Monday, 11 February 2013

Wimpole, Cambridgeshire

From Royston I re-visited Litlington and Abington Pigotts and the headed off to St Andrew in the grounds of Wimpole Hall. St Andrew is a hodgepodge building and a mausoleum to various Earls of Hardwicke and their offspring.

I rather liked the C18th classical west facade but was left perplexed by the Victorian re-built nave. Inside is just as peculiar with the nave feeling like a Friends meeting house and the north chapel being filled with monuments as aforesaid. I think this has to be Cambridgeshire's oddest church.

ST ANDREW. To the E of the house and close to the horrible stables. The church as rebuilt by Flizcroft in 1749 was the perfect ecclesiastical counterpart of the mansion. But when it was made Dec in 1887 according to the then current views on decorum, only the entrance bay with the bell-turret and the Venetian window and gable at the E end were left. Inside also little survives of the good manners of the C18, and the W gallery of 1887 with its elephantiasis of Gothic forms leaves one bewildered. The church is a storehouse of monuments, richer than any other in the county. Most of them are in the N chapel. - COMMUNION RAIL. Wrought iron. - STAINED GLASS. Old fragments in the N chapel windows. - MONUMENTS. Brass to a Civilian c. 1500, 17 in. figure. - Brass to a Lady, c. 1500, 18 in. figure. - Brass to Thomas Worsley d. 1590 (?), 4 ft figure with the Virgin and Child small above. - Sir Thomas Chicheley d. 1616, recumbent effigy. - Then three monuments by Scheemakers, all mature works in a style no longer of true Rococo brio: Catherine, wife of the Hon. Charles Yorke d. 1759, designed by James Stuart, 176I. Three putti playing round an urn with garlands of a Louis XVI closeness of outline. Medallion below the urn. - Philip, first Earl of Hardwicke d. 1764, the Lord Chancellor. Also designed by Stuart. A vast affair filling the chapel to the top. Putti against the base. On the base two large allegorical females. Big sarcophagus with two portrait medallions. Obelisk back. - Hon. Charles Yorke d. 1770. Obelisk with portrait medallion and two asymmetrically arranged putti about an urn, less restrained in the composition, because no Athenian Stuart was concerned with it. - Mrs Yorke d. 1766, unsigned. - Philip, second Earl of Hardwicke d. 1790. By Banks. Woman bent over an urn. (The price of this monument was £350.) - R. Hon. Sir James Yorke. Finely carved, without figures. By John Bacon, 1798. - Hon. John Yorke d. 1801. A chef-d’oeuvre of Westmacotts, in a very pure Grecian taste of composition, and yet of a fine intimacy. Husband and wife standing by a tall urn. their gestures and especially the outstretched arm of the lady make a pattern of great lucidity. - (Mrs Charles Yorke d. 1820 by Flaxman.) - Philip, third Earl of Hardwicke d. 1834. By Westmacott jnr, 1844. Tomb-chest with figure in garter-robes asleep. - The monument to Joseph Sydney Yorke 1 I798 is not in its original state. The way it is reassembled, it shows side by side a mourning woman and the prow of a ship.

St Andrew (2)

North chapel

South chancel window (2)

WIMPOLE. Its park lies between two Roman roads, great gates with a stone lion and unicorn opening to it from one part of Ermine Street, and a marvellous avenue running from another and crossing Akeman Street on which the village lies. The avenue is a double one of elms, like a nave and an aisle, 100 yards wide and more than two miles long, and is an approach to the hall built three centuries ago by Sir Thomas Chichele, enlarged by the Earl of Oxford, and made bigger again by Philip Yorke, Earl of Hardwicke. Here Queen Victoria was entertained soon after her marriage, and the story is told how, having by mistake mislaid her jewels, she came down to dinner with a wreath of roses in her hair, someone saying (we doubt not with truth) that not all the jewels in the world could have made her look so queenly.

The great house and the church stand together, linked by association down the ages. The church was made new with brick walls in 1749, but it has kept its Chichele chapel with a great display of monuments in stone and brass. On a big alabaster tomb lies Sir Thomas Chichele of 1616 in gilded armour, at his feet a dog with a bone, and round the tomb six children, one a wide-awake babe in a cradle. The little collection of brasses on the chapel wall includes a fine portrait of Dr Thomas Worsley in his rich Tudor vestments, an unusual picture of the Madonna and her Child, and a very attractive figure of Edward Marshall who was parson here and died in 1625. We see also a graceful woman in a little cap, and a group of six girls in kennel headdresses. In two of the chapel windows there is 14th century glass, with many old shields of lords of the manor, and a figure in brown disguised as a monk. One attractive window shows Our Lord in Glory, and another the Madonna and St George in memory of a soldier of the Great War and his mother. A third window is interesting for its story rather than for the highly coloured glass which tells it. It is to Victor Yorke of the great house, who died of heart failure in 1867 while giving a penny reading when he was the guest of the Rothschilds. We see him as an officer reading to a little group, among them his host and the daughter of the house, whom he was going to marry. "

There is a huge monument to the Earl of Hardwicke, with figures of Britannia and a woman with lilies, and a plaque of himself and his wife. Famous as a lawyer who did much for that part of our law known as Equity, he became Lord Chancellor and presided over the trials which followed the rebellion of 1745. Another monument has a portrait of his son Charles Yorke, who was Lord Chancellor too, and there is a handsome marble figure of the 3rd earl, reclining with a sword and a book, wearing the rich regalia of the Order of the Garter with a pendant of St George slaying the dragon. Other family memorials are in classical style with cherubs, plaques, and figures of women by urns.

A Great Reformer

PHILIP YORKE, the great Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, was the son of an obscure Dover lawyer who sent the lad to his London agent. An industrious apprentice, he studied so hard that, without university training, he was a barrister at 25, Solicitor-General at 30, and four years later Attorney-General.

During this period his foremost patron, Lord Macclesfield, was impeached for corruption. Friendship prompted Yorke to defend him; duty bade him prosecute; and Parliament had a heart and excused the younger man this ungrateful task. At 43 Yorke was Lord Chief Justice and Baron Hardwicke, and at 47 Lord Chancellor. For twenty years he occupied the Woolsack, a model of probity and impartial justice. The custom of the age permitted him to grow rich from fees and perquisites, a system abhorrent to modern minds but then accepted. For years his wife would not hear of his accepting an earldom, observing that, though no suitors would expect more than £10,000 with the Misses Yorke, they would expect £20,000 with Lady Elizabeth and Lady Margaret. A thrifty woman was Lady Hardwicke. The Great Seal of the Lord Chancellor is enclosed in a rich case of embroidered velvet renewed every year, and, twenty of these falling to the Lord Chancellor, his wife had them made into bed hangings.

Hardwicke presided at the trial of the leading rebels in the Stuart rising of 1745, pronounced their doom, and enacted a law forbidding the weaving of tartan as the national dress of Scotland. He was a powerful advocate of the reform of the calendar, reformed the marriage laws, and struck a salutary blow for justice by abolishing hereditary judgeships in Scotland. He died in 1764 rich and honoured, his son Charles succeeding to the Woolsack but dying without enjoying the office.

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