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.

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