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.

Shelton, Norfolk

The moment you see St Mary, open, you know you're in the presence of something special. To my mind this is one of the finest churches, inside and out, that I've visited to date.

ST MARY. Apart from the great fenland churches W of King’s Lynn and St Peter Mancroft in Norwich, Norfolk has hardly more than half a dozen Perp churches of the first order. Shelton is one of them. It was built by Sir Ralph Shelton, who in his will made in 1487 ordered the church to be completed as he had begun it. It was indeed clearly completed to the same plan to which it had been started (with one exception, on which see below), and so we can assume that Shelton represents one ideal of a new church of about 1480 or 1490. All that was kept from its predecessor is the W tower of flint and the W window of the S aisle, which is Dec. The rest is of red brick with stone dressings, the brick being diapered with vitrified, i.e. dark blue, headers. The S aisle has a two-storeyed porch and three windows, the N aisle no porch, a N doorway oddly squeezed half under the W window, four windows, and between the third and fourth the rood-stair turret. So the fourth windows represent chancel chapels. The church has indeed no projecting chancel, and its shortness at the E end is certainly an aesthetic fault. One wonders at first whether something more ambitious may not have been planned. The E end as it is has one very tall, rather narrow three-light window and beneath it one of the East Anglian E sacristies, accessible by a small doorway S of the altar. Its only window is a low three-light window with uncusped lights. The windows of the aisles are also of three lights. The tracery pattern includes three stepped embattled horizontals between the ogee-headed lights and the tracery. The arches are four-centred. The S windows have monstrously big gargoyles above their heads. There is a clerestory of nine windows on each side, closely set and with triangular buttresses between, as at St Andrew Norwich. Finials were evidently intended or built on every second of these buttresses and on the aisle buttresses. The S porch is of two storeys, the upper cutting into the C14 W window of the aisle. The entrance has spandrels with the Shelton arms. Above it a very tall canopied niche and small one-light windows l. and r. Inside, a fan-vault (no longer a tierceron-star-vault) was begun or - less likely - built and later taken down.

Now the interior. The arcades run to the E end without any break. There are six bays. The piers are slender, the windows large. So the impression, whitewashed as the interior is, is one of light, spaciousness, and evenness. The piers have a lozenge section with four slender shafts in the principal directions and a hollow and a wave moulding in the diagonals. Only the shafts towards the arches have capitals. In the spandrels are flat canopied niches for images. To their l. and r. Perp panelling extends, the window mullion being carried down. Above the canopies demi-figures of angels were to carry the wall-posts of the roof. But, alas, the roof has not survived, or was perhaps never made to as sumptuous a design as the rest. It will have been noticed that we have reason to assume less generosity after than before Sir Ralph’s death. The most poignant argument in this direction is the fact that a canopy was begun between the last two N piers to rise above his well deserved monument, but that there is no monument to his memory now and that the canopy again may have been left unfinished. The E window, only three lights wide, as we have seen, rises right up to the present ceiling, a very exceptional proportion. The aisles have tall and wide blank arcading which is cut into by the upper storey of the porch. So, unless the C14 church had this motif already, it looks as if the second floor of the porch were an afterthought.

FURNISHINGS. FONT. The usual East Anglian font, with four lions against the stem, and, against the bowl, four lions and four demi-figures of angels holding shields with the Instruments of the Passion, the symbol of the Trinity, three crowns, and three chalices. - SCREEN. It is unfortunate that only the dado survives of a screen which ran right across from the N to the S wall. - LECTERN. This seems an original piece. It consists of what looks like two very elongated bench ends with the book-rest between. -BENCHES. A chair in the chancel is made up of bench ends, two of them with a flower on the arm-rest. - COMMUNION RAILS. The present one is Jacobean, but the balusters are so short that they were perhaps made for something else. Used as stall-fronts what was probably the communion rail. Later C17, with dumb-bell balusters. - ROYAL ARMS. Of William III, gorgeously carved. - STAINED GLASS. Much C15 glass in the aisle windows. Two big kneeling donors in the Ss aisle E window. Donors also in the chancel E window. - PLATE. Paten Cover of c.1567; Paten, Norwich-made, 1638; Chalice, London-made, 1785. - MONUMENTS. Under the incomplete canopy a rather bald Elizabethan tombchest with shields of the Shelton family. An identical tombchest in the N aisle NE corner. Between the chancel and the S aisle later C16 tombchest with three shields in lozenge-shaped cusped fields. Against the S aisle S wall a Jacobean monument with kneeling figures, not in its original state. It is to Sir Robert Houghton d. 1623.

NE aisle window (11)

Pulpit & Lectern


SHELTON. It tempts us from the Roman road, for it has a church with a beauty of its own, its flint tower well buttressed in the 14th century, its impressive array of windows coming from the 15th, its clerestory rising high above elegant arcades with niches between the arches. The brick walls, latticed in red and blue and crowned by the clerestory in stone, are a refreshing change in this county with hundreds of flint churches. There are 20 stone angels above the clerestory windows, and angels with lions on the 14th-century font. It was odd, when we called, to hear bees humming in the roof, and to be told that bees were known to have been humming there a hundred years ago.

The church was mostly built from a legacy of Sir Ralph Shelton, whose family were here four centuries. Their old hall has still the wet moat and the foundations of their earlier home, and their monuments are in the church. Among them is another Ralph, who was at Crécy and Poitiers, and the biggest of the tombs is that of Sir John, who was knighted at the crowning of Henry the Eighth and married the aunt of Anne Boleyn; she was governess to Mary Tudor. Their son John has a tomb with seven painted shields. Some of the Sheltons are in the windows, where their names and portraits are in glass of their own day. There are shells and tuns to spell their name, and Sir Ralph is armoured and has a blue coat, his wife with a book; Sir John (in armour) is in blue, with his wife in green and white; and in another window a Shelton couple are kneeling in red robes. Most fascinating of all the memorials is the altar tomb to a judge in his scarlet robes, with his son in white armour and scarlet breeches. Behind the father and the son kneel their two wives in black robes and white ruffs, under an arch.

Wacton, Norfolk

All Saints, open. I thought this was a priory church as externally it strongly reminded me of Little Dunmow in Essex, it's not but the simplicity, both inside and out, of this building is little short of ravishing. Normally this would, without doubt, be my highlight of the day but I still had Shelton to come.

ALL SAINTS. Round tower, the upper half recessed and as thin and tapering as a windmill. Nave and chancel in one, without a chancel arch, internally tall and generous in space. All windows tall, of two lights with ogee tops. The doorways have ogee tops too. The window tracery alternates between a reticulation unit and another simple motif. Ogee-headed sedilia and piscina. The whole is clearly Dec. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp. Against the foot four lions; against the bowl four lions and four demi-figures of angels. - SCREEN. Tall, of the same date as the architecture, see the shafts with shaft-rings instead of mullions and the few tracery motifs. - SOUTH DOOR. Exceedingly large. With good ironwork, also of the time of the building of the church. - COMMUNION RAIL. Early C18, with slender twisted balusters. - PLATE. Norwich made Chalice of 1567 and Paten of 1641.

