Monday, 13 September 2010

Bradwell, Essex

Holy Trinity was so far off the beaten track, and so far removed from the village, that I almost gave up looking for it - now I've read Mee I almost wish I hadn't found it.

It was, of course, locked and I can only offer this rather dry interior report from an internet search:

The font has a C12 limestone bowl, originally square with a fine chevron design round the rim, cut to an octagon in the early C16; the early C16 stem is of brick, octagonal with moulded base and top, with a sunk quatrefoil in each face. The oak cover is C17, pyramidal with panelled sides, ball finial and iron ring, hung from a C17 pulley on the tiebeam of the bell-turret. In the Chancel are floor-slabs (1) lower part of priest, incised figure in mass vestments with marginal inscription in Lombardic capitals with date 1349, black marble, (2) to Edward Beaucock, M.D., 1665, with shield of arms, black marble, (3) defaced and partly covered, C17. In the Chancel are indents (1) of figures and canopy, 2 shields, group of figures, and inscription-plate, partly concealed below base of altar, (2) of inscription-plate. On the E wall of the Chancel, partly blocking the E window, is a monument (1) of Anthony Maxey (1592) and Dorothy (Basset) (1602), his wife, marble and alabaster, erected by their son, Sir Henry Maxey, with 2 round-headed recesses flanked and divided by Corinthian columns, and containing kneeling figures of 2 men in plate armour and wives at prayer-desks, with gadrooning below, entablature with foliate cresting and quartered shield of Maxey, with four smaller shields below. Also on the E wall are monuments (2) of Martin Carter, 1754, and Anne (Feake) his second wife, 1756, erected by his brother Milbourn Carter, 1766, grey and white marble with scrolled open and broken pediment with shield of arms, (3) of Milbourn Carter, 1773, of similar design, the shield of arms not in place but present nearby, and (4) of Michael Nolan, 1827, white marble sarcophagus, draped urn and arms on black marble. On the N wall of the Chancel is a monument of Sir William Maxey, 1645, Helena (Grevill), his wife, 1653, and Grevill, 1648, and William, 1659, their sons, black and white marble with scrolled broken pediment and achievement of arms, above it a funeral helm and crest, partly of the late C16. On the S wall of the Chancel is a monument to the Reverend Peter Milbourn Carter, 1813, white marble tablet with shield of arms, scrolled quadrants and guttae on black marble. In the NE window of the Chancel are fragments of glass in the tracery, with dog in roundel, C14; in the NW window, fragments of figures and tabernacle work, C15; in the SW window, part of an angel holding a shield and fragments of tabernacle work, C15. In the NE window of the Nave are fragments of C14 glass, grisaille and foliage, mostly in situ, and in the SE window, white trefoils on black roundels surrounded by blue foliage and gold borders, mostly in situ, C14. On the E wall of the Chancel are paintings, remains of the figure of an angel with lozengy background, with foliated lower border N of the E window, and S of it part of an arcade with foliate cresting; and on the splays and rear-arch of the blocked Norman window, ashlar-work and part of a capital. On the E splay of the NE window is a Trinity, the Dove obliterated; on the W splay, a full-length Resurrection figure of Christ, with cross-staff; and on the soffit of the rear-arch, a Majesty in a vesica, flanked by angels, one holding a cross and crown of thorns, all C14. In the Nave there are paintings - on the soffit of the rear-arch of the NE window, central circular panel with bird and scrolled foliage border and indistinct continuation on the W splay; on the N wall, W of the doorway, a small head, probably of the Infant Christ, part of a large figure subject; on the E splay of the SE window, the Incredulity of St. Thomas; on the W splay, figure, probably of St. James the Great, with book, staff and scrip; on the soffit of the rear-arch, central circular panel with Agnus Dei and flowing foliage each side, all c.1320. At the W end of the Nave are 238 medieval tiles, some plain, some with slip patterns glazed; others are set in the sill of the SW window of the Chancel; and others are loose in a chest. On the W wall of the nave is a Royal Arms of Charles II, painted and later re-painted. On the N wall of the Nave is a funeral helm with crest (dog's head razed), C17, on a plain wrought iron bracket. There are 2 bells by Miles Graye, 1609 and 1621.

'The church is of the utmost importance since it is the only substantial example of Norman brick-building in England' (Warwick Rodwell, Historic Churches - a Wasting Asset, CBA Research Report 19, 1977, 68 and 98; P.J.Drury, The production of Brick and Tile in Medieval England, Medieval Industry, CBA Research Report 40, editor D.W. Crossley, 126-7). RCHM1.

