Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Semer, Suffolk

On my way home I saw a signpost for Semer church so stopped for the last visit of the day. I drove past All Saints at least four times before I spotted it at the bottom of a field, well hidden by its surrounding trees. After finding Ringshall open I rather hoped All Saints would be too but, sadly, I found it locked, keyholders were listed but it was late in the day, starting to rain and the light was going so, since it didn't look likely to be that interesting, I took exteriors and headed home. It is a pretty spot though.

ALL SAINTS. In the meadow by the stream amid old trees. Much renewed. Chancel 1873, timber S porch 1899. - FONT. Square, plain, C14. - PAINTINGS. Moses and Aaron, C18. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup and Cover.

All Saints (1)

Astonishingly [and I am genuinely astonished as I thought that even if Mee always found something positive, however awful a place may be, he was a meticulous recorder] Semer is the third church/village that he missed in my edition. I don't know if this rectified in later editions or not.

Ringshall, Suffolk

I was pleasantly surprised to find St Catherine open as, due its remote location, I fully expected to find it locked with no keyholders listed; sadly there's not much interest inside [there's some very damaged wallpainting] but the exterior is lovely and sports a Norman tower. I have to say, though, that just for being open it's definitely right up there in my best of Suffolk list.

ST KATHERINE. Unbuttressed Norman W tower. An original S window on the ground floor, and an altered N window. Norman windows in the nave, two on the N side (visible only inside), one altered on the S. The tower was completed and remodelled c. 1300, see the arch towards the nave with triple chamfering dying into the imposts. Of the same time the simple S doorway, and the chancel S doorway. Dec chancel E window, and also Dec the timber S porch. Very rough nave roof with tie-beams, kingposts, and two-way struts. The tie-beams are placed uncommonly low and go right through the walls. In the chancel hammerbeam roof with arched braces to collar-beams. Arched braces also connecting the wall-posts from W to E. These braces are carved. - FONT. C13; Purbeck marble, octagonal. With the usual two shallow blank pointed arches on each side. - PLATE. Cup and Cover Elizabethan.

St Catherine (4)


Wallpainting (3)

RINGSHALL. It has only a cottage or two, a moated farmhouse on the site of an ancient chapel, and a church set on a hill. Most of this small church is 15th century, but it has a Norman doorway over which are traces of 14th century paintings of the Seven Acts of Mercy. Among its ancient possessions are an arcaded font, an Elizabethan chalice, and a fine hammerbeam chancel roof, on which are the initials of Richard Borsall, who paid for the roof 500 years ago. The east window keeps green the memory of Charles Parker, who ministered here for 51 years last century.

Great Bricett, Suffolk

Having finished the Lavenham deanery churches and not having planned any other visits I went on a tour looking for churches and stumbled upon SS Mary & Laurence. The oddness of this building is explained by it being the remnant of an Augustine priory. Inside it is fascinating and rather beautiful and utterly unlike a conventional church, chancel and nave are all of a piece leading to a long narrow building. Definitely the most interesting visit of the day.

ST MARY AND ST LAURENCE. The church is a fragment of a church of Augustinian Canons. The priory was founded c. 1115 by Ralph Fitz-Brian but later became a cell of St Léonard near Limoges. What remains is a long plain oblong. But the church had transepts and these had E apses. Their existence has been proved by excavation, and a main E apse can be surmised with certainty. That was the plan in the C12. It is assumed however that in 1110 no transepts were yet envisaged. Towards the end of the C12 the E end was made straight and second transepts were built to its N and S. Their responds and arches are still visible in the walls. Of the early transepts only traces can be detected. The only impressive Norman piece is the N doorway with one order of shafts, decorated but defaced, an inner order of jambs and one with close decoration, zigzag in the arch, and a partly illegible inscription down the iambs. One blocked Norman slit window in the N wall, one taller round-arched window in the S wall. Other windows of c. 1300. The big five-light 12 window with flowing tracery is Dec. In fact it is said to date from 1868, but it is most probably a copy of what was there before. Tie-beam roof with kingposts and four-way struts. - FONT. Square, Norman, with intersected arches on two sides, trefoil arches on columns on the third, and very oddly pointed—trefoil arches on the fourth. - PULPIT. A very unusual design; probably Victorian. - STAINED GLASS. Fine figures of the four Evangelists, early C14; from the tracery of the E window. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup.