Looking east

Stephen Hartly 1664 skull

Rood stair

WACTON. Cottages and farms among winding lanes, a church with an ancient story, and a big common at one end make Wacton a pleasant place. The Normans built most of its low round tower, now ivy-grown and with a red brick top peeping over the high roof of the nave; the nave itself, which has flint walls and fine windows, comes from about the time of Richard the Second, as most of the church does. The neat nave and chancel are divided by the upper part of a medieval screen with traceried bays. There are fine seats for the priests, Jacobean altar rails, an ancient door with original strap hinges, and a 15th-century font carved with symbols of the Evangelists on the bowl and four lions round the stem.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Forncett St Peter, Norfolk

St Peter, open. Forgive me if I wax lyrical but a Saxon round tower, good glass, an incised tombchest, quality ledgerstones and a forest of poppyheads, not to mention a stunning setting - this was at the time the church of the day. An outstanding church and practically perfect in every way, only to be beaten by nearby Shelton.

ST PETER. An Anglo-Saxon round tower complete to the top, i.e. with circular windows half-way up, bell-openings of two lights with a deeply recessed shaft and arched or triangular heads three-quarters of the way up, and eight more circular openings just below the top. Narrow, but not small, arch towards the nave on the simplest imposts. The chancel has herringbone flushwork to three-quarters its length, but the windows, like those of the nave, are Perp. N porch with flushwork-panelled base and a panel with IHS above the entrance. Arcade of three bays, quatrefoiled piers with fillets and thin shafts with fillets in the diagonals. Polygonal abaci, sunk arch mouldings, i.e. later C14. Roof with embattled tie-beams and arched braces. - PULPIT. Two-sided, with Jacobean blank arches. - BENCHES. Of the Norfolk type of this area, with poppyheads and unusually many figures l. and r. Not Perp; apparently skilful work of 1857. - PLATE. Paten 1567; Chalice inscribed 1720; Paten inscribed 1804. - MONUMENT. Thomas Drake d. 1485 and wife. Tomb-chest with shields in cusped lozenge fields. Spiral-fluted angle colonnettes. On top incised slab with demi-figures.

W door

Gidney Dereham

Thomas Drake 1485 (4)

Poppyhead (32)

FORNCETT ST PETER. The Tas stream flows by as the village stretches along a byway, and we come to it thinking of the Long Ago, for it has a Saxon tower, and a memory that stirs within us the thought of one of the oldest and most interesting pieces of music in the world. It has been said that it was the work of John Fornsete, but though there is no evidence for this we may be almost sure that this Norfolk monk of Reading Abbey would know its composer and would hear it sung. It is that masterpiece of medieval music Sumer is-i-cumen in, the exquisite part song which thrills us today as it must have thrilled the monks of Reading, the first known example of harmonised secular vocalised music, considered by authorities to be the most remarkable composition that has survived the centuries.

Though the idea that John of Fornsete wrote it has no foundation, John was the keeper of the charts and papers of Reading Abbey, the Chartulary, at the time the song was written, and on the margin on The Reading Calendar of those days, which is part of the manuscript in which the music is preserved, there is a prayer for John of Fornsete written apparently by the author and composer of this historic treasure. The entry is written against St Wulstan’s day, 1239, and says, Ora, Wulstane, pro nostro fratre, Johanne de Fornsete. So that Monk John brings this little place into a famous page of history.

He would know the neat little church as we see it, for it was built of flints 500 years ago, but the round tower is almost twice as old, and there is a mass dial by which the village would tell the time in the days before clocks. The tower John would know, and perhaps the dial. In the belfry are rows of tiny circular windows like peepholes, deeply splayed on both sides, and here and there are other slits for light.

The glory of the church inside is its splendid array of 54 bench ends, richly carved by medieval craftsmen, one of the finest collections we have come upon in Norfolk. Under their foliage poppyheads are figures at each side, a most interesting gallery with disciples and apostles, Judas with his money bags, a woman in what looks like a sentry box, a man with a coffer of money on his knees and a demon in front of him, another man sitting on the shoulders of a wild creature, a sower with his basket, a baker behind his counter with pies and loaves, and men with scythes. On a big 15th-century tomb are the engraved portraits of Thomas Drake and his wife Elizabeth, who founded the aisle in which they lie; he wears an ermine collar and she the kennel headdress of their day.

Both the aisles and the nave have fine old roofs. The font is 500 years old; the pulpit is a survival of the Jacobean three-decker. The rood stairs are still here and the north porch has ancient heads of a bishop and a queen.

Long Stratton, Norfolk

St Mary, locked no keyholder which is a shame as it appears to be full of interest inside. I had to make do with externals of this round tower church all the while berating its locked status.

To be fair I should point out that this was one of two inaccessible churches out of fifteen I visited that day but, and there normally is a but, this is such a public and passed building that there's no reasonable reason to keep it locked. Definitely one of those where I want to shake someone whilst saying it's not yours it's ours.

ST MARY. Round tower, round to the top. With a lead spike. Nave, aisles, and chancel. All windows Perp. Seven clerestory windows on each side. Big Early Perp E window. Inside, both arcades are of four bays and both are of the C14, the N arcade early, the S arcade later. The N arcade has quatrefoil piers with fillets and in the arches one chamfer and one wave moulding. The S arcade has the usual octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. - FONT. Perp. Panelled stem, bowl with quatrefoils. - FONT COVER. Jacobean. Very charming and airy. Balusters, volutes, and a finial. - PULPIT. Jacobean, with broad blank arches. - BENCHES. Many ends, many poppyheads, also one end with a figure in relief below the poppyhead. - STAINED GLASS. Much in the E window, of mixed dates and origin, all put together as a pattern. The large panel of the Baptism of Christ is French, late C15. - SEXTON’S WHEEL. One of only two surviving ones; the other is at Yaxley in Suffolk. They were used to determine the day of the Lady Fast, a voluntary, movable fast day to be kept for seven years. The wheel consists, as one can see, really of two wheels. The sexton attached bits of string to six of the fleurs-de-lis of one wheel and then set both in rapid motion. The day which the string of the one wheel caught in the other was the day to be observed. A sexton’s wheel is illustrated in the Basel edition of Brant’s Narrenschiff, published in 1497. - PLATE. London made Chalice and Paten, 1567. - MONUMENT. Edmund Reve d. 1647. Big, rather bald standing monument. Two effigies, she recumbent, he a little behind and above her, propped up on an elbow.

St Mary (4)

LONG STRATTON. It lies on the Roman road and its story goes back to the Normans, who left the round tower of its church as their monument. It was the 14th century that gave it its battlements and the stumpy spire.

The village has a treasure very rare in the land, a medieval Sexton’s Wheel hanging on the wall of the church. It is a very queer survival, one of only two known, and consists of two round wheels of ornamented ironwork about three feet across, fixed so that they can revolve either way. Spokes divide the wheels into sections representing the days of the year sacred to the Madonna, and in each division is a fleur-de-lys and a hole with a string. Anyone who wished to keep the Madonna’s Fast (a penance observed once a week for seven years) would try to catch hold of a string as the wheel went round, and so determine the fast day. It is all a little childish, no doubt, but such things happened 500 years ago when this quaint wheel was made. It is the only wheel of its kind now left except one other at Yaxley, in Suffolk.

