall and from others in the chancel.

The church was much refashioned in the 16th century when the chancel, the beautiful priest’s doorway, and the charming tower and belfry were added. A small painted panel of the martyrdom of St Edmund shows him wearing a crown but clothed in a loin cloth and bound to a tree pierced with arrows shot by soldiers, one of whom wears Roman armour. The panel is probably all that remains of a 15th century screen*, and keeping company with it is another medieval portrait of the saint in a roundel of the west window; it shows his crowned head.

One possession the church has more curiously linked with the martyrdom of St Edmund, the wooden covers of a Bible and a prayer book, made from the timbers of what is believed to be the actual tree under which Edmund was martyred. The tree was growing at Home in Suffolk and had become a giant nearly 20 feet round when it fell 100 years ago. Tradition had long fixed on this as Edmund’s tree and it is remarkable that when the tree fell a Danish arrowhead was found in the trunk. The arrow is still in existence. The fine lectern on which this interesting Bible rests was carved in our own time by a local craftsman, from an oak growing at Greensted. It is a skilful piece of craftsmanship, likely to go down the ages with the 18th century pulpit, the medieval piscina, and the odd stoup cut 700 years ago in one of the great timbers of the wall.

* This was stolen in January of this year.

Stanford Rivers, Essex

The rather unprepossessing rendered exterior of St Margaret conceals what is an interesting and lovely interior. Chief points of interest are the 1952 FW Skeat east window, a stained glass window in the south nave window, some Norman windows and a fine collection of brass.

ST MARGARET. C12 nave with original W window high up, two N and two S windows. The W window is blocked by an intriguing slab with a primitive figure carving. The chancel is Dec, see the windows (but the E window is C19). Good N porch of timber; late C15, now blocked. Belfry on four posts as usual and with leaded broach spire. Nave roof with tie-beams on braces and king-posts. - FONT. Of the usual Purbeck type of  c. 1200, but of Barnack stone. Octagonal with two shallow pointed arches to each side. - SCREEN. Bits of the tracery have been re-used in the W gallery. - BENCHES. Eighteen oak benches; plain ends with two buttresses each. - COMMUNION RAIL. With turned balusters, mid C17. - PLATE. Set of c. 1780 in silver on copper. - BRASSES. Hidden below the altar (see Royal Commission).

South chancel windows

East window FW Skeat 1952 (1)

South nave window (1)

STANFORD RIVERS. A narrow avenue of lofty limes leads us to the door of a church four times as long as it is wide, with Norman windows in the nave and a chancel made new in the 14th century. By one of the nave windows is an old sundial. The bell-turret added 100 years after has a graceful leaded spire. The work of an artist of 600 years ago remains in faint outline on the splay of a window, two figures appearing in colour under gabled canopies. Other medieval craftsmanship is in a gallery with nine traceried heads from the old chancel screen, and about 20 of the old carved pews are still in the nave. Portraits of some of the old inhabitants who sat in these pews are here in brass. Robert Borrow is with his wife, who wears a headdress of about 1500; the infant Thomas Greville is here; and framed in an arch are Anne Napper and her six sons. All these lads would thrill at the tales brought to the village about Francis Drake, who was knighted by Elizabeth three years before this monument was set on the wall.

There is another little tale we remember here, of David Livingstone. While qualifying for his mission to Africa he was sent down to Essex to study for three months; it was a probationary period, and upon the report of his tutor, the Revd Richard Cecil of Chipping Ongar, depended his acceptance or refusal by the London Missionary Society. Part of his task was to prepare sermons and submit them in writing to Cecil, who would read and correct them if necessary, where-upon the student had to learn the sermon by heart and preach it to one of the village congregations round about. The minister of the chapel here being taken suddenly ill, the young Scotsman was called upon to take the evening service, and all went well until the sermon, when Livingstone slowly read out his text - and paused. He said afterwards that it was as if midnight darkness had descended upon him. The sermon, so perfectly memorised until a moment before, had fled, and his mind was filled with blank terror. “Friends,” he haltingly said, “I have forgotten what I had to say,” and abruptly he left the pulpit, and fled.

