Monday, 12 November 2018

Norton, Suffolk

St Andrew, open, really was pushing it as the light was going fast but was hugely rewarding - and actually the lowering sun flattered the exterior. After Stowlangtoft it provided a more intimate experience but also has fine bench ends, misericords, good glass and an outstanding font.

ST ANDREW. Chancel of c. 1300, see e.g. the lancet window above the priest’s doorway. The E window however looks transitional between Dec and Perp. The N aisle (see the doorway) must have been built in the early C14, and the tower at least begun. Money was left for its completion in 1442. Of that time or later most of the windows. The S aisle has at its base some flushwork chequerboard patterning. S porch with flushwork decoration and a niche above the entrance. The arcade of three bays has concave-sided octagonal piers, each side provided with a shallow blank ogee arch-head (cf. Lakenheath and other places). Double-hollow-chamfered arches. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, and richly carved. The stem is square and has panels and four figures carrying shields, one of them a Wild Man. On the bowl  the four Signs of the Evangelists, and in addition a double eagle, a unicorn, a pelican, and a griffin. - STALLS. Three sections are preserved. They have exceptionally good MISERICORDS, the Martyrdom of St Edmund, the Crucifixion of St Andrew, a Pelican, a Woman warming her feet (January?), a Monk writing, a man whipping a boy’s buttocks, a Lion devouring a Wild Man, etc. - BENCHES. In the aisles. The ends with poppy-heads and animals on the arms. - STAINED GLASS. In the chancel on the S side. Whole figures in the tracery. - PLATE. Paten 1722; Almsdish 1761.

Font (9)

Benchend (16)

Misericord (15)

NORTON. Most of its ancient treasures are in the church, standing aloof in a narrow lane with a tall avenue bordering the pathway to its porch. The tower is 14th century, but the church is mainly 15th. The chancel has kept its ancient roof with embattled beam and cornice, and the vestry door still has its old iron handle. A chancel window has delightful old glass with canopies and six saints, among them Andrew in a white robe and Christopher with the Child. An aisle window has more ancient glass with four saintly figures. The finely preserved medieval font is one of the best in Suffolk. The bowl has panels showing a pelican with her young, a unicorn, a double-headed eagle, and a curious figure half-bird and half-beast. Under the bowl are winged angel-heads, and at the corners of the shaft are a lion and a goat, a wild man with a club, and a demon with the world at his feet, which are 15th century.

There is a curious rough-hewn chest, and some old benches with poppyheads and figures on their arm-rests, among them a crowned cockerel, a priest at prayer, and creatures from a nightmare zoo. But the rarest wooden treasures here are eight beautiful stalls, their misereres showing the martyrdoms of St Andrew and St Edmund, a lion devouring a man, a pelican feeding her young, a woman with a book, and greyhounds. On the arms of the stalls are a kneeling priest, a man beating his son, and grotesque animals. Rare treasures indeed are these stalls, 600 years old, and fit for a cathedral.

Stowlangtoft, Suffolk

I very nearly made a major error at St George, locked, keyholders listed, by almost not seeking out the key - the light was beginning to go and the exterior did not particularly inspire me. Luckily, however, I saw a likely window in the south aisle and changed my mind and so did not miss one of the best interiors in Suffolk to date [unsurprisingly Simon Jenkins doesn't mention it, perhaps he didn't seek out the key - 1000 best churches my arse]. Here is an outstanding collection of bench ends, poppyheads, choir stalls, misericords, early C16th Flemish reliefs, a faded St Christopher and the best Hugh Easton window I've seen to date. Sadly the church is, to all intents and purposes, redundant - in that it is rarely used apart from high days and holidays - but I can't imagine the CCT will not step in at some point.

