Friday, 25 August 2017

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.

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