Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Stanningfield, Suffolk

I loved St Nicholas as much for its location, its quirky exterior and the faded, but still excellent, doom painting.

It sits away from the main body of the village with a farm and a hall as neighbours. At some time its tower fell and was replaced by what can only described as a pyramidical cap which gives it its quirky appearance and the Norman north door is fantastic.

ST NICHOLAS. Norman nave. Preserved one N and one S window and the N doorway. Shafts with decayed capitals, arch with slightly decorated zigzag. The church has an incomplete W tower and an uncommonly interesting chancel of c. 1300. The designer certainly liked personal tracery, see the E window with cusped intersections broken by a quatre-foiled circle at the top, the N windows with double-cusped quatrefoils in circles, and particularly the S windows with four pointed trefoils radially in a circle. Squint in the form of a quatrefoil diagonally from the chancel to the outside, that is really a low-side window. Nice, modest contemporary S doorway into the nave, with two orders of closely set fleurons in jambs and arches and a hood-mould with ballflower. - FONT. Octagonal, C14. Panelled stem. Bowl with shields in quatrefoils and panels with blank arches. - SCREEN. Simple, with one-light divisions. - WALL PAINTING. Big C15 Doom over the chancel arch. Dark and not well preserved. - MONUMENT. Good monument to Thomas Rokewode, Late Perp, chancel N wall. Tomb-chest with shields in quatrefoils. Segmental arch and cresting with shields.

North door (1)

Wallpainting - Doom (5-4)

Wallpainting - Doom (3-3)

Wallpainting - Doom (2)

STANNINGFIELD. It stirs us with dramatic memories of Gunpowder Plot, and of a Shakespearean might-have-been, and it has a pleasant appeal as the birthplace of a woman whose writings charmed readers and playgoers in Trafalgar and Waterloo days.

There are few houses in the village, but more at Hoggard’s Green near by, where, with thatched cottages grouped about the pond, stands an ancient dovecot and a massive wooden cross.

Everywhere the name of the Rookwood family speaks to us from the past. They had owned the manor three centuries before the Stuarts succeeded the Tudors, and had built their first home beside the Norman church. Only the fishponds and the moat remain from that old house, and it is near it, hidden among noble trees, with the top of its tower gone, that we find the church. We may come into it by two Norman doorways, one with zigzag and the other with flowers, one protected by a magnificent timber porch. There is Norman work in the nave, but the chancel, with a striking quatrefoil peephole near its arch, was a 14th century gift of the Rookwoods; the font bears their arms. There is a canopied Tudor tomb guarded by angels, the last resting-place of Thomas Rookwood, and many other members of the family are here, including Sir Robert, son of a man James the First sent to the scaffold. Over the chancel arch are traces of wall-paintings, and there is a screen which was carved 600 years ago. The benches have fine old poppyheads.

Coldham Hall, a mile away, succeeded the house by the church, being built in the reign of Elizabeth by, Robert Rookwood, father of the Rookwood of Gunpowder Plot.’ Untouched by the Reformation, the Rookwoods remained Roman Catholic and suffered grievously for their faith; but they lived happily here under the last of the Tudors and the first of the Stuarts.

They had a magnificent stud of horses, one of the finest in the country, and Catesby, when the plans for the Plot were ripening, invited Ambrose Rookwood to join the conspiracy; he was to prepare a rising, for with his swift horses he would be helpful. Ambrose hired a chain of houses between the Severn and the Avon in Warwickshire, to which mysterious men, mounted on his horses, came riding day and night. He himself took Clopton House, which stood in grounds adjoining the Welcombe lands where Shakespeare was just building up an estate. The dramatist was there among his fields round Clopton House while Ambrose Rookwood in his “Hungarian riding cloak, lined all in velvet exceeding costly,” was at the house putting the finishing touches to his share of the Plot.

Clopton House was to be the nearest post to the general point of assembly for the rising after Guy Fawkes had fired his powder, but Rookwood, being little known in London, rode to the capital, and there, four days after his arrival, he was informed of the arrest of Guy Fawkes. The next morning he rode to Brickhill in Buckinghamshire, where he joined Catesby and galloped with him to Holbeach. There he was injured by an explosion of gunpowder stored by the conspirators.

Fighting to avoid arrest, he was wounded and overcome, imprisoned in the Tower, and executed, declaring himself penitent and wishing the king long life and conversion to Roman Catholicism.

It was from the home of her father here that Elizabeth Inchbald stole away to shape a career, first as an actress and afterwards as a novelist. She was a beauty, and famous as actress, playwright, and novelist of the days of the Georges; and now she is all but forgotten. Mrs Inchbald, who was really Elizabeth Simpson, the daughter of a farmer, married Joseph Inchbald the actor, and wrote a number of farces of which only their names remain, All on a Summer Day, which was hissed on the first night; Young Men and Old Women, Wives as They Were, Maids As They Are, and others. A romantic novel called A Simple Story is the piece of literature that has kept her name alive. It was written a generation after Richardson's Pamela and Fielding’s Torn Jones had established the English novel, and before Walter Scott had given it a new direction. Her work differed from any of theirs, and it is nearest in motive to Charlotte Bronté’s Jane Eyre. If she achieved no lasting fame she was well paid for her work as writer, dramatist, and journalist. She was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, and a portrait of her hangsin the Garrick Club. Her reputation was blameless, and when she died she left instructions that her memoirs, for which she had been offered £1000, should be destroyed, so that if she made few enemies in her life she created no new ones after her death.

No comments:

Post a Comment