Saturday, 13 September 2014

Ride & Stride

I decided to take advantage of the annual Essex Ride & Stride day to revisit, having checked that they were taking part in the day, four churches that I've always found LNK - Takeley, Great & Little Hallingbury and Farnham. Of the four the first three were locked and Farnham appears to be now regularly open (or so the sign in the porch seems to imply but I'm slightly sceptical since I've never found it open on numerous visits).

Now I'm not one to rant but given that, apart from raising huge amounts of money for church conservation, one of the purposes of this event is that it "opens the doors to some of Britain’s most rare and unusual churches, chapels and meeting houses" (I readily admit that none of the four could be described as rare or unusual)  but I hope, given the half hearted participation of the first three, that if they ever approach FoECT for a grant they're told to bugger off.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

St Paul, Covent Garden

St Paul appears to be usually open but was closed for a month while they ran a kids club production of Alice in Wonderland so I failed to see inside, although I suspect that it is very austere and dour (which a glance through Flickr proves wrong as shown by Rex Harris and others).

The exterior is hard to judge without perambulation but the east end is neoclassical and should be rather grand, if plain, but for the fact that it now plays host to the Covent Garden mummers which somewhat detracts its impact.

Supposedly designed by Inigo Jones in 1633 it was burnt out in 1795 and was effectively rebuilt by Thomas Hardwick (who had restored it in 1789); so I suppose it's therefore a C17th core but a C18th build. Apparently it has a Grinling Gibbons pulpit which would have been interesting to see.


St Paul, Covent Garden (3)

The Earl of Bedford himself noted in his commonplace book: “London the Ring Couengarden the iewell of that ring.” He was clearly proud of his estate, but for all that, he looked carefully at the money he was laying out on the new investment. He was responsible for the church and for perhaps three of the houses on the eastern side, as examples to those who wished to take up building leases. When it came to the church, he sent for Inigo Jones and

told him he wanted a chapel for the parishioners of Covent Garden, but added he would not go to any considerable expense; “In short”, said he, “I would not have it much better than a barn.” “Well! then,” said Jones, “You shall have the handsomest barn in England.”

This story has often been told but it bears repeating for St Paul’s, Covent Garden, does indeed resemble a barn, being very plain, with great over-hanging eaves and a portico before the eastern front, which faced the Piazza, with heavy fluted columns and uncompromisingly plain Tuscan capitals. Inside, the church was equally unadorned, which would have agreed with the earl’s severe religious tenets, but Inigo Jones made one miscalculation. If the entrance portico were to face the Piazza, then it would be necessary to place the altar at the west end. Such a deviation was impermissible; the altar was installed in the accustomed position, the congregation entered by the west door, through the churchyard, and the portico stood in front of a blind wall. It was under this portico that Shaw placed Eliza Doolittle in the first act of Pygmalion. St Paul’s, the first Anglican church to be built in London since Tudor times, cost £4,886. 5s. 8d.

St Martin in the fields

An almost perfect early C18th building - all box pews, galleries and neoclassical design - what's not to love? The surviving monuments from the earlier church, and later, are relocated to the crypt alongside a gallery and cafe. If you could just relocate the tourists St Martin would be my ideal urban church.

St Martin in the Fields (1)

Mark Chapman In the beginning (1)

Looking east

St Martin’s stands on the north-east comer of the square, traffic swirling past its steps along St Martin’s Place and Duncan Street. There has been a church here since the 12th century when it very truly stood “in the fields”. It is said that the parish was enlarged by Henry VIII’s orders so that funerals might not pass through his palace of Whitehall on their way to burial at St Margaret’s, Westminster, and a new church was built in 1544. By the 18th century, a new structure was needed again and this was built by James Gibbs in 1722-6. He gave it a magnificent temple front with six huge Corinthian columns set on steps; above them is a pediment and from behind that soars the noble spire. The church itself, of Portland stone, is rectangular with galleries. The walls are panelled with unusual box pews and the roof is a tunnel vault. The original organ was given by George I as a compensation for his inability to perform his duties as churchwarden; it is now at St Mary’s, Wootton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, and a new larger instrument has been installed. There is a pretty oval font of 1689, and a hexagonal pulpit with thin twisted balusters. This pulpit was originally a three-decker one, for parson, clerk and reader, and as such it can be seen in Hogarth’s print of the Industrious Apprentice at Church. Charles II was christened. and Nell Gwynn was buried here. St Martin is the patron saint of beggars, of the destitute and of drunkards, so that the noble work of helping the unfortunate, to which the clergy of this church have dedicated themselves, is particularly apt. It was a churchwarden of St Martin’s who tried to help Francis Thompson and it was surely of this church that the poet thought when he wrote of “Jacob’s ladder/ Pitched between Heaven and Charing Cross”. The Reverend Dick Sheppard, who served at the Front in the First World War, returned to St Martin’s determined to create a place where all who were in need could come and find the same unquestioning help and comradeship that he had known in the trenches. He had a vision - “I saw a great church standing in the greatest square in the greatest city in the world” - and he made the crypt of St Martin’s into a club to which all might come and find welcome. His ideals and work have been carried on by those who have followed him.

St Margaret, Westminster

The youngest had a hot date with one of his godmothers to see War Horse so I had a couple of hours to fill in London and, unusually, did some research. I already knew I wanted to visit St Martin in the Fields [qv] but baulked at Westminster Abbey's ludicrous £18 entry fee and ban on photography - if I visited with all my children it would cost me £83 just to gain entry. Fuck that...£18 when I can't take photos; what exactly are the poor saps who visit paying for*?

So I researched St Margaret instead and found that photography was allowed and decided here was an opportunity that shouldn't be missed, only to find that photography is banned for these reasons (taken straight from the Abbey website but applies to St Margaret as well):
  • It can disturb other visitors’ experience of the Abbey
  • Flash photography is bad for conservation
  • It holds up the movement of visitors when there are lots of people in the Abbey
  • We have to be careful about and protect what the image of the Abbey is used for - with digital photography and photoshop it is easy for someone to use the image in a way that we aren't happy with or to advertise or promote something
  • We can't be sure what is for personal use and what is for professional
This is blatantly bullshit or else Ely, Peterborough, Salisbury, Bury St Edmund, Canterbury, St Albans and Chelmsford would follow the same policy - which they don't.

On the other hand if I could have recorded the interior I probably wouldn't have had time to do it properly since the interior is stuffed with monuments and good windows. So I had quick recce and headed off to St Martin.

St Margaret (2)

To the south-west of the square, on the very lawns of Westminster Abbey sits, composed, demure and quietly self-confident, St Margaret’s church. Though claims have been made for its being an 11th-century foundation, its consecration most probably dates from the early 12th century. The present building was begun at the very end of the 15th century, to plans by Robert Stowell, master mason of the Abbey. The south aisle - the oldest part - was paid for by Dame Mary Billing, the widow of a Chief Justice; she died in 1499. The chancel was built in the early 16th century by John Islip, the last great Abbot of Westminster; his architects were Thomas and Henry Redman. They also built the tower, though the upper parts were rebuilt between 1735 and 1737 by John James. A porch was added by J. Loughborough Pearson in the late 19th century.

The church is chiefly famous for three things - for its association with the House of Commons, for its 16th-century east window, and for the number and variety of its monuments. It was first used by the House of Commons when a service of Holy Communion was held there on Palm Sunday, April 17, 1614. It had been planned to hold it in the Abbey but the more Puritanical Members of Parliament had a “feare of copes and wafer-cakes, and other such important reasons” and so it was held in St Margaret’s instead, and the association has continued ever since. The east window was made to celebrate the marriage of Prince Arthur, Henry VIII’s elder brother, with Katharine of Aragon, but this splendid example of Flemish glass arrived in England after the bridegroom’s death. It was sent to Waltham Abbey, and after that house was dissolved the window passed into private hands and was at last bought for St Margaret’s in 1758 by the House of Commons for 400 guineas. The three central lights show the Crucifixion with the two Thieves on either side of Christ, and in the upper halves of the two outer lights are St George and St Katharine. Beneath the saints kneel the young bride and bridegroom, whose marriage lasted barely five months. Beneath the window is the altar with a reredos which is a relief copy of Titian’s painting of Christ’s appearance at Emmaus; it was made by Siffrin Alken about 1757.

The chancel and nave have no structural division and are of nine bays. Around the walls are scores of small, intimate memorials. Chaucer, who was a parishioner, has no memorial here - he lies in the Abbey - but Caxton was buried here and has a tablet raised by later admirers. His shop was at the sign of the Red Pale and stood within the Abbey Almonry itself. Several of Elizabeth I’s most faithful servants lie here, chief among them perhaps being Blanche Parry, Keeper of the Queen’s Jewels, who died in February 1589 (i.e. 1590) aged 82, having looked after the queen since her birth. Lady Dorothy Stafford, who had served the queen for 40 years, died in 1605, and she is shown kneeling with three sons and three daughters beneath her, whilst Lady Mary Dudley, sister to Lord Howard of Effingham who commanded the English fleet against the Armada, has a fine full-length effigy. A bust in a roundel shows us Cornelius Van Dun, a Dutchman who served Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I as a Yeoman of the Guard and, dying in 1577 at the age of 94, did buyld for poor widowes 2 houses at his own cost. Among all these who had loved the queen is one great man, Sir Walter Raleigh. He fell out of favour with her successor, James I, and after a long imprisonment, was in 1618 executed in Old Palace Yard, in order to please the King of Spain. Raleigh’s courage on the night before his death was remarkable. During the dark hours, he wrote a poem:

Even such is time which takes in trust
Our yowth, our Ioyes and all we have,
And pays us butt with age and dust:
Who in the darke and silent grave
What we have wandered all our wayes
Shutts up the storye of our dayes.
And from which earth and grave and dust
The Lord shall raise me up I trust.