The church itself is 14th century, having been built by Sir Roger de Bourne, who sleeps here with his brother the rector. There is a lovely oak pulpit, a beautiful linenfold door of ancient oak, something of the old chancel screen with flowers, and a chair with winged snakes on its arm-rests. The altar-rails are very beautiful, with posts and balusters of Queen Elizabeth’s day. The east window has a row of Flemish roundels in old glass showing the Nativity, the Descent from the Cross, and the Stoning of Stephen.

On a great monument in the chancel rests Sir Edmund Reve, in the red robes of a judge and wearing a four-cornered cap; his wife is below him with her head on red and green cushions, a white kerchief round her neck, a book in one hand and the other gathering up the folds of her dress. A crumbling canopied tomb to a rector of 550 years ago has still some of its original red paint. Three rectors in the three centuries after him served 160 years between them.

Morningthorpe, Norfolk

St John the Baptist, open, is sadly over restored and rather soulless but with a good font and some excellent ledgerstones and more importantly a round tower one of five today. Have I mentioned how much I love round towers?

ST JOHN BAPTIST. Round tower, round to the top. Unmoulded arch to the nave. Unmoulded square imposts, with two thin incised parallel horizontal lines. Nave and chancel Perp. The pretty piscina with ogee arch, and in the spandrels a flower and a face with tongue stuck out, is considered Dec by Cautley. - FONT. Octagonal. Against the stem four lions, against the bowl four lions and four demi-figures of angels. - PLATE. Elizabethan Chalice. - MONUMENTS. Elizabethan monument without effigy or inscription. Tomb-chest with pilasters and shields. Back wall with pilasters and a four-centred arch. Oblong panel with coat of arms. The monument probably commemorates Richard Garneys, who bought Boyland Hall in 1571. - Margaret Gostling d. 1723, by Thomas Stayner. Tablet with barley-sugar columns.

Anna Garneys nee Gaudy 1681 arms

E window (12)

VR arms

MORNINGTHORPE. It lies tucked away in charming lanes a mile and more from the Roman road between Norwich and Ipswich, and has fine old Tudor houses among lovely trees. One charming Elizabethan house facing the church has quaint chimney stacks, a spreading cedar in its garden, and a barn with a finely patterned thatch. Another Elizabethan house near the church stands in its park, and was the home of the Howes, whose memorials tell us that John made the world better for his living, that his son John was a merciful man, that Thomas was rector for 51 years of last century, and that Edward was 12 years MP for Norfolk.

Under a recessed tomb in the chancel, with carvings of a spade, pickaxe, hourglass, skull and crossbones, sleeps Martha Garney, who died in 1694. She was the last of the Garneys of Boyland Hall, yet another Elizabethan house which stands in a valley north of the village, the River Tas flowing through its grounds. It is a big grey house with many chimneys, and has over one entrance a bust of Queen Elizabeth.

Small like the village, the church is neat and simple and aisleless, and comes chiefly from the 15th century except for the round tower with its uneven walls, which was built by the Normans. Its stout arch is Norman, but the west window and those of the belfry were inserted 600 years ago, and the parapet is modern. A medieval mass dial is in the wall. The old font has lions at the foot and winged angels under the bowl. A pretty 15th-century piscina has a pinnacled canopy, Tudor rose and a leopard’s face in the spandrels, and a mix-leaved drain. Over the tower arch the royal arms are boldly  carved out of a solid block of oak, and painted. Modern days have given the church roofs adorned with angels and flower bosses, and enriched the nave and chancel with poppyhead seats, one of which a fine John the Baptist in camel hair and mantle.

Stratton St Michael, Norfolk

St Michael, open, has a sign on its noticeboard which says "at this location there are Commonwealth War Graves" which I've not seen before. Not, I believe, unreasonably, I expected to find a reasonable cache of CWGC headstones here, only to find precisely none. I double checked online when I got home and the CWGC website reported no official headstones in the churchyard - most peculiar perhaps the sign has been borrowed from somewhere else.

Other than that this is a pleasant site with a great tower with an unusual spirelet unlike any I've seen and a good font green with damp.

ST MICHAEL. Short unbuttressed W tower with recessed wooden turret carrying a spirelet. Chancel early C14 with reticulation in the E window, but also Y-tracery and a piscina still without ogee. Perp nave. - FONT. With four lions and four demi-figures of angels. - SCREEN. Only the plain dado. - BENCHES. Some ends with poppy-heads, two with figures in relief below the poppy-heads. Some of the benches have castellated tops like little turret platforms instead of poppyheads. - COMMUNION RAIL. Later C17, with dumb-bell balusters. It was apparently originally three-sided. - STAINED GLASS. Fragments in nave window heads. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, Norwich, 1567.

Font (1)

John Cowall 1509 (3)

Angel & child

STRATTON ST MICHAEL. Down a lane with two small cottages and a farm for company stands the medieval church, with tall sweet limes among its encircling trees. Its sloping walls, its pantiled roofs, its low tower, with the spire like a cap within the parapet, intrigue the visitor, and an ancient door with its original strap-hinges leads us into a nave and chancel which have no separating arch, though with different roofs. The nave roof is black and white with flower bosses; the chancel roof is green with old wallplates at its sides. On the old font bowl are lions and angels, but the lions on its base have lost their heads; the piscina is still elaborate with its carving and its pillars. The altar rails and the fronts of the choir seats are Jacobean and on two old poppyhead bench-ends is a bishop with his crozier and St Catherine with her wheel. Only a few fragments of glass recall the glory of these windows in bygone days.

Hempnall, Norfolk

St Margaret, open, is, despite being heavily over restored, really rather pleasant - full of light and the setting on a corner in the heart of the village is superb. Apart from the font there is nothing of particular note here but for all that it's a really pleasing building. It's stolid.

ST MARGARET. Early C14 W tower, the bell-openings with Y-tracery. Handsome WEATHERVANE dated 1727. Two-storeyed S porch with the upper window flanked by niches. The nave and aisle windows all renewed, the chancel no longer in existence. It was already ‘ruinated’ in Blomefield’s time.* The N arcade of two bays dates from the C13. Round piers with round capitals and abaci, double-chamfered arches. The S arcade, judging by the sunk-quadrant mouldings, probably early C14. The piers are octagonal. The extra E bay is Victorian. - FONT. Octagonal, with four beasts and four seated figures against the stem, four beasts and four demi-figures of angels with shields against the bowl. On one shield the emblem of the Trinity, on another the Instruments of the Passion. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, Norwich, 1704.

* The Rev. C. Cooper advises me of long-and-short work visible at the NW angle of the nave.

Font (1)

Castres Mott Donne 1819 arms (2)

Boer war

HEMPNALL. Here lie the Romans who trod these fields 1600 years ago. Their burial ground has been found in a field near the church, and some of the urns in which they laid the ashes of their dead are in the British Museum. The weather-beaten and embattled church, spacious and lofty indoors but looking best outside, stands high on a mound in the pleasant village street, with limes and beeches bordering the churchyard. It is chiefly 15th century, its tower crowned by a quaint pillared turret set within the parapet, its porch with an upper room, and a mass dial on the wall. The old font has angels and lions on the bowl, angels with crossed wings under the bowl, and five seated figures, worn with time, on the stem.