Pulipt (1)

Looking east

South door (2)

GREAT BRICETT. It has the charm of blossoming orchards in spring and of thatched cottages all the year round. The white manor and the 600-year-old church stand like brothers arm-in-arm by the green, the west wall of the church forming part of the house. The church is rather like a long barn with a gable bell-turret at one end and a fine old porch paved with black and white cobbles. Near it is a round sundial which is thought to have marked the sunny hours in Norman days, or, according to Mr Munro Cautley, perhaps even in Saxon days. A Norman doorway with three rows of zigzag leads to the simple nave and chancel, with a few old carved benches and a splendid Jacobean chest and altar table. There is a fine arcaded Norman font, and in a window are some fragments of 14th century glass showing angels with outstretched wings.

Chelsworth, Suffolk

All Saints should, on paper, be awful - cement rendered exterior and overly restored inside - but is strangely lovely. I think a large part of its charm is its location beside the river Brett however that's not all, it just "feels" right. Definitely the church of the day, not even the hideously restored doom painting could spoil that, but not the most interesting one, that came later.

ALL SAINTS. Not a big church. The outstanding feature is the early C14 tomb recess in the N aisle. It projects to the outside, and has here a flat flint wall with diagonal buttresses. Top frieze of ballflower and two circular pinnacles. Inside the recess has a depressed two-centred arch under a normal two-centred arch under a gable. The arches are carried on short shafts, still with naturalistic foliage. Between the two arches is a big, somewhat depressed trefoil, between the upper arch and the gable a slimmer pointed trefoil. The spandrel surfaces are diapered. l. and r. buttresses, diapered also in their lower parts, and ending in finials. The main gable is crocketed and carries a finial too. The interior of the niche has a rib-vault with finely moulded ribs. The style is that of the Royal Court, just before the introduction of ogee forms. The buttresses prevent the adjoining small lancet windows from having evenly splayed jambs on the l. and the r. Otherwise the church has an early C14 W tower, a Dec chancel (one S window), and two early C14 S aisle windows. Of the Perp features the best are the S porch and S doorway. The porch is tall and has Perp side windows. Handsome ceiling. The doorway is uncommonly ambitious. Hood-mould on angel-busts. Fleurons in jambs and arch. Ogee gable and two niches l. and r. Arcade of three bays. Tall piers with four attached shafts and moulded arches. - FONT. C14, with cusped, crocketed little arches. - SOUTH DOOR with tracery and a border of quatrefoils. - (SCULPTURE. Two original statues in niches in the S porch. P. G. M. Dickinson.) - WALL PAINTING. Doom over the chancel arch, badly restored in 1849. - (STAINED GLASS, in the S porch. Said to be of Pre-Reformation date.) - PLATE. Cup and Cover 1663; Paten and Almsdish 1735.

All Saints (1)

John de St Philibert 1359 (2)

South porch glass (19)

CHELSWORTH. It was to us a bright oasis in a sea of golden corn, with here a peep of beauty, there a wide vista of loveliness, a panorama seen piece by piece as we wandered from point to point. In this tranquil scene we came upon a thrilling echo from world  history, an institution once the mightiest known to man, the Holy Roman Empire.

Through the grounds of the hall meanders the River Brett, and here stands the 14th century clerestoried church, with a tower as old as itself. A curious feature of the exterior is that the north wall of the church, dignified with a ballflower cornice and octagonal turrets, is longer than the others, a riddle whose solution lies within. The south porch, with its old traceried door, has in a window 17th century glass showing a bishop and three children in a boat, and a church tower with birds in flight round the spire. The 14th century font has eight canopied panels, ancient tiles are set at the foot of the rood-loft steps, fine roofs cover the nave and aisles, there is a grand old chest, and in the sanctuary are two splendid Jacobean chairs with figures of women, one holding a cross and one a bird.