ST GEORGE. A fine Perp building, tall and aisleless, and vigorous in the simplicity of its decorative enrichments. Said to have been built by Robert Davey, who died in 1401. Flushwork chequerboarding on buttresses and parapets. Flushwork panelling on the S porch. E window of five lights with much panel tracery, nave and chancel with very tall two-light windows, also with panel tracery. The S porch has an entrance still entirely C14 in its responds and arch. One niche above the entrance. Cambered roof with tie-beams in the church. (Ceilure above the rood screen.) - FONT. Octagonal, early C14. Bowl with eight figures under crocketed gables. - SCREEN. Only the dado. Tall and traceried. The panels painted red and green. - BENCHES. Fine set with traceried ends, poppy-heads, and animals on the arms, also seated and kneeling figures. - STALLS. With close tracery on the ends and instead of poppy-heads small standing figures: a preacher in the pulpit, a deacon, a man holding a candlestick, men holding shields, etc. Traceried fronts. Also some MISERICORDS (bird, demi-figure of angel, cockatrice, etc.). - (DOOR. To the upper stages of the tower. Iron-bound in a wickerwork pattern. G. McHardy) - SCULPTURE. l. and r. of the reredos nine Flemish early C16 reliefs. - WALL PAINTING. Huge St Christopher on the N wall. The heron, the lobster, and the fishing hermit ought to be noted. - PLATE. Cup 1562; Salver 1740. - MONUMBNTS. Paul d’Ewes. By John Johnson, the contract of 1624 preserved (for £16 10s.). Stone, painted. Two kneeling wives facing one another. Between them, kneeling frontally, the husband. Children in the ‘predella’. Flat architecture ending in a flat open segmental pediment. - Sir Willoughby d’Ewes d. 1685. Handsome, with scrolly Corinthian pillars and an open pediment.

Paul d'Ewes 1630 (2)

Hugh Easton St George 1934 (9)

Benchend (51)

STOWLANGTOFT. It has a few moated farms (a rare distinction for any village), and a church of the 14th century rich with treasure, standing on a spot where Romans camped, and Normans built. It has its original font and part of the old screen, and wall-paintings in which we can still make out St Christopher striding through the water with lobsters and other dwellers of the deep about his feet. In one corner of the picture is a plump little cherub playing with two rabbits.

But we come to this church for its rare carvings in wood. The six misereres on the choir-stalls rank among the finest in any parish church, having intricate and delicate carvings of angels, eagles, dragons, and other birds and beasts. The crowning glory of all this work, 600 years old, is the collection of poppyheads and carved bench-ends, which are among the finest in the land. Their richness and variety can only be fully appreciated when they are seen. There are more than 60 carved figures and animals, dogs, eagles, hedgehogs, birds with human heads, a grinning cat with its tongue out, a pouter pigeon, a kilted Scot, a chemist with his pestle and mortar, a mermaid admiring her tail, a pig playing a harp, a squirrel biting a nut, and a little child kneeling at a prayer desk. These are a few of the delightfully fantastic designs in this unique gallery of medieval art.

Yet this is not all. The church has been still further enriched by a wonderful series of carvings, nine groups of 15th century Flemish work representing scenes from the Last Days in Jerusalem, set on oak pedestals at the sides of the reredos. In high relief they are carved from solid oak about five inches thick. There are many figures in each group and the clear-cut finish of detail is astonishing. One rare scene is of Christ preaching to the Spirits in prison; in another the mouth of Hell is represented by the open jaws of a monster in the act of swallowing four unhappy victims. Other groups are the Agony of Gethsemane, the Road to Calvary, the Scourging, the Descent from the Cross, the Entombment, the Resurrection, and the Ascension.

Some of the windows were painted last century by a daughter of the rector; in them are small medallions of the Beatitudes and other Bible scenes. Even the lead work of these windows was made at the rectory, where Cardinal Newman would come visiting and would probably see these windows being made. Two modern windows of the chancel have figures of Loyalty, Love, Courage, and Humility, and the alabaster reredos represents the Lord’s Supper.

A 16th century portrait brass has a knight in armour, his wife beside him with her head on a cushion. On a fine canopied wall monument is a figure of Paul d’Ewes, holding a book and kneeling with his two wives and their eight children. One of the children in the group is Sir Symonds d’Ewes, who was born at Coxden in Dorset in 1602 and spent his life in research, studying old documents and manuscripts. He began with the records of the Tower of London and his enthusiasm never wavered. It was his ambition, “if God permit, and that I be not swallowed up of evil times, to restore to Great Britain its true history, the exactest that ever was yet penned of any nation in the Christian world”; but he was inclined to over estimate his capacities, and he is chiefly remembered as a diligent copyist. A strict Puritan and a man of sterling character, he served in the Long Parliament, but was never quite happy in the stormy politics of those times, and when he was expelled by Colonel Pride, with 40 other men, he said Goodbye to Westminster for ever.

