Monday, 31 October 2016

Gedding, Suffolk

St Mary was the church that brought into question whether the Chapel of St Nicholas, Gipping was in fact the church of the day. Looking back I think Gipping outclasses St Mary but at the time I seriously wondered which was best.

This is, albeit heavily restored, a Norman church and is utterly charming if simple. The best feature of the plain interior is the chancel arch with its arches and mouldings. Perhaps not after all church of the day but a very close second [not least for the fact that they had a note on the door militantly stating that this church is open every day but the door is a little stiff].

ST MARY. Nave and chancel, and a W tower finished in brick. In the nave two Norman windows, one N, one S. The rest of the details is Dec. The church has no porches. Its most interesting feature is the chancel arch. It is double-chamfered with continuous mouldings and flanked by one tall cusped lancet-like niche l. and one r. Roof with scissor-bracing below and above the collars. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with simple cusped blank arches and shields. - BENCHES. Three; humble. - (The churchyard has a moat. LG*)

St Mary (3)

Chancel arch


GEDDING. Its little Norman church was once encircled by a moat, parts of which can still be traced. The nave has walls beginning three feet thick, 14th century timbers in its roof, and a pretty lancet with zigzag. Here are five 15th century benches with carved backs, and a fine medieval font with shields and tracery. On the floor when we called was the six-sided bowl of another old font.

The 14th century tower, with patterns in flint and stone on its buttresses, and topped with brick last century, has two bells from Elizabethan England. The 14th century chancel has a rare triple arch, the centre one plain and the side ones lovely with foliage.

Near the church is a fine Tudor house of mellow red brick, with a towered gateway and a moat; it is a splendid sight.

* Everyone seems to be terribly excited by the moat, it looked more like a pond to me.

Rattlesden, Suffolk

St Nicholas approached from the south east is picture perfect, I'm sure it appears on a chocolate box or two. A large but rather sterile interior contains some good windows, some interesting screens and chancel and nave roofs but overall I was rather underwhelmed. The exterior and location do lift it out the mundane however.

ST NICHOLAS. On a slight eminence in the middle of the village. Quite big, with a Dec w tower with clasping polygonal buttresses and a shingled broach-spire. Finely detailed S doorway of c. 1300 with a circular window over. In the window a cusped quatrefoil. The S aisle and the clerestory (which has single, not double windows per bay) are given battlements decorated with lozenges and shields. Pretty SE spirelet. The S porch has the same battlernents. On the N side the aisle also has them; the clerestory battlements are simple. The S porch has a fine stone-faced facade with a tall entrance. The front is panelled and has one niche above the entrance. (Early C16 chancel chapel with room over. LG) Wide interior. C14 arcades of five bays with octagonal piers, decorated with blank cusped arches at the top, and arches with two hollow chamfers. Good C14 AUMBREY in the chancel N wall. Arched top, crocketed gable, and pinnacles. The tower arch is triple-chamfered. The arch dies into the imposts. The nave roof has double hammer-beams. Unfortunately the angel figures, also those of the arch-braced lean-to roofs in the aisles, are nearly all C19. Below the roof the nave has a large E window. - FONT. C14, octagonal.  Panels with thickly decorated ogee arches resting on heads. Castellated top. - SCREEN. Six parts of the dado are preserved under the tower arch. Painted panels, almost unrecognizable, in the back wall of the C19 Sedilia. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - BENCHES. Some with poppy-heads. - COMMUNION RAIL. Later C17, re-used in several parts. - STAIN ED GLASS. Original bits in the W window and the second N window from the E. - E window by Clayton & Bell, 1884. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Flagon 1729; Paten 1731.

St Nicholas & Old Moot House

South porch

Chancel window W Atkinson 1928 (2)

RATTLESDEN. Its church is supposed to have been founded 700 years ago by the monks of Bury. The high tower comes from the original building, the nave parapet is battlemented in flint and stone, and extraordinary gargoyles look down from the clerestory, among them huge faces with fat cheeks, sleepy and smug. Below the rich cornice of the nave is a frieze carved with angels.

St Nicholas greets us from a Tudor porch as we come in to admire the fine woodwork of this old place, much of it modern but all in keeping with the 14th century arches, the dignified 17th century pulpit, and the medieval font with its handsome tracery and eight heads. The splendid nave roof has 66 angels with outstretched wings, and in one of the aisle roofs is the last of the oak angels from the original roof. One of his wings has gone, but he still carries a shield. The finest bit of modern craftsmanship here is the beautiful screen with its vaulted roodloft. The wide cornice is handsome with foliage, and delicate tracery hangs down like lace. A delightful screen in the same style connects this masterpiece with the stone stairway in the aisle wall, up which the priest would climb to give out the good news.

