Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Denny Priory, Cambridgeshire

Denny Priory was closed for the season so I only got externals, but if I'm honest those were what I was mainly interested in. Having looked on Flickr at Whipper_snapper's album I might return in season for internals but probably only if I'm incidentally passing.

It's an extraordinary hodge-podge of architectural styles and ages and is well worth a visit even if it's not technically a church any more.

The only case of substantial architectural remains surviving in England of a house of the Order of St Clare, that is of Franciscan nuns, and also the only case of an older monastic establishment being converted for the use of Franciscans. Denny had been founded as a cell of Ely in 1160, but about twenty years later the site or buildings had been handed on to the Templars. After the suppression of that order, the nuns of St Clare who, from 1293, had had a house at Waterbeach nearby moved in c. 1340-50. There are two buildings still in existence at Denny, the refectory on the N side of the former cloister, easily recognizable and in a fairly good state of preservation, and fragments of the church, incorporated in an C18 house and very hard to decipher. The refectory is 94 ft long and of mid C14 style. Of the six N windows five survive. They are quite large, depressed-headed and of two lights. The E window is larger. The S window must be later. Of the C14 also, however, the very small S doorway and on the N side the blocked doorway to the pulpit and the remains of the pulpit which is built out. The parts of the church now to be traced inside and around the house represent the short nave, crossing, and transepts of a Norman church with no more than an indication of an aisled chancel. This was replaced in the C14 by a large square aisled Nuns’ Church. At the same time the former nave was converted and given over to other purposes. Of Norman remains all four crossing arches are clear (with inserted C14 doorways), the first arch of a S arcade and the beginning of a second and also the W wall with its doorway. The C14 alterations are due to the Countess of Pembroke, widow of Aymer de Vallence and foundress of Pembroke College.

Denny Priory (1)

Mee includes Denny under his Waterbeach entry and is unusually reticent [for him]: A fragment of ancient sculpture in the church, on which is one cherub blowing a trumpet and another keeping him company, is from the monastery which stood 800 years ago on the farm of Denny Priory, two miles away. The farmhouse has risen from the ruins and the farmyard is on the site of the cloister court. The house has parts of the chapel with a fine arch built by the monks in Norman days, and a great barn which was their dining hall. There is a legend of a lilac bush still growing here which says that somewhere under it sleeps Agnes Countess of Pembroke, who took the old priory and turned it into a home for nuns of St Clare. Monks, Knights Templars, Nuns of St Clare, and the pious Countess of Pembroke passed by these fields, heard the murmur of the river, and have gone.

Wicken, Cambridgeshire

St Lawrence, open, was my church of the day. Architecturally and physically it is all over the place but in a positively delightful and inside it is full of interest. Truly lovely.

ST LAURENCE. A secluded church, much smaller than the trees surrounding it. The inside more impressive than the outside: broad nave of three bays with arcade of octagonal piers and arches with two wave mouldings, probably C14. Chancel arch and tower arch of the same design. The clerestory poses a problem. It is not in Cole’s drawing at the British Museum, but on the other hand one of the tiebeams of the roof above the clerestory has the date 1695 carved on it. The chancel holds some evidence of the C13 - one lancet window. Most other windows Perp. The small W tower seems also Perp. - BRASSES. Margaret Peyton d 1414 (15in. figure) and John Peyton d 1520 (10in. figure).

Misericord (5)

Margaret Peyton 1414 (3)

Font (2)

WICKEN. We are in the presence of mighty names, and the thrill of history here, where all may see the fen as Hereward the Wake saw it, as the Saxon monks of Thorney Abbey knew it when they cut their reeds from it, as the first Bishops of Ely encountered it when laying a causeway from isle to isle across it. Black dykes flow between the acres of thick impassable rushes, the reed warblers trill among them from dawn to dusk in spring, the late cuckoo flits over them when autumn approaches, and Montagu’s Harriers, the eagles of the marsh, flap heavily from bog to dyke in search of prey. Rare bird visitants are finding in Wicken and in Burwell Fen a sanctuary the National Trust preserves for them and us, and here we may see one of the rare expanses of a vanished or vanishing England.

A mile from the village is Spinney farmhouse, built from the stones of the ancient priory, and once the home of one who can only narrowly have missed a great page in history, for he was the best of all Oliver Cromwell’s sons, Henry. Here when the Stuarts came back and he had lost his lands he came to settle down, and the story is told that Charles the Second, returning from Newmarket, took it into his mind to visit Henry Cromwell at this farmhouse. He found him farming contentedly, and a lord who was with the king thought it a merry jest to seize a pitchfork and carry it before Farmer Cromwell, explaining that he had been mace-bearer when Henry was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

Henry Cromwell lies in the little church standing lonely by the wayside, and a brass plate tells us that the oak chancel screen was given in this century in memory of him and his wife Elizabeth. A floor stone under the altar is to Oliver Cromwell’s sister Elizabeth, buried here in 1672, and another stone in the chancel floor has the name of Oliver Cromwell the Protector’s grandson, who was brought here in 1685. Here also were born two other grandsons of Oliver, Richard who died in London in 1687 and William who died in the East Indies in 1662.

There are two dainty treasures in brass, portraits of Margaret Peyton of 1414 in a graceful gown and mantle with a dog at her feet with bells round its neck, and John Peyton of 1520, a slim figure with long hair wearing a simple mantle with loose sleeves.

The church has little to see except its memorials. It is chiefly 15th century with something of the 13th, and is a simple structure with a tower crowned by battlements and pinnacles. It was the first church known to Isaac Barrow, whose nephew taught Isaac Newton and is in Poets Corner, and to Andrew Fuller, first secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society, both of whom were born here.

The Best of Cromwell’s Sons

HENRY CROMWELL was laid to rest here on March 22, 1674, He has been overshadowed in history by his renowned father, by his brother Richard, who failed to hold the position of Lord Protector to which their father had nominated him, and by the earlier Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex; but Henry Cromwell was decidedly a man of mark who deserved lasting respect. Holding high office, in situations of great difficulty, he invariably showed himself to be a man of strong character, sound judgment, breadth of outlook, fitted for fine national service, and, as Carlyle calls him, “really an honourable figure.”

He was 14 years old when the Civil War began. When he was 19 he was serving as a captain under Fairfax and later under his father. When he was 22 he was sent as a colonel with reinforcements to Ireland, and took part in the final movements of his father’s campaign there. Three years later he was nominated as a representative of Ireland in the Barebones parliament, and next year was sent to Ireland again to report on the new Government there.

It was a delicate piece of work, for the Lord Deputy at the head of the Government was his own brother-in-law, Lord Fleetwood, who had married Bridget Cromwell, Henry’s sister, and Henry came to the conclusion that the army was playing too big a part in the government of the country and that it would be an advantage to have Fleetwood recalled to England. He suggested this course to his father who was now the Lord Protector, and Oliver, in one of the most charming of his letters, responded by explaining to Fleetwood that he needed his assistance in England. Fleetwood accordingly left Ireland, though for some time he retained his appointment nominally as Lord Deputy in Ireland. Henry Cromwell became Commander-in-Chief of the Army in Ireland and a member of the Council. He believed in Ireland having a more constitutional form of government and was much hampered by the Parliamentary generals who favoured domination by the Army. More than once he offered his resignation, but spontaneous protests from Ireland reached the Protector, who eventually agreed that his son should be the Lord Deputy there. The fact is that Henry was a popular Englishman in Ireland. He was voted land worth £1500 a year, but declined to receive it on the ground that Ireland was poor.

