Friday, 24 May 2013


also known as Boudicca.

Boadicea (1)

Boadicea (2)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Wickham Bishops, Essex P2

St Peter is redundant and now in use as a stained glass studio which seems rather appropriate; much better than conversion into domestic use.

Pevsner incorrectly names St Peter:

ST BARTHOLOMEW. 1850 by Ewan Christian. Quite ambitious, of freestone with a tall steeple with spire. With the erection of this church the old church became superfluous.

ST BARTHOLOMEW. The old church stands 1 m. SW of the new. It consists of nave and chancel with a small belfry. The only remaining feature of special interest is the SE quoin of Roman bricks, evidence of the Early Norman origin of the church.

St Peter (4)

WICKHAM BISHOPS. In the fields, a few yards from the 15th century doorway of a cottage, we came upon an ill-used and deserted church with a shingle spire on a wooden turret. The Normans built it, using Roman bricks for the corners of the chancel and Roman tiles for a doorway. The doorway has been replaced with a medieval brick porch, and there is still hanging in it a door 500 years old. We found the tie-beams of the 15th century roof still strong, but the rest was a picture of desolation, with the pavement broken round the font, which had a lid 500 years ago to prevent the holy water from being stolen for black magic. On the altar is a gravestone with the word Resurgam, and we may hope it will be prophetic for the old church. Only its 600-year-old chest has been moved to the new church with the lofty spire.

Still ringed round with its moat is Wickham Hall, a timbered Stuart house with 15th century glass painted with lively little birds.

Pevsner on Waltham Abbey

WALTHAM ABBEY is no more than a fragment of what it was: a Norman nave, a C14 chapel, a C14 W wall, and a C16 W tower.At the E  end at least two thirds of the building have gone, and nearly all the monastic buildings have gone. The abbey was founded in 1030 as a collegiate church of secular canons. It was built or rebuilt with some pomp by Harold and consecrated in 1060. We have no date after that, until we come to 1177, the re-foundation as an abbey of Augustinian Canons In 1184 it was given the dignity of a ‘mitred abbey’, and it soon became one of the most prosperous and important abbeys e in the country. It is teasing for the historian that for the main part of the surviving building no dates exist to guide him. In addition, until 1938, no guidance existed either as to the extent and character of the work which followed the re-foundation of 1177. The extent is now known, though not yet the character. The one is due to excavations carried out in 1938-9, the other to their limited scope. The Early English abbey meant the addition to the Norman nave and crossing of a whole church, that is a choir longer than the Norman nave, an E transept bigger than the Norman transept and a long and large retrochoir. It must have dwarfed the Norman parts completely, and may have looked something like Canterbury Cathedral before the nave was rebuilt in the C14. But we do not know the style of 1177 etc. at Waltham. The E parts of the abbey were pulled down after the Dissolution.

The Norman crossing which had been left standing in 1177 was then also pulled down. So all that survives of Norman architecture is nave and aisles, a nave, no more than seven bays long. It seems, except for C14 adjustments at the W end and C19 adjustments at the E end, to be all of a piece, but reveals to the attentive observer many puzzling irregularities. The present E wall is an infilling of the CI9 across the W arch of the crossing and the aisle arches into the transepts. This is clearly visible from the outside, where also one S transept W window can be noticed, which now leads into the C14 chapel (see below). Below it is exposed coarse rubble masonry, laid herringbone-wise.

The exterior of the nave is simple: aisle windows with nook-shafts, circular gallery windows, and clerestory windows with nook-shafts and some zigzag decoration - all much renewed. The Norman S doorway of two orders, with an upcurved lintel and zigzag in the arches is in its surface, it seems, wholly C19. The inside is much more impressive. It has something of the sturdy force of Durham Cathedral, though neither its size nor its proportions. The system of elevation which applies throughout is that of nearly all major Anglo-Norman churches: arcade-gallery-clerestory. It is baffling, though only for a moment, that the gallery is deprived of its floor so that the aisles are now much higher than they were meant to appear. The arcades have supports alternating between superordinate composite piers, and subordinate round ones. The gallery openings are large and un-subdivided. The clerestory has the usual English arrangement of a wall-passage and, towards the nave, an arcade of three arches for each bay, with the middle arch wider and taller.

In detail the most striking of all features of Waltham is the deeply grooved circular piers - a detail familiar from Durham, and also from Norwich, nearer Waltham. These piers are spiral-grooved in the first circular pair from the E, zigzag grooved in the second, and left plain in the third. The composite piers have a buttress-like broad flat projection to the nave with a demi-shaft attached, and this projection with its shaft runs up to the ceiling without any break. The capitals are big and heavy, single- or double-scalloped. Above the first circular pier from the E they project a little more boldly than above the others. These first circular piers have also different bases, and the E respond (as also the E arch of the S aisle), is different in one detail from the W responds. Of the four capitals of the three respond shafts, the middle one is a little deeper on the E side. In the arches a difference of a similar nature can be detected. The arches have all zigzag ornamentation on the faces, but in the E ones the inner zigzag goes fairly deeply into the soffits as well - again a sign of a bolder, more three-dimensional treatment. It finds its parallel in the W crossing arch high up.* Again, looking at the arcade from the aisles, it will be noticed that in the W parts each pier, including the subordinate circular ones, has attached demi-shafts, introduced no doubt to carry transverse arches on which to support groined vaults or simply the gallery floors. Only the eastern-most circular pier has no such attachment. Finally, looking at the same pier once more from the nave, a small corbel-head will be noticed, on the N as well as the S side, immediately above the column, as if to support a wall-shaft, never built. The wall-shafts start only at gallery level, as they do in the W parts as well.