Langham, Suffolk

I haven't a clue about St Mary the Virgin's accessibility as I could find no way to get closer than the nearest road, hence the long distance shot of the exterior. This is, of course, one of [the many] problems of relying on a Sat Nav - if I'd had an OS map I could have found the correct footpath [the fact that I don't own an OS map for the area is neither here nor there]. Anyway it doesn't look very interesting.

ST MARY. Nave and chancel and Victorian bellcote. Nave re-built in 1887. Chancel with four tall windows. The E window is of 1877 but may well represent what was there before: three lights and a large circle enclosing four un-encircled quatrefoils. Niches l. and r. of the window inside. The side windows have the familiar four-petalled flower in the tracery heads. - FONT. Dec, octagonal, with shields and lions’ heads under ogee arches. - SCREEN. Very good, with tracery on the dado, one-light divisions, ogee arches, much close panel tracery above them, and the complete loft parapet towards the W. - PLATE. Flagon 1712.

St Mary the Virgin

LANGHAM. A drive through the park brings us past the great house to the little 14th century church, remote and isolated, nestling in a hollow and protected by a ring of noble chestnuts and beeches. It is all very far from the noise and bustle of the world, and still keeps the old mass dial which has been on the sunny wall from the days before clocks. It is all in perfect order, like a garden. A bell-turret takes the place of the tower. The canopied piscina of the 14th century has a stone shelf, and there is a graceful canopied niche on each side of the altar. The panels of the 15th century screen are rich with carving and the 15th century font has panels with shields. From two modern windows a gentle Madonna in a jewelled robe looks down in pitying compassion, and a valiant St George is in memory of the seven men who gave their lives for us.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Badwell Ash, Suffolk

St Mary, open, is a delight - a proper Hobbiton building - and inside it gets better with a fine hammerbeam roof complete with angels, a fine font and good glass. All in all a building to relish.

ST MARY. The PISCINA in the S aisle is of c. 1300, i.e. has no ogee forms yet. The arcade between nave and aisles with tallish octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. The chancel is Dec too. The tracery in the two-light windows has the motif of the four-petalled flower. The N nave windows are Perp, tall, of two lights. On the S side at that time the clerestory was built or rebuilt with seven windows as against the four bays below. Roof with alternating hammerbeams and tie-beams on short arched braces. Both rest on wall-posts with small  figures. Against the hammerbeams bigger figures. The W tower is Perp too. Flushwork emblems on the base, flushwork panelling on the battlements, and an inscription asking for prayers for John Fincham and his wife. Perp finally the S porch. This has a facade with flushwork panelling all over. In the spandrels of the entrance arch St George and the Dragon. Flushwork emblems on the buttresses; for instance a plough and the blacksmith’s tools. One niche above the entrance. - FONT. Octagonal, Dec. Shields on the stem. On the bowl ogee arches carried by heads. Embattled top. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup and Paten.

East window (8)

Font (1)

Pulpit & reader's desk

BADWELL ASH. As we come along the village street toward the neat little 13th century church we see against the sky, round the top of the fine flint panelled tower, an unusual frieze of lettering of which we can make out only an occasional word or character, so whimsical is the ancient spelling and so curious their order, sometimes even upside down. The vicar kindly supplied a translation from the parish records, and then, piecing out word by word the pious exhortation of the 14th century benefactors, we send a friendly thought back through the centuries as we read:

Pray for the good estate of John Fincham and Marget hys wyf.

Eight lifesize angels hold up the high-pitched roof of oak, and on the corbels below them are 16 figures of saints. Trefoiled windows add to the beauty of the clerestory. The rood stairway remains in many churches of the neighbourhood, but not often do we see, as here, a small carved door opening to the foot of the stair; it is only 16 inches wide. A little saint’s head in old yellowish glass is left of the early painted windows; and most effective are the figures of Christ, the Madonna, and St Peter on the clear glass background of the modern east window. St George and St Michael look down from a window to the Fallen.

The picturesque moat at Badwell Green is still filled with water.