His headless body was buried under the High Altar at St Margaret’s, but his widow kept his head and it is not known whether it was ever re-united with his trunk. The west window in the church, made in the 19th century, has portraits of Raleigh and his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, as well as Elizabeth I and Henry, Prince of Wales, James I’s eldest son, who admired Sir Walter and wanted to see him freed from prison. Had the prince lived, Raleigh’s fate might have been different.

Those who commanded during the Commonwealth lie here. After their bodies were exhumed with contumely from Westminster Abbey, Admiral Robert Blake, John Pym, Cromwell’s mother and daughter, and 19 others were buried in St Margaret’s churchyard. A later generation has raised a wall-plaque to Blake’s memory. It was in this church that the blind poet, John Milton, was married for the second time. His first marriage had been bitterly miserable but with Katherine Woodcock he was happy for a brief fifteen months. She died in childbed and their baby daughter only survived for six weeks; mother and child were buried together in the churchyard here. They had lived in a “pretty garden-house” in Petty France; Milton lived on alone and wrote:

Methought I saw my late espouséd saint
Come vested all in white, pure as her mind.
Her face was veiled, yet to my fancied sight
Love, sweetness, goodness in her person shined
So clear as in no face with more delight.
But O as to embrace me she inclined
I waked, she fled, and day brought back my night.


A window in Milton’s memory was installed during the last century; it shows the blind poet dictating. Another poet, Alexander Pope, wrote an epitaph for another parishioner, Elizabeth Corbett; it reads:

Here was a Woman good without pretence
Blest with plain Reason and with sober Sense;
No conquests she, but o’er her Selfe, desired;
No Arts essayed; but not to be admired;
Passion & Pride were to her Soul unknown;
Convinced that Virtue only is our own.
So unaffected, so composed a Mind,
So firm, yet soft; so strong, yet so refined,
Heaven as its purest Gold, by Tortures try’d;
The Saint sustained it, but the Woman dy’d.


A more recent memorial, written by Gladstone, is to Charles Frederick Cavendish, who was murdered in Phoenix Park in Dublin May 6, 1882, the very day of his arrival there. In addition to all that we have mentioned, the visitor to the church should notice the modern stained glass, which is designed by John Piper, who created the wonderful windows for Coventry Cathedral. The glass here is softer, less vibrant, chiefly in shades of grey and green and very beautiful; it was installed in 1967.

* For the record I am quite happy to pay an entry fee and for a photography permit - what I'm not happy about is the extortionate entry fee coupled with the no photography policy.

Flickr.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Mildenhall, Suffolk

Superlatives are inadequate when it comes to St Mary, open, for both inside and out. This humungous building has a bit of everything but it's outstanding features are the fan vaulted ceilings in the stunning north porch and the tower minstrel gallery and, above and beyond all, the roofs of the aisles and the nave. The north aisle is particularly fine but the quality of the carving throughout is breathtaking. Without doubt straight in to my personal top ten visited churches.

ST MARY AND ST ANDREW. The most ambitious church in this NW corner of Suffolk, 168 ft long with a tower 120 ft high. The church stands in the middle of the town, though isolated by its oblong churchyard. Its E end overlooks the High Street. It is in this E end that the earliest architecture is to be found: the chancel and the N chapel, dating back to c. 1240-1300. The N chapel comes first, work perhaps of an Ely mason. It is of limestone, not of flint, two bays long with an elegant rib-vault inside in which the transverse arches and the ribs have the same dimensions and profile. At the E end are three stepped lancets, and they are shafted inside with detached Purbeck shafts carrying stiff-leaf capitals. The chancel arch is of the same date, a beautiful piece, nicely shafted, with keeling to the shafts and excellent stiff-leaf and crocket capitals. Also small heads. But the chancel was built slowly. The Piscina still belongs to the previous jobs. It has Purbeck shafts and stiff-leaf capitals. The top of the Piscina is not genuine. The Sedilia are no more than three stepped window seats, separated by simple stone arms. But the windows are definitely of c. 1300. The N and S windows alternate enterprisingly between uncusped intersected tracery and three stepped lancet lights under one arch, but with the lower lights connected with the taller middle one by little token flying buttresses. The E window is a glorious and quite original design, heralding the later one of Prior Crauden’s Chapel at Ely. Seven lights, the first and last continued up and around the arch (as in that chapel) by a border of quatrefoils. The next two on each side are taken together as one and have in the spandrel an irregular cusped triangle. Over the middle stands a big pointed oval along the border of which run little quatrefoils again. The centre is an octofoiled figure.

There is no Dec style at Mildenhall. Perp the W tower first of all. Angle buttresses with attached shafts carrying little pinnacles (a Somerset motif). Big renewed doorway, big renewed six-light W window with a tier of shields at its foot. Inside on the ground floor the tower has a tunnel-like fan-vault. Above this the unusual motif of a choir gallery open to the nave, with a stone balustrade. Perp also are the arcades between nave and aisles. They have very thin piers with finely moulded shafts and capitals only towards the arch openings. Shafts rise from these right up to the roof. Perp moreover the renewed clerestory windows and the big aisle windows. The N side is richer than the S. There is a little flushwork decoration here and there on battlements with panel decoration in two tiers and with pinnacles. This is the crowning motif of the N porch too. The porch is long and two-storeyed. Niches in the buttresses, shields above the entrance. Vault inside with ridge-ribs, tiercerons, and bosses. On the upper floor was the Lady Chapel (as at Fordham in Cambridgeshire a few miles away). The S porch is simpler. Excellent nave roof of low pitch, with alternating hammerbeams and cambered tie-beams. The depressed arched braces of the tie-beams are traceried, and there is tracery between the queenposts on the tie-beams. Against the hammerbeams big figures of angels. Angels also against the wall-plate. The aisle roofs have hammerbeams too. In the spandrels of those in the N aisle carved scenes of St George and the Dragon, the Baptism of Christ, the Sacrifice of Isaac and the Annunciation. Against the wall-posts figures with demi-figures of angels above them serving as canopies. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, of Purbeck marble with shields in quatrefoils. - NORTH DOOR. With tracery. - PLATE. Cup 1625; Almsdish 1632 ; Cup and Paten 1642; two enamelled Pewter Dishes given in 1648; Flagon given in 1720. - MONUMENT. Sir Henry North d. 1620. Alabaster. Two recumbent effigies. The children kneel below, against the tomb-chest. Background with two black columns, two arches, two small obelisks, and an achievement. - In the churchyard the so-called Read Memorial, in fact the remains of a CHARNEL HOUSE with a chapel of St Michael over. The chapel was endowed in 1387.

Nave roof (1)

Crucifix (1)

Henry North 1620 (10)

MILDENHALL. It has come into a fame it could never have dreamed of in all its centuries, for there was a day on which its name was in every newspaper and on all men’s lips. It is odd that here should sleep the winner of the first Derby, for it was here, where this grave sets us thinking of the speed of a horse, that men set out on a ride compared with which the speed of a Derby winner is that of a tortoise. At Mildenhall began the greatest achievement of speed ever known then, the air race to Australia. This pleasant border town by the River Lark, with miles of firs and fine pine avenues, was the starting-point of the two men who flew across the earth in three days in 1934; they were Charles Scott and Campbell Black and they reached Melbourne from Mildenhall in just under 71 hours. It was the fastest journey across the earth ever known.

The place which thus came into fame in the 20th century goes back as far as the Stone Age, for strewn about its heaths we find worked flints which were the precious tools and weapons of men then. Warren Hill has the quiet graves of Saxons. The church is 13th century, and keeping company with it is an old mill by the river, a fine medieval wooden cross, with a handsome lead roof resting on rough-hewn pillars, homes going back to Tudor days, and 18th century almshouses founded by a Speaker of the House of Commons who helped to secure the Protestant Succession to the throne and gave the world its first fine Shakespeare.

The magnificent church, 700 years old, 170 feet long, and with a tower 120 feet high, is one of the county’s proud possessions, which Cambridgeshire sees from afar as the sun gilds its gay weathercock. The exterior is rich with carving. Above an aisle is a fine panelled parapet; and the buttresses are lavishly decked with canopied niches, of which there are 13 on the buttresses at the east corners alone.

Two graceful porches the church has, the north one 30 feet long (the biggest in Suffolk), with a beautiful vaulted roof with angels and roses on its bosses. Above it is the old schoolroom, with quaint figures carved in the spandrels of its doorway. Under the tower with its fine bold arch is a splendid fan-tracery roof; and a vaulted stone roof covers the 13th century chapel. The nave has lofty 15th century arches, and at either side of the 700-year-old chancel arch are three columns with fine foliage capitals. The piscina and sedilia are about as old as Magna Carta. A striking feature of the 13th century sanctuary window is the adaptation of charming new glass to old architecture. Above the arch of the window are 12 small medallions; between these and the seven slender lights below is an oval like a ring set with jewels.

It is the woodwork for which the church is famous. The pulpit, in memory of a parishioner who was 53 years a churchwarden, is one of the few examples of modern workmanship; the rest is a splendid bequest of the past, instinct with medieval character, work performed in the spirit of some of the old miracle plays, in which religious ecstasy alternates with riotous humour. On the hammerbeams of the 15th century nave roof, one of the finest in the county, are two big angels and some 60 lesser ones, some with books, some with musical instruments, all with outspread wings; even the tiebeams are carved and embattled. The south aisle roof, on which are the swan and antelope of Henry the Fifth, is crowded with ornament; on its fine hammerbeams, in the spandrels and along the cornice, are saints and priests, pelicans and eagles, a dog, a monkey, a squirrel, doves, and a mass of about 160 figures. Finest of all is the north aisle roof. Seven fantastic stone heads carry the splendid, harnmerbeams, between which are saints finely carved with a touch of individual fancy, each secure in the shelter of an angel’s wings. In the spandrels is a gallery of the sublime, the humorous, and the sardonic. Mingled with Bible scenes are a woman in a horned headdress supposed to typify Pride, a comic pig with an astonishing collar, one monkey playing an organ while another blows the bellows, and a demon grasping a dog by its tail.