When a movement was started to make Oliver king, Henry urged his father not to accept that “gaudy feather in the hat of authority.” He resisted attempts to tax exhorbitantly those who had Royalist sympathies. When the Protector died Henry welcomed the succession of his brother Richard. He was himself appointed Governor-General of Ireland, but wished to resign and return to England to express his views on Irish affairs. He was openly opposed to the restoration of the Stuarts. When his brother was deposed he resigned his office in Ireland, reported himself to the Council of State in England, and retired into private life, as Carlyle says, “in a very manful, simple, and noble way.” He lost his share of his father’s forfeited estates in England, worth £2000 a year, but was allowed to keep Irish estates worth £600 to £700 a year, which he had purchased.

A number of Royalists, including Clarendon, used their influence to check those who sought vengeance on all who bore the name of Cromwell, and Henry lived quietly for the remaining 14 years of his life at Spinney Abbey, where he died at the age of 46, “a man of real insight, veracity, and resolution (said Carlyle), very fit for such service” as he had undertaken. He entered the war, as he himself said, “by natural duty to his father.” While he was quite young he found himself bearing heavy responsibilities in a land where few men have won untarnished honour, and with sound public spirit and independence of judgment he curbed the spirit of military despotism, developed no personal ambition, and almost single-handed became a welcomed ruler. It is a rare sight from those troublous times, and betokens a rare man.

Stretham, Cambridgeshire

St James, open, is a large and rather gloomy building with the largest tower of the day and some good glass and a brass. Another one I liked.

ST JAMES. The W tower dates from the C14. It has angle buttresses and is in its lower parts ashlar-faced. Dec W window with reticulated tracery. Dec bell-openings. Stone spire with two tiers of dormer windows. Tower arch with wave-mouldings and no capitals. C14 also the N arcade (the S arcade is C19) with short octagonal piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches. Hood-moulds on head-corbels. C14 again the chancel, see the side windows (the E window is C19). The S view of the church from outside is entirely Victorian. So are the N transept and the vestry. Even what is old extemally is so thoroughly restored that it looks new. - ROOD SCREEN. Perp ; good. Single-light divisions with cusped crocketed ogee arches and panel tracery above. - SCULPTURE. Norman fragments in the N transept. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten of 1656 ; Paten given in 1712. - MONUMENTS. Recess in the chancel N wall, low, with an inscribed tomb-lid in it. The inscription refers to Nicholas de Kyngestone, rector in the late C13. - Brass to Joan Swan d 1497; the figure nearly 4 ft tall; the tripartite canopy above gone. - Black marble slab commemorating Anne Brunsell d 1667, wife of a rector, and sister of Sir Christopher Wren.

Joan Swan 1497 (1)

S transept Ninian Comper Pilgrim's Progress 1933 (19)

Anna Brunsell nee Wren 1667

STRETHAM. We see its spire and the white sails of its centenarian windmill from afar, and in the middle of its highway, which the Romans called Akeman Street, its splendid cross stands 20 feet high (on a newer pedestal). On a wall in the village hangs one of the old fire-hooks used for dragging thatch from burning roofs.

A noble cedar stands in the rectory garden, and in the churchyard a mighty yew grows with other trees said to have been planted when the church was made new in the 14th and 15th centuries. Much has been altered since, but in the south porch are fragments of a still older church, stones carved by Saxons and Normans, and part of a coffin lid with a maltese cross. Inside are two ancient coffin stones. Women wearing wimples look down from between the arches of the medieval north arcade; women would be wearing wimples when the 15th century chancel screen was made, with its projecting arches. There is also an old chest shaped like a travelling trunk.

The lancet tower arch makes an effective frame for the graceful west window, and the glass in another window is a modern masterpiece in memory of two women, showing two souls entering into heaven between Prudence, Piety, and Charity, and a knight fighting a flaming demon. A stone under a canopy in the chancel tells of Nicholas de Kyngestone, a rector of 600 years ago, whose brass portrait has been stolen; but Joan Swan’s remains, a fine big picture of this woman who died in 1497 and whose two sons, John and Richard Riplingham, followed each other as rectors here.

Barway, Cambridgeshire

St Nicholas, redundant, is now a private residence and you'd be hard pressed to tell it was ever a church.

ST NICHOLAS. C14 with a broken reticulated five-light W window and above a two-light bell opening in the gable. S Doorway double-chamfered without capitals. Poor yellow brick chancel, probably early C19. - PULPIT. Elementary, rough two-decker. - COMMUNION RAILS. Turned balusters; later C17.

St Nicholas

Mee missed it.

Little Thetford, Cambridgeshire

St George, open, is charming in its simplicity [and its open status] but in truth contains little of interest.

ST GEORGE. Nave and lower chancel; C14, but mostly rebuilt in the C19. Dec windows in the nave, Perp in the chancel. The two parts were originally separated by a solid wall with a doorway, two squints, and three brackets for images. The E gable of the nave was rebuilt in brick in 1665 and carries that date. - FONT. Octagonal, C14, with heads looking out from the four diagonal panels. Badly preserved.



Frederick Preedy East window (9)

THETFORD. A tiny hamlet near Grunty Fen, it has little for us to see except a few thatched cottages, and a little lowly church with a roof like a mantle of moss. Although it is 600 years old the church has lost much of its antiquity, but it keeps its old font, the heads on it worn by time, and it is interesting that it should be here, for it has been in the river and was rescued last century. There are angel corbels supporting the roof of the chancel, and in the bell turret hangs a bell which tolled for the little chapel at Ely Place, Holborn, the chapel of the bishops in the garden which grew the strawberries King Richard calls for in Shakespeare.

Stuntney, Cambridgeshire

I made an error of judgement at Holy Cross, locked, keyholder listed, in not going looking for the key having judged it from the exterior and assuming it would contain nothing of interest. Whereas, in fact, it has some good glass and Norman remnants - when will I learn the lesson to never judge a book by its cover?

HOLY CROSS. From outside the church seems just a particularly unhappy Victorian conceit. Flint, Neo-Norman, with a SE tower with saddleback roof. The trimmings of the flint are red brick. In fact the church is genuinely Norman, though cruelly rebuilt (1876, 1900-2). What survives is only the S doorway with one order of colonnettes and three-dimensional zigzag mouldings, i.e. one on the extrados, and one on the intrados. The former N doorway now appears inside as a recess at the E end of the S aisle. It is of the same time. And the chancel arch is now an opening from the chancel into the organ chamber. This also has one order of columns and the same kind of zigzag arrangement. - FONT. Circular. Called C12 by the VCH. But is it not C18 or at least completely re-tooled in the C18? It has a heavy thick fluting which may be a rustic version of a familiar Wrenian and Georgian motif. C17 Font Cover. - PLATE. Chalice of 1700.