Now for the gallery. Here the E bay piers have three shafts towards the arch openings, the W bays only two. The existence of these shafts incidentally indicates that the gallery openings were originally subdivided or meant to be subdivided. In the W the arches themselves have billet-decorated hood-moulds; in the E these are absent. Another distinction on the level of the gallery refers to S as against N. The corbels on which the wall-shafts between the arches rest are plain on the S side, but carved into heads on the N. Perhaps that shows no more than that carving of such details, where it was done, was done aprés la pose.

In the clerestory there are even more differences. The W bays on the N side have round piers between the arches and a plain moulding of the stilted centre-arches in each group of three. The capitals are scalloped with a little decoration between the scallops. On the S side the piers are quatrefoil in plan, and the middle arches stand on a short second tier of shafts. The arches themselves have roll-mouldings. The N and S E bays however have an alternation of circular and octagonal piers and on both sides the subsidiary shafts and roll-mouldings. .

Now what does all this minor evidence indicate of the building history of the Norman nave? Taken together it can mean only one thing: that the E double bay was built later than the bays further W. That is surprising, because of the familiar fact that medieval churches were built from the E to the W. It is however quite conceivable that Harold’s chancel of 1060 was allowed to remain, when a new nave was begun and that only in the course of building the decision was taken to renew the E parts as well. As for dates, the earliest grooved columns seem to be those at Durham of c. 1095-1100. Those at Norwich are datable before 1119. The plain, heavy ground-floor capitals at Waltham Abbey look more C11 than C12. But the arches have zigzag decoration from the beginning, and zigzag does not occur anywhere in England before c. 1105-10. So that date may mark the beginning of the W parts including their gallery. The clerestory was then erected on the N side, then that on the S, and then finally the E bays were tackled and erected including their clerestory and the arches to the crossing and transept. They may well belong to the mid C12 or even a little later.

Of the C13 - this has been said with regret before - nothing can be seen and little said, before excavations have been resumed and concluded.

The early C14 added a S chapel, W of the W transept. It is now the Lady Chapel. Externally it has flint and stone bands, a very unusual W window, of three times two-lights, with a straight head and Dec tracery, three fine three-light S windows, also with Dec tracery and buttresses between them enriched with recesses. The chapel itself stands on a vaulted undercroft of two bays with chamfered ribs and small windows decorated by head-stops. The chapel is not vaulted. Inside the W window is a delightful detached three-light arcade with pierced spandrels. Also early in the C14 the W end of the church was rebuilt. To this rebuilding belong the westernmost windows of the aisles with the pretty niches against the W buttresses, the arches replacing the arches of the Norman gallery inside towards the W end, the last bay on the S side of the clerestory and the W front. The remains of this are now only visible inside the tower. The portal is single. It is deep enough to allow for a very shallow vault which is carried on four columns. The outer columns are a normal order of portal columns, the inner are placed on diagonal seats which form the sides of the little vaulted portal niche. The jambs and arch of the doorway are decorated with fleurons. Above the doorway is a gable and in the spandrel a circle with a quatrefoils placed. To the l. and r. of the doorway are the beginnings of blank shafted niches as they were so usual in English church fronts. The outer W portal of the tower is of the same date and apparently re-used. It has three orders of columns with foliated capitals and fleurons in the arches, all very defaced. In date all this work seems a little earlier than the S chapel, as ogee arches do not appear anywhere.

The W tower was added after the Dissolution in 1556-8, as a characteristic sign of the change-over from monastic to parochial.+ It has irregular flint and stone chequer-work below, and ashlar facing in the often restored upper parts. The stones were taken, it is said, from the crossing tower which had collapsed in 1552. The buttresses are placed diagonally and carry square pinnacles also in a diagonal position. Each side has two two-light bell-openings. The E wall was re-modelled by W. Burges in 1859-60 with all the robust ugliness which that architect liked. Extremely short columns with thick shaft-rings and thick crocket capitals, plenty of carved figure work and a big wheel window above - astoundingly loud after the silent severity of the nave.