Many monuments tell the story of six centuries of Mildenhall men. The oldest is that to Sir Richard de Wychforde, the 13th century vicar who built the chancel. His brass portrait is gone, but his tomb is safe below the beautiful window which took shape at his bidding. Under the tower lies Sir Henry de Barton, Lord Mayor in the year after Agincourt, and remembered as having started the lighting of dark benighted London, for it was he who first ordered the people to hang out lights from their houses. Here also rests the builder of the manor house, Sir Henry North; he lies on an alabaster tomb with his wife, both smiling happily. In the chancel lies his grandson Thomas Hanmer, a baronet and an MP at 24 and Speaker at 37. Resisting attempts to win him over to the Pretender, he defended the Protestant Succession, and, when that was made safe by the proclamation of George the First, retired to spend his last 20 years here. Working in his fine library he produced the first nobly printed Shakespeare, making several corrections of errors in the text; his own copy, the Hanmer Fourth Folio, was discovered in 1917 and is in the Bodleian Library.

The church has many monuments to the Bunbury family, which gave it a vicar for over 50 years. Sir Thomas was the winner of the first Derby (with Diomed), and sat in Parliament for 43 years. It was his nephew Sir Henry, soldier, diplomatist, and reformer, whose vote gave the Reform Bill its majority of one, who was chosen for his tact and good nature to communicate to Napoleon the crushing news of the Government’s decision to exile him to St Helena. Sir Henry’s father was the artist Henry William Bunbury, friend of Goldsmith and Reynolds, whose famous “Master Bunbury” is a portrait of the General’s younger brother. Another Bunbury here, a little boy of five who died in 1749, is described as a lovely child who showed great promise. There is one brass portrait, showing the builder of Wamil Hall, a mile away, Sir Henry Warner, wearing armour of the time of James the First, and apparently in the act of putting on his gloves.

Two miles away is the big agricultural village of West Row, with a church built from the materials of the old National School; it has a window in memory of Lawrence Clutterbuck, a curate’s son who gave his life to save a student from drowning.

Freckenham, Suffolk

After Soham I decided to visit Mildenhall - this was an unplanned spur of the moment revisit to Ely Cathedral - and on my way spotted St Andrew (LNK) so stopped on the off chance. Basically a very crisp Victorian rebuild, I rather liked it but am not sure I missed much by finding it locked (actually reading Simon Knott's entry I think I missed more than I imagined at the time).

ST ANDREW. Over-restored or rather rebuilt (by Street, 1867). W tower rebuilt 1884. One window with Y-tracery in the vestry, two two-light Perp windows used as a kind of dormer. E window of three stepped lancet lights under one arch, shafted inside, i.e. c. 1300. Arcade with piers of keeled quatrefoil section and arches with one chamfer and one recessed chamfer, i.e. also c. 1300. - Nice Perp canted wagon-roofs in nave and chancel, with bosses. - BENCH ENDS. With poppyheads, some in the form of kneeling figures, very pretty.  - SCULPTURE. Alabaster relief from a former altar, a scene from the Life of St Eligius, C15.- PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Paten 1723.

St Andrew (1)

 St Andrew (2)

FRECKENHAM. It has an ancient windmill, a little bridge, and a group of delightful cottages, and it is proud to possess the oldest blacksmith in Suffolk, a jolly little man with a queer way all his own of shoeing a horse. He is in the church, which is nearly all old though it has a modern tower. Under a single roof are a 13th century chancel and a nave with a 15th century arcade. The chancel has a stone seat below one of its beautiful windows, and the nave an attractive dormer window. In the north aisle roof are 12 wooden corbels with odd faces, and much fine carving watched over by angels. Many of the pews are old oak with fragments of rich carving. There are poppyheads and odd little creatures, animals and birds, a nun praying and a monk on his knees, an angel with a scroll, and a surprising carving of a monkey holding a man upside down.

But it is the blacksmith we come to see, a charming figure in a small alabaster panel found when workmen were repairing the church in 1776. Quite how old he is is not known; he may have been at Freckenham about 600 years. He is thought to be St Eloy, the patron of blacksmiths, and it is said that when he shod a horse he would take away its leg into the smithy, make a shoe for it, and put the leg back, healing the animal by making the sign of the Cross. Here the old legend is quaintly carved for us, with St Eloy holding a horse’s leg on an anvil and a hammer in his hand. Close by is a horse with three legs, its little master wearing a kind of bonnet and looking rather anxious about the missing leg.

Soham, Cambridgeshire

St Andrew, open, is a spectacular barn of a church. Cruciform, although this is not immediately apparent due to the addition of the north aisle and vestry, and built in a very East Anglian style; the exterior is magnificent and the interior holds a wealth of interest from the roof angels in both aisles and nave, some good glass and much damaged poppyheads but my personal favourite was the medieval glass in the vestry.

ST ANDREW. A cathedral was established at Soham by St Felix in the early C7. It was destroyed by the Danes and never rebuilt. Its site is supposed to have been on the E side of the main village street opposite the church. Cruciform church of the late C12. But to the eye, as one approaches the church, it is Perp of a very ambitious kind. The tower and the N view with East Anglian flushwork are what will be remembered. The interior on the other hand is dominated by the earlier remains, especially the four arches of the crossing. They are plain, double-stepped and pointed, except for the W side of the W arch on which Late Norman and Early English decoration is lavished, a three-dimensional kind of crenellation with slanting sides to the merlons and various dog-tooths. Plain and pointed also the arches from the aisles into the transepts, and one-stepped and pointed those of the four-bay arcades. These rest on alternatingly circular and octagonal piers with many-scalloped capitals. The masonry of the transepts is supposed to belong to the same date, and that of the chancel to the C13. Of the C13 also the Double Piscina in the S transept with shafts and arches. The next phase of importance is the Dec style of the early C14. To this belongs the chancel in its present form with a five-light E window that has rich flowing tracery*  and  the S windows. Dec also the S doorway and the (renewed) S aisle and larger S transept windows. C14 probably the Sedilia too (ogee arches and a framing with a fleuron frieze), and perhaps the addition to the arcade of a W bay separated from the others by a stretch of wall. After that comes the contribution of the Perp, and that is above all the W tower. This is called the Novum Campanile in 1502, when it was probably under construction. It was no doubt a replacement of the crossing-tower. It is of four stages, with diagonal buttresses, a flushwork frieze at the base, a very big four-light W window (renewed), an immensely tall tower arch, and a gorgeous top with stepped battlements and pinnacles decorated with flushwork. At the same time the N transept and N aisle were remodelled with Perp windows, a N chancel chapel was added (arch from the chancel with fleurons) and also a N porch, the latter with flushwork decoration in the battlements and with pinnacles. The porch has inside handsome Perp wall panelling (cf. Isleham, Little Chishall) and a roof on head-corbels. The clerestory also is an addition of the late Middle Ages, and in connexion with its erection the nave received its beautiful roof which is constructed with alternating hammerbeams with figures of angels and castellated tiebeams carrying ten queen-posts each. - ROOD SCREEN, CHANCEL STALLS, CHANCEL PANELLING, and COMMUNION RAIL - all Gothic of 1849 (designed by Bonomi of Durham). - PARCLOSE SCREEN to the N chancel chapel. Perp ; good. Two-light divisions with broad ogee arches and Perp tracery above. Pretty cresting. The uprights are shaped as buttresses. - CHANCEL STALLS with simple misericords; under the tower. - BENCH-ENDS, many, with poppy-heads, also seated beasts, the head of an abbot etc. - PAINTING. Chancel N wall; figure of a bishop; C14. - STAINED GLASS. C15 bits of figures etc. in the Vestry. - MONUMENT. Long ogee-headed recess in the N transept N wall.

* Inside l. and r. of the E window are two niches with tiny bits of flushwork enrichment.

Vestry glass (20)

N transept screen detail (4)

S transept misericord (7)

SOHAM. It was one of the English cradles of Christianity, where Felix of Burgundy came to found his abbey on high ground above the plain. Here they laid him to rest, and a few years later St Etheldreda founded her abbey at Ely, and both abbeys flourished till both were destroyed by the Danes. Soham Abbey was never raised again, but the little town has a fine view of the cathedral which grew out of Etheldreda’s abbey at Ely, standing on the hill at the end of the five-mile Causeway built to link the two towns soon after the Conquest.

The fruitful orchard land of what was once Soham Mere lies to the west. The sails of a windmill turn at each end of the straggling town and between them lies the splendid church built nearly 800 years ago. Its oldest remains are still its chief glory within, but it is to the 15th century that Soham owes its grand tower, rising above the fenland like a symbol of faith that many waters cannot quench. It rises 100 feet high, with lovely battlements and pinnacles, and looks down on two beautiful medieval porches. The aisles have cornices carved with roses, and there are heads at the south doorway. There is an impressive array of arches inside, four of them believed to have supported the central tower of the 12th century church. The western arch has rich mouldings and capitals of that period, and most of the simpler arches of the nave are of the same age. The tower arch soars impressively, and an arch of the 15th century, leading into a chapel, has two rows of flowers in its mouldings, embattled capitals, and grotesque animals on each side. The chancel has 13th century walls, the south transept has a 13th century piscina, but the richly carved sedilia is 14th. A brave array of angels, sitting and kneeling, praying and holding shields, looks down from the grand old roof.