There is a touch of the pathos of life in three tablets here: one to a vicar’s son who died with his regiment in India, one to three villagers slain in the South African War, one to a vicar who lost five of his six children before they laid him with them.

Tasburgh, Norfolk

St Mary the Virgin, open, was my first round tower of the day and [probably] Saxon at that. The exterior and setting are lovely but I found the interior curiously dull.

ST MARY. Round tower, round to the top. Half-way up traces of large blind arcading, and on the apexes of the arches a second tier. It is likely that this is a sign of Anglo-Saxon date. Nave and chancel, windows mostly Perp, all renewed. - FONT. Octagonal. The stem with panels with two fleurons in each, one on top of the other. Bowl with a big flower in each panel. - FONT COVER. Small, Jacobean, just with an openwork obelisk. - SCREEN. Dado only, and largely C19. But what remains seems to indicate a C14 date. Blank intersected ogee tracery on shafts instead of mullions. - PLATE. Norwich-made Chalice and Paten, 1567. - MONUMENTS. In the chancel S wall, set in the sedilia, an Elizabethan tomb-chest with three shields in cusped fields. Back wall with two columns still carrying an ogee arch. - Thomas Newce and wife d. 1629 and d. 1632. Alabaster tablet.

Poppyhead (1)

Dorothy Burman nee Drury 1642 (1)

Wallpainting (4)

TASBURGH. It has thatched cottages and charming houses, and by the ford at one end of the village stands Tasburgh Hall, a modernised Jacobean house among the trees. Where the church rises above the village Roman soldiers stood sentry on the hill in a great camp of 24 acres above the winding River Tas. An avenue of Irish yews leads us to the church, with a round tower which either the Saxons or the early Normans built; its height was raised about 1400, when it was given a crude round-headed window. The arch opening to the nave is later, and the hammerbeam roof of the nave, with 14 cherubs at the end of the beams, is modern. Curiously placed under a chancel window is a tomb of Elizabeth Baxter, who died in 1587 at Rainthorpe Hall, the old manor house in wooded grounds through which the river flows a mile away. An epitaph tells us of another of Norfolk’s many old rectors, Henry Edmund Preston, who lived from the eve of Trafalgar to the eve of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, and was here for 60 years.

Fundenhall, Norfolk

St Nicholas, locked no keyholder. It is immediately obvious that the massive central tower is Norman but less so as to why it is kept locked, although admittedly it is in an isolated spot. Reading Pevsner I'm not sure there's much to miss inside.

ST NICHOLAS. Norman central tower with one original N, one original S window. Above that E.E. The bell-openings have two pointed lights, separated by a thin shaft, the two under one round arch. Norman S doorway with one order of shafts with volute capitals. E. E. N doorway with fine arch mouldings. Inside only the W side of the W arch of the central tower is Norman (nook-shafts). - SCREEN. Only the coving remains and the tracery above a wide arch which must have been the whole width of the tower arch. The coving supported the rood loft. But above the wide arch there is a flat loft floor instead. Traces of painting. The whole is a rare survival. - PLATE. Paten, early C18; Chalice and Paten, probably secular (London), 1793.

Learn to die

FUNDENHALL. Small and tranquil it lies among woods and wheatfields, with thatched cottages and a gabled farmhouse in a winding lane, and one church greeting another across the meadows. With its ivied flint walls, and a massive tower rising between the red roofs of the nave and chancel, Fundenhall’s church looks its best outside, standing sturdily among the larch trees. Most of it is 14th century and much restored, but some of it has an older tale to tell. The base of the tower is Norman, with original windows in its north and south walls; the upper part comes from just after Agincourt, when John Daniel left 20 marks for the repair of the steeple. The Normans built the south doorway, carving its capitals; the small north doorway is English. The font has four quaint angels with long legs on the base. All that is left of the old oak screen is the entrance arch and the canopy, which rests on the high uprights of the pointed arch leading to the chancel; but traces of painting can be seen.

Aswellthorpe, Norfolk

All Saints, open, despite having recently fallen foul of lead roof thieves, is delightful both inside and out. A wealth of interest lies within, the highlight being the splendid C15th alabaster Thorpe monument in the chancel.

ALL SAINTS. W tower of the late C13, see e.g. the W window with its tracery. The battlements with brick and flint chequerwork are of course later. Early C14 chancel, see especially the entertaining E window, which has normal cusped intersected tracery but suddenly, at the top, a tiny ogee arch to house the top quatrefoil. Perp the very tall nave S windows and the S porch, except for its repaired top which, with its heavy segmental gable of brick, looks c.1700. The date of the N chapel is hard to guess. The arch towards the chancel looks Perp, but the N window may well be a Victorian contribution. The E window certainly is Late Perp. All this matters, because between the chancel and the chapel stands the Thorpe MONUMENT, and this is in all probability to Sir Edmund, who died in 1417. The architectural evidence fits that date anyway. The monument is a very fine piece of the alabasterer’s craft. Tombchest with erect young angels holding shields. On the chest the two effigies, well carved, she with angels by her pillow, he with his head on his helmet, and both with dogs by their feet. - FONT. Octagonal, with shields on barbed quatrefoiled fields. The carving is hard, the date surprising: 1660. - SCREEN. Base only, with unusual tracery, repeating the motif of the four-petalled flower in the spandrels. - CHEST. Italian; C17. Of pokerwork. With soldiers, a tent, a town - a martial piece. - PLATE. A complete set of 1670-1, made in London.

Edmund Thorpe 1417 (3)


Roof lead theft

ASHWELLTHORPE. It has cottages and farms with cream and rose-coloured walls, a quaint little church climbing from east to west by the wayside green, and a fine Elizabethan hall, now modernised and looking out on terraced lawns.

The great house was the home of the Knyvets, many of whom lie in the church. Sir Thomas, to whom a long ballad was composed in his day, gave the house a name for hospitality in the 16th century, a reputation upheld by Edmund Knyvet’s wife, Jane Bourchier, for we read on her brass* inscription:

Twenty years and three a widow's life she led,
Always keeping house where rich and poor were fed.

A treasure of the church is the handsome alabaster tomb with the fine figures of Edmund de Thorpe and his wife, perfect except that it is marred by the initials of many louts. Sir Edmund, who fought with Henry the Fifth, is in armour and wears a jewelled belt, the Lancastrian collar, spiked gauntlets, and a wreathed helmet. His head rests on a crown and a sheaf of peacock feathers, and there is a dog at his feet. His lady’s lovely netted headdress is crowned by a wreath of jewels and foliage with a dainty eagle crest, and two other eagles form the clasps of her graceful mantle, one of two small dogs at her feet holding its folds. Two angels hold her cushion. Like her husband, she wears the SS collar, a very rare thing for a lady.

The lofty and compact church in which they lie has a 15th-century nave lit by great windows between a 14th-century chancel and a 14th-century tower. On the walls is a medieval mass dial. The porch, with its upper room, is as old as the nave, and shelters an old doorway with its original studded door and a massive ring. There is an ancient coffin stone in the sanctuary, and one of several piscinas is in the corner of a window splay. An old chest is patterned with figures and scenes, tents by a city, ships, and merchandise.