FONT. Of Purbeck marble, octagonal, C12 or C13, absolutely plain. - PULPIT. Good, mid C17. At the angles tapering pilasters, in the panels elaborate frames crowned by open segmental pediments. This pulpit is now kept in the S chapel. The new pulpit was designed by Burges and made in 1876. - SCREEN, at W end of N aisle. The heavy construction and the simple tracery indicate a C14 date. - REREDOS. With four big carved reliefs. Designed by Burges. - SCULPTURE. Exceedingly fine small early C14 figure from a former reredos, at the E end of the S aisle. - PAINTING. On the E wall of the Lady Chapel. Doom; CI4, very faded. - Ceiling of the nave, in the style of the original work at Peterborough; by Sir Edward Poynter. - STAINED GLASS. The E window by Burne-Jones, 1861, and made by Powell’s, in its vigorously stylized composition and figure design and its glow of colour amongst the best glass done in the C19, much bolder than most Morris & Co. glass and much richer in the scale of colours used. Almost as remarkable and as daring the E window of the S aisle by Henry Holiday, 1864. - The recent glass by A. K. Nicholson looks very anaemic in comparison. - PILLORY and WHIPPING POST now kept in the S chapel. - PLATE. Paten on foot of 1561, with bands of ornament; large Cup of 1633; large Paten on foot of 1674. -
MONUMENTS.- BRASSES with wood and stone surrounds of 1555 and 1576 (S aisle). - Sir Edward Denny d. 1599 and wife. Standing wall monument. Two semi-reclining effigies, the man behind and a little above the woman. Shallow coffered arch and flanking columns. In the spandrels figures of Fame and Time. Strapwork cartouche against the back wall. By Isaac James and Bartholomew Adye (Mrs Esdaile). - Lady Gray d. 1619. The stiff figure only is preserved. - Capt. Robert Smith d. 1697. Tomb-chest with a relief of trophies and a ship, called Industria. To the l. and r. arms and cherubs’ head used instead of volutes. - James and Hester Spilman d. 1763. Fine monument with the usual cherub standing by a sarcophagus against a grey obelisk. Two portrait heads in profile at the foot. - Caroline Chinnery d. 1812. Plain, elegantly shaped urn on a pillar. On the urn in good lettering the one word Caroline. - Thomas Leverton (the architect) d. 1824. By Kendrick. The usual design with a woman weeping over an urn.

The Cloister of the monastery lay N of the long E.E. choir. All that remains of it is a PASSAGE which led N from the NE angle of the cloister. It is of two bays, rib-vaulted on shafts with waterleaf capitals, and must belong to the late C12. In addition the Abbey GATEHOUSE survives, N of the W front of the church. This is of the later C14 and has to the outside a wide entrance for carriages and a small one for pedestrians. The large one has angels as label-stops. Of the angle turrets only one is preserved. The S wall should be examined with care, as it seems to have brickwork contemporary with the building, that is of exceptionally early date. The BRIDGE leading to the gatehouse is also attributed to the C14.

* Another parallel is in the exterior in the clerestory windows, where the E. bays have windows starting lower down, and zigzag etc. going into the arch soffits.
+ Another parochial feature introduced at an unknown date is the rood-beam, the sawn-off ends of which can still be seen above the second piers from the E.

Pevsner on Thaxted

ST JOHN THE BAPTIST. The church, as we see it now, appears at first all of one piece, proud, spacious, clear and a little frigid inside, and outside dominated by its splendid tall steeple. The spire reaches 181 ft up; the church is 183 ft long. The material is pebble rubble. Ashlar is not used; but otherwise, in innumerable details, it is obvious that much money was spent on the building. It is embattled all round, pinnacles are used in addition to battlements, decorative friezes of ornament or figures appear here and there, and so on. The church has often been restored, but care has always been taken and, except for the C18 windows of the transept fronts, not much has been changed. The spire, it is true, was struck by lightning in 1814 and had to be rebuilt, but the reconstruction was accurate. The tower has setback buttresses, but the angles are not of 90 degrees. They form two sides of a polygon. At the top of the tower battlements and panelled pinnacles connected by flying buttresses to the spire.This is of Northamptonshire type, with crockets and three tiers of dormer windows. Niches to the l. and r. of the W door and the W window. The aisle windows are identical on the N and S sides, with depressed heads and panel tracery - four lights, and five at the W end. The chancel chapels have longer, straightheaded windows, again identical on the N and S sides and again with panel tracery. The E window is huge, of five-lights and has an odd mixture of Perp detail and intersections. Both porches are two-storeyed, but that on the S side (the earlier - built between 1362 and 1368) is slightly less sumptuous. Even so it has a main S doorway and subsidiary doorways from the E and W, three-light side openings, and a star-shaped tierceron vault. The N porch vault has liernes as well and many bosses. This porch is taller than the other, in fact almost as high as the transept, which is most effective when one looks at the church from the NW. The doorway has large shields in the spandrels, two upper windows side by side, with fleuron surrounds, a turret at the NW angle which is higher than the porch, and a figure-frieze below the battlements. There are even headstops to the gables of the first set-offs of the buttresses. A similar figure frieze below the battlements can also be noticed in the N transept, and there are many more minor enrichments, gargoyles etc.

The interior in its present form is white and bared of all major furnishings, though there are plenty of smaller objects of devotion about, mostly bought in recently. The surprising lightness is largely due to the fact that clear glass is used everywhere. The arcades are the earliest element of the church. They date from c. 1340. The piers are quatrefoil with very thin shafts in the diagonals. The two-centred arches have mouldings with two quadrants. The hood-moulds rest on comparatively big headstops. The crossing arch belongs to the same C14 church. The C15 rebuilding proceeded as follows: S transept late C14, N transept c. 1400, N aisle widened and N porch added C. 1445; steeple probably late C15, chancel and chancel chapels, crossing arches to N, S, and E, and clerestory c. 1510. The date of the S transept can be deduced from the fine blank arcading below the S window, with alternating pointed and coupled ogee arches, all crocketed richly. The date of the N transept appears in the corresponding arcading on the N side and the fine Reredos on the E wall with ogee-headed niches and a frieze above in which Christ appears between censing angels. The tall tower arch and the vault inside the tower must be C15. The chancel arcades of c. 1510 have an interesting very complex pier section: semicircular shafts to the arches, but to the chancel a combination of thin shafts and thin hollows not having a capital but turning round to the l. and r. above the arches to form frames. In the arch spandrels is broad simple openwork tracery. The roofs of all parts of the church are original, and all are flat-pitched. Tie-beams are used only in the chancel. The figures at the brackets and the bosses will repay some attention.