There is much woodwork from Tudor times, the panelled base of the old screen being now under the 13th century tower arch. Other parts are in front of the choir-stalls; and there are old bench-ends with their fine poppyheads, one showing a head with four faces. Three Tudor doors are connected with the 15th century vestry, which once had an upper room. One leads to it from within, the others belong to the old staircase. The village treasures a solid silver chalice from the same time.

Scraps of old glass make a patchwork in the tower, and a peace memorial window shows St George standing on the dragon and David with his sling ready for Goliath. On the list of rectors we noticed that James Oakes served the church for 53 years last century, preaching at the end of his life to Zachariah Howes, whose memorial says he was a ringer and a singer for 62 years.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Wetherden, Suffolk

St Mary was another chance encounter and a delightful one at that. To the north and west the churchyard is kept neat and pristine but the south drops off to a satisfying wilderness. The south porch offers a scratch dial, a frieze of Sulyard arms, a rare, at least to me, Annunciation lily and some great flintwork. Inside is a wealth of poppyheads mostly C19th but with some, to my undiscerning eye, original work and a quality nave double hammerbeam roof.

To top it off an unexpected family tree connection to the Sulyards and the addition of John Sulyard's monument to the tree. Altogether sublime my only criticism being that the south aisle box pews have been turned in to a dumping ground for the church detritus making the two monuments hard to photograph.

ST MARY. Dec W tower and Dec chancel with an E window which has reticulated tracery and a niche over. Inside it has niches l. and r. The Piscina is contemporary too. The rest is Perp, i.e. the other windows of the chancel, the Treasury or Vestry N of the chancel with a curious heavy half-tunnel-vault with closely set single-chamfered ribs, the tower doorway and the window above it, the N side of the nave, and the spectacular S aisle and S porch. The two latter were built by Sir John Sulyard c. 1484. The porch is attached to the W end of the aisle and forms part of it. Base with a frieze of shields and flushwork panelling. Also a frieze of shields above the entrance. Among the flushwork is a lily in a vase (buttress between porch and aisle). The S arcade inside is Perp too, with capitals only to the shafts towards the arch openings. Double-hamerbeam roof, the hammer-posts and upper hammerbeams being false. Three-tier decorated wall-plate. Figures (not original) on the pendants. The aisle roof has cambered tie-beams and figures at the springing of the arched braces. - PULPIT. Perp panels are used. - SCREEN. Fragments of the dado re-used behind the altar. - BENCHES. With poppy-heads and, on the arms, beasts and birds. Carved backs of the seats. - BOX PEWS in the S aisle.- STAINED GLASS. E Window by H. Hughes, 1863; bad.  PLATE. Cup and Cover c. 1680; Set C18.- MONUMENTS. Tomb-chest with three lozenges with shields. Not in a good state. - Sir John Suliarde (Sulyard) d. 1574. Tall tomb-chest with fluted pilasters and shields. On it a stone panel with a framed shield with foliage flanked by two columns. Below the panel four small kneeling figures, Sir John and his family. Not a convincing composition. As a rule such monuments as this have no figures at all.

Annunciation lilly


Box pews

WETHERDEN. For its fine old limes round the church it has to thank an 18th century vicar who planted them; and for part of the church itself it is grateful to Sir John Sulyard, a forgotten Chief Justice of Richard the Third’s time. He built the porch and the aisle where his family were laid during four centuries, and on both appear his arms on stone shields. Both porch and aisle have a very effective frieze of little narrow arches. The tower is 15th century too, and has three beautiful canopied niches by the west door. The 14th century chancel has one also, over the east window outside. The little vestry is interesting because it was once a chapel and has a vaulted roof and a piscina. It is only seven feet by five.

The 15th century nave is adorned with handsome woodwork, the richly carved roof having double hammerbeams and two rows of angels on each side. Some of the seats are modern copies, but many of the old ones are left, with beautiful traceried ends and fine poppyheads. On the elbows are perched such curious sights as monkeys eating, horses licking their backs, squirrels with nuts, a bird putting its head into an animal’s mouth, a pair of lions, delightful dogs, and two beasts with long horns. Very different these seats are from the high box-pews in the aisle. The font was carved 500 years ago, and its bowl rests on eight heads which have the pointed ears of devils though their features are human and refined.

There is a notable monument to one of Wetherden’s old family who died in 1574, an altar tomb with coats-of-arms, marble columns, and the mutilated figures in relief of John Sulyard kneeling in armour and his three wives kneeling behind him with their children. One of the Sulyards built Wetherden Hall, still carrying on as a farm.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Haughley, Suffolk

St Mary the Virgin, like most, if not all, of today's churches, has been heavily restored which, for me, affects its attractiveness but as this was not a planned visit I'll forgive it this once. This is a barn of a church with a most peculiar layout, it looks like the three separate parts, tower, nave/chancel and south aisle, have been bolted together to form the whole but that each part is individual to and of itself - my children used to have a wooden railway set which had blocks for houses and I imagine they would design a church like this.