Holy Cross (2)

STUNTNEY. It was the first Bishop of Ely who gave it its name. He conceived the idea of making a road across the fens and found a monk named John to plan it.for him. Monk John hit on a steep island rising sharply from the fens and used it as a stepping-stone for his road to Ely, and Stuntney Causeway it has been for eight centuries and more. The old legends tell us that the place for the road was disclosed by St Edmund in a dream, the saint wishing to travel by it to visit St Etheldreda at Ely’s Saxon abbey. So it was that many pilgrims came this way, and as the centuries rolled on there came this way a man of sterner dreams, for the old hall, which is now a gabled house in a cluster of farm buildings, was the home of Cromwell’s mother, and Oliver inherited it from his uncle. Here he spent much time before he became MP for Cambridge, and we think of him looking across the fens to Ely.

The last two generations have turned a fine little Norman church into a plain place with a saddleback tower and a timber arcade. The few remnants of Norman days are in two zigzag doorways, the fine font with a bowl like a water-lily, the walling of the chancel, and the disused chancel arch with its beauty hidden by the organ. There is fine wood carving on the stalls and at the altar, with tiny heads of animals and grotesques.

St Peter, Ely, Cambridgeshire

St Peter, locked, no keyholder, is an 1890 St Aubyn build and is not really anything to write home about.

ST PETER, Broad Street. Simple, not unpleasant Victorian church of 1890. By St Aubyn. - Painted Screen.

St Peter (3)

Mee doesn't mention it.

Witchford, Cambridgeshire

St Andrew, locked no keyholder, is an attractively ramshackle building but I suspect a dull interior [with no evidence] is hidden behind the locked door. Why it is locked is a mystery since it's in the middle of the village on a very busy road.

ST ANDREW. Nave, lower chancel, low W tower. The latter is unbuttressed and has lancet windows and a narrow doorway towards the nave. The tower evidently is C13. But the historical importance of the church lies in its C14 work, its special interest being the fact that the consecration date is known - 1376. Yet the motifs seem all still of the early C14 - the Dec tracery of the three-light E window, the tracery of the three-light S window, the much simpler tracery of the two-light N windows, and the double-chamfered N and S doorways without any capitals. The nave is heavily buttressed (with one set-off), and its W walls are canted to connect with the older and narrower tower. The chancel arch has two ogee-headed niches to the l. and r. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten of 1694-5.

St Andrew (3)

WITCHFORD. It was here that the monks of Ely to their sorrow met the Conqueror. In the absence of Hereward the Wake, the Isle’s defender, the monks were prepared to make their submission, but William, the story goes, came unawares to the abbey when the monks were at their meal, and, meeting none of the custodians, placed a mark of gold on the altar and quietly departed. The perturbed monks learning of the visit from a Norman knight, hastened after the king to make their apologies. They caught him up at Witchford, where he laid on them a fine so heavy that all their church ornaments had to be melted down to pay it.

The church comes from our three great building centuries, its low embattled tower from the 13th, the porch from the 15th, and the rest of the neat little structure from the 14th. The font is medieval. There is a touch of pathos in a lonely patch of glass in a window showing the three-masted ship John Temperley being lashed by waves, its sails reefed. It is in memory of someone lost at sea in 1872.

Wentworth, Cambridgeshire

St Peter, locked, keyholders listed [but they were both out], is a rather pretty building but I didn't feel it likely that I'd missed much by not gaining entry.

ST PETER. Norman S and N doorways. The S doorway has twisted colonnettes (cf. Ely), the N doorway plain colonnettes with scalloped capitals and a lintel on two cusps. E.E. chancel with lancet windows and plain Double Piscina. C14 W tower (see the tower arch) with diagonal buttresses, lancer windows and battlements. The nave was rebuilt in 1868, and the S porch added. - ROOD SCREEN. Tracery from a mid C14 screen with broad vesica motifs turning ogee at top and bottom. - SCULPTURE. Standing Norman figure of a priest with a book and an aspersorium(?). Relief under arch with twisted shafts and architectural motifs above - in imitation of book illustrations or ivories.

St Peter (3)

WENTWORTH. As we go from Sutton to Ely it is worth while turning aside to the small church of modest little Wentworth, for it has something to show of the four best building centuries in our history, from the 12th to the 15th. Its church has still the two doorways through which the Normans came, a fragment of Norman carving in an outer wall, and indoors a wonderfully preserved piece of sculpture which is a veritable treasure. It is set in the chancel and shows a monk in a simple robe holding a book in one hand and in the other something like a great key. He stands under a round arch on carved pillars, and in the background is a quaint castle with little windows and pointed roofs. He is evidently meant for St Peter. The chancel, except for its modern arch, is 13th century; in the arch is an oak screen with fragments of the medieval screen worked into it. We noticed that Richard Wakeling was rector here for 55 years to the end of the 18th century.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Sutton in the Isle, Cambridgeshire

St Andrew, open, is a huge building with a tower that owes more than a nod to Ely Cathedral and is, unfortunately, really rather dull inside. The usual combination of Puritanism and Victorian restoration has left a soulless interior although there's some good glass, Pesner's so called SE aisle piscina [I don't think it is a piscina] and the south porch vaulting.

ST ANDREW. A large church with an unforgettable tower, placed on a ridge and visible from far to the S. The outline of the tower is so odd that one dates it at first as c. 1900. That is far from true. The church including the tower was begun by Bishop Barnet (1366-73), and continued by Bishop Arundel (1374-88). The arms of the two bishops and also those of York, where Arundel went in 1388, appear in the vault of the S porch. The earliest work is at the E end, the latest in the tower. Work was done lavishly, with much ashlar facing of Barnack stone. The chancel has a very large five-light E window with Dec tracery, in some details just turning Perp - as late as c. 1370. The N and S sides of the chancel have three tall three-light windows, also Dec. Inside, the tower arch is tall and has polygonal shafts with concave sides and embattled capitals. The tower hall carries a tierceron vault with bosses and a large octagonal opening for the bell ropes. The arcade is of six bays, with tall generally lozenge-shaped piers with capitals only to the shafts towards the arch openings, double-chamfered arches and hood-moulds on head-corbels. The chancel arch is of the same type. All along the chancel walls and the aisle walls runs tall blank arcading (cf. Wilburton, Histon, Huntingdon etc.). Along the chancel walls also seats. In the E wall l. and r. of the window ogee-headed niches. At the E end of the S aisle, set diagonally, a Dec Piscina with a niche above in which there is a fragmentary seated figure. The chancel was followed by the nave and aisles. The N aisle windows are tall, of three lights, with Dec tracery, especially a characteristic motif similar to a four-petalled flower. The S aisle is of the same design, but, being the show-side towards the village street, provided with battlements, bigger buttresses with gargoyles, and a splendid two-storeyed porch. Its outer doorway has embattled shafts. The inside is vaulted in two bays on shafts without capitals. The vault has ridge-ribs, tiercerons, and thick bosses which (see above) must be of shortly after 1388. Embattled clerestory with two-light Dec windows and gargoyles. Finally the tower, begun, as the S side of the church, with ashlar-facing (Barnack stone) and expensive enrichments. Quatrefoil frieze at the base. The W doorway has tracery in the spandrels and a finely moulded square surround. The window above is new. Above it another quatrefoil frieze. The buttresses are set back at the foot. In the upper stages they are polygonal and then oddly two-stepped diagonal. The bell-openings are three lancets with inset circles etc. above - a very strange motif. Then the tower turns octagonal by means of four broaches. That stage ends in battlements decorated by quatrefoils, and a top stage follows, also octagonal but taller and of less bulk and ending in battlements and pinnacles. The source is of course the Ely Octagon, but the adaptation is wholly original. The whole church was presumably complete by c. 1400 and is important for the understanding of the period in the county, i.e. the Dec in its latest flourishing phase and the transition to the Perp. - FONT. Plain Perp, octagonal, with fleurons along the underside of the bowl. - ROOD SCREEN. Small bits of tracery used as kneeling benches. - BENCHES. A few with poppy-heads. - PLATE. Set of 1784.