Yet the real man showed itself, even here. He had to visit a relative on the far side of London, and, too poor to ride, he set out at three o’clock on a bitter November morning to walk 27 miles. It was so dark that he fell into a deep ditch, but he reached London, discharged his business, and set out on the return journey. A few miles out he found a lady lying unconscious by a trap from which she had been thrown, carried her to a house, made sure that she was not badly hurt, and continued on his way, only to lose himself completely. He was about to lie down in a ditch for the night when he stumbled on a signpost and plodded on, reaching home at midnight after 21 hours of walking, footsore, speechless with fatigue, but triumphant, as he was to be so often in the years to come.

Navestock, Essex

At first I thought St Thomas the Apostle was locked but applying more force to the latch I found it was open and was informed by the two flower arrangers I found inside that it is always open. I loved this curious church with its semi octagonal tower base and the arcade which appears to be stone but is in fact timber covered with lath & plaster. It is a light and airy building full of interest.

ST THOMAS THE APOSTLE. At the time of writing a neglected, almost derelict-looking church. Nave N wall with plain Norman doorway. S aisle, S chancel chapel and S arcade E.E Circular piers and double-chamfered arches. The pier at the E end of the arcade and the W end of the S chancel chapel is of oak and polygonal, almost like fluted. What date can this possibly be? One blocked lancet in the S chapel, one long lancet in the S aisle. Early C14 chancel with Dec windows - the E window of three-lights with reticulated tracery. In the nave N wall at its E end a wide recess, E.E., with a shaft on the l. carrying a stiff-leaf capital. Probably in the C15 a S porch was added and also - a more ambitious enterprise - a timber tower. This stands to the W not of the nave but the aisle. It is oblong and has N and S aisles and in addition a W aisle connected with the others by triangular pieces - a rare arrangement. The tower is carried on four heavy posts, each with an octagonal shaft attached diagonally towards the centre. These shafts carry rib-like arched braces meeting in the middle in a foliage boss. - DOORS. Three with ornamental hinges; one (N doorway) is C12, the other two C13. - ORGAN. Early C18, bought from Lord Southwood’s house at Highgate, London. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1624; two Flagons, inscribed 1626 and 1630. - MONUMENTS. Mainly to the Waldegrave family, and singularly modest. Edward W. d. 1809, by Bacon jun, with a Weeping female allegorical figure bent over military objects, and a triumphant cherub higher up. - Seventh Earl Waldegrave d. 1846, with bust by Behnes. Also John Greene d. 1653, with frontal demi-figure. - Anne Snelling d. 1625, tiny reclining marble figure with tinier baby in her arms.

South arcade

George Edward, 7th Earl Waldegrave 1846

John Greene 1653 (1)

NAVESTOCK. A colossal barn, tall limes, and a huge chestnut keep company with its church, which has a shingled spire rising from an astonishing wooden belfry. The surprise of it is inside, where 15th century beams and ancient ladders seem to be in great confusion, With masses of woodwork all about us. Looking closer, we see that the four chief uprights are moulded at the capitals, and that four great beams curve up to meet in a boss of carved foliage. The belfry woodwork is oak splendid and unashamed, but the wood in the church is so covered with whitewash that we might think it stone. We see it in the wooden arch of the 14th century chancel, and in another arch across the 13th century chapel, both arches rising from an oak pillar which ends the line of round stone piers built about 1250, when the church was doubled in width.

The oldest masonry is in the north wall of the nave, which has a plain doorway of the 11th century. Four doors in the church are of remarkable age, and have well preserved their ironwork though some of the wood has been renewed. One is in the ancient Norman doorway; others of the 13th century are in aisle and chapel; and double doors of Chaucer’s day lead from the aisle into the bell tower. The porch is 15th century, and in a corner by the modern font are coffin lids of two priests about 600 years ago, one with a raised cross.