In one of the chapels, to which we come by an ancient door with iron bars and a massive lock, is an old stone altar, and medieval glass with angels, birds, and flowers. Among a wealth of ancient woodwork in the church is a 15th century screen, its tracery tipped with roses, animals, and grotesque faces; an eagle and a queer man are peeping out above the entrance. There are 15th century benches with carved heads on which is an angel, a bishop, and a flying lizard, and on some 600-year-old stalls in the tower are carved seats with the quaint fancies of the medieval craftsmen. On one of the walls is an old painting of a bishop, and hidden behind the organ is the 16th century monument of Edward Bernes, showing his 15 children kneeling; he and his wife are lost, An inscription in the chancel tells of John Cyprian Rust, “scholar and friend of children,” who shepherded his flock here for 53 years.

In the churchyard lies a very old man whose inscription says curiously, “Dr Ward, whom you knew well before, was kind to his neighbours and good to the poor,” and not far from him is the grave of Elizabeth D’Aye, unknown to most of those who come into this churchyard, yet a woman of much interest, for her mother was the only grown-up daughter of Cromwell’s best son, Henry. Elizabeth had come down in the world. Her mother, Elizabeth Cromwell, had married an officer in the army, William Russell of Fordham, who lived far beyond his income, kept a coach and six horses, and gathered so many creditors about him that it was said to be fortunate that he died. His widow, so far from trying to retrieve the shattered fortunes of her family, struggled to keep up appearances, and it is recorded that she took as many of her 13 children as she could and went up to London, where she died of smallpox caught by keeping the hair of two of her daughters who had died from it.

Her daughter Elizabeth married Robert D’Aye of Soham, who also spent a good fortune, and was so reduced that he died in the workhouse. Richard Cromwell’s daughter appears to have come to widow D’Aye’s assistance, but she died in the grip of poverty, leaving behind her still another Elizabeth, who married the village shoemaker of Soham, a man of honesty and good sense who rose to be a high-constable. Well may the biographer of the House of Cromwell be moved by the thought of his descendants begging their daily bread. “Oh, Oliver,” says he, “if you could have seen that the gratification of your ambition could not prevent your descendants in the second and third generation from falling into poverty, you would surely have sacrificed fewer lives to that idol. How much are they to be pitied!”

There was born at Soham in 1748 a leather-seller‘s son named James Chambers, who must have broken his father’s heart by choosing evil ways and living the life of a ne’er-do-well while trying to be a poet. He lived to be nearly 80, when he died at Stradbroke, and for most of his life he appears to have been a roaming gipsy, making acrostics of people’s names if they would give him a meal. He wrote some of his verses in Soham workhouse, but none of them are to be matched with the fine work that has come from many of these houses of adversity. There are references to him in old books and papers, but he has been forgotten as a good-for-nothing, and the best reference we have found to him was written by Mr Cordy of Worlingworth in Suffolk:

A lonely wanderer he, whose squalid form
Bore the rude peltings of the wintry storm:
Yet Heaven, to cheer him as he passed along,
Infused in life’s sour cup the sweets of song.

Mr Cordy made an appeal for him and found him a cottage, which was furnished so as to encourage him with his poems. But it  was no use; in a month or two he was off again, preferring a bed of straw to a couch of down.

Flickr.

Ely, Cambridgeshire

Returning to Ely Cathedral to record the misericords I missed, which led to a further 80 pictures of various monuments, glass and other bits I'd missed first time round, I had time to visit St Mary (LNK) and found a rather disappointing Victorian restoration. Pevsner says that "the inside has more of interest than the outside" but I'm not sure that, based purely on his entry, that the interior would lift this church out of the pedestrian category - although the N door sounds good.

ST MARY. The inside has more of interest than the outside. It represents the building begun and dedicated by Bishop Eustace (1198-1215). A long and wide Transitional nave with seven bays, divided by slim circular piers with scalloped capitals. The arches are pointed and finely moulded. The clerestory was added or renewed in the C15. But to the earlier period belongs the excellent N doorway which is no doubt the work of the cathedral and monastery workshop. The arch here is still round and has in two orders a decoration still essentially a three-dimensional variety of the zigzag motif, but the arch orders rest on columns with shaftrings and stiff-leaf capitals (cf. Deanery, i.e. Infirmary Chapel). E.E. chancel with lancet windows, except for the first from the W which are on the S side Dec, on the N Perp. Perp also the E window. The W steeple belongs to the C14, see the tower arch into the nave with its characteristic mouldings, the W door, the bell-openings and especially the spire with two tiers of dormers, one near the foot, the other near the top. Pinnacles on the corners of the tower-top; no battlements.

Headstone (1)

Headstone (2)

Nearer the cathedral is another timbered house, and between them stands St Mary’s church, with its spire rising above the long low roof; it is reached by a dainty avenue of almond trees across the sward. Below the vicarage are the almshouses, with gables and a tower, standing round three sides of lawn and garden.

St Mary’s church, begun in 1198, has a 14th century tower and spire, and windows of all three medieval centuries, filling the interior with light, some of them shining with rich glass. The long nave arcades of seven bays have pointed 13th century arches, and tall pillars with scalloped capitals marking the passing of the Norman style. A fine doorway of this time, sheltered by the north porch, has an arch with elaborate carving of zigzag under a hood, and clustered shafts with capitals of graceful foliage. The blocked south doorway has lost its shafts after 750 years, but keeps its arch of zigzag and its leafy capitals. The old priest’s seat in the chancel has a trefoiled arch and there is a fine little double piscina in the south chapel, which is entered by a low medieval arcade. The triple lancet of its east window has the Crucifixion and Our Lord in Glory, St Edmund and his martyrdom, and St Etheldreda with a fine picture of the cathedral. The east window of the chancel has glass showing the Nativity and the Shepherds. Another window has Our Lord Risen, with blue-winged angels; and one in memory of the men who fell in the Great War has figures of St George, the Archangel Michael, and Earldorman Brihtnoth as a warrior. St George is fighting the dragon with the princess looking on. Below Brihtnoth is a fine picture of the boat bringing his body to Ely, rowed by nuns, candles burning by his bier. A big broken font is in the churchyard, and on a buttress of the tower is a tablet reminding us of the Ely riots, with the names of five men executed in June 1816 “for divers robberies.”

Perhaps we should think much more of St Mary’s if it were not in the shadow of Ely Cathedral; it would be a superb building indeed which could endure such rivalry. A rare town it would be, also, which could compare with this, a gem in England’s coronet.

Flickr.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdon

A fine exterior and an excellent location belies a rather dull interior. The plaster stripped nave walls left me cold but I liked the Hildesley glass in the north aisle and the nave roof Angels were good.

I rather wish I'd found Hemingford Grey.

ST MARGARET. Of brown cobbles. W tower with clasping buttresses with chamfers towards the middles of the sides and a recessed spire with two bands and two tiers of lucarnes in alternating directions. Interesting N aisle with windows and doorway of c.1300. All three windows are of two lights and straight-headed, which is remarkable, and the E window is just as remarkable, provided it is not interfered with. The chancel is of yellow brick, probably of c.1800. The interior has arcades of three bays (standard elements) plus a truncated fourth into which the tower now cuts. The E bay represents a former crossing. This is evident from the thicker octagonal piers, the half-arches, i.e. flying buttresses, across the aisles, and the thickening of the upper nave walls. Another disturbance in the clerestory walls is the replacement of two-light by three-light windows. Fine decorated rood-bay of the nave roof. Decorated bosses also in the N aisle roof. The S porch entrance is E.E. Could it belong to the date of the arcades, or must it be earlier? And is it re-set? - STAINED GLASS. In the N aisle E window good C18 heraldic glass. - In a N aisle window glass by Tower, of 1928, incredibly reactionary.- PLATE. Salver on foot of Britannia metal, 1719-20; two Cups and a Flagon, 1795-6; Paten on foot, 1800-1. - MONUMENTS. Joshua Barnes d. 1712. Baldacchino above the inscription; putto-heads and palm-fronds at the bottom. He was Regius Professor of Greek; so the inscription is partly in Greek. - Jacob Maxey d. 1710. Tablet with a little bust on top.

St Margaret of Antioch (3)

 Gargoyle (1)

Nave roof

HEMINGFORD ABBOTS. Who can forget its lovely square, the old thatched barns, the white houses, and the green river bank? It was the Hemingford of the abbots of Ramsey as distinguished from the Hemingford which belonged to the Greys. It has spacious meadows by the Ouse, a fine park, two lakes, and a heronry. Some of its cottages were here in Cromwell’s day, and we found here two descendants of Cromwell’s sister Jane, Mrs Ivatt and her daughter. The medieval clerestoried windows of the 13th century church are a joy to see, and its carved and painted roof is a splendid piece of Tudor England, with ten angels holding musical instruments and 12 figures with shields. Some of the small robed figures have long hair and look very quaint. The inscription on one of the tie-beams can still be seen, and it reads: “Pray for Wyllm basele and for hys wyvs.” There is a painting of St Christopher fading on the walls after 500 years. The fine 14th century tower (the base of which juts into the nave) is later than the nave and takes the place of the old central tower. It has a lofty spire seen far off. By the south door are two sundials. A stone coffin has been brought indoors from a field near by; with it was a vase found when the coffin was opened. We noticed a curious thing in the rectors list here, for the first rector gloried in the name of Aristotle.

Peterborough, Cambridgeshire - St John

St John (locked no keyholder) is a stone's throw west of the cathedral's gatehouse and is a gem. Sitting, rather oddly, in the middle of the Westgate shopping precinct the perfectly symetrical N and S aisles lend dignity to this rather misplaced church - I assume the precinct was built before town planning was thought of.