JE Marshall 1915

Niche BVM

Tower vault (1)

SUTTON. Like a beacon above the valleys of the Ouse and the Cam rises its magnificent tower, with a big and then a little octagon on the top of its three buttressed stages, finished with pinnacles and a tiny spire. It is one of the county’s most beautiful towers, and a grand church it guides us to, for it was largely rebuilt by two Bishops of Ely at the end of the 14th century, when the peak of medieval architecture was in sight. They were Bishop Barnet and Bishop Arundel (who crowned Henry the Fourth). Their arms and a fine portrait of Bishop Barnet appear with a king, a woman, and grotesque animals as bosses on the vaulted roof supporting the porch room. Inside the tower is another vaulted roof, but of oak, and here angels, animals, and men (one with his tongue out) are among the bosses.

Set in the lofty spaciousness of the nave are many stately arches: the two arcades, the tower arch, and the chancel arch, while the arcaded walls frame the lovely windows of the aisles. The east window is between two canopied niches which have modern statues of St Etheldreda and St Andrew; in the battered niche over the elegant piscina in the south aisle is a broken Madonna. At the east end of the south aisle is a charming oak reredos, and here we found two kneeling children by the altar, one a boy, the other a girl in a wide-brimmed hat, both carved in oak by a modern craftsman. One pathetic thing there is here also, a wooden cross from Flanders, scarred by shrapnel. It was set up on the battlefield over the grave of the two boys the vicar gave to his country.

There is an old brass eagle, some old pews with poppyheads, a stone bench running round the church, and a massive 15th century font with a string of flowers. But even more interesting for its story is the small stone bowl by the font, for, though chickens were feeding out of it  on a farm here only a few years ago, it is now thought to be one of the few relics of Burystead Monastery. Other traces, including a traceried window with a monk’s head carved over it, exist in two houses beyond the end of Sutton’s long street, where are remains of the fishponds and the moat; and the earth has yielded up tombstones of fenmen who brought their babies to be baptised at this small bowl seven hundred years ago.

Witcham. Cambridgeshire

St Martin, locked, keyholder listed, is not a very interesting building although it hosts a very good font, some Geoffrey Webb glass - which is always good - and a perp pulpit which I took to be Victorian. I liked it.

ST MARTIN. Small and essentially C13 to early C14 with much later repair work in brick. The chancel has N and S lancet windows and originally had them at the E end too - see traces of a group inside. The present E window is a Dec replacement with reticulated tracery. The original nave had no aisles (see the stumps of walls at the W end) and perhaps a S transept (see the arrangement of the S arcade arches). The W tower is much renewed in brick and has brick battlements (1691), but the masonry must also be C13, see the surviving lancer windows. Of the same date the one lancet at the W side of the S aisle. The N aisle windows and the chancel Piscina look c. 1300. Then follows the early C14 which did much to improve the church. To this phase belong the tower arch, the S doorway and the S arcade. The N arcade is similar but differs in detail. Octagonal piers, broader and plainer capitals on the N (c. 1300? cf. the windows). The N arcade is of four bays, that on the S side of five, with two narrow and lower bays at the E end instead of the one on the N and a fine profile of the capitals. The arches are double-chamfered, as is the C15 chancel arch, on polygonal shafts. C15 also the brick porch. - FONT. Octagonal on five shafts, c. 1300. Heads at the angles, and in the main directions an angel, two dragons, an eagle. - ROOD SCREEN. Fragmentary and thin. - BENCHES. A few with poppy-heads. - PULPIT. The exceedingly rare case of a Perp stone pulpit with its steps. It is in the space at the E end of the S arcade with a low partition wall from it to the first pier. The sides have blank cusped arches. - COMMUNION RAIL. Finely twisted balustersg early C18. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten of 1669; Salver of 1699.


N aisle east window BVM & Child (9)

Font (10)

WITCHAM. It is a little place on a low hill of the fens just withdrawn ofl‘ the busy road from Ely to Chatteris. Its pride is in its church, which is captivating in its very oddness, a quaint mixture of bricks and stones of all sizes and shapes. Its tower is 700 years old. Indoors the church has the air of gracious age, full of light with cream walls and clear glass, Mary in red and blue looking down from a window. There are twisted Jacobean altar rails, a simple oak screen 500 years old, a few old poppyhead benches from which the rest are copied, traces of wall-painting, and in a corner among the corbels of the roof is a hooded man with tiny legs and great shoulders, eating ravenously.

The church has two treasures, one of sixty medieval stone pulpits still left in England, and a fine medieval font. The pulpit is simple and massive and only lately have the old stone steps built in the 15th century been brought to light. The bowl of the font is carved with women in 13th century headdress, a lion and an eagle and dragons, one of these having two heads snarling at each other.

Coveney, Cambridgeshire

St Peter ad Vincula, locked, keyholders listed but I failed to find the one I went looking for and decided that it didn't look interesting enough to put more effort in. This, it transpires, was a mistake because although the exterior is rather dull the interior is reputed to be full of interest.

ST PETER-AD-VINCULA. A small C13 church of nave and chancel; see the lancet windows preserved in both parts and the remains of the shafted Piscina. Then a little later a W tower was added; for the nave has a W doorway (double-chamfered without capitals - cf. the S doorway) and a lancet which now faces into the tower. The tower has a N-S passage, lancet windows above, diagonal buttresses, battlements, and a pyramid roof. The early C14 builders lengthened the chancel, gave it a new (reticulated) E window, a new Piscina, and a large Dec N side window which cuts into the former Piscina. Also early C14 the S porch and N doorway - see the little breaches in the triple-chamfered arch. - REREDOS. German, c. 1500. Centre the Crucifixion, l. Flagellation and Mount of Olives, r. Christ before Pilate and Christ carrying the Cross. - PULP IT. Danish, of 1706, with painted figures of Christ and the Evangelists, rustic. - BENCH-ENDS. Mid C16, with poppy-heads and the typical heads in profile, Instruments of Christ’s Passion, keys, the arms of Scrope, an eagle, a triskele etc. - CHANDELIER. Brass, probably Dutch C18: - PLATE. Cup of 1570.

St Peter ad Vincula (3)

COVENEY. Most of its houses line up on one side of the road for a view of Ely Cathedral majestically dark against the sky. Coveney’s little old church shares with the chapel in the Tower of London the rare distinction of being dedicated to St Peter in Chains, as we see him portrayed in oak in the peace memorial lychgate. The 15th century gave a new top to the unusual tower, which stands on three 13th century arches, two forming a passage we can walk through, the third opening into the aisleless church; or we may enter by a medieval door which a porch with a new brick arch has been sheltering for 600 years. From the oddest jumble of windows of all shapes and at all levels the light falls on woodwork of various countries and ages. There is a pulpit with painted panels made in Denmark in 1706, a big reredos of 15th century German work with curious painted carvings of the Passion, and a coloured figure from Oberammergau on top of the green chancel screen of our own day, the work of English craftsmen whose forerunners made the benches 500 years ago with fantastic poppyheads showing men and animals and birds and one a flying lizard. There is a plain font 600 years old, and two double piscinas, one cut in a window.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Lolworth, Cambridgeshire

All Saints, open, is a small aisless building although the arcades of both north and south aisles are in evidence. I was pleasantly surprised to find it open and very high Anglo-Catholic.