FONT CASE AND COVER. Case with two tiers of traceried panels hiding the font completely. Top with buttresses, canopies, finial etc., a little broader and heavier than at Littlebury. - PULPIT. A fine late C17 piece with garlands hanging down the angles between the panels. The staircase with twisted balusters does not belong. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters ; c. 1700. - SCREENS to the N and S chapels late C17, with a frieze of thick openwork foliage scrolls. - DOOR. In the N doorway, with traceried panels, C15.- ORGAN. Said to have been made by John Harris for St John’s Chapel, Bedford Row, London in 1703. - BENCHES. A number of French (?) benches of the mid C17 with tall ends. - STAINED GLASS. Many figures and other fragments have been distributed over N and S windows. The most notable are the early C16 figures of Saints in the N windows, the late C14 figure in the S transept S window, and the stories from Genesis, with small figures of c. 1450, in a S aisle window. - E window and N chapel E window by Kempe, the former 1900, the latter 1907. - PLATE. Cup of 1562 ; large Cup of 1622 ; Paten on foot of 1632 ; Almsdish of 1795. - MONUMENTS. Brass to a Priest (chancel), c. 1450. The dearth of monuments more than anything tends to give Thaxted church that curious atmosphere of remoteness which one cannot help feeling directly one enters.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Pevsner on Saffron Walden

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. With a total length of nearly 200 ft Saffron Walden is one of the largest parish churches of Essex. It 1s also one of the most lavishly designed - in a style entirely E from across the border, East Anglian of the Suffolk and even more the Cambridge brand. There are indeed certain features which make connexions with King’s College Chapel and Great St Mary more than likely. The whole church was re-built between c. 1450 and c. 1525, with the exception of a crypt partly below the S aisle and partly below the S porch, and  the arcades from the chancel into the N and S chapels, and from these chapels into the aisles. These parts are of the C13 and indicate a church with crossing and transept, narrower aisles and a S porch, corresponding to the crypt. The CRYPT is divided into four bays and has single-chamfered arches and ribs springing from semi-octagonal responds. The chancel arcades have quatrefoil piers and moulded capitals and arches. The rebuilding started with the chancel and ended with the chancel arch, the nave clerestory, alterations to the chancel chapels, and the completion of the tower.

The exterior of the church is as follows. The W tower has setback buttresses, decorated battlements, and at the corners big panelled polygonal pinnacles like turrets. The tall octagonal stone spire with crockets and two tiers of dormers, the lower one of two lights with a transome, was added in 1831 to the designs of Rickman & Hutchinson, the architects, at the same time, of New Court, St John’s College, Cambridge. The aisles, clerestoreys and chancel chapels of the church are all embattled and have pinnacles. There are large, wide four-light windows in both aisles with elaborate but not very interesting panel tracery, equally large windows of different, somewhat closer panel tracery in the chancel chapels, a C19 five-light E window dating from the restoration by Butterfield in 1876, and three-light clerestory windows. At the E end of the nave clerestory are two polygonal turrets with crocketed stone roofs clearly dependent on King’s College Chapel as completed in 1515. The S porch is of two storeys, also embattled and pinnacled. It has an upper window of four lights. The N porch has only one storey. That is the only external difference between the two sides.* The church lies indeed in such a commanding position, on a hill, higher than the surrounding streets, that it can be seen as prominently from the N as the S.

Now for the interior. The arcades of seven bays are very tall with lozenge-shaped piers enriched by four attached shafts and with hollows and finer connecting mouldings in the diagonals. Only the shafts towards the arches have capitals. The shafts to the nave run on unbroken (except for a thickening at the main horizontal course) to the springers of the roof and only there have capitals. The diagonal members have no capitals at all. The spandrels of the arches are closely decorated with tracery as at Great St Mary’s Cambridge and of course also at Lavenham and other Suffolk churches. The horizontal course has fleurons, the clerestory mullions are carried down in panels to the string course. The roofs are original everywhere, low-pitched and adorned variously with bosses, tracery, badges etc. As for other enrichments, the three bays of the N aisle have blank wall-arcades with different intricately carved heads. Especially the easternmost bay is worth studying. The figures in the spandrels represent King David, St John, Doubting Thomas, the Virgin, the Scourging of Christ, the Agony in the Garden. They are clearly earlier than the aisle and must for some reason be re-used material - FONT. Octagonal, C15 to early C16, with quatrefoils and shields. - SCREEN. 1924 by Sir Charles Nicholson. - ORGAN casa. The one side still in the pretty Gothick state of 1825, the other re-done by Bodley in 1885. - PAINTING. Copy of Correggio’s “The Day” by the Rev. W. Peters. -SCULPTURE. Small piece of a C15 alabaster altar in the S porch, N wall. - STAINED GLASS. Good Shepherd, Samaritan etc. S aisle, 1858, whom by ? - Four Evangelists S aisle by Lavers & Barraud, 1859. - N aisle windows (East Anglian Saints, Four Musicians) by Powell. - N Chapel E window by Burlison & Grylls, 1904. - PLATE. Silver-gilt Cup, Paten, and Flagon of 1685; silver gilt Cup and Paten given 1792.