ST JOHN BAPTIST. The church was E of the cathedral until it was rebuilt on its present site, in 1402-7, using material from the old church and the nave of St Thomas W of the cathedral. Mostly Perp, the oldest parts at the foot of the W tower. Rubble and ashlar for the upper parts of the tower and the clerestory. The tower is embraced by the aisles, and the tower E, N, and S arches are in their mouldings and responds earlier than the work of 1402, though probably not earlier than the C14. Re-used also the W doorway and the window above it. The rest is all of a piece. Large Perp four-light windows,* tower bell-openings of four lights with transom. The tower buttresses are polygonal. Decorated parapets; pinnacles.** S porch of two storeys and two bays deep, the outer bay open to the W and E as well as to the S. Tierceron-vaults with ridge ribs and bosses with Annunciation and Crucifixion. Interior of seven bays, tall arcades with slender piers of the usual section with four shafts and four hollows. The chancel arch of the same type, the E chapel arches too. - FONT. Big, Perp, octagonal, with quatre-foil panels. - EMBROIDERY. Cruciform piece of the C15 with the Crucifixus and two angels; English. - STAINED GLASS. One N aisle window by Kempe, 1896. - PLATE. Flagon, Breadholder, and Spoon, 1675; Flagon, 1703; silver-gilt Almsdish, 1704; silver-gilt Paten, 1711; Patens, 1731 and 1734; two silver-gilt Cups, 1799. - MONUMENTS. William Wyldbore d. 1781, by Richard Hayward. Standing monument. Obelisk with urn in relief, two female allegories in relief to the l. and r. (SE chapel). - John Image d. 1786, by Edward Bingham. with a female figure by an urn (S aisle). - William Squire d. 1826, by Flaxman. A mourning Grecian by a tall pedestal with a medallion showing the heads of Mr and Mrs Squire in profile.

* The tracery is all renewed. The intersecting tracery cannot be regarded as authentic even in design.
** A spire was removed in the C19.

St John (2)

St John’s Church was built in the 15th century, when the people complained that they could not attend their parish church on account of floods. Much of the materials were brought from St Thomas’s Chapel, and from a chapel that has disappeared on the east of the minster.

The south porch is delightful, with a stone vaulted roof, and sitting on the gable is the heraldic antelope of Henry the Fourth, during whose reign the Church was built. The porch has three lofty arches, two of them to allow processions through the churchyard without interference. The bosses in the roof (which has a room over it) are carved with great detail, one showing the Annunciation, another the Crucifixion.

The clerestoried nave has seven bays with slender pillars, and in the aisles the medieval windows have modern tracery. In the tower hang 16th century embroidery pictures of the Crucifixion done in gold thread on a dark background, and there is a fine lifesize painting of Charles Stuart which has been rescued from a grocer’s shop. It is undoubtedly the work of a great artist, and has been attributed to Van Dyck. An elaborate triptych on the altar shows Our Lord in Majesty, with gilded figures in niches. The sanctuary is panelled, and there are four oak screens of fine craftsmanship, with excellent stalls and poppyhead benches. In the Lady Chapel is a marble monument to members of the Wyldebore family, and on a wall one of Flaxman’s finest works, a memorial to William Squire showing him with his wife on a medallion, a graceful figure representing Grief leaning on an urn.

The church has some fine windows, one with four lovely figures of the Madonna, Elizabeth, Hannah, and the Shulamite woman; another with four bishops is very rich in a jewelled setting; a Kempe window of David with his harp and the kings offering their gifts at Bethlehem; and the east window full of gorgeous colour showing Christ and the Disciples on the Sea of Galilee, with the Miraculous Draught of Fishes. The old chest in the vestry comes from the year 1569 and was carved with the Crucifixion in high relief, but it has lost the original figure of Our Lord.

Peterborough Cathedral

I think Peterborough made less of an impression on me than it normally would have done simply because I visited Ely the day before. Trying to be impartial, Peterborough is not as architecturally interesting as Ely and, following a devastating fire in 2001, is much more scrubbed up. Having said that, the fan vaulting in the 'new' building at the east end is outstanding and there is plenty of interest here. I'm sure that if I'd visited at any other time I would have been blown away; perhaps a lesson learnt - two cathedrals in two days is too much.

Pevsner's entry can be read here.

Peterborough Cathedral (3)

S nave arcade (2)

Crossing

PETERBOROUGH. Here on the edge of Fenland, a little way from Ermine Street, stands one of the grandest Norman monuments in Europe. It has grown out of the 7th century Abbey of Medeshamstede, the meadow homestead, founded in 655 in the reign of the Christian King Peada, son of the pagan King Penda who did what he could to stamp out Christianity in the Island. Under Abbot Saxulf, befriended by King Peada, the abbey in the meadow became one of the most important religious centres in a country where Christianity was still fighting for its life. A settlement grew up round it, and when five centuries had come and gone.a traveller coming this way would have found the Normans busy with their hammers and chisels transforming the Saxon abbey into a minster that has outlasted their dynasty and will, we may be sure, outlast whatever dynasties there may be for another thousand years. They made it into the marvellous place we see today, fit to rank with any building that stands in Europe.

There it stood as the centuries went by, majestic, solemn, wonderful, yet almost solitary through the long generations of medieval England, for (except that Henry the Eighth thought so much of it that he made it a cathedral with a diocese) nothing happened round about this small cathedral city until the railway came and Peterborough began its rise from a country place with a few thousand people to the status of an industrial centre of the Midlands and a population approaching 50,000. We may imagine that but for the railway Peterborough would be today a place like Southwell, a cathedral of great splendour with a village gathered about its walls.

Yet it has known exciting days. The first Saxon settlement was burned out by the Danes, coming like Nazis with fire and sword across Mercia. Abbey after abbey they left in ruin, Crowland, Thorney, Ramsey, Ely, and Medeshamstede. The good Archbishop Dunstan encouraged the Abbot to build again, and a new Saxon church arose and was dedicated in 972. A wall was built round the settlement and a keep within it, and this little new town gave itself a new name; it called its church St Peter’s and the town St Peter’s Burgh. Abbot Leofric became so powerful that he ruled five abbeys at once, and the minster grew so rich in his time (the time of Edward the Confessor) that the little town was known as the Golden Borough. The brave Abbot marched with King Harold and meant to fight at Hastings, but he fell sick and was brought home again, and here he died on the third day after the battle that ended Saxon England and made the Conqueror king.

It was in these troubled days that Hereward the Wake, the last Saxon squire to resist the Conqueror, gathered little hosts of Danes and attacked the abbey, carrying off its treasure, burning the houses, but sparing the church. He was that Hereward whom Charles Kingsley made into a hero for every English lad, and he declared that he only wished to save the treasure of the abbey from the Normans. However that may be, the church that Hereward had spared was burned down in the generation after him, and in 1117 John of Sais began the building that we see, ranking with those imperishable glories of Norwich and Durham and Tewkesbury. It remained an abbey for nearly nine centuries from the days of Abbot Saxulf, and then came Henry the Eighth and took it over from John Chambers, the abbot who was a man of peace and “loved to sleep in a whole skin and desired to die in his nest.” Some abbots the imperious tyrant broke to pieces, but Abbot Chambers he rewarded for his docility, making him first Bishop of Peterborough.

We come to four gateways as we walk towards the cathedral, the great west gateway of the Minster precincts, the medieval gateway into the Bishop’s garden, the Tudor gateway to the Deanery, and the Norman gateway into the Cloister Court. The great west gateway, with the 14th century chancel of St Thomas of Canterbury beside it, is the finest of all the monastic buildings now standing. It is Norman and was built by Abbot Benedict, but has a 14th century front with a moulded arch. On each side of the lovely entrance arch is a Norman arcade with a doorway in it. One doorway leads into what remains of the King’s Lodging in ancient days, another brings us to an upper room once a chapel and now a classroom. The vaulted Norman chamber on the ground floor was used by the abbots as a prison and remained the town gaol until the middle of last century, having still the old door with a formidable bolt which opened into the condemned cell.

Abbot Godfrey’s medieval gateway into the gardens stands out from a row of modern buildings on our right as we approach. It is 32 feet deep with arcading on its inner walls, and a vaulted roof supporting the Knight’s Chamber. On both faces of the gateway are three figures in niches, those on the north being Edward the Second between an Abbot and a Prior, those on the south Apostles. The gateway into the deanery grounds on the left of the green in front of the cathedral is richly carved with Tudor devices, having been set up in 1510; the church on a tun over its smaller arch is a play on the name of Abbot Kirkton.

The Norman gateway into the cloisters (called Laurel Court) is reached by a narrow passage to the right of the cathedral. The cloisters were a great square with 168 yards of walks, and had windows with painted glass, but they are now a ruin. The west wall has a Norman arch remaining in its solid masonry. The south wall has two elegant pointed doorways, one having a round arch richly carved with a band of frogs and queer devices, and a tympanum with reptiles carved on each side of a quatrefoil. The effect of the small arch within the deep mouldings of the medieval arch is delightful, and this doorway is known as Heaven’s Gate.

Here are two doorways leading from the cloister into the cathedral, the Canon’s and the Bishop’s. The Canon’s doorway is Norman, the Bishop’s 13th century. The Norman doorway, impressive with a flight of steps and four columns at each side, has outer arches carved with fleur-de-lys and zigzag with two plain arches between. The medieval doorway has three elegant columns supporting its 13th century arches.

The Refectory stood behind the south wall of the cloister court, and in the bishop’s garden are some of its carved remains. There are many arches and fragments of old monastic buildings, the most striking being the tall graceful arches of the Infirmary, with an arcade of the l3th.century standing free in space. In the middle of the Cloister is a Norman well to which the white-robed monks would come for water. It was lost for centuries and has been discovered in our time. The mouth of the well was closed by a huge gravestone, but a depression in the turf led workmen to excavate, whereupon they found three steps leading to the water, and square walling showing fine Norman tooling.

It is a noble view of the walls of the cathedral that the cloisters give us, with graceful Norman arches by the hundred, stately windows of all our building centuries, and the solid and dignified central tower crowning it all. Here we see every age of this great cathedral except the Saxon; and it is an impressive spectacle, for these walls are crowded with the masterly strength and grace of the round arches of the 12th century, the delightful decorated parapet of the 13th, and stately windows with the simplicity of the 13th, the decorative development of the 14th, and the rich tracery of the 15th.