* I saw no sign of this brass.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Newton Flotman, Norfolk

St Mary, locked, keyholder[s] listed, looked to me to be, rightly or wrongly, not worth the effort of tracking down the key and as I returned to my car the suspicious pensioner eyeing me up from his front window reinforced my sense that the effort of gaining entry would not return a lot of gain. Having searched Flickr I missed some glass and the modest Blundeville monument.

ST MARY. Perp W tower-.* Nave and chancel. All details too renewed to be of value. - FONT. Octagonal, with shields in cusped fields. - BENCHES. With poppy-heads. One arm with an animal. - STAINED GLASS. E and W windows by Kempe, 1898 and 1902. - MONUMENT. Patience King, 1638. A curious tripartite tablet with two outer columns and two inner pilasters. Top with semicircular pediment between obelisks. In the three panels from l. to r. Mrs King and her daughters, Robert King, and a brass plate with three generations of Blandeviles, 'grandsyre, father and the son’. This brass plate was placed by Mrs King’s father Thomas Blandevile in 1571.

* Miss M. Sawbridge tells me that on the E side of the battlements, invisible from the ground, is an inscription to Ralph Bloudeville with the date 1503. Inside the tower is an original brick staircase.

St Mary (2)

NEWTON FLOTMAN. Thatched cottages straggle pleasantly along the road to its 17th-century bridge across the River Tas. The smithy and the gaunt mill by the bridge belong to neighbouring Saxlingham. From the bridge the old church at the other end of the village comes into the picture outlined against the sky, looking down on the winding stream. Like its embattled tower, most of it is 15th century, though 14th-century windows light the nave. The west window of the tower glows with rich glass. There is 15th-century tracery on the front of the pews, some of which have foliage poppyheads; we noticed a modern dog on an arm-rest facing an animal which has been here 500 years.

Three knights “who lived well and died well” are kneeling at prayer with open books, their small portraits engraved in brass in the chancel. All wear armour and have beards; they are three generations of the Blondevyles who were landowners here - Richard of 1490, Ralph of 1514, and Edward of 1568. Thomas Blondevyle brought fame into the family in Tudor days by writing books on such diverse subjects as horsemanship, navigation, science, and logic. It was he who set up this monument, and in its panels we see his kneeling figure sculptured in stone, his two wives and two small daughters in Elizabethan ruffs. One of the daughters has a memorial of her own close by; she was Patience King, and we read that she lived virtuously and died religiously.

A stone in the chancel brings to mind the thrilling story of a rector’s son, William Fortescue Long, who died far out in Melanesia in the year before the war. In the foower of his manhood he gave his life for a boy he was rescuing from drowning in the roaring surf off Norfolk Island. He was at the mission station, and the boy was one of a group of native schoolboys fishing in the tumultuous waters when he lost his balance on the rocks.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Hethel, Norfolk

All Saints, rather surprisingly and very pleasantly open, appears to be run of the mill until you find the unused Branthwayte chapel and the massive, and rather ludicrous, Miles Branthwaite d.1612 monument in the chancel.Quite why Miles felt he needed such a sumptuous monument he alone knows and it's quite out of keeping with the rest of this modest church.

The most obvious point of interest is the square tower which has characteristics to suggest a 11th or 12th century date. Whilst early square towers are not unusual where good building stone is available, they are uncommon in Norfolk, not least when primarily constructed with flint. This tower has large blocks of limestone at the base forming long and short work, but much of the original tower has flint quoins which is very rare and shows faith in the mortar used. There are only six churches in Norfolk with square towers compared to 123 surviving round towers. In fact, Hethel is situated in a part of Norfolk where there is the greatest concentration of round towers, so the form of this tower is most unusual. []

ALL SAINTS. Unbuttressed W tower, perhaps Norman. Later two-stepped battlements. Minimum N arcade of three bays with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. There was a N chapel as well, but that was rebuilt as, or converted into, the Branthwaite family chapel or MAUSOLEUM. It has a brick N facade of rather Vanbrughian character, with rusticated quoins, blank arched windows filled in with blue brick, and identically filled-in segment-headed windows in the heavy parapet above. Inside three blank tablets. So the date is unrecorded. It seems to be c.1730. In fact the first interment was in I740. The Gothick doorway from the E, dated 1819, is clearly later. The S porch of the church is Perp, but has a later stepped gable. The nave and N aisle windows are of an elementary C18 or C17 type. - PLATE. Chalice, originally secular, as it has a workman’s double-hammer. The hall-mark is London. the date probably 1559.* - MONUMENT. Myles Branthwaite d. 1612 and wife. Alabaster. He rests on his elbow behind and above her. Columns l. and r. carrying obelisks. Coffered arch and inscription plate framed by fine strapwork and fruit.

* The rector of Bracon Ash and Hethel kindly informed me that the chalice is now believed to have been made in 1532 at Ghent by Jan van Hanweghen.

Miles Branthwaite 1612 (1)

Cross base (2)

Miles Branthwaite 1612 (12)

HETHEL. It lies on the road to nowhere, with a moated rectory, a church prettily set among fields down little-used lanes, and a hawthorn tree growing close by which must be almost unique. Gnarled, twisted, and bowed, the Hethel Thorn has a trunk like twisted cables and arms like an octopus, and is still a very fine tree, though it is believed in the village that its first blossoms perfumed the air 700 years ago. Still it wears them every spring, and in winter its propped-up branches bear clumps of mistletoe.

The odd little church with an embattled tower is a medley of centuries not too happily blended, especially on the workaday north side. Much of it is 14th century, but the porch, which shelters a holy water stoup, is 15th. The chief interest of the church is in the pompous monument of Myles Branthwaite, a lord of the manor of Shakespeare’s day, “freed from the dust and cobwebs of this vaile." Myles and his wife lie one above the other, he a ponderous figure reclining stiffly in a fur-lined cloak, she in a gown with many bows and hair like sunset rays. Below them kneel their three children.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Bracon Ash, Norfolk

St Nicholas, open, was the reason for this venture into Norfolk in order to visit, if possible, sixteen churches mentioned in various Weld wills with the hope that I'd find out more about this family. I managed fifteen and failed to add any further knowledge re the Weld's of Norfolk - previous Weld entries can be found here, here, here, here and here.

Whilst I didn't add any new leads I did get to record the extant Weld monuments in this curiously attractive church. I say curiously because it shouldn't really work - early nave and chancel, mostly rendered, with a Georgian vault and a curious porch and a lost bellcote should equal an architectural disaster but actually looks quirky but in a good way. Externally I was reminded of Wimbish whilst the internal light brought to mind Tilty, both in Essex, although both are very different buildings.

The Berney vault is, in a somewhat macabre way, fascinating but subtler than the in your face Hatton equivalent at Long Stanton - personally I prefer the Berners style.

ST NICHOLAS. Nave and chancel. W of the S doorway a frame for one bell with a gabled roof over. The N porch with stepped gable may be of the early C19. In the S aisle two Dec windows. The S arcade, of three bays, has piers with polygonal projections and double hollow-chamfered arches. The chancel is a fine piece of late C13 work, which the over-restored windows (Y- and intersected tracery) do not betray. But inside the windows are shafted, and there was a curiously close group of them on the N side, now blocked by the addition in the C18 of the Bemey MAUSOLEUM. This is quite a stately, if ponderous, affair to the outside, quoined and with a pedimented middle bay flanked by intermittently blocked pilasters. Blocked circular windows with four heavy keystones. - ROYAL ARMS of George III in a frame of pilasters and pediment. - PLATE. Pre-Reformation Paten; Chalice (Norwich) 1567-8 ; Paten (London) 1819. - MONUMENT. The door to the Berney Mausoleum is now surrounded by the front of an Early Renaissance monument of terracotta, without doubt the work of the same craftsman who did the Bedingfeld Monuments at Oxborough. Baluster-pilasters, little pendants, and delicately detailed panels.


