Monday, 18 February 2013

Hoxne, Suffolk

On my way to Hargrave to get the visit back on track I passed through Hoxne and stopped at SS Peter & Paul which is simply huge but felt sadly neglected. The north aisle has been turned in to an exhibition hall focusing on St Edmund and the Hoxne Hoard - the hoard is self explanatory but the reason St Edmund is of interest here is because Hoxne is the reputed site of his martyrdom.

Despite the general air of dilapidation there is a very good font, some excellent, albeit vandalised, poppyheads (including the wolf guarding St Edmund's head) and a series of faded wallpaintings.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. One of the grandest of the W towers in this part of Suffolk. Perp. Stair-turret higher than the tower, tall angle pinnacles. Frieze of shields in quatrefoils at the base. Buttresses and battlements with flushwork panelling. W doorway with crowns, mitres, fleurons, and shields in the arch mouldings. Two niches by the W window. Nice, more modest N doorway, but also with shields and fleurons in the arch. Perp also the rest of the church except for the chancel which was rebuilt in 1879. Tall windows. The arcade of six bays seems earlier. Octagonal piers, arches of one chamfer and one hollow chamfer. Perp clerestory on the S side only. - FONT. Octagonal. Against the stem four seated and four standing figures. Against the bowl the Signs of the Evangelists and four angels with shields. - BENCHES. Four with poppy-heads and two seated figures to each end, l. and r. of the poppy-head. - WALL PAINTINGS. Against the N wall, from W to E: St Christopher, the Seven Deadly Sins represented as growing on a tree (two devils are busy sawing it, while at the top of the tree stands an elegant youth), the Seven Works of Mercy with explanatory scrolls; dim. - PLATE. Set 1790. - MONUMENT. Thomas Maynard d. 1742. By Charles Stanley. Standing, in the pose made fashionable by Guelfi’s Craggs Monument in Westminster Abbey. His elbow leans on an urn standing on a pedestal. Against this a fine relief of a woman and eight children. Obelisk background.

Font (1)

Poppyhead (9)

John Thruston 1606

HOXNE. It is King Edmund’s village; its people will always believe that here the martyr king was chained to a tree, scourged with whips, and riddled with arrows till he died. On the death of King Offa Edmund was crowned King. of East Anglia, though he was only 15. He was a man whom Alfred would have loved, a model of Christian virtue and enlightened government. An old chronicler tells us that he turned neither to the right hand by being puffed up, nor to the left by yielding to the faults of human weakness; that he was a cheerful giver, and to the widows and orphans the kindest of patrons. For ten years he reigned in peace by paying tribute to the Danes, but in spite of his tribute the Danes burst in to East Anglia, burning the towns, and destroying the monasteries as they came. On this very ground the battle was fought, and to save further bloodshed Edmund surrendered himself to the foe. They bade him surrender half his treasure, to reign as a vassal, and to change his faith. His faith he refused to change, and they stripped him, chained him to a tree, scourged him as the Romans scourged his Master, shot him with arrows, and finally beheaded him. His body lay here for 33 years before it was taken to the splendid shrine at Bury St Edmunds. In after years Canute rebuilt the minster there, laid his crown upon the altar, and endowed the church as a Benedictine Monastery. Below the church at Hoxne is an old brick bridge replacing the wooden one which is believed to have been set up near the spot where the king hid from the Danes; in the library close by is a medallion showing him hiding under the bridge. The story is that he took refuge from his enemies until he was discovered by a wedding party, who saw his spurs glittering in the moonlight and sent news of his whereabouts to the Danes.

A little way up the road is one of Suffolk’s delightful English houses, known as The Abbey. It has beautiful brick and timber walls, a quaint porch, and four curious wooden figures linked with Roman mythology, but it is chiefly interesting because it stands on the site of a wooden church in which King Edmund’s body is believed to have rested for a generation while the shrine was being prepared at Bury St Edmunds. It is said that from the windows of the Abbey can be seen beyond the trees the very field where the king was done to death. We came to it when the harvest had been gathered and the hillside was waiting for the plough, and we remembered that in olden days (indeed until almost within living memory) there stood here a great oak like a lonely monarch of the fields. It crashed one summer’s day near the middle of last century. It had long been a place of pilgrimage, and today there is here a stone cross with two arrows and a simple inscription based on the old tradition. It all seems true enough, for many years ago there was in Hoxne church a block cut from the trunk of the tree, and embedded in it was an arrow, which is today preserved at Hengrave Hall, Bury St Edmunds.

The houses of this town are a veritable delight, some timbered and many thatched, their windows looking over the lovely country where the River Waveney winds among pleasant woods and meadows. It has elms shading an old fashioned well on a tiny green, almshouses that have long survived the great house of the man who built them, and a medieval vicarage with quaint brickwork, grand old beams, and traces of a moat. Charming above the red roofs is the grey tower of the 15th century church, massive and about 100 feet high, with a beautiful window set between canopied niches. The south porch has a doorway of the 14th century, and we come into the nave (which has a handsome old cornice on the roof) by a door that has been opening for over 400 years. The nave arcade of six low arches rests on 13th century pillars, and the nave walls have fragments of paintings fading after 500 years; they show the Works of Mercy and the Last Judgment, and one has a tree which is being sawn through by demons, its branches having quaint figures on them. Among the treasures of the church are an ancient altar stone, a reredos made from an old screen, an exquisite peace memorial with a little silver Crucifix and beautiful lettering, and two flags which tell a tragic tale. They were flying at the masthead of a ship wrecked in a terrible storm in 1870, and, having been picked up by another vessel off Cape Finisterre, they were given to this village in memory of two Home seamen who perished in the wreck.

The splendid font, with rich panels above a moulding supported by angels, is 15th century. The organ was made from an old barrel-organ. Among the little wooden figures on the benches is a quaint carving of a wolf holding King Edmund’s head, and on modern screen in the tower are four soldiers shooting St Edmund. In the north chapel stands a finely carved figure of Sir Thomas Maynard of the 18th century, and on a marble monument with a canopy are inscriptions to Sir Edward Kerrison of 1886 and the famous Sir Edward who commanded a regiment at Waterloo, where a horse was shot under him.

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