Few cathedrals have more delightful exteriors, and Peterborough is remarkable for three things the traveller sees before he comes inside, three additions to this Norman fane (at the middle and the ends) that do not spoil it, but enhance its glory. One is the central tower which, still on its Norman foundations, was raised to its battlements in the 14th century and last century was taken down and rebuilt stone by stone. Another is the lovely 15th century building enclosing the apse and is still called the New Building. It gives a delightful aspect to the east end of this great place, lengthening the cathedral by many feet, its fine walls pierced with 13 windows and crowned with a richly decorated parapet. Twelve massive buttresses hold up these walls, crowned by seated figures believed to represent the Apostles, and all much worn by the winds and rains of 500 years. The third great addition since Norman days is the incomparable west front, for the Normans had no great front to their building but left it for the 13th century to add. The main stages of the cathedral therefore cover four centuries, the main structure 12th century, the west front 13th, the central tower 14th, the east end walls 15th.

It is the marvellous west front which remains forever in the memory of all who behold it. Looking at this front across the grassy space the traveller’s mind runs back to Salisbury and Wells. It has the same sense of something rare and wonderful, something majestic, and with a strength that has kept it where it is for 700 years, yet with a soaring lightness that holds us spellbound by its enchantment. William Morris thought of it all when he wrote his Earthly Paradise:

I who have seen
So many lands, and midst such marvels been,
Can see above the green and unburnt fen
The little houses of an English town,
Cross-timbered, thatched with fen-reeds coarse and brown,
And high o’er these, three gables great and fair,
That slender rods of columns do upbear
Over the minster doors, and imagery
Of kings and flowers no summer field doth see,
Wrought in these gables.

It is a true image that the poet gives us of this west front, with its appealing beauty, its variety within a scheme of ordered symmetry. The whole mass is superb, with no suggestion of weight about it. There must be well over a mile of slender columns in these three noble arches soaring 81 feet high, and outside and above them rise lovely towers and gables and turrets adorned with delicate arches, wheel-windows, pierced arcading, carved pinnacles. and impressive statues. We wonder that so delicate a thing can have survived the buffetings of our English weather for six or seven hundred years and show so little sign of weariness or age. Professor Freeman called it “the noblest conception of the old Greek translated into the speech of Christendom,” and truly it is one of the grandest fronts in Europe. It completes with Gothic splendour the mighty work of the Normans behind it.

The great minster is 158 yards long, and of this 130 yards was built by the Normans in the space of 80 years. They left the west end unfinished, and in the next generation the English builders crowned it with these great towers and arches, so linking the work of the Conqueror’s men with that of the English builders who were to crown this island with such wonder for the next 300 years. The three stupendous arches of the front are crowned with delightful gables, the wide sweep being extended and completed by a slender tower on each side. The columns of the arches are unattached to the west wall of the cathedral, which the English builders covered with doorways, windows, and arcading, giving the arches a rich background. Over a century later (about 1370) the builders set a porch in the central arch rising halfway to the top. It may have been desirable as a support to the great piers, but the work was done with no suggestion of an afterthought, for this fine and delicate structure in no way spoils the dazzling spectacle.

The porch has delightful towers on each side, rising in two storeys enriched with niches and arcading, and above the arched doorway is a great traceried window crowned with an embattled roof. The porch runs back to join the arch of the main doorway into the minster, and has side arches opening into the space between the west front and the inner west wall. The vaulted roof has carved bosses, one of which is thought to be unique; it is a Trinity, and shows the Father with a beardless face holding the Risen Christ, with the Holy Spirit appearing in the form of a dove and seeming to be speaking to the Father.

Soaring up the towers and running across the gables of this front, and set in the spandrels of the great arches, are scores of smaller arches, some with windows, some with ornament, some with statues of benefactors and apostles. The base of each gable is filled with a rich arcade framing four windows and three apostles, with another apostle in the top of each of the three gables, completing the Twelve. St Peter presides in the centre. In the middle of each gable is a beautiful wheel-window, the central one with eight spokes, the others with six. Each of these round windows is set between two niches with statues of kings in them, so that each gable has four apostles and two kings. The niches in the spandrels of the great arches have twelve statues of benefactors of the minster, so that there are 30 figures in all. They are all very vivid, though some are badly battered by the wind and rain. The expression on the face of St Peter is remarkably good; he is giving his blessing with his right hand and has two keys in his left.

All three gables are crowned with a finely decorated cross, and between the gables are delightful octagonal turrets through which we see the sky. There are similar turrets on the bell-tower rising behind the front. The two towers belonging to the west front are crowned with pinnacles and soaring spires. It is the turrets and pinnacles of these western towers which add much to the feeling of lightness and delicacy of this great structure.

The central doorway which brings us in is divided by a noble pillar rising from a richly carved base on which a monk is being tortured by demons, a sculpture put here 700 years ago, apparently to encourage moral discipline in all who come into this fine place. The west wall pierced for this doorway has five 13th century windows filled with 15th century stone tracery, and arcading covers the wall running beyond the clustered piers of the arches and round the graceful sides of the towers. The arched door by which we enter has opened and shut for 700 years to admit every traveller who has come this way; it is carved with foliage on the capital of its central post, and its cross-pieces still have the ornament put there by the 13th century carpenter. We open this ancient door and are thrilled to find ourselves in Norman England. All about us is a spectacle unsurpassed, and only equalled in our island by the Norman splendour of Norwich, Durham, and Tewkesbury.

It is the simplicity of this vast place that strikes us first. The severe beauty of it all rises up to the triforium and the clerestory, the mighty columns bearing tier on tier of round arches of various sizes and groupings (single arch, double arch, triple arch as they rise), admirably proportioned and graduated so that we have the same feeling of lightness and grace that comes to us at the West Front. It is Norman at its purest and best, strength without a sense of over-bearing weight.

We notice that the English builders of the towers rising above the western transept could not but pay tribute to this Norman splendour by building in keeping with its style; they even used the Norman arches in the upper windows on each side, and used round arches for the frames of three doorways. We are standing where Norman hammers and axes were resounding eight centuries ago, and well may we wonder at it all, for this vast nave, begun in 1117, was finished before the century was out and is truly as magnificent as anything made by hands can be. The massive piers have clustered columns about them and arches of three orders, almost plain, with simple capitals; the great arches of the triforium are carved and have a pair of smaller arches set in each; and stately half-columns rise between the arches to the top of the lofty three-arched clerestory, touching the famous painted roof which crowns the longest, widest, and loftiest Norman nave in England.

Fitting it is that such a nave should have such a roof, for it is unique in England, the only Norman roof in any of our cathedrals; the wood is Norman and the painting English. There are only a very few surviving Norman timbers in our churches, and only one or two roofs among them, but nowhere is anything so spectacular as this. It is 204 feet long and 35 feet wide, and is divided into diamonds. In each diamond is a painted figure which has been there since about 1220, though the roof was repainted in 1834. The figures are sacred and grotesque, and worthy of another restoration. Here, among kings, queens, and minstrels, is Peter with the keys, and among the grotesque scenes are a monkey carrying an owl and riding backwards on a goat, a mother entertaining her child with a red cup and ball, a man with the head and feet of a donkey, and a lion dancing to an ass playing a harp. It is believed that the roof was made flat by the Normans but has since been raised and given sloping sides.

It was at the time of the raising of the ceiling that the Lantern Tower was restored in the 14th century, its east and west arches being made higher and pointed — the only alteration of the Norman work. The Norman arches of the transepts were not touched, however, and these superb structures, each with four bays, are as the Normans saw them, with simple arcading round the walls below the windows. Each transept has chapels, three in the south and one in the north. The southern chapels are dedicated to St Oswald, St Benedict, and St Kyneburga with St Kyneswith (the two Castor saints); in the Oswald Chapel is a stone stairway leading to an upper chamber. The northern chapel is dedicated to St Ostry. The beautiful wooden screens enclosing all the transept chapels are 15th century. In the west wall of the south transept is a richly carved 14th century doorway into a Norman chamber, with a stone vaulted roof, which is now the Sacristy, and in the north wall of the north transept is a rare Norman doorway, with a tympanum of scale-work, leading to the triforium.

But we have come into the transepts forgetting a glorious spectacle on the way, for it happens at Peterborough that the oak choir-stalls are in the two bays of the nave before the crossing. Modern, they are in striking contrast to their massive and severe environment. The stalls are richly traceried and canopied, the canopies being octagonal and in three stages, and each canopy crowned with a niche for a carved figure. There are 44 of these figures, all given by friends or by the Freemasons of England, and most of the statues are of people associated with the minster.

These are the names of the figures, beginning at the dean’s stall and going east on the south side. The dean’s stall has St Paul and St Andrew above it, and going east are: The patron saint, Peter; the first Saxon abbot, Saxulf; abbots from 971 to 1496, in this order: Adulf, Kenulf, Leofric, Turold (appointed by the Conqueror), Ernulf, Martin de Bec, Benedict (builders of the nave) Martin of Ramsey, John of Calais (builder of the cloisters), Richard of London (builder of the north-west tower), Adam of Boothby, William Genge, Richard Ashton (who began the New Building), and Robert Kirton (who finished the New Building). Next come three bishops (Towers, White, Magee) and three deans (Patrick, Saunders, Perowne).

On the north side of the stalls are these: King Wolfere and King Ethelred on the Vice-Dean’s stall, and then: King Peada, founder of the monastery; Abbot Cuthbald, Saxon; King Edgar of Mercia and his queen; Abbot Brando, 1066; Hereward his nephew, the great patriot; John de Sais, who started the choir; Abbot Hedda, slain by the Danes; Robert of Lindsey, with a model of the west front which he saw built; Godfrey of Crowland, with a model of the palace gateway; William Ramsey, abbot; Prior William Parys, builder of the Lady Chapel, now gone; St Giles, with the hind that took refuge in his cell; Hugh Candidus, chronicler and prior of the monastery; Abbot Overton; Catherine of Aragon; Dean Cosin; Prebendary Gunton; Bishop Marsh; Bishop Davys; Dean Monk; Dean Argles.