Walsham le Willows, Suffolk

St Mary the Virgin, open, had converted itself into a piece of installation art to commemorate the 1918-2018 anniversary of the WWI armistice - it was truly splendid. It's a big, blousy building with a very good St Dorothy window by Rosemary Rutherford, an excellent Nave hammerbeam roof, a very good north aisle roof, a stunning north porch and other bits and pieces of interest [somehow I missed the virgin's crant] but, if I'm honest, I think if I had visited at any other time I think I'd probably describe it as anodyne. Those poppies were something else!

ST MARY. Perp throughout. W tower with flushwork panelling on the battlements. N porch with a flushwork lozenge pattern all over. Wood panelling inside the porch gives the date 1541 and has Roman lettering. The N aisle has a base of the same flushwork lozenge pattern. The clerestory has doubled windows and flushwork emblems between them. The S aisle is more modest and has no porch. Seven-bay arcades. Concave-sided octagonal piers, double-hollow-chamfered arches. The piers have on each side at the top a small cusped blank ogee arch. Beautiful roof of low pitch with alternating tie-beams and short hammerbeams, both very delicately ornamented. The shafts for the hammerbeams and braces go down between the clerestory windows. - SCREEN. Dated 1441.* Tall one-light divisions with ogee arches. Original coving and cresting. The dado is painted red and dark green with flowers on. - BENCH ENDS. A few. - REREDOS. Last Supper, by G. Tinworth, in terracotta. Dated 1883. - DOOR. The inner door to the vestry is leather-covered. - PANELLING. In the aisles. One panel is dated 1620. - STAINED GLASS. Bits in the E window. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup.

* A will of 1448 leaves 6s. 8d. to the fabric of the new rood beam and one of 1459 11 marks to the new stonework (ARA).

N porch (2)


Rosemary Rutherford 1972 (6)

WALSHAM-LE-WILLOWS. The picturesque timbered houses of this delightful place stand back from the road in their pleasant gardens, which we found lovely with spring flowers. Full of dignity is the embattled and pinnacled tower of the spacious church, a fine example of 15th century work, and exceptional in the fact that all its chief architecture is of the same period-arcades, roof, clerestory, font, piscina, chest, screen, and painted glass.

A little of the early colour on the fine hammerbeam roof still shows here and there. The bosses are eight-rayed stars, but the angels once supporting it have disappeared. Not a trace of its angelic glory is left; even the angel’s wing which lingered at the rectory has vanished. Charming is the fan-vaulting and cornice of the wide screen. Here, as in the roof, the rich colour has faded, but enough is left to tell us of its primitive beauty. The old glass in the east window is one of the lucky discoveries of the village; it was found in 1805 wrapped in paper in an old box. Its glowing colours are seen to great advantage charmingly mounted on tinted glass, the arms of England and France among the fragments. An ancient ironbound chest with a domed top and one or two panelled benches and poppyheads are left of the original woodwork, and smiling stone cherubs and angel faces look down from the spandrels of the chancel arch.

The most curious thing we found here was a pendant memorial in the nave, a white stone oval about nine inches long. It hangs by a wire from a short rod projecting from the nave wall below the clerestory. On one side an arrow points to a heart and a death’s head, the name Mary Boyce being cut in rude lettering; on the other side is the date of her death in 1685: she is said to have died of a broken heart at 20. There would be hung on this stone, in keeping with the medieval custom here, one of those bridal garlands which were hung by the young girls of the village in remembrance of friends who died too young to marry. We have found such garlands hanging in several churches still, and up to a century ago five garlands were hanging on this stone. The thought of them brings us into Shakespeare, for these garlands were the “virgin crants” allowed at Ophelia’s funeral; and it was the fact that she was permitted these things which angered the priest so that Ophelia’s brother burst out to him with righteous passion:

I tell thee, churlish priest,
A ministering angel shall my sister be
When thou liest howling

A fascinating bit of ancient carving is hidden under the book-rest of one of the choir-stalls, a tiny panel hardly seen in the shadow, with fine details only visible by the help of a light. They show the head and body of a man thrust forward and held down under the teeth of a portcullis, and we can well imagine with what glee the old craftsman would work at this droll bit of imagery, and the delight it must have given to generations of choristers weary of long sermons.

At the foot of a pillar in one of the aisles is a group of old tiles, highly glazed with strange designs of heads and animals. The rectory was once the prior’s lodge of a religious house, and has a huge fireplace and thick walls, with a 16th century shield carved on an ancient beam.