On the 17th century gravestone of little Jane Marchant, who was only 15, are two delightful lines:

So fair a blossom, so exquisitely good,
That I want words to make it understood.

In the chancel are two striking 17th century monuments, much in contrast. One has a simple alabaster figure of Ann Snelling holding her baby; the other is the bust of John Greene, a judge who seems proud of his family, for he is shown with a display of heraldry, many of the shields having the stag’s head seen again on a helmet above.

The great folk at Navestock have been the Waldegraves, many of whom sleep here. Their old house has gone but its park with a lovely lake is left, and there are monuments to remind us of them. There is a bust of the seventh earl who died in 1846; a relief of the eighth earl’s eldest son who fell at Alma; and another relief, carved by John Bacon, to the fourth earl’s son, who distinguished himself in Sir John Moore’s campaign and was shipwrecked when nearly home. The carving shows a boy unfurling a flag, his mother weeping below.

Two older monuments take us into circles more distinguished still. One is a Latin inscription to a daughter of James the Second, Henrietta, wife of that Lord Waldegrave who, as one of the king’s counsellors, had to fly with him at the Revolution. The other is an enormous wall tablet telling of the next two generations of Waldegraves, of Henrietta’s son James, the first earl, who was an able ambassador; and of her grandson the second earl, who moved for a few brief moments in the centre of the English stage. He was James Waldegrave, too, a friend of George the Second and tutor to the Prince of Wales. He married a niece of Walpole who was one of the beauties of her day and was seven times painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Waldegrave is chiefly remembered, however, as the man who became Prime Minister for five days (June 8-12, 1757). It happened in the early summer of 1757, and he had no wish to fill the office, but allowed himself to be nominated to please the king. His ministry never came into being, however, and nobody can have been more pleased than he when in place of it was born the famous ministry of Newcastle and Pitt, during the life of which England became supreme at sea, in India, and in North America.


Stapleford Abbotts, Essex

Here at St Mary the trip made a turn for the better when I found it open but only because a nice couple were arranging flowers. Whilst this is not a particularly interesting church either externally or internally, the husband of the duo did unlock the vestry to show me the C14th glass portraying Edward the Confessor. Afterwards I dallied in the churchyard admiring the view and a partridge shoot which was ongoing in the next door field.

ST MARY. Yellow brick W tower of 1815 and hideous church of 1862, by T. Jekyll of Norwich. The walls faced with a crazy-paving pattern. The windows with geometrical tracery. Nice small N chapel of brick, built in 1638. The windows, a remarkable fact, are round-arched and no longer Perp. - PULPIT. Nice late C16 piece with blank arches in the panels. - HELM in the N chapel, late C16. - STAINED GLASS. Very fine, small early C14 figure of Edward the Confessor (N vestry). - PLATE. Cup, Paten, larger Paten and Flagon, all of 1687; Almsdish of 1692. - MONUMENT. Sir John Abdy d. 1758. Standing wall monument with large putto standing by an oval medallion with frontal, rather vacant, portrait. Broken pediment on brackets at the top.

St Mary (2)

Window (4)

STAPLEFORD ABBOTS. Close to where the River Roding flows under the Ongar road is the slope of this village, where a lane leads us to a 19th century church with a brick tower and a 17th century chapel. There is elaborate 17th century carving on two chairs and a beautiful pulpit, and the 17 men and one boy who fell in the Great War are remembered by a marble panel of a vigorous St George killing a green dragon, and a window with a soldier trumpeter. But we must go into the vestry to see the finest window, a perfect example of 14th century glass showing Edward the Confessor with his sceptre and ring, his features and his divided beard exquisitely outlined in brown. In the chapel is some 17th century heraldic glass; a 16th century helmet painted with a cap of maintenance, the old badge of nobility;  and a cherub holding a stone portrait in relief of Thomas Abdy, an 18th century lawyer. The Abdys were the great family here from 1650. A path across the fields and a stately avenue from the road leads to their old home of Albyns.