One of the medieval treasures of the church was found in the middle of last century, when a great surprise delighted the people here. During the restoration of the wall above the lofty chancel arch there was revealed a wonderful Doom picture. It is believed to have been the work of a monk of Bury St Edmunds, to whose abbey the church belonged. The painting shows Christ on a rainbow, with trumpeting angels flying about Him, the blessed crowned with haloes on one side, and on the other side a horned Satan, with a barbed tail, exulting over the condemned, encircled by flames from the pit.

In the chancel is a stone showing the handsome face of General Stracey Smyth, for many years aide-de-camp to the father of Queen Victoria. He died in 1825 when he was Governor of New Brunswick. A surprising memorial is a marble on the wall to Sir Robert Pocklington, whose inscription tells that he received the insignia of the military order of Maria Theresa from the Emperor of Germany. The order is carved beneath a feathered helmet. The emperor, who bestowed the reward in 1794, was Francis the Second, last emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Pocklington having rescued him in battle after he had been captured by French cavalry. So he saved the honour and liberty of the titular ruler of the empire won by Augustus in the sea battle against Antony and Cleopatra off Actium, in 31 BC. The crown he wore was that of Augustus, of Charlemagne, of Barbarossa, and Maximilian. That crown, spared to him by the valour of the Englishman sleeping here, he wore another 12 years, and then, quietly at a meeting of his Parliament, dissolved the Empire.

A stone canopy with pinnacled buttresses in the aisle is a fragment of a lost tomb of a lord of the manor. The peace memorial is to Charles Peck, the only man from Chelsworth who did not come home from the Great War. The one-man peace memorial declares that

The people of Chelsworth erected this tablet in proud memory
of Charles Peck, who gave his life for his country in the Great War,
25th September, 1917, aged 19

It is a very rare example of a village memorial to a single fallen soldier, reminding us that there is one

In every English wood and hill and lane
Who will not pass this way again

Bildeston, Suffolk

It is immediately obvious that something odd is going on at St Mary, first the tower, with an unlikely spire, looks wrong and then to the north west of the graveyard is a large pile of rubble. All becomes clear on entering the church where an explanatory note tells the tale of the tower collapse on Thursday 8th May 1975; it was not rebuilt until 1997.

A large building remote from the village which I found, perhaps because of repairs subsequent to the tower collapse, to be soulless which is a shame because it has several elements that should make it grand but the sum of the whole is disappointing.

ST MARY. The church is on a hill outside the village. Dec chancel with inventive five-light E window. Dec N aisle E window with reticulated tracery. Tall Perp W tower. The W doorway big with three niches over. Large Perp aisle windows with segmental arches. Clerestory with twice as many windows as bays of the arcade. S porch with flushwork, entrance with fleuron decoration. The S doorway is excellently decorated with crowns, shields, etc. Hood-mould on seated lions. Spandrels with shields. The arcade of five bays has piers with four filleted shafts and small spurs without capitals in the diagonals. The abaci have rows of small busts or leaf motifs. Many-moulded arches. No chancel arch. Roof with alternating tie-beams and hammerbeams. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp. Damaged stem. Bowl with the four Signs of the Evangelists and four demi-angels. - Wooden BALCONY from the upper storey of the porch to the aisle. - COMMUNION RAIL. Slim turned balusters. - STALLS with simple MISERICORDS, heads, etc., all defaced. - STAINED GLASS. E window by Wailes & Strang, 1874 (TK). Scenes only in the tracery heads. - One S window by Kempe, 1892. Typical of his early work. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Paten of 1639; Cup of 1780. - BRASS. William Wade d. 1599 and wife (wearing a hat).

South door (1)

C15th head in N aisle

Lady chapel reredos (5)

BILDESTON. One of Suffolk’s pleasant little towns, it has some fine old timbered buildings and was once famous for its cloth and blankets. Its church away on a hill is surprisingly big and lofty, and is mostly 500 years old, though the lower part of the tower is a century older still. There is a mass dial. Much carving the church has in wood and stone, a doorway with lions, crowns, and an angel, a beautiful old door with tracery and birds, a huge old font with angels and symbols of the Evangelists and tiny battered human figures, and lofty arcades with men and women and angels. The old altar rails are gracefully turned, and near by are some old stalls with poppyheads still fine, though the carvings on their tip-up seats are badly damaged. An attractive south porch has a room above leading to a little wooden gallery in the nave.