Having said it was dry, I have to say that this is a description of an interior that I think I would kill to get access to; this church has the potential to turn upside down my preconceptions of any church with this architectural style! It sounds truly glorious with a richness of history that surely ought to be accessible?

Sadly, despite the fact that "the church is of the utmost importance since it is the only substantial example of Norman brick-building in England", not to mention the cornucopia of treasures inside, it remains incognito. A search of achurchnearyou returns no information, as does a Google Images search - is it really just me who is outraged by this random excision of our mutual history? I appreciate that the Priest in Charge lives in Colchester but surely a key could be arranged for someone to hold in the village or are we as a society now so unworthy that our churches need to be permanently closed to us except on certain Sundays?

But now my familiar rant over; so Mee's view:

BRADWELL. It is the Bradwell near Coggeshall, with lovely cottages and an ancient hollow elm, and
with great attractions in the church, notable among them the striking monuments to the Maxeys, who were stout-hearted followers of the king when most of Essex was against him. On a fine altar tomb we see kneeling figures of Sir Antony Maxey and his wife of Elizabeth's day, to­gether with Sir Henry and his wife of a generation later. A handsome monument close by was set up by another Henry Maxey to his father and two brothers, all brave Royalists in the time of the Civil War. Of the father, Sir William, we read that he was a man of Joshua's resolution, who would gather his family round him by five in the morning that he might bless them and read from the Prayer Book.

A delightful inscription of our own century tells of Henry Brunwin, lord of the manor. He was the last of his race, and his people had been connected with Bradwell for 700 years. The first of them were perhaps here in time to celebrate the centenary of the church, which shows us by Roman bricks and a little window that it was first built by the Normans. The chancel was rebuilt about 1340, when flowers were carved on the tracery of the windows; and they were 14th century craftsmen who made the porch, a little gem with fine timber work and 14 traceried openings. It shelters a studded door of about 1500.

Pictures on the walls and window-splays are 600 years old, some of them covering up paintings older still. Among them is a saint with staff and wallet, a cross with a banner, the lamb in a circle, and a picture of the Trinity in which Our Lord is a small figure with a dove on His head. He is also seen in glory between two angels.

The medieval screen has lost some of its tracery but has kept the panelling behind its vanished rood loft. There are traceried panels from another screen, a Tudor helmet hanging on the wall, two little alabaster cherubs with fragments of old carving and sturdy posts supporting a turret built at the time of the Great Armada. Some good modern woodwork includes a priest's desk carved with hares. There are tiles that have been here 600 years. A lovely one, framed on the wall, shows a pelican feeding her young. The font came here in Norman England as a square bowl carved with small chevrons. Tudor craftsmen shaped the bowl again with eight sides and set it up on an elaborate brick base with a design of leaves. Later the Jacobean cover was added, leaving it as we see it all today.

Having said my rant was over this entry/report makes me even more ire filled - why can a local priest decide to lock his church without making satisfactory arrangements to allow untrammelled access to the curious. "The word 'church'....referred to a body of Christian believers. Nowadays the word retains this meaning, as well as referring to the building that Christians worship in" (Richard Taylor, How to Read a Church. 2003, ISBDN 9781844130535.

As a practising Christian do I not have a right of access to any church, at any time and for any reason? I may be visiting churches for their historical information but whilst I do so I always feel closer to God and the reasons a church was built when I'm inside and excluded and unwanted when I'm merely recording the architecture of the outside.

I know the reasons for a locked church - I keep harking on about them - but I'm buggered to find a reason for the lack of keyholders. A point I've made before, and will continue to do so until someone starts a revolution, why is it that some of the remotest churches have full accessibility whilst a church in the middle of busy town is chained to the hilt? A case in point will be the next post.

Is it just me or does the fact that the interior report was published by the CBA really sum up the sad state of accessibility?

UPDATE: I passed nearby in Sept 12, stopped on the off chance and found a lady flower arranging and so got to see the interior - it really is as good as it sounded.

Flickr set.

1 comment:

  1. The church is local to me... It is sad in the day and age that churches are lock, but unlike you and I who would enjoy seeing the inside of this amazing building for all the right reason others would just strip the building of everything without a thought. Too many of our beautiful English churches have been damage and robbed.