A brick house designed by Inigo Jones, it has in it part of the home built for Sir Thomas Edmondes, whose twelve volumes of diplomatic correspondence are an important source of Elizabethan history. The house is known for a wonderful staircase, carved with the Arts and the Virtues; for its panelling; and for its plaster ceilings. The transomed windows look out on to a square courtyard, and there is a gallery running 100 feet from bay to bay.

Lambourne, Essex

Although the exterior of St Mary & All Saints is fascinating - particularly the Norman north door - it was the interior I particularly wanted to see. Sadly the church was locked with no keyholder listed so this was not to be.

ST MARY AND ALL SAINTS. A church of quite exceptional charm and historical range. It consists of C12 nave and chancel and C15 belfry, but the exterior and interior were re-modelled boldly, naively and very successfully in the Early Georgian age. Norman windows on both sides, a plain Norman S doorway and a more elaborate N doorway, with one order of columns, an arch decorated by zigzag and a fragmentary tympanum diapered with carved stars. The other windows are C18, pointed in the nave, arched in the chancel. The W doorway with a canopy on carved brackets is dated 1726, the W gallery inside 1704 (the gift of an ironmonger of London). This hides much of the substructure of the belfry which outside is crowned by a leaded broach spire. But more unusual and ingenious is the way in which the C15 roof construction was hidden. The tie-beams are plastered and have Greek-key friezes along their undersides, and one king-post with its four-way struts is clothed in rich acanthus leaves. The chancel arch is low and broad, of segmental form and rests on thick coupled brackets. - FONT. C18, with baluster stem. - REREDOS with Corinthian pilasters and a Gothick ogee arch round the E window. — CHANCEL STALLS with fine openwork foliage carving. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - WALL PAINTING. Upper half of a large figure of St Christopher; C14, of high quality. - STAINED GLASS. Fine small panels of C17 Swiss or German glass. - MONUMENTS. Brass to Robert Barfott d. 1546 and wife, with children below; 18 in. figures; chancel floor. - Many C18 and C19 monuments to the Lockwood family, mostly unsigned, the most ambitious that of John Lockwood, erected in 1778. Largish figure of Hope with an anchor and an urn. By Joseph Wilton.

North door (1)

North door (2)

LAMBOURNE. It is at the edge of the ancient forest of Hainault, and from its high ground above the River Roding it looks across to Epping Forest running along the horizon. On this high ground stands the church, with two Norman doorways through which we pass no more. It is the glass of the east window that strikes us as we come in, a modern scene of Bethlehem in memory of Lord Lambourne. In another chancel window are small gems in quieter tones, a group of five panels brought from Basle, painted about 300 years ago. They represent the choice between Good and Evil, the Adoration of the Wise Men, the Incredulity of Thomas, Christ and Peter on the sea, and the Shepherds. A nave window is in memory of a man who loved to ride about these uplands, and lived to ride in that last Wild charge from which he never returned, against the Russian guns at Balaclava. He was George Lockwood, aide-de-camp to Lord Cardigan.

Engraved in brass are the portraits of a Tudor mercer with his wife and their family of nine sons and ten daughters; and there is a wall monument to Thomas Winniffe, who became Dean of St Paul’s and Bishop of Lincoln, and retired here during the Commonwealth. The pulpit is of his day, and some of the old stalls. There is a gallery of 1704.

Lambourne Hall was built in Queen Elizabeth’s day on the site where lived a warrior bishop who fought in Italy for the Pope and crushed the peasant rising against the taxes of Richard the Second. He was Henry le Despenser, of whom perhaps the best that can be said is that he was loyal to Richard after his fall.

Havering atte Bower, Essex

The setting for St John the Evangelist is stunning; it sits on the green with an unusual semi detached tower but was, sadly, locked. Entirely Victorian but for all that this is pleasing building.

ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST. By Basil Champneys, 1875-8, that is an early work of his. Flint, with Dec windows and an arcade in the Essex tradition. A little freer only the S tower with an open E-W passage through, a higher stair turret, and openwork battlements. - FONT. C12, of Purbeck marble, octagonal, with two shallow blank arches on each side.

St John the Evangelist (3)

Corbel (4)

Havering Palace

HAVERING-ATTE-BOWER. Kings and queens have walked here, and wherever we turn we come upon their memory. Here came Edward the Confessor seeking solitude, praying even that the nightingales might be silent. Here Edward the Third invested little Richard as his successor, and from here Richard as king set out for Pleshey with a band of men to trap his uncle Gloucester. Here, too, lived and died Henry the Fourth’s queen, Joan of Navarre, who sleeps at Canterbury.

The portrait of Joan on her tomb at Canterbury shows her as a woman of outstanding beauty, yet she was regarded as a witch, having been accused by her confessor of plotting the death of her stepson Henry the Fifth. Duchess of Brittany when her husband died, she became Regent for theeldest of her eight children. In 1403 she married Henry the Fourth, was crowned at Westminster, and was voted a dowry of 10,000 marks a year. When the king died Henry the Fifth seems to have continued to love his stepmother, though at Agincourt her son Arthur fought against him and was brought captive to her door. Four years later, however, came this horrible accusation and the Council deprived the Dowager Queen of all she possessed, taking her from Havering-atte-Bower to the security of Leeds Castle in Kent and Pevensey in Sussex. The charge appears now to have been a gross piece of injustice and corruption. Henry the Fifth on his deathbed wrote a letter setting his conscience free from blame for having taken the queen’s dowry, and so Joan was set free and what remained of her dowry was returned to her. For the remaining 15 years of her life she was held in high honour by Henry the Sixth.

Historians have always wondered why, in those days when witchcraft was a dread reality, the queen was never brought to trial. An examination of her household accounts (preserved at the Record Office and at John Rylands Library) reveals that Joan was exceedingly well furnished with food, luxuries, and servants during her three years of restraint; and it is now believed that the charge of witchcraft was trumped up so that the Exchequer, almost emptied by the wars in France, should receive the benefit of her dowry, which was a very substantial sum in those days.

The oldest site identifiable on which these royal homes stood is at Havering Park, where an 18th century house with a tower hides in a splendid group of trees. It was the place for the queens when their kings were hunting in Hainault Forest, and the last king to come was Charles Stuart, who was here to meet his wife’s mother, the notorious Marie de Medici. She hoped to settle in England, and Parliament could only be rid of her by a gift of ten thousand pounds.

It is possible still to make out the terraced walks of the royal gardens, and there stands in Pyrgo Park an oak 20 feet round which, if its story were true, would be one of the most famous trees in England, for the story is that under this tree Queen Elizabeth sat when they brought news that the Great Armada had gone down. We cannot vouch for it.

The big village green is on high ground from which the hills of Kent are sometimes seen. Beside the oldest of its elms are two relics of village life long ago, the stocks and whipping-post of about 1700. The church by the green is a handsome 19th century building, with heads of lions in the porch roof under the tower. The chancel is enriched with panelling, the font is Norman, and there is a memorial showing a sorrowing woman and a scene in a harvest field. The oldest gravestone is that of Thomas Cheek, who was Lieutenant of the Tower and died in 1688, the year of the Revolution which doomed the Stuart dynasty for ever.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Chigwell Row, Essex

I set out expecting to find most of the churches on this venture into south Essex locked  but was pleasantly surprised to find the majority open. All Saints, however, was not but I was not unduly concerned as it is a Victorian creation and undoubtedly the interior would be as drab as the exterior - not the worst I've seen but nor the best.

