Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Fen Drayton. Cambridgeshire

I cannot understand why St Mary is LNK, it sits in the heart of the village opposite a row of cottages secluded from general view and in an area where every other church is kept open - to me this is shameful.

Having said that it's a stolid church in a pretty location but Pevsner is light on the interior so probably not much missed.

ST MARY. Built of pebble rubble. A very odd tiny slit-like opening near the E end of the chancel N wall. Can it be Saxon? Otherwise all C14 and after. Early C14 W tower, not high, with Dec W window, circular windows above with openwork quatrefoils set in, also lancets, and a  two-light early C14 type for the bell-openings (two lights under one arch, cusped). Spire with broaches and two tiers of dormers. C14 N  arcade of four bays with tal‘ octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches starting with broaches for part of the arch moulding. Chancel arch of the same type. Most windows Perp, clerestory not shown in Cole’s drawing. The E window is C19, the N windows are of three lights with one transome. Nave roof on figured corbels. - ROOD SCREEN. Dado only. - STAINED GLASS. Bits in the chancel N and S windows.

St Mary (3)

FEN DRAYTON. Here every traveller comes to see a thatched house at the corner of the village with the Dutch inscription meaning “Nothing without Labour.” It is said to have been the home of a man whose life was one long tribute to this fine motto, Sir Cornelius Vermuyden. He was the Dutch engineer brought over by Charles the First to reclaim the fens, but the fenmen opposed his schemes and fought his Flemish labourers. For years they quarrelled and it came about that Oliver Cromwell, then MP for Cambridge, led the opposition. But when the Civil War was over the project was revived, the Dutchman was recalled, and 40,000 acres of waste land were reclaimed. The work has stood and was maintained and improved by John Rennie, who built the Waterloo Bridge that London has pulled down.

Far older than those days is the church, with a low tower of the 14th century, and older also is the inn, which is believed to have kept the church company through all its years. Attractive outside with its rosy walls and its roofs of thatch and tiles, it has inside one of the treasures of the county, a magnificent oak ceiling, a mass of richly moulded beams, four of immense size quartering the ceiling and meeting in a carved boss.

In the windows of the church is a jumble of old glass, a font 600 years old, heads of men and lions holding up the roof, and one of the rare 19th century brasses, on which George Shaw, a vicar, kneels with his wife. A modern window shows a woman in blue nursing a sick child. It is in memory of a girl nurse, Katherine Shaw.


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