Inside all is much restored but the nave and south aisle roofs are pleasing [I thought the angels in the south aisle were replicas, Pevsner seems to think not] and the font is excellent. Perhaps I'd been jaded by Gipping but I found it rather pedestrian.

ST MARY. All of c. 1330-40. Nave and chancel, S aisle and S porch tower. Inside the tower good doorway with two orders of slender shafts and a finely moulded arch. The S aisle E window has a very pretty enrichment of the usual reticulation motif. Each unit has a lozenge in the middle held by four bars. The W window has two cusped spherical triangles above the even three lights. The N windows of the nave are segment-headed, again with reticulation motifs. The five-bay arcade which separates the nave from the wide S aisle has octagonal piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches. Beautiful nave roof with alternating tie-beams on arched braces and arched braces meeting at the ridge. Large bosses. S aisle roof on demi-figures of angels. Smaller angels on the wall-plate as well. - FONT. Against the stem four ferocious seated lions and four Wild Men. Against the bowl the Signs of the Evangelists and angels holding shields. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Set of 1758. - CURIOSA. In the porch hang thirty-three leather buckets of 1725 and 1757.

Font (2)

Font (10)

Nave roof

HAUGHLEY. Thatched houses are gathered in friendly fashion round its green, and an old mill waves its arms on the hill above. It has a stately Tudor house with battlemented bays and crow-stepped gables, and a flint church 600 years old. But the great surprise of this ancient town is in its High Street, the deep waters of a moat and a wooded mound of a Norman castle. The castle was captured and razed to the ground in 1173 during the struggle between the Kings and the Barons, but the mound remains, a stronghold, it is believed, of Danes and Saxons, the survivor of probably 20 centuries or more of unhurried but continuous change.

The 14th century nave of the church has a 15th century clerestory, and keeps its medieval roof with embattled beams and bosses of spreading leaves. There is some ancient glass in the west window with the heraldic arms of Hales Abbey, to which the church once belonged. The font is 500 years old, with angels on its bowl and lions with wild men with bludgeons guarding the base. There is an Elizabethan chalice, and in the porch hangs an old leather bucket. A vicar of last century, Edward Ward, was here for 56 years.

Gipping, Suffolk

It's unusual to decide that the second church you've visited on a trip is your church of the day but that's what happened at the Chapel of St Nicholas. Ignore the hideous Victorian rendered tower and luxuriate in the splendid flintwork, Tyrell carvings and the stunning setting; this is nigh on perfect and then you go inside. Due to the lack of stained glass this is an extraordinarily light interior, think Tilty in Essex, the airy feeling is helped by the light wood pews and cream painted reading desk and pulpit.

Simply put this is a stunning interior and then on top of all that the five light east window is a fantastic mosaic of medieval fragments. Nothing would top this building today, or so I thought.

CHAPEL OF ST NICHOLAS. The private chapel of Sir James Tyrell, who died in 1502. Built probably c. 1483. The chapel was close to a mansion of which not a trace is left. The plastered C19 W tower spoils what would otherwise be a singularly perfect piece of late medieval Suffolk architecture. The building is all of a piece, nave and chancel and a curious N annexe. This has a fireplace in its N wall, and it has been assumed that originally it was the chaplain’s dwelling. The wall behind the fireplace is treated as a dummy bay window. It is canted, and the one-light, three-light, one-light rhythm with transoms is all made up of flushwork. W entrance to the room with inscription: ‘Pray for Sir Jamys Tirell and dame Ann his wife.’ The Tyrell knot appears everywhere in the flushwork decoration, which is generously applied to walls, buttresses, etc. The composition of N and S doorways is identical, and they are charming pieces too. Whereas the other windows are of three lights and transomed, there are here four lights and the lower part of the middle two is taken up by the doorway. The lower parts to its 1. and r. are again flushwork dummies, and in the upper parts flushwork also is inserted between the two l. and the two r. lights. E wall with polygonal buttresses. Five-light E window. The interior is as translucent as a glasshouse. What effect the original glass must have had, of which fragments and five small figures remain in the 12 window, it is hard to guess. - BENCH. One original kneeling-bench; the end is of quite exceptional, very simple shape, and has the Tyrell knot. Twisted-leaf frieze along the back of the seat. - PLATE. Two
Patens 1704; Cup 1712.