ALL SAINTS. 1867 by Seddon ‘excellent of its sort’ (GR). Yellow stone with white stone dressings. NW tower, low three-bay entrance porch with wheel window above. The style of the church is C13. Inside arcades with thickly carved stiff-leaf capitals. The chancel was rebuilt in 1918-19.

All Saints (4)

CHIGWELL ROW. From its highest point we look out over the Thames valley to the Kent hills, and below us is the famous Hainault Forest where kings and abbots hunted and the LCC now reigns over 1100 acres of rolling fields and woodland. So close it is to London, yet all around is wild and natural, the nightingale sings in the thicket, and many big trees increase their girth undisturbed, though the giant of them all, the Monarch Fairlop Oak, fell a century ago, when it was 45 feet round the trunk and had 17 branches each as big as an ordinary oak.

Thomas Day, author of Sandford and Merton, used to come from his home near by to pay a formal call on the oak every first Friday in July, a practice started by his namesake Daniel, a Wapping pumpmaker who came here to collect rent. The pumpmaker gave his friends an annual feast of bean and bacon under this tent of leaves 300 feet round, and when he died in 1767 his coffin was fashioned from a fallen branch.

An avenue of limes and chestnuts leads to a house close to the 19th century church with a tower of our own century, and it seems fitting that this church among the trees should be graced with much fine woodwork. The east window pictures in lovely colours the opening of the worship of the Lamb. On the wall an arch-angel with grey-blue wings of enamel honours the names of the fallen.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Cambridgeshire revisits

Last Friday I revisited seven Cambridgeshire churches viz: Landwade, Burwell, Landbeach, Hardwick, Harlton, Little Shelford and Great Shelford. I gained access to all of them except Little Shelford which was firmly locked.

Balcombe, Sussex

St Mary is not without interest but was locked so I have no idea what the interior is like!

St Mary (4)

Balcombe. Situated in Ashdown Forest and famous for its fine beech trees, a magnificent avenue leads from Lord Cowdray’s estate into the village.

Round the fine village hall is a gallery of paintings by Neville Lytton with scenes of World War I.

The church is tucked away in the corner of the lanes, ringed in by Scots firs and with wonderful views of the forest. It has a sturdy tower and shingled spire, and goes back to the 13th century. The heads of two kings and two queens hold up the chancel arch, and there is a panel of the Crucifixion in old glass. In the chancel are tablets to three rectors who between them held the living for 129 years.

One morning towards the end of the last century a labourer in a Balcombe field known as Stock Croft struck his spade against something hard while levelling for a tennis court. He brought up a 14th-century water-jug with 756 coins of silver and gold which had lain in the earth 500 years, and are now in the British Museum.

From Ardingly, the village is approached by grass-covered ways through the trees, and old houses dotted here and there. It was in the forest of Balcombe and Tilgate that Dr Mantell of Lewes discovered the remains of the Iguanodon. Dr Mantell combined a busy medical practice with the studies of a scientist and antiquary. His collections are now in the British Museum.

Cuckfield, Sussex

Holy Trinity is fascinating; I had it pegged as a Victorian rebuild but apparently it's C15th, no doubt with later restoration. The vernacular  architecture in Sussex makes me see Victoriana in every church I visit down there - perhaps the Gothic cult emanated from there?

The exterior not so much but a fascinating graveyard and a great interior.

Ninian Burrell 1614 (3)

Guy Carleton 1628 (1.1)


Cuckfield. It stands 400 feet high on the Forest Ridge, and has a park that lives in Harrison Ainsworth’s books. It has a fine 17th-century gateway at the end of an avenue of limes, a charming peep from the road. The house was the home of the Sergisons, one of whom, we read, was an honest man and an M.P. 200 years ago, and now lies in the church beneath a monument by Flaxman showing his portrait and the figure of Truth as a woman with a mirror.

The 17th-century house near the church, Ockenden, was the home of Timothy Burrell, who kept a diary of much curious information from 1683 to 1714. One of his ancestors was vicar here, and another went with Henry the Fifth to France with one ship, 20 men-at-arms, and 40 archers.