MONUMENTS. All the brasses with figures are collected against the N wall of the N aisle: three Women of c. 1480-90; Priest, perhaps Richard Wild Jr 1484; Civilian of c. 1500; Civilian and wife of c. 1510; Woman of c. 1530; Civilian of c. 1530; Thomas Turner d. 1610 and wife. - Monument to Thomas Lord Audley, Lord Chancellor, d. 1544. Black marble tomb-chest decorated with wreaths round medallions and ornamented pilasters in the taste of the tomb of Henry VII in Westminster Abbey; back-plate with splendidly carved coat of arms between pilasters (S chapel). Done probably by the same workshop responsible for the Vyvyan monument at Bodmin, Cornwall, the effigy of Lord Marney at Layer Marney, the Oxford Monument at Castle Hedingham and the North Monument at Kintling, Cambridgeshire. - Tomb-chest for John Leche d. 1521, with lid and inscription but no figures (N chapel). - One side of a tomb-chest, N wall, N aisle.

* Internally the S porch vault is more elaborate than that of the N: a two-bay fan-vault with two bosses (cf. Cambridge customs of the early C16) as against a simple one-bay tierceron vault of star shape.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Simon Jenkins on Accessibility


Accessibility is the single most vexing topic among church enthusiasts. Nothing is more infuriating after a long drive or even longer walk than to feel the cold, unyielding iron of the handle of a locked door. This guide would be useless if readers did not feel its churches could be entered and enjoyed in person. I found roughly half my recommendations were open at reasonable times of the day and year. Most of the rest had a key at an easily discoverable location. Of those that were locked, most indicated the location of the key, though not always the presence of the keyholder. As a general rule I set myself a limit of half an hour to gain entry, with the aid of the latest siege equipment, usually including a car, a mobile phone and a copy of Crockford’s Clerical Directory. If a church resisted even such assault, I have left it out. In particular, a church that demands prior written notice of a visit, as if it were a private house, is in my book ‘not open to the public’.

On this subject the Church of England is institutionally unsympathetic. Almost no church has a sign outside giving opening hours, which might at least preempt a fruitless walk to the door. Vicarage phone numbers, if they are publicised, are frequently on answering machines. Notices giving the address of the keyholder, when they exist, are often illegible and lack a map. I know of no diocese that publishes a list of opening times and keyholders’ addresses, even those, such as Lincoln, that produce admirable guides to their churches. (The Open Churches Trust does publish opening times in London.) The buildings in this book are all outstanding and eagerly sought by a growing band of enthusiasts. None should be inaccessible.

The customary excuse for locking a church is the threat of vandalism and the cost of insurance. Vandalism can be most distressing for those victimised. Fortification may be justified in a few inner city churches, though even they capitulate to vandalism far too easily. Most insurers do not insist on churches being locked, only on their being periodically supervised. In my experience, the chief difference between an accessible and a shut church is not its location or the value of its contents but the attitude of the vicar and churchwardens. Some are true enthusiasts who rightly regard the opening of their church as a pastoral and community obligation. To them and their frequent welcome, I offer heartfelt thanks. To a minority of vicars, sadly a substantial one, I and therefore the general public was a nuisance to be kept at bay.

To close a church is not to forestall trouble - closed churches are almost as vulnerable as open ones - but to let the vandal win. Churches have been ‘robbed’ throughout history: this was once a common reason for deportation to Australia. Rural England is nowadays wealthy enough to afford a keyholder or ‘dropper-in’, or at least the elementary courtesy of clearly displayed instructions on access. One effective defence, security cameras, is not expensive. But no security is as effective as a regular flow of welcomed visitors. A parish church is a church open to all. A church shut except for services is the private meeting house of a sect.

In return, I believe that visitors should pay. Nobody should visit and enjoy a church without contributing to the cost of that enjoyment. I cannot see why popular churches should not charge something for entry, as most cathedrals now do. The only churches in this list that charge are Stratford-upon-Avon for its chancel, and (half-heartedly) the magic shrine of St Clether’s Well
(Cornwall), where a faded 1913 notice still requests threepence to be left on the altar. Churches used to be less shy about asking for donations. As for how much to leave, I can only cite the chapel at Swell (Somerset). Even before the days of inflation and decimalisation, it exhorted visitors:

If aught thou hast to give or lend,
This ancient parish church befriend.
If poor but still in spirit willing
Out with thy purse and give a shilling,
But if its depths should be profound
Think of God and give a pound.

 © Simon Jenkins, England’s Thousand Best Churches.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Whepstead, Suffolk

St Petronilla left so little an impression, apart from the fact that, unusually for these parts, it was locked, that I failed to create an entry after I'd visited. Cement rendered, an ugly squat tower but a nice site and churchyard - I don't think I missed much.

ST PETRONILLA. A rare dedication. Fragmentary W tower with three niches round the W window. Nave and chancel c. 1300 (intersected and Y-tracery). But inside, the imposts of the chancel arch with nook-shafts are Norman. Otherwise only to be noted how the rood-stair climbs up in the window recess (cf. Wingfield). - PULPIT. Made up of Elizabethan panels, including some marquetry work. - STAINED GLASS. Fragment in a chancel S window. - PLATE. Silver-gilt Paten 1725; silver-gilt Cup, said to be Parisian, c. 1810.