Berney mausoleum (2)

St Nicholas (2)

BRACON ASH. Its cream-walled cottages with thatched and tiled roofs stand by the roadside, not far from the towerless church hiding modestly among the trees. Bracon Hall in the park is a modern house on the site of one where Queen Elizabeth is said to have stayed; it has belonged to the Berneys for centuries. On the other side of the village is the fine old Mergate Hall which belonged to the Kemps for about 500 years.

Three arches on clustered pillars divide the 15th-century nave and aisle of the church; the chancel is older, and we can imagine its beauty as the builders left it 600 years ago, for here still are the remains of their fine windows, which had shafts on each side and heads and flowers between their arches. The ancient font and the winding rood stairway remain.

In this village was born a bad boy who became Lord Chancellor of England without greatly improving his character. He was the first Lord Thurlow. As his father could not manage him at home he was put in charge of a schoolmaster, who, however, could do nothing with him, and to whom he said on meeting him in later life, “I am not bound to recognise every scoundrel that recognises me.” That was the sort of man he was, in spite of the fact that in a solicitor’s oflice at Ely Place he found himself working with the gentle William Cowper. His chance at the Bar came with a wonderful speech he made in a famous case. He was a great success in the courts and succeeded in reversing a decision of the great Lord Mansfield on copyright. He had a long career also in Parliament, but was untrustworthy and eventually alienated most of his friends. He fought a duel in Hyde Park. He built a mansion at Dulwich, but never entered it because of a quarrel with the architect. He was blunt and vulgar, and could weep whenever it was necessary. He was lazy, and relied on others to prime him for his speeches and arguments. He hated change and believed in the royal prerogative. He thought foreign affairs so dull that he went to sleep at Cabinet Councils when they were being discussed. And yet he was a clever man. Dr Johnson enjoyed his conversation, but Charles James Fox declared that no man ever was so wise as Thurlow looked.

Mulbarton, Norfolk

St Mary Magdalene, open, on any other day would fill me with delight with its excellent glass, interesting monuments and general demeanour but I visited fourteen other churches in the area and several paled Mulbarton in to almost insignificance. Having said that it is a fantastic building, both inside and out, in a lovely setting.

One treasure that threw me was Sarah Scargill's extraordinary monument which was closed and which I failed to realise what it was. A contact on Flickr [jmc4 - Church Explorer] captured it open here.

ST MARY MAGDALEN. Dec W tower and nave, Perp chancel, N aisle of 1875. - FONT. Octagonal, simple, with quatrefoils. - SCULPTURE. Small fragment of an alabaster altar. - STAINED GLASS. Figures etc. of the C15 in the chancel E and one S window. - PLATE. Norwich-made Chalice and Paten of 1567-8 and Paten of c.1661. - MONUMENTS. Sir Edwin Rich d. 1675 (nave W). Big tablet flanked by coarse foliage scrolls and with an oversized hour-glass at the top. - Mrs Sarah Cargill d. 1680 (chancel SW). A very curious conceit. The wooden back of a Bible as a pedestal carries a copper diptych which, when one approaches it, is closed. It can be opened by a handle and contains a long inscription by Mrs Cargill’s husband. It reads as follows:

Dear Love, one Feather’d minute and I come
To lye down in they darke Retireing Roome
And mingle Dust with thine, that wee may have,
As when alive one Bed, so dead one Grave;
And may my Soul teare through the vaulted Sky
To be with thine to all Eternitie.
O how our Bloudless Formes will that Day greet
With Love Divine when we again shall meet
Devest of all Contagion of the Flesh
Full filled with everlasting joys and Fresh
In Heaven above (and ’t may be) cast an eye
How far Elizium doth beneath us lye.
Deare, I disbody and away
More Swift than Wind
Or Flying Hind
I come I come away.

- George Gay d. 1729 (chancel N). Tablet with weeping putti at the top.

Village sign

Sarah Scargill nee le Neve 1680

AK Nicholson St Anna (1)

MULBARTON. It has one of the biggest greens in Norfolk, and most of its scattered houses and cottages look on to the common land, of which there is nearly 50 acres. A high tower with chequered buttresses dominates it all from one corner, crowning a much-restored little church.

What is old in the church comes largely from the 14th century. Old glass in the east window shows Adam and Eve in the garden, a man in blue digging under a red sky, a knight in armour with a chained demon, a bishop, and a crowned figure in white and gold with a sword; and other old glass in the nave shows musical angels with harp and guitar, an old man in white and gold with a boy reading beside him, and a crowned man with a sceptre, carrying a cathedral. A curious brass memorial in the form of a book with a hinged cover, standing on a closed Bible, has an inscription to Mrs Sarah Scargill, “cozin to Sir William le Neve, Herauld to King Charles the First of blessed memory.”

A boy who grew up to be famous listened here to his father’s sermons, and here, at 13, he stood to see his mother laid to rest. He was Sir Thomas Richardson, Speaker in 1621 and Lord Chief Justice in 1631; and it is he who led men’s thoughts away from old barbarous customs to fairer methods of justice when he declared it illegal to use the rack for extracting a confession from Buckingham’s murderer.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

St Michael, Longstanton, Cambridgeshire

St Michael, open, is a CCT church and is an utter delight. Undoubtedly the church of the day.

ST MICHAEL. A very remarkable little church mostly of c. 1230, though the chancel was rebuilt (correctly) in 1884. The most interesting and impressive feature is the W front with buttresses at the angles but also two big buttresses running up the middle with three set-offs to the original twin bell-cote. The roof reaches down so low on the sides of the arches that the windows are very small. The chancel is higher and has lancet windows in the sides and a group of three stepped single lancets at the E end. Inside, the chancel has hood-moulds for the windows and a beautiful Double Piscina of the type of Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge, i.e. with two intersected round arches; fleur de lis in the spandrels. Arcade of four low piers, alternatingly circular and octagonal, simple moulded capitals, double-chamfered arches. The chancel arch also is double-chamfered, on semi-polygonal responds. Blocked E lancets of the N and S aisles. - CHEST with two roundels in the front, decorated in chip-carving.

St Michael's well (2)

Thomas Burgoyne

Double piscina

LONG STANTON. Off the Roman road from Godmanchester to Cambridge, it is long enough to have two parishes, each with a church of its own.

By a charming group of thatched cottages and an old windmill that has lost its sails stands the simple church of St Michael, framed in chestnuts and roofed with thatch above the nave. A 15th century porch brings us to the great stone arcades two centuries older. One of the windows in the chancel has a little old glass in black and white, but the chancel itself was made new last century. The treasure of the church is a fine oak chest with two roundels on the front. It was a centenarian long before Thomas Burgoyne knew this church; he was its patron in the 15th century, and the chest has a brass plate to his memory.