The church, in which are monuments by Flaxman and Westacott, is 15th century with a fine 13th  century tower crowned by a tall spire seen in many Sussex pictures. The columns on the south of the nave are from the 13th century church. The roof of the nave and chancel is very unusual, with 80 elaborately painted panels and painted beams supported by angels. The roof is 500 years old and has carved bosses with the badges of the Nevills.

In the church there are two brasses for one man, Henry Bower, who died in the year of the Armada (1588), and in both brasses he wears armour. In one his wife is kneeling with their five children.
The font has been here about 600 years. The chancel has some ancient woodwork, and there is a neatly carved modern pulpit.

On the wall of the tower is still hanging a printed card headed WATERLO0, which reads something like this:

A collection will be made in the church on Sunday 30th July after morning service for the benefit of the families of the brave men killed and the wounded sufferers of the British Army under the command of the Duke of Wellington in the signal victory of Waterloo, when the very smallest contribution will be acceptable.

From the churchyard is a magnificent view of the Downs with two famous windmills centred on the skyline, Jack and Jill of Clayton. A monument nine feet high commemorates Henry Kingsley, Charles Kingsley’s younger brother who was also a novelist best known for his book Ravenshoe about the Crimean campaign.

About the year 1490 Andrew Boorde was born in the pleasant country round the village of Cuckfield. He was a very intelligent lad, was brought up at Oxford, and persuaded the Carthusian monks to admit him into their order before he had reached the regulation age. In 1521 he was invited to become Suffragan Bishop of Chichester but he declined, and seven years later, after 20 years under the hard rule of the monks, he secured his freedom from his vows.

Andrew then spent two years travelling from university to university in Europe learning all he could about medicine. He came back to cure the Duke of Norfolk, who introduced him to Henry the Eighth.
After another journey abroad he returned home to find his royal master in full fury against his old Order. He followed his prior’s example, refused to bow to the King’s will, and was sent to the Tower with him; but a few days later he submitted, and looked to Thomas Cromwell as his patron. Cromwell made use of him, sending him abroad to test the opinion of Europe on his king’s actions. He wrote home that only the French King favoured him. On this journey he sent from Spain the first seeds of rhubarb to come here, with directions for their cultivation. But not for another 200 years was rhubarb grown in this country.

In I538 Andrew Boorde set out for the Holy Sepulchre, and on his way back settled at Montpelier to devote himself to the work by which he lives. There he wrote books on Health, but, most remarkable of all, he wrote the first printed guidebook to Europe. He called it the First Book of the Introduction of Knowledge, and in verse and prose tried to teach the languages, customs, and coinages of 39 countries. The first printed example of gipsy language is in this book. Shakespeare knew of it, and the lines in King John which end:

Nought shall make us rue
If England to itself do rest but true

echo Boorde’s description of Englishmen as bold, strong and mighty, who if they were true within themselves need not to fear although all nations were set against them.

The rest of his life was spent in Winchester and London practising medicine and writing. He wrote a book on astronomy and another travel book, this time on England. But these books did not suffice as outlets for his sparkling vivacity, and so this merry Andrew compiled those Merry Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham which have delighted young and old to this day.

For some sad and forgotten offence Merry Andrew was put in the Fleet Prison, where he died in 1549.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Hurstpierpoint, Sussex

I tried to visit Holy Trinity in April, as mentioned in my Albourne entry, but was thwarted by a wedding; this time it was closed due to refurbishment.

The exterior is not to my taste, but was built by Sir Charles Barry in 1834-5 so that might be a bit churlish, it's the interior It's the interior furnishings I'm interested in. Hopefully better luck next time.

Holy Trinity (3)

Sussex downs

Hurstpierpoint. The church built by Sir Charles Barry 1834-5 has a spire which can be seen for miles and the fine views stretch from Devil’s Dyke to Ditchling Beacon. At Wolstonbury Hill is an ancient camp.