Here in brass are portraits of Alice Wade and her children, wearing the clothes in which they came to worship in Shakespeare’s day. Alice has a brocaded petticoat, the sons are in cloaks and ruffs, and the daughters are wearing high hats. More exciting for its memories is the stone to Captain Edward Rotherham, who sleeps outside, where the wind blows over him as it blew through the rigging of his ship. He was with Lord Howe in the victory of the famous First of June; and was in command of the Royal Sovereign at Trafalgar, well and truly doing the duty England expected of him.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Kettlebaston, Suffolk

At the time I was uncertain about St Mary - it all seemed rather garish - but looking through the photos with 12 days worth of hindsight I think it's charming, if a little over the top [with reference to the chancel screen and reredos but in a good way]. A good start to the day and a good font.

ST MARY. Flint and stone. Norman nave, see one blocked N window. Transitional S doorway. The shafts and scalloped capitals are purely Norman, but the arch is decidedly pointed. No zigzag; flat row of small triangles instead. Dec chancel and W tower, see the bell-openings, and in the chancel one S window.* The reticulated E window is of 1902, but may be a correct replacement. Also Dec the Piscina and Sedilia. Their forms look in fact rather like c. 1300, whereas the preserved window has ogee arches, as has also a tomb recess in the N wall. - FONT. By the same workmen as the S doorway. Square. The decorative motifs are undisciplined: big chevrons not accurately placed, strips of triangles, etc. - PAINTING. In the Norman window three red trails with buds or knobs at the end, as familiar from Norman illumination.

* (Also in the chancel an ogee-headed niche. This is in the SE buttress.)

Chancel screen (2)

Chancel screen (1)


KETTLEBASTON. Most of its ancient treasures are in the medieval church, chiefly 14th century, but with a Norman window and traces of red wall-painting nearly 700 years old. There is a massive Norman font with zigzag ornament, a finely carved old chest, and a bell which rang out sadly and gladly in Elizabethan England. Hanging on the wall are photographs of its greatest treasures, found last century embedded in the chancel wall, and now at the British Museum. They show fragments of alabaster panels with figures notable for the delicate carving of their draperies.

Buxhall, Suffolk

Having visited Hitcham the light was fast fading so I decided to call it a day and head home, the last two Lavenham deanery churches would have to wait for another day. My route took me past St Mary and not knowing if or when I'd next be here I decided to stop despite the fading light. Tedious as it may be this is yet another splendid exterior concealing a disappointing interior scrubbed to within an inch of its life. Inside only the double piscina and font stood out, whilst outside an exceptionally touching toddlers headstone stands out.

ST MARY. Nave and chancel and W tower. All Dec except for the Perp tower. Wide nave and chancel. Tall two-light windows. Only the E window is bigger - a good piece of five lights with flowing tracery. Double Piscina with ogee arches and steep gable. The Sedilia which were set against the window are mostly broken off. Dec N porch with two-light windows. Niche over the entrance. Battlements with flushwork chequerboard decoration. - FONT. Octagonal. Early C14. Simple arches under gables, much use made of the encircled quatrefoil. Embattled top. No ogees. - BENCHES. A few in the chancel. - STAINED GLASS. Fragments in several window-heads. - PLATE. Cup 1624; Paten c. 1710; Almsdish 1765.



In small proportion

BUXHALL. God’s house here is nearly all of it 600 years old and stands prettily by the parsonage at the back of a meadow. Big and lofty it is, with a fine massive tower whose buttresses are patterned with squares of flint and stone. It has a mass dial. The east window is striking for its flowing tracery, and the west window is even better, for in it are four delightful panels of 14th century glass showing yellow figures on red backgrounds. We see two golden-winged angels, a saint seated, and Christ with His hand raised in blessing. Just as old, and fine too, is the font, decked out with battlements and buttresses and pinnacles and tracery round its sides. There is a piscina with two elaborate canopies, an old coffin-lid with a floral cross, and a pair of old panelled benches carved on the front with tracery, their poppyheads fashioned into heads of strange animals and curly-haired boys.