The noble church of All Saints has been. much changed but its tower and spire are 15th century, the nave arcades are 14th, and a 15th century arch opens into an older chancel made new. A niche in the wall is perhaps the oldest thing in the church, 13th century. The very fine font is 600 years old, elaborately carved with pinnacles.

There is an old box-pew of the 18th century which was used by the Hattons, who bought the manor from Queen Elizabeth and were here during three centuries. They turned the transept into their chapel, and on an elaborate tomb lie the alabaster figures of Sir Thomas and his wife with six sons and daughters kneeling round them, all dressed as in the days of the Commonwealth. The father has long curling hair and is in rich armour; the mother, with a hound at her feet, has a bead bracelet, a kerchief round her head, and holds her handkerchief and a book. The manor passed to the Hattons after Elizabeth seized it from Bishop Cox, the first Protestant Bishop of Ely. It was not all the queen took from him, and the story goes that when the poor bishop was driven to complain the imperious Elizabeth retorted, “Proud priest I made you and I will unmake you.”


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

All Saints, Longstanton, Cambridgeshire

All Saints, open, is a not particularly attractive Perp building, although I have to admit to a certain antithesis towards the general Cambridgeshire vernacular. Inside however is a treat with good glass, the Hatton mausoleum and a faded Doom. So not a stunner but containing enough interest to be worthy of notice.

ALL SAINTS. Perp W tower with spire. Of the dormer windows the upper tiers C19. Chancel largely rebuilt. The E window of five lights with flowing tracery, i.e. c. 1320-40,* the side windows also Dec. The best piece of architecture is the S transept, c. 1340 with all three windows (W, S, E) of four lights and with busy small-scale flowing tracery. The angle to the S aisle has a small two-light window high up set at an angle, probably to give light to the pulpit. S doorway and S aisle windows Dec., N aisle also. The arcade of four bays Early Perp with octagonal piers and wave-moulded arches. Chancel arch Perp, and curious wide blank arches surrounding the N windows of the chancel. Sedilia and Piscina with three thin ogee arches. In the S transept, entirely in keeping with the ornate style of the windows, a diagonally placed sculpture-niche in the SE corner. The aisle roofs form a continuation of the nave roof, slightly more splayed (Crossley). - FONT. An exceptionally interesting example of the octagonal Perp type. The bowl has on its eight sides eight different fanciful varieties of quite plain motifs of Perp tracery, one with an ogee arch, one with quarte-foils, one with trefoil niches under arches, two with a band of crenellation half-way up, and so on. - PEW. In the N aisle. With a frieze of Early Renaissance ornament typical of c. 1540-50. - MONUMENT. Sir Thomas Hatton d. 1658, by E. Marshall (Mrs Esdaile). The tomb-chest stands at r. angles to the E wall of the S transept. On it the well carved recumbent figures of Sir Thomas and Lady Hatton. Against the long sides of the tomb-chest, carved in the round, kneel the figures of their children. The back against the transept wall has a proper reredos, segmental pediment etc. and ornamental motifs, no longer Jacobean but classical, i.e. garlands, big corbels, corbels with cherubs’ heads etc.

* The window seems original, though it is not shown in Cole’s drawing.

N aisle E Louis Davies 1938 window (2)

Thomas Hatton 1658 (17)

Doom remnant (2)

LONG STANTON. Off the Roman road from Godmanchester to Cambridge, it is long enough to have two parishes, each with a church of its own.

By a charming group of thatched cottages and an old windmill that has lost its sails stands the simple church of St Michael, framed in chestnuts and roofed with thatch above the nave. A 15th century porch brings us to the great stone arcades two centuries older. One of the windows in the chancel has a little old glass in black and white, but the chancel itself was made new last century. The treasure of the church is a fine oak chest with two roundels on the front. It was a centenarian long before Thomas Burgoyne knew this church; he was its patron in the 15th century, and the chest has a brass plate to his memory.

The noble church of All Saints has been. much changed but its tower and spire are 15th century, the nave arcades are 14th, and a 15th century arch opens into an older chancel made new. A niche in the wall is perhaps the oldest thing in the church, 13th century. The very fine font is 600 years old, elaborately carved with pinnacles.

There is an old box-pew of the 18th century which was used by the Hattons, who bought the manor from Queen Elizabeth and were here during three centuries. They turned the transept into their chapel, and on an elaborate tomb lie the alabaster figures of Sir Thomas and his wife with six sons and daughters kneeling round them, all dressed as in the days of the Commonwealth. The father has long curling hair and is in rich armour; the mother, with a hound at her feet, has a bead bracelet, a kerchief round her head, and holds her handkerchief and a book. The manor passed to the Hattons after Elizabeth seized it from Bishop Cox, the first Protestant Bishop of Ely. It was not all the queen took from him, and the story goes that when the poor bishop was driven to complain the imperious Elizabeth retorted, “Proud priest I made you and I will unmake you.”


Monday, 14 August 2017

Rampton, Cambridgeshire

All Saints, open, is a delight. It feels like a secluded, slightly secret, wooded setting [which actually it's not], a thatched nave, a brick porch which, to quote Pevsner, "is now in such a picturesque tumble-down state" and an interior that hardly seems to have been touched by the passage of time - as I said a delight.

ALL SAINTS. Low W tower. Thatched nave and lower tiled chancel. Evidence of many building phases, beginning with the Norman jambs of the chancel arch with three shafts separated by chamfered steps. The capitals are many-scalloped. The arch (rebuilt in the C14) is remarkably wide for a Norman village church. A blocked Norman window in the N wall. The S arcade follows, of late C13 date, four bays with short octagonal piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches. The tower also must be as early as this. It is unbuttressed and has lancets. On the top battlements. But the tower arch is Perp. The next stage is the rebuilding of the chancel, c. 1330, probably paid for by the man whose monument was originally in the ogee-headed recess in the N wall. The renewed chancel E window is of five lights with reticulated tracery, the other windows have flowing motifs with ogees. The westernmost window on the S side goes lower down than the others. Windows of the same time in the N wall of the nave and the S aisle. The W bay of the S arcade seems to have been renewed in the C15. Finally the C18 added the brick S porch which is now in such a picturesque tumble-down state. - PULPIT. Elizabethan, with tester, not big. - COMMUNION RAIL. Early C18. - PAINTING. N wall of nave ashlar pattern with roses, St Christopher and vine scrolls, a frieze of stars etc.; C15. - MONUMENTS. Fragments of Late Anglo-Saxon tomb-lids with interlace. - In the C14 chancel recess, defaced effigy of a Knight, drawing his sword, mail hood, the legs not yet crossed, later C13.

S porch


C14 recess with C13 Knight (4)

RAMPTON. A fragment of its ancient village cross still stands on the green, and its charming church behind the orchards is old enough to have had its walls not built but rebuilt 600 years ago. Part of the tower is 15th century, and so is the doorway, which brings us to a narrow aisle, separated from the wide nave by a low arcade 700 years old. The chancel arch is 12th century, and looking down on it all is a fine black and white roof with queenposts, thought to have been brought from Barnwell Priory when the monasteries were dissolved.