In the church is a Norman font, two old figures on 14th-century tombs; and one of the east windows has some 15th-century medallions. One of the battered figures on the tombs is a 13th-century knight with shield and sword; the other, in armour with a lion at his feet, is Simon de Pierpoint, who was with Richard the First at the Siege of Acre.

There is a brass with a lifelike portrait of Bishop Hannington, born in the village and curate here for seven years.

In 1882 he headed a party of six missionaries to Uganda and at the age of 37 he was consecrated Bishop in charge of the Church Missionary Society’s Churches in Eastern Equatorial Africa. In October 1885 he was murdered by the natives when leading an expedition to open up a shorter route to Lake Victoria Nyanza.

At Hurstpierpoint lived Elizabeth Hitchener, a schoolmistress, who enters into the tempestuous career of Percy Bysshe Shelley. He became acquainted with her in 1811 when he paid a visit to his uncle, Captain Pilford, at Cuckfield.

With his habit of idealising his acquaintances, Shelley saw in Elizabeth a paragon of virtue, wisdom, and exalted genius, and embarked on an ecstatic year’s correspondence with her, which, opening on a high philosophical note, quickly centred about the personality of Elizabeth herself. She was 29 and Shelley was 19 and he was busy writing and talking about ‘the Necessity of Atheism and reform of society in general and his parents in particular. She was steeped in the stilted convention of the novels of the period.

From his “Dear Madam” she progresses rapidly to the dear friend, the dearest friend, and the “soul’s sister” of the poet, with whom he must share his fortune, once he attains it. She, he says, having raised herself from poverty to intellectual eminence, is his superior, and he sets himself the breathless task of emulating the simple splendour of her life.

The letters begin in June of I811; within two months Shelley has taken pity on the sorrows of pretty Harriet Westbrook, his sister’s schoolfellow, and has married her, a girl of 16; two months later he writes to Elizabeth the one full account we have of the unhappy marriage that was to drive Harriet to suicide. It does not make gallant reading.

Shelley has no secrets from Elizabeth; he discusses with her his family, his friends, his politics, and tells her the full story of the treachery of Hogg, who had been the brother of his soul. The letters grow in fervour and frequency; it is Elizabeth and not Harriet who has the bridegroom’s heart. Elizabeth, at ease in the diction of the current fiction, on reading of the baseness of Hogg, finds her blood frozen and is prompted “to forswear her kindred with mankind.”

The upshot of the correspondence is that Elizabeth must forsake her school and join the Shelley household, now including Harriet’s sister. This impossible group held together for five months and then was split by insatiable jealousies and by Shelley’s discovery that his goddess of wisdom was a very ordinary fallible creature, daily contact with whom dispels illusions and turns idolatry into indifference and indifference into hate.

The inevitable parting came, Elizabeth being compensated with a promise of £100 a year to make good the loss of her school. Shelley now transferred his affections to Mary Godwin. He was drowned in 1822, and in that year Elizabeth, then 40, published a poem on the Weald of Kent, which reflects her political opinions and fondly commemorates her friendship with the poet. Soon afterwards she married an Austrian officer, deposited Shelley’s letters and copies of her own with a solicitor, and vanished from knowledge in the country of her husband.

There is one letter of poor Harriet’s, written to Elizabeth from Dublin in 1812, which is curious enough to quote:

“I believe I have mentioned a new acquaintance of ours, a Mrs Nugent, who is sitting in the room now and talking to Percy about Virtue, while the poor of the city are drinking whiskey because they cannot afford bread and being hanged for stealing 13:4d.”

Hurstpierpoint has one of the three schools founded by Nathaniel Woodard, sister to those at Lancing and Ardingly. The huge east window in the panelled chapel has seven large lights with about 100 figures and there are six other stained-glass windows. There are benches with poppy heads and carved arm rests, a screen with a rich cornice and a pulpit with carved angels under canopies.

Intriguing, no?