Thursday, 4 July 2013

Little Bradley, Suffolk

I've finally tracked down the elusive All Saints and have to say it was worth the wait. The most westerly of Suffolk's round tower churches it also has an octagonal upper stage and is stunningly located in the middle of nowhere which is what made it so hard to find.

Unfortunately it's locked with no keyholder listed but is open for Ride and Stride so I may re-visit in September since the interior sounds fascinating.

ALL SAINTS. The nave and the W part of the chancel in their masonry probably Anglo-Saxon, see the long-and-short work at the NW and SW angles. This was added to a pre-existing, that is doubtless Anglo-Saxon, round tower. Small doorway on simple imposts. The tower top Perp and octagonal. Early Norman E extension of the chancel with E and N windows. Norman probably also the undecorated S doorway. (This S porch incorporates some c14 woodwork. LG3) - PULPIT. With C18 tester. - PLATE. Cup 1789. - MONUMENTS. Three brasses: Civilian and wife, c. 1520 (chancel N wall); headless Knight, 27 in. figure, probably Thomas Knighton, 1530 (chancel S wall); John Daye, the printer, d. 1584, and wife (above the Civilian). - Monument to Richard Lehunte d. 1540 and his wife d. 1558. Kneeling figures. Back wall with short columns l. and r. and above two blank arches.

All Saints (2)

LITTLE BRADLEY. The cluster of cottages and a farmhouse share the quiet of a country lane, and amid finely wooded fields stands the little church, its walls and chancel arch Norman, the top of its tower medieval.

On the chancel wall is a figure of Richard Le Hunt, kneeling here in his armour since 1540, with his headless family. There are many brasses to folk who were baptised long ago at the big 14th century font. An early 16th century Underhill kneels with his wife, and Thomas Knighton, who must have known them both, is near, armoured but headless, with two sons and a daughter. Close by are portraits of two early 17th century families, John Le Hunt with his wife Jane Colte, her shield showing three prancing colts; and Thomas Soame kneeling with his five sons, looking at his wife and two daughters.

John Daye the printer is also here kneeling with his wife, six sons, and five daughters, two babies in swaddling clothes lying under a table. In 1584, when Daye’s work was done, they laid him here, and in 1880 the Stationers Company, of which he had been Master 300 years before, set up a window in his honour. In it are three great martyrs, Andrew, Stephen, and Paul, to remind us that this man gave to the world the immortal Book of Martyrs.

Daye was one of the first to print music, and produced the first English Church Book with tunes accompanying the words. He lodged John Foxe in his house and printed the first English edition of his Book of Martyrs. Archbishop Parker, in his great task of establishing the Protestant faith, found Daye invaluable. The Primate desired a reproduction of the works of the old Saxon Abbot Alfric in order to prove the independence of the Church of our ancestors from dictation by Rome; and Daye cut a beautiful fount of Saxon type and printed Alfric in facsimile. He printed Queen Elizabeth’s prayer book in six languages.

He was so esteemed at Court that he was never in difliculty over licences for his printing; indeed, so numerous were the books for which he was licensed that other stationers and printers petitioned Elizabeth on the matter, whereupon Daye voluntarily surrendered 36 copyrights for the benefit of the poor of the Stationers Company.

He was twice married, and was the father of 13 children by each wife. He died in Essex in July 1584, and was brought here for burial.

Buckingham, Buckinghamshire

Given how pretty Buckingham, well old Buckingham, is SS Peter & Paul is a serious disappointment. It looks OK from a distance but it's soon apparent that this C18th building suffered a poor Victorian re-hash by Scott which has left little interest.

SS Peter & Paul (3)


Glass (2)

There is a fascinating black and white house whose timbers were put together in Tudor days; and another is the manor house, with 16th century twisted chimneys recalling those at Hampton Court. The house has witnessed melancholy scenes. Fronting it stood the old church which, first losing its crumbling spire, next lost its tower, and at last altogether lost itself in ruin. Only its ancient churchyard remains, with tombs overgrown by ivy and cherubs on forgotten stones, forlorn amid flowers growing wild in the shade of pines and cypresses. The stump of the old cross moulders in this solitude.

Between the old church and the new are the almshouses founded 500 years ago by John Barton, renewed under Queen Anne, and rebuilt in our time. The new church, surrounded by limes and wide green verges, is on the site of a Saxon castle whose stone-lined well has been found. A striking building, the buttresses and windows of the church are richly carved. The ribs of the vaulted roof rest on pillars of stone and marble alternately. Over the west door is a great shield carved with a swan (an emblem we see in gold on the clock tower of the town hall).