There are smaller figures tucked away in the carving of the canopies, from the Old and New Testaments; and on the two western stalls are carved panels of much interest. Four on the south represent the miracle by which the arm of St Oswald was preserved, this having been one of the relics of the monastery; on the north are four panels telling the story of Ethelwold, the great church builder of Peterborough and Winchester.

We have now completed the nave and may cross into the choir proper, looking up on our way into the vaulted roof of the Lantern Tower, with its painted medieval carving. The central boss shows Our Lord holding an orb, and other bosses have the symbols of the Evangelists. The transept roofs on each side are original, but are not painted. The roof of the choir is of wood to match the nave roof, but is 15th century and flat, carved and painted with bosses of the Crucifixion, the Devil with a wooden leg, three fishes, three lilies, and angels on medallions. The ceiling of the apse is painted to show Christ as the true vine and the disciples as the branches.

The coloured roof of the choir looks down on a tessellated pavement of a thousand rainbow hues, the patterns varying as we go east to the baldachino, which rises 35 feet and stands on a dais; it is of alabaster from Derbyshire and is a memorial to Dean Saunders, given by his children. From the four marble columns at the corners of the baldachino spring decorated arches with mosaic spandrels, and in canopied niches stand the Four Evangelists. The central panel at the front is a figure of Our Lord, and at the back in the same position is St Peter. The mosaic floor of the choir, with the wooden throne and the pulpit, were given by Dean Argles, who was here for 43 years; and in memory of him are the iron screens enclosing the choir, fine pieces of craftsmanship.

The throne is raised on three steps with a lofty canopy and a spire. On the sides are Peter and Paul, and on the book-rest are symbols of four Virtues - Temperance, Wisdom, Fortitude, and Justice. On the lower tier of the canopy are six figures of abbots and bishops: Saxulf, the first Abbot, Cuthbald, John de Sais, Benedict, Hugh of Lincoln with his swan, and John Chambers, last abbot and first bishop. In the upper tier are four bishops: Dove, Cumberland, Kennett, and Magee. The oak pulpit is also very elaborate. Round the base are arcading and four niches with abbots: John de Sais with the model of the apse, Martin de Bec, William of Waterville, and Walter of St Edmunds. Round the pulpit itself are three preaching scenes, with four saints in canopied niches dividing them: Peter, Paul, James, and John. The three scenes are attractively grouped, showing Abbot Saxulf converting the Mercians, Christ sending out the Apostles, and Peter preaching after Pentecost.

The choir has four bays, and it is interesting that all the tympana of the recessed arches under the main arcade of the triforium have different varieties of ornament. In two of these we see round holes pierced through the stone, the far-off beginning of tracery. The great bronze lectern (which must long outlast the wooden lectern in the nave) has a medieval bronze eagle on its original base, given to the minster by two men of the monastery, Abbot Ramsey and Prior Malden, of the 15th century. It may have been from this lectern that an angry Cromwellian soldier seized the big velvet-covered Bible now seen in the glass case in the nave. The story is that he took also a prayer book, some silver, and the altar candlesticks, and that when he showed them in triumph to his colonel the officer sent him back with his loot. In the choir aisles are two interesting fragments of ancient timber, one Norman — a pair of thin wooden pillars from the time when the English style was displacing the Norman, for below the Norman carving are gilded 13th century capitals cut with foliage. These are in the Ostry Chapel entered from the north aisle; in the south aisle hang three miserere seats with carving probably belonging to the original choir-stalls.

From either of these choir aisles we come into the 15th century’s great contribution to the cathedral, the New Building enclosing what is probably the finest Norman apse in the kingdom, with five bays divided by clustered shafts rising to the roof. The tracery in the upper windows is 14th century, and the three eastern arches were opened to the ground when the apse was enclosed by the splendour of the new East end, in the golden age of English architecture.

The New Building is in the style of the famous King’s College Chapel at Cambridge, and the eye is instantly drawn to the marvellous fan tracery of its roof, a wondrous spectacle. The roof is supported on two fine piers, richly carved arches, and the twelve outside buttresses crowned with the Apostles. It is the supreme wonder of this perfect little building, so filled with light from its great windows. The stone fans are like fine lace, and worked in among them are huge bosses of the lions of England and crowns pierced with arrows. The walls are arcaded below the windows, the arches being finely carved, and on the great entrance arch from the south choir aisle are many small devices, among which we read the last exultant verse of the Psalms, “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.” Everywhere it is evident that the 15th century craftsmen building this lovely place felt that nothing but the noblest work of man would do.

Here, in the newest part of the cathedral, the oldest treasure lies. It is a great sculptured stone believed to be Saxon, with six full-length figures on each side and primitive ornament on its roof-like top. It is said that it is the shrine made to commemorate the massacre by the Danes of Abbot Hedda and his monks in 870, but this has been questioned, and it is possible that it may be earlier work still, part of the shrine of St Kyneburga brought here with her remains in the 11th century. The sculpture is distinctly like that of a Saxon figure preserved in Castor church. All these twelve figures are crowned with a halo, and the halo round the head of Our Lord is marked with a cross. The shrine has been out in the winds and rains for centuries and is much worn, but it is a little masterpiece.

But if we would go back to the far-off Saxon beginnings of this place we come down the steps near the south-west pier of the lantern tower. The foundations of the transepts and the choir were found when this pier was rebuilt in 1883, and down these steps we may descend to view them. We may kneel in the very place where Hereward the Wake was made a knight, and where he would kneel through his vigil. It is the most thrilling spot in Peterborough. Here are fine stones believed to be part of the first Saxon church, and coffin lids with handsome crosses by Saxon masons. Fragments of carving from the church are worked into the pier, and other pieces of charred stone and timber from here are preserved behind glass in an aumbry of the south choir aisle, opposite the lovely 13th century piscina.

As we enter this south choir aisle we come upon the magnificent Norman arch for a tomb in which three abbots were laid, and here still lies the figure of one of them, said to be Abbot Andrew, laid to rest about 1200. It is one of six tombs of abbots which all travellers come to see, four more in this aisle, and a sixth in the aisle on the north of the choir. It has not been possible to identify two of the abbots, but Alexander of Holderness is known by a metal plate found on his coffin; we can see the plate with fragments of the abbot’s boots and clothing in a case in the nave. Alexander died in 1226 and has a very elaborate canopy. John Chambers, the last abbot and the first bishop, had his image carved in stone during his lifetime, and here it remains, much worn. Abbot Benedict, who lies in the north choir aisle, not far from a magnificent 14th century chest, is a very stately figure with his crozier ending in the mouth of a superbly carved reptile at his feet. All the six abbots hold croziers in their right hands and books in their left, and they are probably the best group of Benedictine monks in England, splendid figures in stone and marble.

This cathedral, which is not rich in monuments, has had within its keeping the bodies of two queens, tragic figures both, Catherine of Aragon and Mary Queen of Scots. No wall-monuments mark their resting-place, only two flags for each poor queen. The Queen of Scots has gone, and has a magnificent tomb in the richest chapel in the land, a few feet away from the tomb of Queen Elizabeth who signed her death warrant. Queen Catherine lies under a marble stone put here by the Catherines of England, Ireland, Scotland, and America in 1895. But the flags of England and Aragon are all the glory that is here to mark the grave of one of the most pathetic women in the world, first wife of the imperious Henry the Eighth, first victim of his wrath, though happily our royal butcher spared her life. As we stand by the grave of this much-wronged lady, stranger in a strange land, we may remember the words which Shakespeare makes her say as she lay dying:

When I am dead
Let me be used with honour; strew me o’er
With maiden flowers, that all the world may know
I was a chaste wife to my grave; embalm me,
Then lay me forth; although unqueened, yet still
A queen, and daughter to a queen, inter me.

Mary Queen of Scots was buried here by night, and an old pamphlet tells us that the body was brought from Fotheringhay in a coach with about a hundred men attending. Queen Elizabeth paid £321 l4s 6d for the funeral, which was followed by a formal procession through the city the next day. The coffin borne through the streets in the procession was empty though the fact was not known to the people; it was empty because the actual coffin with the body was so heavy that it could not have been carried. It weighed nearly half a ton. It was let into the grave by candlelight, and four officers attending broke their white staffs and threw them into the grave. Two Scottish flags hang on the piers to mark the place from which King James removed his mother’s body to Westminster Abbey in 1612.

Perhaps the most famous of all the varied memorials is the curious picture of Old Scarlett which hangs on the west wall of the nave. He was the verger who buried the two queens, and it was his boast that he had buried the whole population of the city twice over. He lived from 1496 to 1594 and his whole life was bound up with the cathedral.His picture, which is not the original but a copy made in 1747, shows him holding a spade, a pickaxe, keys, and a whip, and at his feet is a skull, grim symbol of his office. Under the portrait are 12 lines of rhyme. In the parish registers of St John’s Church it is recorded that there was paid to Old Scarlett “being a poor old man, and rising often in the night to toll the bells for sick persons, the weather being grievous, and in consideration of his good service, towards a gown to keep him warm, 8s.”