St Petronilla (2)

WHEPSTEAD. Here are cottages with green lawns, a big pond, and a leafy lane bringing us to an ancient church in the trees, by a splendid farmhouse. The spire on the 15th century tower was blown down in the great storm which swept over England the night before Cromwell died, but the man and woman over the doorway of the porch have kept their vigil for 600 years. Some of the stones in the walls are Saxon, but the Normans remade the church, and there are Norman stones in the doorway of the narrow spiral stairs leading to the gallery in the tower. The nave and chancel are mostly 13th century; the chancel arch has been rebuilt in Norman style. Near the altar is the stone of a 14th century priest. The pulpit has old carved panels. By the roodloft stairs is a window with beautiful old heraldic glass, and there are other ancient fragments, with two tiny heads of priests, in the chancel. A window to a rector of our own day shows St Petronilla in green and red with St Peter in blue, and there is a fine blue window in the tower.

This is the only church in England to St Petronilla, and there may never be another. At the time of the dedication she was believed to be the daughter of St Peter, but in 1873 her sarcophagus was found under a half-buried church in Rome, with an inscription showing that she was the daughter of a Roman noble. She suffered martyrdom with two of her servants, to one of whom, Nereus, Paul sends salutations in his Epistle to the Romans. Petronilla now sleeps in St Peter’s in Rome.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Pevsner on Long Melford

HOLY TRINITY. EXTERIOR. Long Melford church is one of the most moving parish churches of England, large, proud, and noble - large certainly with its length inside nave and chancel of 153 ft, proud certainly with the many commemorative inscriptions which distinguish it from all others, and noble also without question with the aristocratic proportions of the exterior of its nave and aisles. The characteristic feature is the two tall transomed three-light windows for each bay, repeated by the tall transomed clerestory windows. So many thin, wiry perpendiculars are rare even in the Perpendicular style. Once this has been said, attention must however be drawn to the many curious impurities which detract from the pleasure one experiences in approaching along the relatively narrow passage from the s. The E chapel of the S aisle (and it is the same on the N side) has different window tracery and a different rhythm, two wider and between them one narrow window above the priest’s doorway. Moreover, the projecting chancel has no clerestory and instead an exceedingly tall window to the S (and N), and as this has a two-centred arch, but all the clerestory windows have four-centred ones, the unity is disturbed here. Then there is the strange Lady Chapel - a long, low attachment with three parallel pitched roofs, that make no sense with the very flat pitches of the church roofs and cut painfully into the E window. Bodley, who in 1898-1903 replaced the C18 brick tower by one designed by himself, knew more about purity than the builders of the late C15. This tower suits the position and proportions of the nave and aisles better than the late C15 E parts.

The dates of Long Melford can be defined more precisely than that. The church which existed was rebuilt between c. 1460 and c. 1495. Of the former church no more survives than the C14 piers of the five W bays of the arcade. They have four major and four minor shafts and unmistakable moulded capitals. Externally nothing is older than c. 1460. The progress of the building can be followed by the detailed inscriptions. These inscriptions record the names of many who gave money to these buildings, and it is illuminating to see how such a major building enterprise was jointly conducted by the rich men of the prosperous little town, clothiers presumably all of them. The inscriptions run as follows: clerestory N side:

Pray for ye sowlis of Roberd Spar’we and Marion his wife, and for Thom’ Cowper, and Ma’el his wif, of quos goodis Mastr Gilis Dent, John Clopton, Jon Smyth, and Roger Smyth, Wyth ye help of ye weel disposyd me’ of this (Town) dede these se’on archis new repare anno domini milesimo cccc (81).

There was in addition an inscription on the same side which was damaged in the fall of the tower and ran as follows:

Pray for ye sowl of Mastr Giles Dent, late parson of Melford, of whose goodis, John Clopton, Maist; Robt’ Coteler and Thomas Elys dede ys arch make and glase, and ye ruf over ye Porch anno domini 14 (81).

Inside, on the N arcade, there was also an inscription, now gone, recording the fact that John Clopton built the first four piers from the E. Outside, on the S clerestory, it says:

Pray for the sowles of Rogere Moryell, Margarete and Kateryn his wyffis, of whose goodis the seyd Kateryn, John Clopton, Mastr Wyllem Qwaytis and John Smyth, ded these VI archis new repare; and ded make the tabill at the hye awtere, anno domini millesimo quadringentesimo octogesio p’mo. Pray for ye sowl of Thomas Couper ye wych ye II arche dede repare. Pray for ye sowl of Law. Martin and Marion hys wif.

Over the N porch the inscription is:

Pray for ye sowlis of William Clopton, Margy and Margy his wifis, and for ye sowle of Alice Clopton and for John Clopto’, and for alle thoo sowlis’ yt ye seyd John is bo’nde to prey for.

On the lower windows on the S side from E to W:

Pray for ye sowl of Rog: Moriell of whos goods yis arch was made. Pray for ye sowle of John Keche, and for his Fad’ and Mod’ of whose goodis yis arche was made. - Pray for ye sowle of Thom’s Elys and Jone his wife, and for ye good sped of Jone Elys maks h’ of. - Pray for ye sowl of John Pie and Aly his wife, of whos good yis arch was made and yes twey wy’sdowy’ glasid. Pray for ye soulis of John Distr and Alis, and for ye good sped of John Distr and X’pian maks h’ of.