The east window, put up in 1890 by the Buckingham Needle and Thread Society, represents the Te Deum, and its great pageant of life and colour shows in finely balanced groups the apostles, prophets, martyrs, and other figures in the great hymn of praise and jubilee. For half a century this admirable society, parent of many fellowships friendly to cathedrals, has existed solely to enrich the church. They can do nothing finer than their window, which, apart from historic buildings, is the pride of the town; but they have added a charming reredos showing the Nativity, some excellent panelling, and a beautiful altar frontal, all harmonising perfectly with their chief gift.

A literary treasure of the church is a Latin manuscript Bible, written 600 years ago in beautiful characters, the rich reds and blues of the capital letters standing out brilliantly against the quieter red of the text. It was presented to the church in 1471 by John Rudying, a remarkable man with a remarkable brass at Biggleswade in Bedfordshire. Formerly chained to a desk in the old church, the Bible was stolen and long lost, and was recovered at last by Browne Willis, the 18th century antiquary. It is now preserved under glass.

There is a good copy of Raphael’s Transfiguration in the chancel, and in the Children’s Corner is a duplicate of a Raphael Madonna. From the old church little was saved - four bench-ends with tracery and poppyheads by Tudor craftsmen, one bench of 1626, and two 17th century chests. The Buckinghamshire Hussars have a stone memorial on a wall, and below it is the Book of Remembrance, with the names that live for evermore.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Radclive, Buckinghamshire

St John the Evangelist was, disappointingly, locked, but with a keyholder listed, to protect against prior theft and vandalism which is a shame as it's an interesting building with Romanesque features, some old glass and a good Norman south door arch.

St John the Evangelist (2)

South door (1)

RADCLIVE. Lying in a sharp bend of a valley rich with elms, where the Ouse receives a stream which comes down the slopes from Gawcott, it has much beauty and many cherished possessions. Between the church and the river the gabled manor house, with handsome chimneys, has a fine old oak screen, whose columns support a moulded cornice with carved spandrels; and the original staircase, with ornamental sides like pierced parapets, still runs up to the attics. On the other side of the church is the timbered Grange,with an avenue of beautiful trees ending in a delightful garden, shaded by a copper beech and a giant cedar.

A battlemented tower which has watched the slow tide of change for 600 years looms over a Norman church with a beautiful English doorway. The Norman font remains. In the porch we found two 15th century benches with elaborately carved poppyheads. A chancel arch 500 years old rests on Norman capitals, the round columns set in a framework of chevrons. Above the arch, under original stones reset, the lion and the unicorn rest on corbels which once supported the rood screen. Two double lancets in the sanctuary are interesting examples of the style immediately before the beginning of tracery. A nave window has fragments of 14th century glass, showing under golden canopies a careworn Madonna carrying the Child, with an Apostle. The most notable woodwork is the altar table, actuallya 16th century chest, its boldly carved panels set between uprights carved with figures. Among them are two bearded heads with halos, one with the hair arranged like the rays of the sun. Rich and elaborate carving covers this extraordinary chest. Another chest, occupying considerable floor space under the tower, is of mahogany, with drawers and brass fittings, a rare piece of 17th century work; and to the same period belong the altar rails, with their pierced banisters, and the plain canopy of the modern pulpit.


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Stowe, Buckinghamshire

Returning to Buckingham I passed by Stowe and stopped. The longest (it's got to be two miles), and straightest, drive leads you up to a triumphal arch and then in the distance lies the house.

If you need more you'll find it here.

Stowe (1)

Stowe (3)

STOWE. A wonderful place it is to come upon, even in our countryside of wonder, for it has that famous house to which so much genius has paid tribute - Sir John Vanbrugh, Sir John Soane, Robert Adam, and Grinling Gibbons; and it is a rich experience to come to it by the three mile avenue from Buckingham or the avenue with broad green verges from the village of Water Stratford.

If We come from Buckingham the stately arch designed by Lord Camelford brings us into the park of 800 acres with classical buildings dotted about - an obelisk in memory of General Wolfe, an ornamental bridge across a lovely lake, a column with the prows and sterns of Roman galleys projecting from it and a Roman lady crowning it. On a small hill is what is known as the Queen’s Temple, now restored in perfect taste as a temple of music, with a fine Roman mosaic eight feet square in the floor.

Stowe House has saved itself from the disaster of these days by becoming a great public school, in many ways one of the luckiest in
England, for it has no space problems. Its front must be about a quarter of a mile long, and its gardens (in which Capability Brown learned gardening) seem to have no end.

