Thursday, 22 February 2018

Wisbech St Mary, Cambridgeshire

St Mary, locked no keyholder, is a pretty building in an outstanding churchyard. Finding it locked was a disappointment as I'd, unusually, done some research and knew it contains a fine medieval and continental glass collection. Quite why there's no keyholder is beyond me.

ST MARY. Essentially a Perp church, restored 1894 and 1901. Chancel rebuilt 1872. W tower of the late C14 with large Perp W window. The battlements are renewed in brick. All windows of the church itself C15 without tracery or with only a top of panel tracery. Inside, a late C14 arcade of five bays - short octagonal piers (on Norman bases) and double-chamfered arches. C15 clerestory. Of the same time the pretty three-light window facing E above the chancel arch. - FONT. Octagonal, with seven ogee arches, flatly carved, and one quatrefoil in a circle, perhaps a C17 re-tooling job. - Most of the other furnishings were bought c. 1930-50. They are in the new C20 High Church taste, i.e. foreign and Baroque. - SCULPTURE. Above the spandrels of the arcade on corbels four C17 female figures and two Saints, German, early C16. Against a pier a figure of St Nicholas, c. 1500. - WOODWORK. Finely carved Tudor Altar in the Lady Chapel. Many small bits of the C17 and C18 used in odd ways alien to their original uses, e.g. the Lectern (found in Suffolk; the base is a C17 ship’s figurehead, top parts a reconstruction), some Candle Sconces etc. - CHAIRS. In the chancel three sumptuous gilt chairs from Culford Hall, Suffolk, Italian and of c. 1730. STAINED GLASS. A few fragments that might be English C14 and C15, but mostly collected panels, German, Swiss,  and Netherlandish. Two panels in the chancel are dated 1535 and come from Ashbridge in Hertfordshire. - PLATE. Paten of 1761.

St Mary (5)

WISBECH ST MARY. A modest village of the fens, it has a legacy from medieval England in its church, to which we come by a 15th century porch. Between the nave arcades are faces quaint and grim, one of a woman with a round face and square headdress, another of a woman striking a man with a club, another with a jumble of heads and legs which appear to be in a wrestling bout. On a pillar is a bracket carved with a demon’s head, probably by the masons who did the carving on the ancient font. From those ancient days comes the altar in a chapel made from a chest with front panels pierced and carved, and a back made by a Jacobean carpenter. The modern windows glow with colour, among them the Shepherds, the Wise Men, and other familiar scenes, with a Calvary in the east window from which stand out fine ļ¬gures of St George in armour and St Michael with a flaming sword.

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