The minster would be much richer in shrines and tombs but for the destruction of the Civil War; but one richly carved 15th century shrine remains by the wall of the apse, just inside the New Building. It is believed to be the tomb of a kinswoman of St Kyneburga and St Kyneswith, the Christian daughters of the pagan King Penda. She is known as St Tibba, and is supposed to have been the patron saint of hunters, having a frieze of carved animals and birds on her shrine. It is thought that the shrine was once the reredos of one of the cathedral’s 22 altars, and it is said that the stone now resting on the altar of St Oswald’s Chapel is from another of these altars. Also in the New Building is a ruined fragment of the 17th century monument to Sir Humfrey Orme who had it erected in his lifetime and saw it in ruin. Near it Thomas Deacon, who founded a school at Peterborough which still bears his name, reclines lifesize on his 18th century tomb. There is a wall-monument to Bishop Cumberland who died in 1718, and a tablet of 1695 to Roger Pemberton, whose epitaph has a line of Greek from Homer: “The race of men is as the race of leaves.” Modern figures on tombs in the New Building are of Dean Ingram with a long beard, Bishop Clayton of Leicester in the more severe style of modern art, and there is a portrait head of Frederick Cecil Alderson who died in our own century after being chaplain to two monarchs; he wears a mortar board and his medallion is encircled by a bronze wreath.

In the south choir aisle is the white marble memorial of Archbishop Magee with a lifesize portrait of Bishop Mandell Creighton near it. Bishop Creighton lies in St Paul’s, having been Bishop of London, but he was six years bishop here; his epitaph is a little unfortunate in saying that he tried to write true history. Archbishop Magee lies in the burial ground here, and his epitaph describes him as one of the outstanding figures of last century. Unfortunately he is too often remembered by one of the stupidest sayings of the century — that he would rather see England free than sober. Edith Cavell and her teacher are both remembered in the nave by bronze tablets on piers. Nurse Cavel1’s portrait is in relief with a tablet saying that she was a pupil at Laurel Court School, and her teacher’s tablet tells us that Margaret Gibson was the blind Principal of the School for 40 years and the first woman to receive the freedom of the city. On the west wall of the nave is a bronze relief of a soldier known as the Lonely Anzac; he was Thomas Hunter, and died in Peterborough during the First World War, this memorial being shared with Peterborough by the citizens of his home town in New South Wales. Close by, on the south arm of the western transept, are the names of the men of St Peter’s Training College and the Old Boys from the King’s School who fell in the First World War, and on the opposite wall, in the Baptistry, is a tribute to King Peada who founded the first monastery. The font basin is 700 years old and was rescued from a garden.

The only old glass at Peterborough is a collection of fragments from the l4th and 15th centuries in the central windows of the apse; in it we can recognise St Peter receiving the keys from the Master. The windows have no special merit, but one in the south transept is by Rossetti, a vivid piece of colour showing the lowering of Joseph into the pit by his jealous brothers. The brother letting Joseph down is remarkable for having a head like the artist’s wife, with her mass of red hair. A window in the Oswald Chapel has Our Lord on the Cross between St Leonard and St Crispin; and in the New Building are five stained windows in memory of Dean Barlow (with groups of Jews and Gentiles below the figures of Peter and Paul, and angels with a scroll saying, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel”); Dean Butler; Dean Davys; Canon Twells, who wrote At Even, ere the sun was set; and Canon Alderson, with models of the cathedral and two churches he ministered in. The west window is in memory of men who fell in the South African War, and has two rows of five lights, with Paul, Peter, and Andrew, King Peada, and Bishop Ethelwold in the top row, and St George, St Michael, St Alban, Josiah, and Gideon below.

The cathedral library is in the room over the great west porch and in it is one of the rarest treasures from the 13th century, the Swapham Cartulary; in it is the receipt for ten shillings paid for its return by a soldier in the Civil War. The library has also a 14th century Bible with a delightful illumination of angels on Jacob’s Ladder.

The city has little history apart from the cathedral, but there is much to entertain us. Entering Peterborough through its suburb of Fletton on the Huntingdon border, we cross the River Nene by a wide concrete bridge which takes the place of four predecessors. Here men have been crossing the river since Godfrey of Croyland threw his wooden bridge across in 1308. Greatly astonished he would be could he see the titanic strength of this viaduct bridging the river and the railway. It is of five spans, and is 442 feet long. We must expect that the banks of the river below will be transformed into a park to keep company with the lovely natural spaces of the city round about.

On our right as we leave the bridge is the classical Custom House with a lantern roof, and a little farther on is the best modern building in Peterborough, the Town Hall, with a bold portico of Corinthian columns and a lofty stone lantern rising above the roof of a long brick and stone building. It has shops below, and over them the civic business of the city and the district is carried on. In the Council Chamber are 17th century portraits of Sir Humfrey Orme and his wife, he having been chief man of the city in the time of Charles Stuart; he saw himself carried through the streets in effigy by the Parliament soldiers after they had destroyed the grand tomb he had set up for himself in the cathedral.

The street runs on through a medley of buildings until it divides in roads well lined with trees, for it is the pride of the city to keep this touch with nature. Hereabouts we find the modern home of the King’s School, founded by Henry the Eighth in 1541 and carried on in the minster precincts till the end of last century. The 20 poor boys of Tudor days, “both destitute of the help of friends and endowed with minds apt for learning,” have grown into 200.

There is a little medieval work to be seen in the cellars of the Angel Hotel, an interesting entrance to the Swan Inn, and an 18th century block of almshouses in Westgate. One of the most interesting buildings is the museum in Priestgate, a 19th century infirmary bought by Sir Malcolm Stewart to house the collection of the Peterborough Natural History, Scientific, and Archaeological Society. It seems that a boy’s hobby began this admirable museum, He was a lad of ten, Master John Bodger, who collected local things of interest in boxes and kept them in his bedroom until his father gave him a room in a cottage near his home. The boy’s collection grew until it was recognised as a local museum in 1880, and he looked after it nearly 60 years from then; he gave 70 years of his life, indeed, to building up this splendid place. Here are old Dutch dolls, children’s clothes of many generations, a Noah's Ark with a hundred occupants, and jolly examples of the monkey on a stick which delighted every boy before our century changed the face of toyland. Here also is the chair of that heaviest man in England, Daniel Lambert, who lies in the churchyard of Stamford Baron; and there are two more of the ancient doors in which Northamptonshire is so rich, two 11th century doors from the Abbot’s Prison.

Stone Age, Bronze Age, Roman, Saxon, and medieval days, have all their own exhibits. A Roman hunting cup has a lifelike hound in full chase carved on it, and there is a charming miniature bronze figure of a Roman soldier on horseback. On a bronze Saxon brooch is a perfectly wrought cat's head. In a room given up to an astonishing variety of things made by French prisoners in Napoleon’s day is a model of a guillotine, a model of an 84-gun ship, and many exhibits of much ingenuity and skill, including dainty things made from the simplest materials with the crudest tools — a lady’s work cabinet, jewel cases, clocks, and spinning wheels.

There is a Mary Queen of Scots Room in which is a piece of needlework she made at Fotheringhay, and some tiles and other fragments from the castle.

Many good paintings and drawings hang on the walls. On the stairs are two portraits of Oliver Cromwell and many prints of old Peterborough, some showing the Wortley Workhouse, now the Westgate Almshouses. A delightful watercolour by Turner shows the cathedral front. Birket Foster is represented by a noble beech tree and other works, William Steer by a view of Bridgenorth, Walter Sickert by an early painting of Porte St Denis, Muirhead Bone by his Spanish Chapel, and Flandrin by St Mark’s at Venice. Peterborough’s own artist engraver, Thomas Worlidge, born here in 1700, shares a room with poor John Clare. Worlidge, who lies at Hammersmith, had three wives and 32 children, but in spite of his domestic cares he became famous for his etchings in the style of Rembrandt, and is represented here by two oil portraits and hundreds of beautiful prints.

John Clare is represented by many manuscripts, some very neat, some in scrawling penmanship, some original letters he wrote to friends and patrons; and by the dictionary and the Bible he used, the Bible containing his autograph. The two oldest buildings in the town next to the cathedral stand as good neighbours, the Church of St John the Baptist and the old Market Cross, over which a chamber was built in 1671 to commemorate the Restoration of Charles the Second, the space under its open arches having been used as a butter market; it has dormer windows in the curved gables of the roof, and the royal arms and four painted shields on the east front. St John’s Church was built in the 15th century, when the people complained that they could not attend their parish church on account of floods. Much of the materials were brought from St Thomas’s Chapel, and from a chapel that has disappeared on the east of the minster.

The south porch is delightful, with a stone vaulted roof, and sitting on the gable is the heraldic antelope of Henry the Fourth, during whose reign the Church was built. The porch has three lofty arches, two of them to allow processions through the churchyard without interference. The bosses in the roof (which has a room over it) are carved with great detail, one showing the Annunciation, another the Crucifixion.

The clerestoried nave has seven bays with slender pillars, and in the aisles the medieval windows have modern tracery. In the tower hang 16th century embroidery pictures of the Crucifixion done in gold thread on a dark background, and there is a fine lifesize painting of Charles Stuart which has been rescued from a grocer’s shop. It is undoubtedly the work of a great artist, and has been attributed to Van Dyck. An elaborate triptych on the altar shows Our Lord in Majesty, with gilded figures in niches. The sanctuary is panelled, and there are four oak screens of fine craftsmanship, with excellent stalls and poppyhead benches. In the Lady Chapel is a marble monument to members of the Wyldebore family, and on a wall one of Flaxman’s finest works, a memorial to William Squire showing him with his wife on a medallion, a graceful figure representing Grief leaning on an urn.

The church has some fine windows, one with four lovely figures of the Madonna, Elizabeth, Hannah, and the Shulamite woman; another with four bishops is very rich in a jewelled setting; a Kempe window of David with his harp and the kings offering their gifts at Bethlehem; and the east window full of gorgeous colour showing Christ and the Disciples on the Sea of Galilee, with the Miraculous Draught of Fishes. The old chest in the vestry comes from the year 1569 and was carved with the Crucifixion in high relief, but it has lost the original figure of Our Lord.

So this small but great city keeps some of its good companions through the ages, yet has nothing to compare with the chief glory of it all, for there is hardly anything in England that can compare with the solemn and beautiful temple which brought Peter’s Borough into being so very long ago.

Flickr.