Buxhall has had its Dick Whittington, for here was born in 1512 Sir William Coppinger, who became Lord Mayor of London. Half his estate he left to the poor, and half to his relations, whose hospitality was such that “to live like the Coppingers” became something of a byword. It was to one of them, Walter Coppinger, that Henry the Eighth in 1512 gave permission to wear his hat in the royal presence. The document concerning this privilege, which is now in the safe keeping of the British Museum, quaintly puts it in these words:

We be credibly informed that our trusty and well-beloved subject Walter Coppinger is so diseased in his head that without his great danger he cannot be conveniently discovered of the same: In consideration thereof we have by these presents licensed him to use and wear his bonet upon his said head as well in our presence as elsewhere. Henry R.

Hitcham, Suffolk

Another large barn of a church All Saints' location and exterior are lovely but the interior lacks soul following over zealous restoration. It once had some magnificent brasses, long since gone, judging from the matrices in the chancel, has an interesting painted rood screen dado [angels rather than the usual saints] and is memorable for being the resting place of John Stevens Henslow - click on his memorial for his biography.

ALL SAINTS. Quite large; at the far S end of the village. Nave with clerestory and aisles, W tower, S porch, and a chancel largely rebuilt in 1878. Its forms are Dec, and it probably was Dec. Vestry to its N, two-storeyed, Dec. N aisle doorway Dec, aisle windows Dec with segmental heads. Arcades of five bays with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. That also is probably C14. The clerestory has quatrefoil windows. Sturdy W tower with stair-turret not going externally to the top. W doorway with niches l. and r. Perp S porch with flushwork panelling. Entrance with motifs of crowns and lions and a niche over the arch. Perp S doorway of the same style with shields and crowns. Hood-mould on seated lions. Fine Perp lean-to roofs in the aisles with bosses. Fine roof in the nave alternating between double-hammerbeams and arched braces masquerading as hammerbeams. Against the lower hammer-beam ends big emblems such as roses, shields, a sun with crowns over. - SCREEN. Dado with eight painted figures, c. 1500. - SOUTH DOOR with tracery and a border of foliage trails. - PLATE. Two Flagons 1637; Cup and Paten 1639; Paten 1731.

John Stevens Henslow 1862

Rood dado l

Matrix (3)

HITCHAM. It has a fine 14th century church in a commanding position above the high road, with a beautifully panelled porch restored last century as a tribute to the distinguished botanist John Henslow. Here he ministered many years, and in this churchyard he sleeps. There is a stone to his memory in the chancel.

Within the porch is a door carved with a beautiful band of vines. At the top of it is some old tracery. The tower is 15th century, and the west doorway has a niche on either side. Over the nave is a 15th century hammerbeam roof with fine bosses, at the ends of the beams being monograms under crowns. There are a few bench-ends with rich poppyheads, a piscina with a very attractive canopy, and an inlaid vestry table made from a sounding-board. The lower part of the chancel screen is here still, with faint paintings in the panels of saints in ermine capes.

John Stevens Henslow, who was rector here, lives in the memory of all who honour Darwin, whose career he fixed. He was born at Rochester in 1796, and was devoted from childhood to the study of insects, shells, and minerals, becoming first a professor of minerals and then of botany at Cambridge. Darwin,who went up to Cambridge regarding Henslow with awe and veneration, found himself a favourite with the great man and chosen by him for special rambles, so that dons used to speak of Darwin as “the man who walks with Henslow.” Today we remember Henslow as the man who walked with Darwin.

But he did more than that; Henslow’s influence secured Darwin’s appointment to the Beagle, with consequences terrifying to the old scholar, who was appalled by the theory of the Origin of Species. He was passionately orthodox and told Darwin that it would be a great personal grief to him if even one word of the Thirty-Nine Articles were altered. But he was fair if he was fearful: he gave Darwin a copy of the revolutionary Lyall’s Principles to read, but implored him, while believing a little, by no means to believe all! Darwin at first detested geology, but Henslow inspired him, and in a month had him “working like a tiger” at it.

So far the great Professor Henslow whom all Europe knew; but there was Henslow the Hitcham parson, beloved of his parish. In spite of the opposition of the farmers here he started elementary schools from which arose first-rate naturalists. He founded benefit clubs, cricket and football clubs, allotments for landless parishioners, and annual shows at which he delivered delightful little lectures on the exhibits.