On the lower windows of the S chapel:

Pray for ye soulis of Lawrens Martyn and Marion his wyffe, Elysabeth Martyn a’d Jone, and for ye good estat of Richard Martyn and Roger Martyn and ye wyvis and alle ye childri of whose goodis . . . . . . . . . . . .made anno Dni millesimi ccccLxxxIIII.

Finally, roumd the Lady Chapel:

Pray for ye sowle of John Hyll, and for ye sowle of John Clopton Esqwyer, and pray for ye sowle of Rychard Loveday, boteleyr wyth John Clopton, of whose godys this Chappell ys imbaytylled by his excewtors. Pray for the soulis of William Clopto’, Esqwyer, Margery and Marg’y his wifis and for all ther parentis and childri’, and for ye sowle of Alice Clopton, and for John Clopton and for all his childri’ and for all ye soulis that the said John is bonde to p’y for, which ded yis Chapel new repare anno domo mcccclxxxvi. Christ’ sit testis hec me no’exhibuisse ut merear laudes, sed ut spiritus memoretur.

So this gives us 1481 for the clerestory, 1484 for the S chapel, and 1496 for the Lady Chapel.

We can now turn to a more detailed description. The sides have eighteen clerestory windows each, corresponding to twelve lower windows. Flint, with, on the S side - which is of course the show-front towards the green and the village - much flushwork decoration. The decoration does not obtrude itself, which is another proof of the nobility and purity of the designer. The N side is simpler and has no flushwork. It has no porch either. S porch, tall, of two bays, with two-light windows. On the N side at the E end of the aisle a brick rood-stair turret. The chancel projects one bay, and behind it lies a narrow Vestry. This ends in line with the E end of the Clopton Chantry on the N side and a low second Vestry on the S side. This looks like a corridor to the Lady Chapel, which is quite an independently designed, much lower building. It has throughout three-light windows with depressed arches and no tracery at all. Flushwork decoration here is less reticent. The E end is curious, because the ‘nave’ seems to be represented not by one big E window, but by two not at all distinguished from the others. There is an internal reason for this, as we shall see.

INTERIOR. Nine-bay arcades and the chancel bay. The earlier W bays have already been described. The others are similar but slimmer and quite characteristically turned Perp. The upper parts are Perp throughout. Roll mouldings to the shafts which rise up to the roof principals. The wall below the clerestory windows is panelled so as to seem a blank continuation of the windows. For the Clopton Chantry see below. The Lady Chapel is internally very strange. It is as though the whole was a shrine surrounded by a processional way. It seems externally a five-bay building with aisles. In fact it is a three-bay sanctuary with, instead of aisles, an ambulatory on the W and E sides as well. So the altar has a solid E wall behind, and the first bay is separated from the second by a wall with a doorway (with fleuron decoration) and two two-light windows. Big frieze with shields in quatrefoils above this group. The arcade of the ‘nave’ or shrine is low, but above it there are blank panelling and niches with canopies. One must think of all this in its original gay colouring to appreciate it fully. Exquisite cambered roofs, especially that of the ambulatory, where the beams rest on corbels with little figures. The ambulatory character is expressed by the four corner bays having beams set diagonally.

FURNISHINGS. FONT. Octagonal, Perp, simple, of Purbeck marble, which is rare in Perp Suffolk. - REREDOS. 1879. - PULPIT with figure carving of about the same time. - SEAT (nave, S side). Given in 1948. Spanish; from Granada Cathedral. With the arms of the Reyes Catolicos, i.e. of c. 1500. - SCULPTURE. Fine alabaster relief of the Adoration of the Magi, the Virgin reclining on a couch. Probably late C14. - STAINED GLASS. All late C15. A unique collection of kneeling donors in the W windows of the aisles. In the E window St Andrew, Pieta, St and St Edmund, with small kneeling donors at their feet, two more saints with small kneeling donors, and two large kneeling donors. Over the N doorway small panel with Lily Crucifixus. Many bits in the N aisle tracery. The glass is probably Norwich made. Later bits also in the N aisle. One S window signed by Ward & Hughes, 1885. - PLATE. Set 1775. MONUMENTS. The capital monument is the CLOPTON CHANTRY. It is a whole room E of the N aisle E chapel, which was the Clopton Chapel. From there it is approached by a tiny vestibule or priest’s room with a stone fan-vault so flat that it is almost a panelled ceiling. The room has a fireplace. The chantry has a seven-light E window and towards the chancel the monument to John Clopton d. 1497. This is a plain sturdy tomb-chest of Purbeck marble with cusped quatrefoils containing shields. No effigy at all. Ogee arch open to the chancel. In the vault beneath this arch and above the tomb-chest paintings, especially a Christ carrying a staff with a cross. Also kneeling figures of John Clopton and his wife. To this arch correspond, as part of the same composition, the Sedilia and Piscina. Above this a frieze of shields all along the wall in foiled fields (cf. Lady Chapel), and then a frieze of niches with canopies. Flat ceiling, the cornice painted with a long poem by Lydgate, rope and foliage between the sheets of writing. In the Clopton Chapel proper, that is the N chancel chapel, a series of Brasses: Lady with long hair, c. 1420, 18 in. figure. - Civilian, c. 1420, 19 in. - Lady with butterfly head-dress, c. 1480, 3 ft. 1 Another Lady with butterfly head-dress, same date, same size, probably Mrs Harleston, John Clopton’s half-sister. - Francis Clopton d. 1558, 3 ft. 1 In the same chapel monument to Sir William Clopton d. 1446, father of John Clopton. Knight on a tomb-chest with quatrefoil decoration. Low arch, almost like a lintel; cresting. In the S chapel (or Martyn Chapel or Chapel of the Jesus Guild) two Martyn Brasses of 1615 and 1624 (the Martyns owned Melford Place) and a simple Purbeck tomb-chest with three shields in lozenges. - Finally, in the chancel the grandest monument in the church, to Sir William Cordell d. 1580 who built Melford Hall and was Speaker and Master of the Rolls. Alabaster. Recumbent effigy on a partly rolled-up mat. - Front and back and to the l. and r. black columns carrying two coffered arches. Back wall with two figures in niches; walls also between the back and the columns to his head and feet. They are pierced by arches with two more figures. The four represent Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Little Wigborough, Essex

