Saturday, 9 March 2013

Hadleigh, Suffolk

St Mary is a beast of a church, impressive in scale and ambition but strangely antiseptic, however, and this is a big however, it's the first church I've visited which has not only a pool table but also a snooker table in the north aisle - this makes it officially brilliant, sadly I didn't warm to it.

There are bits and bobs (particularly the large benchends - one showing St Edmund's head in the wolf's jaws) to enjoy but the whole left me cold. The Deanery Tower and Guildhall are magnificent though.

ST MARY. The church is 163 ft long and has a tower crowned by a lead broach spire, 135 ft high. Externally mostly Perp, except for the tower, which is clearly of the early C14. To the l. and r. of the bell-openings, which have three-light intersected tracery, are circular openings. Of the C14 also a tomb recess in the S aisle (ogee arch cusped); so the S aisle wall is also of that period. There may be more of it (e.g. the chancel walls) but the windows are Perp, large in the aisles, larger still in the E end, where three windows look down Church Street, smaller, in pairs of two of two lights, in the nave clerestory (renewed). At the E end to the N a two-storeyed vestry, vaulted below. S porch of two bays with side windows and three niches above the entrance. The porch was originally vaulted and had an upper floor. Arcade of five wide bays. The piers have polygonal shafts, carrying capitals only towards the arch openings. The clerestory windows are not above the apexes of the arches, but above the spandrels. Chancel arch and two-bay arcades of the chancel chapels of the same type. In the chancel N wall an EASTER SEPULCHRE, simple, Late Perp, panelled above the arch. - FONT. Octagonal with finely detailed blank niches, two to each side, with feigned rib-vaults. - FONT COVER by Charles Spooner, 1925. - SCREENS. Perp, to the N and S chapels. - BENCH END in the S chapel with representation of the wolf finding the head of St Edmund. - DOOR. The S door has tracery and a border of quatrefoils. - ORGAN CASE. A fine large piece of the early C18, brought in 1738 from Donyland Hall (Essex). - STAINED GLASS. Odd bits in the N chapel E window. — S chapel E window (Christ and the Children) by Hedgeland, 1857, very Nazarene. - E window by Ward & Hughes. - PLATE. All silver-gilt: Paten 1685 ; Paten 1730; Cup and two Flagons 1745; Paten 1792.* - MONUMENTS. Three Brasses of 1593-1637. - Sarah Johnson d. 1793 by Regnart. With two putti by an urn. - First World War Memorial. by Charles Spanner.

CHURCHYARD. The church lies on a lawn, and to the S and W sides of this stand the most spectacular buildings of Hadleigh.

DEANERY TOWER, W of the church. Of the palace built by Archdeacon Pykenham in 1495 only the Gatehouse survives, a splendid brick building with polygonal turrets to the entrance and exit sides, the latter starting on corbels. Four-centred archway. The middle part is three-storeyed, the higher turrets have six stages. In the middle on the first floor oriel windows with a canopy on four trefoiled arches. The same trefoiled arches in pairs form the top of each of the panels into which the turrets are divided. Battlements on centre and turrets, on the centres with pinnacles in the middle. The motifs are similar to those used in the far more monumental gatehouse of Oxburgh in Norfolk (1482). The ornate chimneys are of c.1830. In the first-floor room inside a painting of the church, by a local artist, Benjamin Coleman, dated 1629. The room was panelled in 1730. To the l. of the tower first a majestic lime tree and then, in a contemporary Wall, two small stone archways, apparently earlier than the tower. These come from a former second S porch further E than the other. To the r. of the tower the DEANERY, also brick, simple imitation Tudor of 1831, enlarged in 1841. Built with the use of some old materials.

GUILDHALL, to the S of the churchyard. Timber-framed. Of two parts, both C15. The centre is of three storeys, with two overhangs. On the ground floor the characteristic thin buttress posts. To the l. of this the Long Room, the former guildhall proper. It is on the first floor. The ground floor was originally almshouses. To the E of the churchyard CHURCH STREET starts (with good houses on the N side, especially the RED HOUSE) and leads to the main crossroads of Hadleigh.

* Hadleigh possesses the earliest church BELL in Suffolk, probably of the late C13.

Bench end (2)

North aisle window (2)

Deanery Tower

HADLEIGH. It is one of those Suffolk corners we do not forget, with a fascinating group about the church: the marvellous walls of the church itself, the ancient timbered guildhall, the medieval houses, and the deanery tower with its age-long dignity and its pathetic memory. The windows, the roofs, the lovely chimneys, blend with as fine a group as we could wish to see, and it is the picture we remember of Hadleigh - this and its long street of old inns and houses, carved brackets and plaster fronts and overhanging eaves, and especially the old almshouses built by William Pykenham, with their little 15th century chapel, which still has benches on which the Darbys and Joans of Hadleigh have sat for many generations.

In the streets of this old town have walked many boys who grew up to serve their generation well. John Overall was one of the makers of the Authorised Version of the Bible; Joseph Beaumont and William Alabaster were both poets; Thomas Woolner was the sculptor whose bust of Tennyson is in Westminster Abbey. But most famous of all the men of Hadleigh is the heroic Rowland Taylor, who was rector here for 11 years before they burned him on Aldham Common outside the town, in 1555. There is a monument to him on the common telling us that in defending what was good he at this place left his blood; and it is the chief interest of the deanery tower that the brave martyr hid himself in its tiniest chamber, where he must have spent some of the happiest and some of the most anxious hours of his life.