ALL SAINTS. Not in the village. A small church with a C14 W tower without battlements. Tower arch towards the nave without capitals. Nave and chancel, no aisles, though restoration has exposed the blocked arcades of former aisles. These were of the early C14, and the N aisle windows seem to have been re-used, when the arcades were blocked. The chancel had large N and S windows, now also blocked, and an E window of the C19. For the dating of the church a fragment of a frieze is important which shows ball-flower and flowers strung along a tendril. The motif occurs identical in the splendid church of Over. It belongs to c. 1320. If this date is correct, then the re-dedication of 1406 certainly does not imply major rebuilding. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with traceried stem and pointed quatrefoils on the panels of the bowl. - WALL PAINTING. Doubting Thomas, nave N wall, not too easily recognizable; C14. - PLATE. Chalice, Paten and Flagon, made at Exeter in 1740.

Charles Humfrey 1796

GR 1721 arms

Rood (2)

LOLWORTH. We may stand on the Roman road and see its medieval tower rising above its thatched cottages. It looks down on a field called Burnt Close (from a fire which bumt down most of the village and the aisles of the church 600 years ago). It has been a small place ever since, never recovering, but it sent a score of men to the war, and in memory of three who did not come back it has restored the church and the old tower. In the tower an ancient door still opens to the belfry, latticed with fine old ironwork. There is a 600-year-old font, an ancient coffin stone, a 14th century wallpainting with small figures of Unbelieving Thomas, and engraved in alabaster in the chancel are two ladies of the Langley family of long ago, their hands at prayer. They wear belts with their low-necked gowns and have butterfly headdresses.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Boxworth, Cambridgeshire

St Peter, open, is very strange and rather appealing. I loved the location and its strange design - it's a kind of Hansel & Gretel exterior. Inside there's a great pulpit and the south aisle dormer roof windows are interesting, otherwise quite dull.

ST PETER. Not in the village. Of pebble rubble, all embattled. Unbuttressed W tower originally with a spire. Chancel 1868. Some Norman masonry in the S wall. C14 S arcade of four bays with four semi-polygonal shafts; not high. N windows also C14; S windows Perp. - STAINED GLASS. By Kempe. St Peter and St Paul, 1891, others 1900-7. - PLATE. Chalice 1572.

St Peter (3)


S aisle dormer roof

BOXWORTH. It has been the home of two fine scholars: John Boyse, a rector who translated the Apocrypha, and Nicholas Saunderson, who was blinded by smallpox as a child, yet grew up a university professor. He has lain under the altar here since 1739. He had a marvellously quick and active brain, mastered the classics at school, and became so learned that George the Second made him a doctor of law, and Lord Chesterfield declared that though he had lost the use of his own eyes he taught others to use theirs. He had an acute sense of hearing and a trained ear for music, he could tell the size of a room by the sound of his voice in it, and could judge his distance from a wall by the echo. His sense of touch was so delicate that it was said he could detect false medals merely by touching them.

The neat little church stands in a trim churchyard by fields and woodlands, with an old farm and thatched barns to keep it company. A pretty picture it is, with its 15th century tower and fine battlements crowning its patchwork of flint and stone. In one of the aisles is Norman masonry. The dim religious light of the interior moved the restorers last century to set windows in the roof of an aisle and a glass door in the 15th century doorway of the porch. They serve their purpose well, lighting up the 14th century arcade. The beauty of the glass makes up for the light it steals, for though it is modern it is attractive and rich in colour. We see St Etheldreda crowned, Gabriel bringing the good news to the Madonna, a fine little Nativity with the shepherds and another with the Wise Men, Christ appearing to Mary in the garden, and David with his harp. There is a plain old font, a small chest with two locks, and a pulpit 250 years old.

Knapwell, Cambridgeshire

All Saints, locked, keyholder listed, is, despite a Victorian rebuild, lovely - although this is mainly due to its tower and location. I peeked through the windows and decided it didn't merit a search for the keyholder. The vestry is in trouble, I hope it's not subsidence.

ALL SAINTS. Perp W tower without buttresses and battlements. Flint and pebble rubble. The rest of the church 1866 by Fawcett of Cambridge (GR). Gabled S doorway instead of a porch. The centre window on the S side raised to form a dormer and also gabled. Apse. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, with heads at the angles below the bowl.

All saints (2)

KNAPWELL. Its farms, church, and thatched cottages stand by a belt of woodland in which are ancient earthworks, and near them is a spring which bubbles a slight red tinge due to the iron in the water, so that it is called the Red Well, scene of miracles in superstitious days. A long line of chestnuts brings us to the small church with a nave and chancel which fell last century and were rebuilt. The 15th century tower remains, with a gargoyle of a lion and a fine arch opening from it to the nave, all that remains of the old building except for a relic as old as itself - the font, with heads of animals and roses carved on the bowl, which is set on a panelled stem.

Elsworth, Cambridgeshire

Holy Trinity, open, is a huge building, which is not immediately apparent from outside [I did internals first] and, for a Cambridgeshire church, is full of interest not least the reredos at the west end of the north aisle and the fantastic choir stalls.

HOLY TRINITY. Pebble rubble and stone rubble, mostly Dec. w tower with angle buttresses, a finely moulded W doorway without capitals, a W window with reticulated tracery, similar bell-openings, battlements and pinnacles. The S aisle has specially tall stately three-light windows with reticulated tracery, the S doorway no capitals (S porch Perp). The chancel windows also Dec (E window C19) with tracery characterized by circles turning ogee at the foot. The westernmost window on the S wide altered into a four-light straightheaded Perp window. Below it low-side-window complete with its iron bars. N aisle 1892. The S arcade of four bays is as satisfyingly Dec as the S  windows. Fine and erect piers of four filleted shafts with narrow ridges in the diagonals; arch moulding with two quarter-circle steps. The clerestory has quatrefoil windows with low-arched rere-arches. The tower arch has no capitals, the chancel arch responds with a group of three shafts, later cut away below to make them into corbels. Figured corbels remain from the original nave roof. Sedilia and Double Piscina as a group, clearly built together with the chancel, see the circle with ogee at the foot in the tracery of the Piscina. Ogee-cusped arches. - CHANCEL STALLS. Unusually well preserved set of Early Tudor stalls, complete with the W returns and the interesting feature of a row of little lockers below the book-rests. Linenfold-panelled backs, traceried fronts, poppy-heads. - REREDOS, early C18. Now at the W end of the N aisle. The centre with the Ten Commandments is flanked by coupled Ionic columns which carry a broken pediment.

Choir panorama

Ex reredos (1)

Pro Patria (1)

ELSWORTH. It stands on a rock which is known to all geologists, a hard limestone full of the fossils of the sea. It has two old houses of Elizabethan days, the Guild House with its timber porch and the manor with its orange walls and gables, giving a touch of colour to the village green. A stream spanned by rough timber bridges winds among the cottages, and in flood time rises so near to one of them that it is called Noah’s Ark.