Looking east

East window (20)

East window (3)

GIPPING. One of the blackest deeds in human annals must always be remembered here, yet Gipping has much charm. It gives its name to a river; it has a Saxon burial-place near by; and close to the green stands a fairy-story cottage, with dormer windows in a steep thatched roof.

We come to the church by a wooden footbridge in the shade of a yew, pausing to admire its effective ornamentation in flint and stone. The tower is modern, but most of the building is 14th century. There is a very old font bowl, but the great sight is the old glass filling the east window, which has beautifully coloured figures of Mary and John (from a Crucifixion), an abbot, a knight, and a lady. With them are parts of golden canopies and many glowing fragments. This window has been reconstructed in our time with the help of a grant from the Pilgrim Trust.

Yet the most stirring thing in the church is an inscription over the vestry doorway outside, asking us to pray for Sir James Tyrrell and Dame Anne his wife. We cannot look at it without feeling that he needs all the prayers we can give him, for it was he who carried out the murder of the little princes in the Tower, which Shakespeare calls

The most arch act of piteous massacre
That ever yet this land was guilty of.

The order came from the bloodstained Richard the Third, and was refused by Sir Robert Brackenbury, who passed it on to James Tyrrell. To him were given the keys of the Tower for one night, and in his presence two rutfians did a thing which has become an everlasting shame to England. There is a tradition that the vestry was built as a chapel by Tyrrell in remorse for his crime; he certainly settled here before he died a traitor’s death.

Three Tyrrells stand out in history, all of the same family: Sir Walter, who slew Rufus; Sir John, who fought at Agincourt and was Speaker of the House of Commons; and Sir John’s grandson Sir James, murderer of the princes.

On the death of Edward the Fourth in April 1483, his elder son, aged 13, became Edward the Fifth. Three weeks later he was in the hands of Richard and sent to the Tower, where he was joined by his younger brother, Duke of York. On June 26 Richard got himself declared king, but with the princes alive his position was insecure, so, while lying at Warwick Castle, he sent word to Sir Robert Brackenbury, Lieutenant of the Tower, hinting at his foul intent. Brackenbury received the message while on his knees at prayer, and indignantly refused to do the deed.

Sir James Tyrrell was more pliant. Hearing that Brackenbury was obdurate, Richard went in the middle of the night into a room where Tyrrell, his Master of the Horse, lay on a pallet bed. Tyrrell needed no urging. With the dawn he was riding to London bearing a royal order that Brackenbury should deliver to him the keys and passwords of the Tower for one night. With Tyrrell rode two brutal knaves, John Dighton and Miles Forrest, who suffocated the sleeping boys while Tyrrell kept guard at the foot of the stairs.

Tyrrell lived on in profit and honour, fought at Bosworth Field, served Henry the Seventh, but at last came himself to the Tower, and before his execution confessed the whole story.

The skeletons of the victims were found during reconstructions at the Tower in the time of Charles the Second, and were interred in the chapel of Henry the Seventh in Westminster Abbey.

Old Newton, Suffolk

My intention last week was to complete a long standing ambition to visit the remaining 11 Lavenham deanery churches and the wish list Chapel of St Nicholas at Gipping but over two days I added a further unintentional eight to the list. The first of which was St Mary.

An interesting font, a good Georgian gallery and a fine sedilia - a good, if run of the mill, start to the day which was picked up by finding, supposedly, Britain's oldest working clergyman's headstone.

ST MARY. The remaining medieval work is entirely Dec, with good tall two-light windows. The W tower has Y-tracery in the bell-openings and flushwork arcading on the battlements. To the l. and r. of the E window inside two ogee niches. - FONT. Octagonal. Against the stem four lions and four Wild Men. Against the bowl four lions and four angels. - BENCHES. At the back. Plain, c 17, with poppy-heads. - STAINED GLASS. Some in the heads of the nave N windows. - PLATE. Cup c. 1680.

Font (1)

From the gallery

Edward George Falconer known as Britain's oldest working clergyman (1)

OLD NEWTON. Its ivied church, screened by a row of stately sycamores, is 600 years old. Here are one or two carved bench-ends, a few fragments of ancient glass, and a splendid old font. On its bowl are angels and symbols of the Evangelists, while eight faces peep out below and four dilapidated lions with headless wild men clad in leaves sit round the base. At this font two clever men were baptised, a mathematician and a philosopher. John Mole, born here in 1743, was the son of a farm labourer. His only schooling was at his mother's knee, but soon he was to astonish all his friends with his marvellous calculating powers and to make a name for himself as the author of two books on algebra. John Bridges, born here nearly a century later, was the son of the vicar, and in turn brilliant scholar, doctor, lecturer, and writer, but is best remembered as one of the leaders of the modern system of philosophy called Positivism.