Stanton, Suffolk - All Saints

I was so certain that All Saints, open, would be LNK that I almost didn't try the door but I did and entered a light and airy interior. If I'm honest this is another highly scrubbed interior but obviously it's a well loved building and the congregation plainly wants to make visitors welcome and for that alone I think it's lovely.

ALL SAINTS. Fine spacious Dec chancel (spoiled by the organ!) with reticulated E window, ogee-headed PISCINA, and SEDILIA, three seats plainly separated by stone arms. Ornate Dec S aisle with segment-headed three-light E window, also with reticulated tracery. S windows straight-headed. Ballflower frieze all along the outside. Four-bay arcade, not high, with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. Low clerestory with quatrefoil windows. In the aisle tall damaged tomb recess, cusped and subcusped and crowned by a big crocketed ogee gable. Pretty PISCINA in the window corner, also Dec. The nave is Dec, see the N windows. The S porch tower could, if anything, be a little earlier. Double-chamfered entrance with continuous moulding. Inside originally two-bay blank arcading. The tower top fell in 1906.

S aisle tomb recess

GR III arms


STANTON. We come to it by a charming timbered house with overhanging Tudor gables above its tiny windows. A shallow stream runs down one side of the street and each thatched cottage in its garden has a bridge. Of the two churches here one is used and one is all forlorn, though not forgot. All Saints has been here 600 years, and it is still used; but in 1906, to the distress of the village, its fine old tower fell down in the night. The plans for its rebuilding were held up when we called, though the old bell was ringing for service from the fork of a huge elm tree.

The graceful 14th century ballflower ornament enriches the old parapet, and above the outer wall of the vestry are the remains of a gabled chimney. The interior is simple and dignified, lit by low clerestory windows. An exquisite arch, probably built for the founder’s tomb, rises nearly to the roof; there are clusters of oak leaves in the wide spandrels with a little face peeping from each cluster. A fine bit of stonework is a cinquefoiled piscina with a canopy and a detached pillar.

The lost church of St John’s is on a hilltop above the village, with a windmill for its neighbour. The two churches were under one rector from the 14th century till 1876, when the last service was held in St John’s. It is now a lovely and deserted ruin with its tower set high on two open arches. We found the ivy climbing up the buttresses and through the broken windows, flinging its festoons across the battlemented roof. The lovingly tended graves that lie about it are neatly kept and bright with flowers.

Wattisfield, Suffolk

St Margaret, open, is, if truth be told, a rather barren interior having been scrubbed to within an inch of tis life by, I assume, a Victorian restoration. Brownie points earned for being open though.

ST MARGARET. Unbuttressed W tower, the tower arch of c. 1300 or earlier. Base outside with flushwork panelling. The bell-openings are Perp, of two lights with tracery. Nave and chancel Perp with two-light and three-light windows. The S porch must once have been quite an ambitious piece with flushwork decoration, but it fell on evil days and was repaired extensively in brick. Good C14 timber N porch. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with panelled stem and shields on the bowl. - (SCREEN. Parts in the prayer-desk and lectern. LG) - STAINED GLASS. E window typical of c. 1850. - PLATE. Two Elizabethan Cups.

East window (6)

Anna Robina Thompson nee Baker 1747 (1)


WATTISFIELD. Across the fields its musical chimes ring out from the tower of the simple 15th century church, in which one of the bells has rung the people to worship since the 16th century. There are two porches, one of flint and a long timbered one with railed sides. One of its daintiest possessions is a 14th century gem of a piscina with a cusped and feathered canopy, beautiful with ball-flower and trefoils. An arch springs from each side of its detached pillar, and some artist of an original turn of mind has carved a man's head at the end of one arch. The 15th century font has shields and niches. An arch of a gilded and painted screen which was once a glory of the church has been found hidden away in the rectory. An ancient and very high chest is carved with the heads and claws of griffins. A monument to the Bokestans has two alabaster busts; the husband’s hand is resting on his wife’s, and hers is on a skull. Below are smaller busts framed in wreaths, and the perfect beauty of the features and hands is remarkable. *

* I saw no sign of this and, obviously, Pevsner makes no reference to it.