The house is impressive on either side and marvellous indoors and out. On both sides are great colonnades and sculptures; on one side a statue of George the First and on the other a central colonnade of six huge columns is approached by 30 steps, guarded by a lion. Great columns flank windows to right and left, and everywhere are statues and sculptures and plaster reliefs. The colonnade leads us into an immense round hall, impressive with columns of coloured marble. Above them runs a frieze with hundreds of figures in a triumphal Roman procession, and above this rises a dome with diamond-shaped panels. To right and left of the hall are the common rooms of the school; where the society gossips of the Georges whispered scandal, we find today a splendid library, a great reading room, and dining halls. On the walls are portraits by Peter Lely and Godfrey Kneller.

A little apart stands the chapel designed for the school by Sir Robert Lorimer, creator of the national memorial in Edinburgh to the Scots who fell in the Great War. The west front of the chapel has four great columns, and over the door is a square tympanum with a relief in wood of David killing the lion. The lofty interior has fluted columns on each side, with stalls between them richly carved and bright with painted shields. Here is panelling from the old chapel, some of it originally from the home of the Grenvilles in Cornwall, and let into the panelling are some little masterpieces of Grinling Gibbons. Every chair on the floor is carved with the name of a scholar. High on the walls are angels in stone, all looking to the altar, and high above the altar is a small round window glinting with rich glass.

Surprising, it seems, to come upon a medieval church in this great park, but here remains the 13th century shrine at which worshipped the village folk of Dadford, Boycott, and Lamport, hamlets round the park. The tower is 14th century, and over its doorway is a 14th century crucifix. We come in through a 15th century porch guarded by a statue of a man removed from a tomb and set up here on his feet.

It was in the 16th century that the owners of Stowe built their chapel here. In it is a lovely altar tomb on which lies Martha Penystone, with her feet resting on a hound appearing ready to spring. On a shelf at the foot of the tomb, her small hands loosely laid on her dress, her mouth about to break into a smile, lies Martha’s little daughter Hester, born in the summer of 1612 to die in a few short weeks. The portrait of another little child, an Elizabethan boy, shows him in complete Tudor costume as if he were grown up, and the brass is curious for its inscription which tells us that he was born on October 31, 1592, and died on January 1, 1592. It is quite correct for New Year’s Day was then in March. On another brass is Alice Saunders in the butterfly headdress fashionable about 1480.

Above the altar of the chapel is a window in memory of the last Duke and Duchess of Buckingham, who passed away towards the end of last century. The light of the window falls on to a reredos standing out with all the beauty given to it by a Jacobean craftsman; it appears to have been an overmantel, and has two arches carved with bearded figures having cloaks over their shoulders.

The Procession of Life in a Great House.

STOWE has seen a remarkable procession of men within its walls. It was Sir Richard Temple who built it, the forgotten inspirer of a never forgotten line in English poetry. Who but for Pope would ever recall him now? To his own generation (he died in 1749) he was a sturdy patrician, turning from peace to war, and from war to government, with brave integrity. Today he owes the fact that he is remembered to the poet he housed and befriended at Stowe. As a wealthy young baronet he shared in the campaigns of Marlborough, and distinguished himself in battles of which posterity, like little Peterkin, asks what they were all about. He deserves to be held in remembrance for having revolted against the corruption of Walpole’s ministry, for having endured dismissal from high military command, for demanding the prosecution of the ring-leaders of the South Sea Bubble, and for having lifted up an unappeasable voice against the subservience of British interests to the Hanoverians, and the sending of English soldiers to fight in Hanover’s quarrels.

All this tumult and vexation happened in 1733, which explains the significance of the date set out in heavy type above the dedication of the first of Pope’s Moral Essays, inscribed to Temple. The dull but fiery poet had a genuine aflection for the soldier-statesman, and added to his own reputation by having so considerable a national figure among his intimates. The political storm passed, and Temple was made Viscount Cobham and a Field Marshal and died beloved and widely mourned. The public memory is short, and the Cobham of social and political history receded into oblivion, so that today it is only in Pope’s lines that we remember him:

And you, brave Cobham! to the latest breath
Shall feel your ruling passion strong in death.

Of the three Dukes of Buckingham who lived at Stowe the first two exhausted their resources in collecting treasures, bringing about a bankruptcy for the third to redeem. Richard Grenville, elder son of the Marquis of Buckingham, was born in 1776, and for a quarter of a century was known as Earl Temple, by which title he sat for 16 years in the House of Commons, sometimes supporting and sometimes opposing his cousin Pitt. He married the only child of the third Duke of Chandos, and at 46 was created Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. He poured out wealth on pictures, statues, books, and manuscripts, entertained the royal family of France. with princely munificence, and impoverished himself so much that he had to seek seclusion abroad. Returning after two years, he wrote an account of his travels, became Steward of the Household, and spent his declining years among his treasures, grieved at having to sell many of them to keep the wolf from the door.

