Tuesday, 14 November 2017

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 It is a little place on a low hill of the fens just withdrawn ofl‘ the busy road from Ely to Chatteris.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.

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