The tower was built by Archdeacon Pykenham in 1495 as the gatehouse of a parsonage which then stood near the river. It is a fine red brick place with panelled and battlemented turrets, inside one of which we may climb up to the oriel-windowed rooms above the gate. We come also up these steps into the lovely little vaulted oratory which has a secret way into the small chamber where Dr Taylor hid; if we are privileged to come to the deanery (a fine 19th century gabled house built on to the gateway) we may see the trapdoor through which he would creep.

It was in one of these rooms that the Oxford Movement began at a conference called by Dean Rose; the conference decided on the issue of the famous Tracts for the Times which made a great stir in the country. In one of the gatehouse rooms is a picture by Canaletto; it is of his native Venice and is said to have been painted here.

From the window of the gatehouse we look across to the timber-fronted guildhall, which saw the great prosperity of this woollen town from the Middle Ages up to the 17th century, having been the meeting-place of five guilds which existed here.

The great church, one of the spectacular buildings of Suffolk, is the fifth church of the county in size, the work of our three great building centuries but mostly of the 15th. Its great windows run in two rows from end to end of the chancel and the nave. The narrow tower is 64 feet high with a spire of 71 feet which has been here since the 14th century and covered with lead in our time. The tower is 700 years old, and one of the eight bells has been ringing since its earliest days.

We come in through two fine doors which have been on their hinges about 500 years. The wagon-headed roof of the nave is of last century; the chancel roof is old with bosses and grotesques and rich tracery. There are two elegant open screens in the aisles, medieval panelling in the finely vaulted vestry, and old bench-ends, on one of which we noticed a grotesque animal with folded wings and an ornamented collar, wearing a hood. It is holding a man’s head by the hair and is an extraordinary piece of work, supposed to represent the story of King Edmund, whose head was found near a wolf after the king had been decapitated by the Danes. It is believed that a beautiful 14th century tomb in the south aisle stands near the place where the Danish king Guthrum was buried in 889.

There is another lovely tomb in the sanctuary about 500 years old, thought to be that of Archdeacon Pykenham. The fine font comes from the same days, but it has a remarkable cover in memory of John Overall; it is 16 feet high. In a few fragments of old glass are the arms of four Archbishops of Canterbury, and in a window of the south wall is a group of scenes in the life of Rowland Taylor, showing him walking with a friend, preaching to his people, and standing bravely in white at the stake.

On the wall opposite his window is a 17th century brass with a rhymed epitaph to him in 20 lines; they have been engraved on the back of a Flemish brass of 1500, the Flemish engraving showing a civilian with long hair, wearing a triple chain. Other brasses of the 16th and 17th centuries show Bishop Still and his wife, John Alabaster, and Richard Glanfield and his wife, a quaint couple of Charles Stuart’s days, holding hands and wearing ruffs, she in a wide-brimmed hat.

There is a memorial to the 111 men who did not come back from the war, a charming relief of a mother and child, and a font cover, all by the same artist, Charles Sydney Spooner, who worked under the inspiration of William Morris.

The Pitiful Fate of a Scholar

ROWLAND TAYLOR was a Northumbrian, born in the beginning of the 16th century and distinguished as a scholar at Cambridge. He was brought up a Roman Catholic, but the preaching of Hugh Latimer started a doubt in his mind, and he became chaplain to Cranmer and a Protestant. Cranmer appointed him to Hadleigh, one of the first places in England where the Reformation began to quicken, and this man of good will and good works was the best loved parish priest in Suffolk.

But all was changed with the coming of Mary Tudor. Hearing the bell of his church ringing on a day when the building was supposed to be closed, Taylor hurried to find a strange priest celebrating mass, with two Roman Catholic parishioners for his congregation. The firm protest of the rector was followed by his being thrust out of the church, the door was locked in his face, and a report of his prohibition of the mass forwarded to the Bishop.

Summoned before Bishop Gardiner, he was brutally badgered and ill-used, but preserved an unruffled calm, appealing to the laws of Edward the Sixth and greatly reminding the terrible Chancellor of his own breach of the oath. Both Gardiner and Bonner pursued him with bitter malevolence, and found delight in stripping him and having the garments of a Roman Catholic priest forcibly put on him. He was sentenced to death.

He began his last journey in the middle of the night, but in the darkness his wife and their little children found him, cry answering cry in the gloom of the shrouded city streets. Four yeomen of the guard were his escort, three of them often in tears for his sake, the fourth a ruffian. The journey ended. “What place is this?” asked Taylor, and when they told him it was Aldham Common, and that there he was to suffer, he exclaimed. “Thanked be God; I am even at home.” The stake was ready, and Taylor, stripped to his shirt, gave away his clothes to those about him. When he began to speak to the sorrowing multitude the fourth yeomen struck him a heavy blow on the head.

Ordered to light the fire, one of the villagers pretended lameness, but others were forthcoming as the martyr stepped into a pitch barrel and was chained by the waist to the stake. As the flames leapt up he began to pray aloud, and with hands folded across his breast submitted to the fire, uncomplaining.

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