The fine church has still something of the dignity its builders gave it 600 years ago. The pinnacled tower is low but its high arch opens into a lofty nave in which ancient wood figures of eleven apostles hold up the roof. The chancel has a piscina and three stone seats which are among the best in the county, the seats having trefoiled arches and the piscina two tiny shelves. The lovely 15th century stalls have foliage poppyheads and backs of rich linenfold, and they are curious for having little lockers under the book-rests, some still with their old doors, hinges, and locks. There are two Jacobean chairs and some old benches, ancient altar rails and an old chest, and a pulpit which was new 500 years ago. In the sanctuary is an 18th century brass almsdish on which two men are shown carrying a bunch of grapes.

The rare distinction of the church is its register, dating from 1528 and one of the three earliest known, the others being at Carburton and Perlethorpe in Notts. The date from which registers were kept by order of Thomas Cromwell was 1538, so that these three are ten years older than the oldest oificial record.

A fine wheel cross adorns the chancel gable, and on the sunny wall is a dial with the warning Mox Nox, Soon the night will come.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Papworth Everard, Cambridgeshire

St Peter, open, is an unremittingly dull Victorian rebuild with some good glass.

ST PETER. Almost entirely of 1851. Tower 1871, spire 1875. The chancel arch with responds of three grouped shafts and double-chamfered arch looks original C14.

N tower door

Glass (6)

PAPWORTH EVERARD. Its white walls lie along the Ermine Street of Roman Britain, but the fame of Papworth belongs to our own 20th century, for the white walls are those of a little world apart, where hundreds of men and women are fighting adversity, busy with a multitude of things by which they hold their own.

Here there is little of the 14th century now left - two doorways, the plain font, and the chancel arch on its clustered columns; for the rest, the church (which has a short spire) is yet a long way off from being a centenarian, but even when the young church has reached old age Papworth will be remembered for the part it has played in the health and well-being of our people.

This place in the green heart of Cambridgeshire is the self-supporting colony of hundreds of people with tuberculosis, the low buildings of their hospitals and the sanatorium are set in lawns and gardens on the hillside with a church among the trees on the ridge looking down on it all. In its short life Papworth has stored up a record of man’s helpfulness to man as glorious as that of any ancient foundation. It is the model village for receiving men and women afflicted with the white scourge of tuberculosis. It contains within itself their homes, their hostels, their hospital, their sanatorium. It sustains them in their illness, it gives new life to them, new faith, new hope, and its mainspring is charity. From its modest beginnings the Papworth Village Settlement has risen to the height of a national undertaking.

Papworth is a barrier against the spread of tuberculosis. When the patient can leave the hospital here he does not go back to a life and work where he is almost certain to relapse. As his health begins to improve he is trained by gradual stages for one of the 11 trades which form Papworth industries. No workshops in the world are more cheerful than these. When he is yet more fit the patient may take his place as one of Papworth’s permanent workers or settlers, the quality of whose handicraft the outside world has had opportunity to appreciate. They will do printing for you, or write your signs, or make you a travelling trunk or a portable building.

One of the best testimonies to Papworth is its appearance, trim and spick and span and newly built from end to end; but a stranger coming on it unawares would never know it for what it is. He might take it for some model village built by a philanthropic and far-seeing manufacturing firm for its working folk. He would see a playground full of children at play, and would find a swimming-pool. Among the trees and gardens he would discover bright modern cottages. The hostels would be quite in keeping.

A number of chalets in a tree-shaded row would be the first thing to give him pause. What are they for? They are the open-air bedrooms for the patients when they first come to Papworth. They are part of the cure the hospital begins. But all the rest that the visitor sees are the progressive steps upward from them: workrooms where trades are learned and practised, separate hostels for the unmarried workers of both sexes, cottages where the married workers live with their families. It is one of the highest tributes to the efficacy of the Papworth system that no child born there while a member of the community has contracted tuberculosis.

Papworth St Agnes, Cambridgeshire

St John, redundant, keyholder listed, is a quite astonishingly ugly rebuild of 1848-1850. It was saved from demolition in 1979 by Friends of Friendless Churches and is now used as the village hall and, although I fail to see the merits for its redemption, it's surely a good thing that it's in regular use.

ST JOHN. Tower 1848. Nave and chancel 1854. All stone and flint chequerwork. The N doorway looks genuine C14 work. - STAINED GLASS. Characteristic of the 1850s.

St John (1)

Strangely another one Mee missed.

Graveley, Cambridgeshire

St Botolph, open, is possibly one of the darkest interiors I've visited and also one of the dullest, having said that I did like the Abbott & Co east window. Externally dull also and difficult to photograph doe to the light and tiny graveyard.

ST BOTOLPH. Perp W tower with diagonal buttresses with many set-offs. The N aisle was Dec, but as it was demolished at some later date we can only guess at its appearance from the exposed octagonal piers which without capitals ran on into the arches. Hood-moulds with head-corbels. Chancel arch 1870, plain chancel of brick built shortly after 1733. - MONUMENT. Rev. Henry Trotter d. 1765 (who ‘beautified’ the chancel). With a very chastely designed urn against an obelisk. Signed by John Dixon of London.

Abbott & Co east window (14)

Henry Trotter 1766

Mee missed it.

Eltisley, Cambridgeshire

SS Pandonia & John the Baptist, open, is, excepting its spire and dedication, a bland but pleasant building containing little of interest.

ST PANDIONIA AND ST JOHN.* Quite a big church, considering the part of the county in which it lies. Built of pebble rubble. The chancel, alas, is of yellow brick and without any redeeming features. The church is essentially C13. The arcade of three bays comes first, with circular piers, capitals ranging from a row of upright leaves to complete early stiff-leaf, and slightly chamfered arches. The S doorway has an order of colonnettes and dog-tooth ornament in the arch. Nailhead ornament in the shafted inner arch of the N transept E window (the three lancets standing under this arch are C19). The chancel arch above is C13: demi-shafts as responds with moulded capitals and double-chamfered arches. Finally the W tower. The bell-openings, though renewed, seem to represent the original date: two lights under one arch with the spandrel left open. On the tower a spire of exceptionally good proportions and outline. It has two tiers of dormers, and their detail seems Dec. Perp tower arch, and (renewed) Perp S aisle windows. - MONUMENT in the N transept. Defaced effigies of husband and wife under a crocketed arch framed and embattled. The effigies can hardly be dated now.

* A Benedictine nunnery existed in the early Middle Ages at Eltisley, to which St Pandiana, a rarely remembered Early Christian English saint, had fled.

SS Pandonia & John the Baptist (3)

ELTISLEY. The charm of the village is its rare green like a velvet lawn, round which cluster the church, the thatched cottages, and (when  the cricketers come out of their fine thatched pavilion) nearly all the village folk. There is shade for the onlookers under the chestnuts at three corners, and a row of limes in memory of six men who were missing when cricket began again after the war. There are two fine timbered houses, one the old rectory, and the other the birthplace of Major-General Disbrowe, who married Oliver Cromwell’s sister Jane in the church next door in 1636. We called on our way home from here to see two descendants of Jane Cromwell still living in a village of Huntingdonshire.

