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.

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