The chancel has a tiny low window, a double piscina, and an aumbry with its ancient door. The east window, for a long time unworthily debased, has been restored to beauty in memory of those who fell in the war, and also in memory of two rectors, one of them Charles Evelyn-White, a historian of the county. Back again in the window is much of its fine tracery of 600 years ago, which came to light with a collection of carved stones now in the east wall. Another window of the same period is that at the east of the aisle, with some 14th century glass including a small headless figure in blue and red and gold.

The canopied pulpit is a fine little example of Jacobean art, and the font is a Norman bowl standing on a small complete font of the 15th century. There are several old bench-ends, fragments of the medieval screen in the new one, traces of an old wall-painting said to be St Christopher, and much painting of a later time. A dark stone in the floor has a cross and a Lombardic inscription to Sir Nicholas de Huntingdon, of 700 years ago, and a sculpture of a knight drawing his sword is perhaps a monument to Sir Robert de Lisle, who held Rampton in Henry the Third’s day. His family built a fortified house on Giant’s Hill near the church, and its moat can still be seen.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Willingham, Cambridgeshire

St Mary & All Saints, open, is utterly amazing. A not unattractive exterior hides a cornucopia interior and I am certain that however often you visited it you would always find something new. Definitely one of my top five Cambridgeshire churches.

ST MARY AND ALL SAINTS. The distinctive feature of the church is its spire, arranged in quite an uncommon way. The tower itself, with angle buttresses, is clearly of the early C14. It is ashlar-faced. On the battlements are placed solid polygonal pinnacles. Behind them the spire turns from the square platform on which it stands into its octagonal shape by means of broaches. From the top of the broaches flying buttresses are thrown across to the pinnacles. The early C14 is indeed the most important phase in the history of the church. That history, however, goes back very much further, even if only fragmentarily. In the S porch pieces are kept of an ornate Norman portal with colonnettes grooved spirally and in zigzag, with zigzag arches, and volute as well as scallop capitals. The fragments come from the chancel S wall which was re-built in the 189os.* The N wall is of the C13, see a blocked lancet window inside, the Sedilia and Piscina with (renewed) shafts and cusped arches below a straight moulded top, and one lancet close to the W window of the S aisle. Its position shows how narrow the aisle then was. Then we come to the early C14. Its chief enterprise, other than the tower, was the spacious chancel. This was reconstructed in the 1890s, but correctly. The E window especially is based on fragments found, but replaces a Perp one. Its tracery is not yet flowing, though the side windows have ogee as well as reticulated forms. To the l. and r. of the E window are niches inside. A door leads from the chancel into the most curious and attractive piece of architecture at Willingham: the N chapel or sacristy. Its purpose is not explained. It is a separate little stone structure with only very small windows and a stone roof carried inside on three elegantly chamfered slender arches. Between these and the ridge broad and simple stone tracery: a quatrefoil and two daggers. Dec also most of the N and S aisle windows and the large S doorway with moulded jambs and arch and without capitals. The S side as the show-side is of a brown rubble, but its battlements are of ashlar, like the tower. The arcade between nave and aisle also is of the C14. The piers consist of four semi-octagonal shafts and have double-chamfered arches. The Perp style added the clerestory and the unusually complete roofs. That over the nave is of double hamrnerbeam type with (mostly renewed) angels at the springing and at the ends of both hammerbeams -  similar to March. There are no collar-beams so that the eye can explore right up to the ridge between the bristling crags of the timber decoration. The exploration is helped by the single-light E window above the chancel arch. Good, earlier, flat roof in the chancel, good flat roofs in both aisles, that in the S aisle on stone head-corbels.

FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with traceried stem and quatrefoils on the bowl. - SCREENS. Of the rood-screen only the dado remains with much of its colour surviving. The parclose screens closing the two end bays of both aisles are preserved impressively. That on the N side is one of the earliest screens in the county: two-light divisions with a circular shaft and shaftring and two simply traceried arches: a cusped ogee within a normal arch. Delightful pattern of dark green popinjays on red ground on the dado. The date of the screen is probably that of the aisle. The S screen is Perp with three-light divisions and plain panel tracery. - PULPIT. Plain, Perp, on a trumpet-stem, with traceried panels above. - CHANCEL STALLS. Small heads at the ends of the arms, as usual; no miisericords. - RECESSES. One behind the S parclose screen, ogee-headed; another in the chancel N wall, clearly Dec. - PAINTING. Exceptionally much preserved, notably the N side of the nave. Here a St Christopher of the C14 can be distinguished, and traces of much else. The medieval work was painted over in the C17, and that is somewhat confusing. - On the E wall above the chancel arch Doom; C15. The figure of Christ was obliterated, when the E window was put in. - On the S side of the nave a clearly visible Visitation, also the lower part of an Assumption; both C15. - In the jamb of the lancet window at the W end of the S aisle standing figure of a female Saint and another Saint, probably C13.

* One Norman column is made from a Saxon grave-cover.

BVM weighing of souls

G Maile Lady chapel E window (22)

Roof angels (4)

WILLINGHAM. The fighting tribes of Britain knew Willingham and its way across the fens, and, by an odd turn of history, their earthwork ring on the rising ground above the marshes is called Belsar’s Hill, named after the Norman commander who came this way towards Ely in search of Hereward the Wake.

The village with its windmills lies among the orchards, and is proud of one of the finest churches in the county, abounding in interest, well restored, and with two special treasures among its roofs. For 600 years this tower with its flying buttresses has been a landmark in the Ouse valley, crowning the embattled walls of a building that is chiefly of the 14th century. Fragments of Norman carving are in the spacious porch, which has windows and a big niche and carvings of its own, among them a blindfolded man and a head with a finger on one eye. The porch shelters a stoup, and a finely moulded doorway by which we come inside.

It is a place to linger in, for good things are everywhere as we walk about. Here in the chancel are very beautiful sedilia, and modern figures of the Madonna and St Etheldreda in rich canopied niches. Here is a font made about the time of Agincourt, a carved pulpit just as old, and the ancient altar stone still in use in a chapel. There are three screens with much medieval woodwork and some of their old colouring, that of the north chapel having a pattern of green parrots on a red ground. There are medieval stalls with heads of kings and bishops; aisle roofs with bosses of flowers; and a chancel roof fine with angels.

But the crowning glory of the church is the grand 15th century roof of the nave, a roof of the double hammerbeam type. All its beams are carved or moulded, the spandrels pierced with tracery and in it are 36 angels, some at prayer, some with musical instruments, and some holding symbols of the Passion. A dozen others are on the wall-plate each side, bringing the number of this heavenly congregation up to 60.

The other lovely roof is in a charming chapel now used as a vestry. It is 14th century, and is an example of a rare treatment of roof arching in stone. The arches spring from brackets and grotesque corbel heads, and in their spandrels are leaves and quatrefoils with tiny rose cusps. Also in the chapel are a pillar piscina, a Jacobean cupboard, and some fragments of oak carved 500 years ago.

Paintings by medieval artists are still to be seen on these walls though they are mostly blurred and patchy. Over the chancel arch is painted a big consecration cross, and with it is part of a 14th century Doom scene, one of the demons being in a corner of the nave beside a clear 15th century Visitation, in which the two figures are in blue and white on a red background. Over the arcades we can make out Justice with sword and scales, St Christopher crossing the stream, and St Simon at his side; and by an aisle window are two figures in red and gold, one headless.