It is a small stone church, mostly 13th century, with a 14th century spire topping the tower, and a brick chancel which fortunately keeps the old arch. The pillars of the arcades with their leafy capitals are 700 years old, and there are two stone figures from the Middle Ages on a canopied tomb in the chapel. The knight has his hand on his sword but his feet are gone and his lady is headless. The plain old font has a pointed Jacobean cover carved with thistles.

The church’s unique dedication links John the Baptist with the Saxon saint Pandiana, daughter of an Irish king who fled from her lovers to Eltisley’s nunnery. The nunnery was removed to Huntingdonshire in the Conqueror’s day, leaving here only the outline of its moat among the pools, and in the 14th century the saint’s body was carried from beside the spring still called St Pandiana’s Well and buried in the church dedicated to her. St Wendreda, another obscure Saxon saint, whom we come upon again at March, is also said to have been buried in this church.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Croxton, Cambridgeshire

St James, locked no keyholder, is an estate church of little interest but the setting is stunning and there's an interesting churchyard cross which has been usurped as a memorial.

ST JAMES. In the park, S of the manor house. Not a building of distinction. W tower with Perp doorway but upper windows of the C13. Aisle windows mostly C19. S doorway early C14, chancel N doorway also (with a very pronounced ogee head).Three-bay arcade of octagonal piers with double-chamfered arches. The chancel arch similar. - DOOR. In the tympanum some carved fragments, C18 and apparently Flemish or French. - SCULPTURE. Cross-head in the churchyard with Crucifixion, St Michael, and Saints; Perp. - MONUMENT. Edward Leeds d. 1589, Master of Clare Hall Cambridge from 1560 to 1571. Brass on a tomb-chest with belated baluster columns. Inscription-plate on the back wall, very classically framed. Framing architecture with Ionic columns and strapwork. The HELMET etc., on a window-sill on the N side belonged to this monument.

Churchyard cross (1)

CROXTON. Thatched cottages and a timbered house almost invade the park, where a church hiding in the elms and a Georgian house have a delightful setting by the lake.

On the churchyard lawn is the medieval cross, shortened but still with its canopied head on which are fading away with time and weather figures of Christ on the Cross, Michael weighing a soul, Anthony with his pig, and a pilgrim with a staff. Old Stones make up the 20th century north porch, which is an astonishing patchwork of Norman pillars, medieval tracery, part of a stone coffin, and most of a 14th century doorway, all helping to shelter the treasure of this place- - an ancient studded door with a battlemented border round its arch, and fixed to its panels a beautiful relief of the scene at Bethlehem, with the ox and the ass standing behind Jesus and his mother, all so perfect that its centuries might be only years.

The church is mostly 15th century, with a font as old as itself and a piscina 200 years older. At each corner of the nave roof stands a white-robed angel with golden hair, odd painted figures, two with their wings missing. The benches where the village folk sat in Tudor days are strong still and their tracery little worn, and more old woodwork screens the side walls of the chancel. From among fragments of old glass look out angels and men, and among the pictures in the modern east window is Ely Cathedral.

The brass portrait of Edward Leeds on his canopied tomb shows this Elizabethan benefactor of Emmanuel College in his doctor’s robes, a man of peace whose tomb has been turned into a little armoury, for on it we found a steel cap and breastplate of Cromwell’s time with two helmets of later wars, one German, the other French.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Caxton, Cambridgeshire

St Andrew, open March-Nov/Dec, is, truth be told, a dull, over restored building both inside and out but it was nice to find it open - be warned though that I have heard finding it open can be patchy. If it is closed when you pass by rest assured you haven't missed much.

ST ANDREW. The chancel is of the later C13, but much restored. The E window is Victorian, but the N and S windows with plate tracery are correct. So is the small S doorway which has a triangular head and the Double Piscina which is decorated in the spandrel between the sub-arches and the main arch by a very flat circle with a double-cusped quatrefoil. Of the Sedilia only the bottom parts are left, and that makes one feel uncomfortable about the window above. The N aisle W window is said to be restored correctly, but the S aisle w window is of C19 design. The W tower is probably of the C14, see the tall tower arch towards the nave and the pretty bar tracery quatrefoils in square windows. Perp W doorway, Perp bell-openings, and (C19) low pyramid roof. The arcade between nave and S aisle is of four bays, tall but deprived of its effect by the lack of sufficient wall (or a clerestory) above. The piers are of a general lozenge shape, with capitals only on the demi-shafts towards the arch openings. The main projections are elongated demi-polygons with small hollows in the diagonals.

William Wailes east window (12)

Dado (1)

Open church (1)

CAXTON. The Roman road goes through it on the way from London to York, and the inn with a show of Jacobean woodwork was known to all as a stopping-place for coaches while the horses were changed. Once it let its windows to Cambridge undergraduates, who wanted to see the Young Pretender go by, but they were disappointed, for Prince Charlie never got beyond Derby. The place has dwindled since those days, for with the last coach went much of Caxton’s prosperity.

But it is still a fine place to see the world go by, and for those who would sit and see it there is a wayside seat in memory of Emma Hendley, whose family have done much for the village. Long before the Romans ruled their straight military roads across the maps of England, here was a little road and .a fortified place beside it called The Moats. At the cross roads a mile or so away still stands the old gibbet, grim reminder of the days when three men were hung for stealing sheep and were buried here.

The church, with cobbled walls, is in a quiet retreat and has been much restored, but its low tower, and the arcade of four lofty arches with mouldings reaching to the floor, are all 15th century. A step down takes us two centuries farther back into a chancel with a double piscina and the simplest of sedilia. The font is 500 years old. A modern artist has given the simple chancel screen six painted saints.

Little Gransden, Cambridgeshire

SS Peter & Paul was under scaffolding as the roof was being repaired [?] and was locked but I think it is normally kept open - or so I hope. It's a beautiful exterior in a lovely setting.

SS PETER AND PAUL. The church looks almost entirely - except for the Perp W tower — as if it had been rebuilt. In fact it is said that there was a thorough restoration in 1858. But can one trust the plate tracery of the windows or the three stepped lancets at the E end which do not appear in Cole's drawing (B.M. Add. 5820)? The arcade inside looks indeed C13. Four bays with octagonal piers, boldly moulded capitals and double-chamfered arches. - PULPIT. Nicely Elizabethan; the usual low blank arches are built up of diamond-cut parts.

SS Peter & Paul (1)

Celtic cross (3)

LITTLE GRANSDEN. Its church stands on the hillside looking down on thatched cottages and the 20th century almshouses, and over the valley to Great Gransden’s church a quarter of a mile away across the border in Huntingdonshire. The church belongs to all the great building centuries, mostly 13th with 14th century nave arcades and a 15th century tower, and there are windows of all these times. The font is 600 years old, but the medieval-looking screen, bright with paint and with seven winged angels, is modern. A poor old chest has three locks.

Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire

St Mary the Virgin, open, although at first I thought it locked as the south porch was locked but it turned out you gain entry through the north porch, is a vast carstone building [in itself very attractive] and is as unlike a "normal" Cambridgeshire church as you could imagine. Strikingly the tower has a "Hertfordshire" spike which is unusual for theses parts. Inside it's pretty stripped back but there are good misericords, an excellent set of choir stalls, a good chancel screen and some good glass. An oddity but in a nice way.