St Nicholas is a pretty little church situated in the grounds of Copt Hall which contains little of interest but does contain a strut from the Zeppelin L33.

On the night of 23/24 September 1916, Zeppelins set out to bomb London. These were newly designed and built Zeppelins, superior to the Zeppelins which had previously flown over England.

Zeppelin L33 was damaged by anti-aircraft fire and was forced to land at New Hall Farm, Little Wigborough, only twenty yards from a nearby house. The occupants of the house, a man, his wife and three children, ran for their lives as the airship hit the ground. The crew ran from the craft (the only time armed Germans set foot in England during the war)and shortly after it exploded.

Special Constable Edgar Nicholas, who lived nearby, made his way to the scene and came across the crew walking along a road. They identified themselves as the Zeppelin crew and he arrested them. Other officers later joined them and the local constable, PC 354 Charles Smith, arranged for the prisoners to be handed over to the military to be taken off to a prisoner-of-war camp.

The airship was the subject of great attention by spectators, but the guarding of it was expeditiously arranged by the military as parts of the airship were still relatively undamaged. Indeed, she was later studied in great detail and many aspects of her design were incorporated into later British airship designs.

It also has a monument to Zeppelina Williams 1916-2004. She was born shortly after L33 crashed in Great Wigborough and the doctor who delivered suggested the name to commemorate the occasion!

ST NICHOLAS. Late C15 nave, chancel and narrower W tower heightened insufficiently in 1888. The S side lies open towards the estuary of the Blackwater. Inside a nice display of Victorian church ironwork; Communion Rail, Lectern, Font Cover support - all scrolly and artistic.

Zeppelin strut 1916

Zeppelina Williams 2004

LITTLE WIGBOROUGH. Its medieval stone church has little enough to keep it company -  few cottages, a farm or two in fields running into marshland penetrated by creeks of the Blackwater river, that is all.

Yet it has a memory of something that had hardly ever happened in the world before when it happened here, for one September night in the Great War, when the Zeppelins were striking terror all over England, one of them came down, spread its 680 feet across the farm track leading to this church, and set up such a blaze as was never seen before in these flat Essex fields. It was the L33, one of a fleet of 12 Zeppelins which raided this country on September 23, 1916. Struck while trying to reach London, she at first tried to cross the sea, flying low and chased by our planes; then she came down, thundering like a score of goods trains and settling a few yards from a wooden cottage. The 22 Germans in her shouted a warning to the terrified inhabitants and then set fire to the Zeppelin, using their incendiary bombs; so fierce was the fire that the paint of the cottage was scorched. Carrying one of the crew who was wounded, the Germans threw away their arms and marched on the road towards Colchester, where they met a constable, to whom they made formal surrender.

Virley, Essex

Lying just over a mile west of the Wigboroughs, Virley is a small village that appears to owe its name to its Norman owner at the time of the Domesday Book, Robert de Verli. St Mary's Church at Virley was one of the buildings most heavily damaged by the earthquake of 1884 with towers, parapets and roofs partially collapsing. Whilst St Mary the Virgin in Salcott was rebuilt St Mary, which was already in poor repair before being finished off by the earthquake, was left ruined.

More information can be found here.

ST MARY. A ruin, but a ruin kept visually attractive. The remaining walls all in ivy, herbaceous borders inside the nave. The only feature of strictly architectural interest is the chancel arch. Transitional style, i.e. round arch with two slight chamfers, resting on semi-octagonal responds.

St Mary (1)

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Hertfordshire Spike

Generally Hertfordshire was lacking stone to build spires so adopted an alternative - a thin leaded spirelet which was built from within the parapet of the tower. This style of building became so popular in the County that such spirelets are known as 'Hertfordshire Spikes'.

Of course this explanation is a pragmatic solution but the real origins of the Herts spike lie in antiquity. When Christianity took hold in Hertfordshire and the first church architects were looking for sites it transpired that the Devil pre-owned all the prime locations. A meeting was arranged between the site owner and church leaders to negotiate a land takeover agreement.

After a lengthy parley the Devil agreed to hand over his lands so long as the churches built on them had no steeples - he can only enter a church through the tower, and leave it by the north door, but a steeple prevents his entry.

The architects, being wily, replaced the steeples with spikes on which he would be impaled if he attempted entry and thus circumvented the deal and so lawyers were born.

Spikes appear elsewhere but they're a Hertfordshire specialty.