His son Richard Grenville was the second duke, known for many years as Marquis of Chandos. He so consistently opposed Free Trade as to gain the title of the Farmer’s Friend. The rent-roll of his estate was £100,000 a year, but the property was deeply encumbered; yet he continued to buy land, and to entertain like a prince. While owing his creditors over a million, he added to his liabilities by prodigal hospitality to Queen Victoria; it was on a visit here that the Queen first met Disraeli privately. Two years later bailiffs took possession of the house, and dealers from all parts of Europe attended the 40-day sale of pictures, china, plate, and furniture. The library was dispersed, the manuscripts were sold, and the duke was censured by The Times as a spendthrift. He died in 1861.

The third duke, an upright and honourable man, laboured to repair the ruin of the family fortunes, and succeeded in paying off the bulk of the debts. He was a humane and brilliant Governor of Madras during a period of terrible famine, a successful railway chairman, and chairman of committees in the House of Lords. He died in 1889.


Monday, 1 July 2013

Lillingstone Dayrell, Buckinghamshire

Taking advantage of a football tournament in Buckingham I took time out to visit what I suppose could be called our ancestral church (my grandparents, great grandparents and gg grandparents are all buried at St Nicholas and their monuments and various memorials are extant).

My GG Grandfather, Abraham John, largely paid for a refurbishment in 1868 and it was pretty thorough but interest is retained with some fine Romanesque features, both the chancel and tower arches are particularly good and the Easter sepulchre and sedilla are worthy of note and the Dayrell monuments (to which family I also connect) are generally interesting - the older ones more so. Sadly the glass is execrable and mostly installed by my family on what looks like the cheap - they were after all Bankers. Best of all are the medieval tiles in the chancel, which were impossible to photograph properly due to the light (too much).

Architecturally I found it a bit odd but that's mainly down to a different building material - I'm used to flint and clunch - and the spireless tower; the setting, indeed the county, is stunning and (setting family affiliations aside) this is a gem of a church.

AVC Robarts 1982

St Nicholas (5)

Paul Dayrell 1556 (6)

Westward Ho!

LILLINGSTONE DAYRELL. The house of the Dayrells, Old Tile House, has fallen from its high estate but still bears over the porch the arms of the family who lived in this place for 500 years and watched over the little church set down in the fields near a lily pond. The park of Stowe school now runs close to the boundary.

The church was already old when the first Paul Dayrell and his wife were laid to rest here in 1491, in an altar tomb with their brass portraits on the top, Paul in elaborate plate armour with his feet on a lion and Margaret in a fur-trimmed gown. A grand tomb in the middle of the chancel reminds us of another Paul and his wife who died 75 years later, when it was the fashion to build gorgeous memorials with Italian columns and ornate designs. Small figures of their nine sons and six daughters are shown on the sides of the tomb, kneeling. On the top lie Paul and Dorothy, imposing figures, he in armour, Dorothy very grand in an embroidered robe, fur tippet, and pulled sleeves. Hanging from the wall is a faded red velvet curtain embroidered in gold and white, bearing the Dayrell motto Do Well, and the date 1659. Near it are two helmets with little goats in wood, the Dayrell crest. The last Dayrell remembered in the church served as vicar for 51 years. A wall tablet tells that he was buried here in 1832.

Time has dealt gently with the church. Its walls, built soon after the landing of the Conqueror, still stand, and we see the alterations made when the early Gothic builders repaired the Norman work. The tower and chancel arch are untouched. In the tower the 13th century men cut a long lancet window, and we can stand today on the floor of the church looking through it to the little window that lighted the priest’s room, where he sat with a look-out on the altar. The engraved headless figure in brass of one of these priests, who was rector in 1493, is set in the middle of a huge black stone under a broad arch in the chancel wall, opposite the stalls (divided by round columns with beaded capitals) in which he sat with his choir men.

We cross the chancel reverently, for here are tiles laid by workmen to whom great beauty was an everyday sight. They are very rare, some with crowned heads at the corners. A few were made in the 14th century, others earlier, baked in the time of Magna Carta, when an aisle was added to the nave and the chancel was rebuilt. The chancel has a steep-pitched roof, a 13th century Easter sepulchre, and stone seats for the priests.