ST MARY. The most impressive church in this part of the county. The view to look for is from the N, where indeed the churchyard has not a single tree. So here what meets the eye is architecture entirely, a building of russet stone, with a W tower, a two-storeyed porch, a N transept, and a N sacristy - embattled and enriched by gargoyles below the battlements - an effect robust and sonorous. The effect is entirely due to the C15, it seems, though the N aisle must structurally be much earlier; for it has a lancet window in its N wall and inside a C13 trefoiled, vigorously moulded recess in the wall which is partly cut off by the later transept. Examination will start with the W tower which is designed with much personal character. It has W doorway and window above as one composition, angle buttresses, developing into shallow clasping buttresses at the bell-stage, and the two-light bell-openings surrounded by a big square headed hood-mould or frame. Battlements and a spike. Then the N porch, vaulted inside with diagonal and ridge-ribs, and the N aisle with Late Perp windows. They are the same in the S aisle where the porch is single-storeyed but perhaps even more dramatic because of its tall entrance arch. Most of the transept windows (four lights) are also the same on the N and S sides. The chancel is lower and has a (renewed) five-light E window. The interior somehow lacks the zest of the exterior. Five-bay arcades of octagonal piers of grey stone with double-chamfered arches of buff stone (the latter with much of red colour preserved). The S piers have capitals of simpler moulding than the N piers - indicating probably a slight difference in date. Two-light clerestory windows. - FONT. Octagonal, of Purbeck marble, c. 1200, each side with two shallow blank pointed arches, a type usual in many parts of the country, e.g. in Essex. - ROOD SCREEN. Early Perp, with four-light divisions taken together into two arches under a square head. - W GALLERY. Made up of parts probably of a parclose screen. - BENCHES. S transept, straight-headed, buttressed ends without poppies. - MONUMENT. R. Lane d. 1732 and Mrs Lane d. 1754. Of variously coloured marbles and with pretty Rococo decoration; signed very prominently by E. Bingham of Peterborough.

Misericord (3)

Gargoyle (4)

Choir (1)

GAMLINGAY. Its row of snug red almshouses was built in the year of the Great Plague, and the old folk who first lived in them would remember seeing the great fire which destroyed most of Gamlingay in 1600, leaving so little of the prosperous town that its market was transferred to Bedfordshire. But the fire spared the fine little cross-shaped church and in it we came upon three of the great pole hooks which possibly did good service at the time, dragging the thatch ofl the roofs. Its walls of cobbles and richly tinted stone rise from a garden of lawns and flowerbeds, and from the tower rises a spire like a needle.

The church is mostly of the 14th and 15th centuries, and we can sit on coffin lid seats 700 years old to admire the vaulted porch, with roof bosses of three angels. The tall arcades have traces of medieval painting and a tiny peephole through a pillar. The tower arch is small but stalwart, and across the chancel arch is an oak screen with fine tracery from the last years of the 14th century. Next century came the stalls, with arm-rests of animals and birds, angels and a bishop, and misereres with a demon and odd little men. Some of the pews are 500 years old; the font may be 700. Full of life and colour is the modern glass in the east window, showing Christ surrounded by a great company of kings and queens, saints and angels. Some bits of old glass are in a south transept window.

Gamlingay is a cheerful place, its misfortunes quite forgotten, with many a pleasant walk made out of the marshy land drained by Sir William Purchase, who left this village to become Lord Mayor of London but never forgot it. Where three ways meet is a cross with the names of 65 men Gamlingay will not forget.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Gamlingay Heath, Cambridgeshire

The iron church, redundant, is now a private residence.

CHURCH. Gamlingay Heath. 1885 by St Aubyn. Red and rubbed brick, in the lancet style; no tower; polygonal apse.

The Iron Church

Mee missed it.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Pulham St Mary, Norfolk

St Mary, normally open but a keyholder also listed, by the time I got here it was pushing six pm and the church had been locked for the night. Given that the light was beginning to fade[ish] and I needed to get home by seven thirty I decided against seeking out the the key and settled for exteriors only. I've still got a few other churches in the area to visit so a return visit for interiors is on the cards.

Externally the church has a Suffolk feel to it and the south porch is outstanding.

ST MARY. Quite big, with a strong W tower. The S porch is something phenomenal. Two-storeyed, stone-fronted, with flushwork panelling on the sides. Openwork cresting of reticulation units. Supporters as pinnacles. Small frieze above the base panelling. Doorway with crested capitals, the Annunciation in the spandrels and fleurons up a jamb and arch moulding. Two niches l. and r. Above these eight small figures of angels making music. Frieze of shields in cusped fields, including those of Passion and Trinity. Two upper two-light windows and five niches. Ceiling with moulded beams inside. Fleurons also on the inner doorway. There is no reason to connect this porch with William of Wykeham, who held the living from 1357 to 1361. The porch is evidently C15 work. The W tower has flushwork-panelled battlements. The chancel is much older. Its splendid double piscina of the type of Jesus College Cambridge and Hardingham in Norfolk dates it as mid C13. Straight top; below it an arch and two half-arches intersect. All three of the fine roll mouldings join in the intersecting. In the N wall two lancet windows. The four-light E window, if correctly reproduced, must be some generations later, as it has reticulated tracery. Tall Perp N windows in the nave. Perp S arcade of four bays. Quatrefoil piers with the foils polygonal. Double-chamfered arches. When the aisle was built or rebuilt, the nave was widened on that side. The aisle roof is original, with arched braces and tracery in the spandrels. - SCREEN. Ten painted figures are preserved. They are quite good. The upper part is not original. It belongs to the restoration undertaken by Bodley in 1886-7. He is also responsible for the ORGAN CASE and the painted decoration of the chancel. - BENCHES. Many old ones with poppy-heads; one also with traceried panelling on the back. - STAINED GLASS. In the head of the nave NE window Christ from a Coronation of the Virgin and two angels, early C14. - In the head of another N window twelve complete C15 figures. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, Elizabethan; Paten, probably of before 1706; Flagon, London-made, 1718-19.

S porch (1)

S porch Annunciation (1)

S porch Annunciation (2)

PULHAM ST MARY. It is a pleasant place, with thatched cottages among chestnuts and limes, and a stream flowing near by on its way to the Waveney; and it has an imposing church.

The church porch is a study in itself, and worthy of the high state of the man who is said to have built it. He was John Morton, made Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England by Henry the Seventh and a cardinal by the pope. The porch walls are panelled with traceried stone between bands of quatrefoils, and pinnacles rise from its parapet, which is adorned with curious carvings. The front is enriched with small windows, canopied niches, and angels, and the old roof has embattled beams. Between the nave and the chancel is a graceful old screen, its vaulted canopy with golden ribs and roses, and gilded leaves and flowers trailing over the arches, which are lined with dainty edging like gold lace. The original paintings of saints on the panels are still here for us to see, though now faded and patchy.

The 15th-century font is a mass of colour. The bowl has symbols and gold-winged angels; angels in red, blue, and gold are under the bowl; and the Four Latin Doctors and the Four Evangelists stand round the shaft. The cover of gilded oak has eight arches round a central pinnacle. In medieval glass still treasured here are small blurred figures of the Apostles, Christ in Majesty, and 12 saints. The oldest possession of the church is a fine Norman piscina.