As at Cambridge with undergraduates and professors, so here he took his parishioners on rambles, into the fields and byways and to the cities. He taught Suffolk farmers the value of manures, and, having done that as a chemist, he went out as a geologist and found the precious deposits of phosphates in the Suffolk Crag, the bones and refuse of prehistoric monsters to make the fields of England fertile. He was a far-ranging Gilbert White, with interests greatly multiplied. Our foremost botanist, he helped to found the splendid museum at Ipswich when he was busy preparing models of the structures of fruit that were to gain him a medal at the Paris Exhibition; helping to form the museum at Kew, lecturing at Cambridge, presiding over sections of the British Museum, acting as Examiner in botany at London University, and generally living a dozen men’s lives. His memory should be cherished here, for he converted it from a lost and backward district to a model parish.

Little Finborough, Suffolk

St Mary sits out in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere and is kept locked with keyholders listed. Now normally I'd let this go since it is isolated [and I don't think the inside would be very rewarding] but the keyholder notice says "a key to the church may be obtained from one of the following by prior arrangement" - my italics.

As I've pointed out elsewhere this is probably more irritating than not having keyholders listed for one simple reason: how is a visitor who has travelled 55.5 miles [I google mapped it] to visit your church meant to know in advance that a key is available by prior arrangement? I just don't understand the mentality behind these kind of keyholder notices.

ST MARY. Nave and chancel and bellcote. Nothing much of interest. (Plain tympanum between nave and chancel. Cautley). The nave was rebuilt in 1856.

St Mary (3)

Bizarrely Mee also missed St Mary as well as Felsham.

Brettenham, Suffolk

Externally St Mary the Virgin is pretty atypical of the churches round here with its flintwork and south porch tower. Why the towers were built as south porch towers I don't know though. Internally over restored but containing some good ledger stones and glass including what I am convinced is an unsigned Christopher Webb Resurrection in the south chancel window.

ST MARY. Essentially C14, with a S porch tower. Nave W window with flowing tracery. Dec Piscina in the chancel with the arms of Stafford and Buckingham. But Perp chancel windows. - FONT. C14, octagonal, with crocketed ogee gables in the panels (cf. Rattlesden). - SCREEN. Bits of tracery from the dado preserved. - LECTERN. A C17 turned baluster. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters,c. 1700. - SOUTH DOOR. With a foliage-trail border. - STAINED GLASS. One S window by H. Hughes, 1866. - MONUMENTS. Three coffin-lids with foliated crosses.

S chancel window Christopher Webb Resurrection (8)

George Weniffe 1611 (3)

Margaret Torkington nee Gilbert 1676 (4)

BRETTENHAM. It has a hall with oak avenues running through its 150 acres, a Roman camp a mile away, and a 600-year-old church facing the little green. In the church are altar rails with twisted balusters about 300 years old, some fragments of 15th century glass, two ancient coffin lids with beautiful crosses, and a little traceried screen work. But best of all is the 14th century font, with rich canopies round the bowl; its base is panelled, and the cover must be about half as old as the font itself. In the sanctuary floor we read on a brass that Thomas Wenifie was a gentle and modest young man.

Felsham, Suffolk

Externally St Peter is lovely, particularly the fabulous north porch, but inside it has suffered an appalling Victorian refurb and is now utterly bland containing virtually nothing of interest barring the recycled font used as a base for the font.

ST PETER. Dec W tower. Wide Dec nave with tall two-light windows. On the N side panelled battlements, on the S side a more modest treatment. No aisles. N porch with much flushwork panelling on the buttresses and the battlements. Side windows with tracery. Entrance with three orders of fleurons. Three niches round the entrance. Chancel rebuilt in 1873. - FONT. Octagonal. Really two fonts; for the base is clearly the mutilated bowl of a font. On it animals, human faces, etc., below ogee arches. On the other bowl demi-figures of angels on the underside and tracery patterns on the eight sides. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup, altered; Paten perhaps C17; Flagon 1717.

North porch



Rather surprisingly my fourth edition of Arthur Mee's Suffolk misses Felsham.