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.