Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Coggeshall, Essex

I have visited St Peter ad Vincula twice now and on both occasions the church was in use - once for a Lenten service and the second time in preparation for an upcoming concert - so have no interior photos but can confirm that it contains many fine monuments, including a fine example in the vestry to Mary (Waters), wife of Robert Honywood, 1620, consisting of a painted figure of a woman kneeling at her prayer-desk, flanked by Ionic columns supporting a pediment, with a lozenge and 2 shields of arms, 2 skulls and an animal, in black and coloured marble (removed from Marks Hall parish church on its demolition in 1932), and brasses within.

The church dates back to the 15th century, built from thee wealth generated by the wool industry, and was bombed in 1940 and the tower, north wall and roof were subsequently rebuilt. St Peter ad Vincula was, along with St John the Baptist in Thaxted, a candidate for the cathedral of Essex, but both lost out to Chelmsford Cathedral.

One day I'll visit again, hopefully when it's quiet so that I can capture the interior! I gained entry a month after I wrote this post.

ST PETER-AD-VINCULA. A large church (c. 125 ft long) built to one plan in the C15; W tower, nave and wide aisles, chancel and equally wide chancel chapels. The chancel does not project at the E end; so the church is, except for the tower, just a parallelogram. There is however a chancel arch to separate nave from chancel, and there are short solid walls projecting from the E end to separate altar spaces from each other. Nave and tower are in ruins, due to the Second World War. W tower with diagonal buttresses and battlements. The rest of the church also embattled, including the two-storeyed S porch. Aisle walls flint-rubble, E parts ashlar-faced. On entering the church from the S the tierceron-vault of the porch with its bosses still exists. The nave and chancel N and S arcades are of tall slender piers with four attached shafts carrying capitals and four thin polygonal diagonal shafts with concave sides and running on into the arches without capitals. Four-centred arches. Clerestory windows of three lights. Aisle windows large and also of three lights. Renewed E window of seven lights, E windows of the chancel chapels of four lights - all with Perp panel tracery. At the E end a frieze of shields at the base and below the E window a cusped recess. - MONUMENTS. Brasses of John Paycocke d. 1533 and wife with indent of a brass of the Virgin above; in the floor of the N (Paycocke) Chapel. In the same chapel Thomas Paycocke d. 1580; two women of c. 1480. - In the S chapel Mary Honywood d. 1620, monument with kneeling figure. From Markshall, transferred to Coggeshall, at the demolition of Markshall church. The inscription says that Mrs Honywood left 367 children, grandchildren, great-grand-children, and great-great-grandchildren.

COGGESHALL. Who has not heard of Paycocke's House? It is ours for all time, still standing on the Roman road to Colchester. Look where you will in this quaint town and carved beams meet your eye; there are 99 monuments here scheduled by the Government. But among them all it is Paycocke's which stands supreme, a complete example of a richly ornamented merchant's house of Tudor days.

Its timbers overhang the road where all may see them, its upper storey with a frieze of running foliage on it and tiny heads, a shield with a merchant's mark of an ermine's tail, and the initials of Thomas Paycocke himself, who died in 1580. Both storeys are divided by buttresses into five bays. On the sideposts of an arch are moulded pedestals, and under canopies are two statues of a man with a shield and another man with a load on his shoulder. Indoors most of the rooms have elaborately carved ceiling beams, original doorways, linenfold panelling, and fireplaces carved with grotesque beasts.

Even older than Thomas Paycocke's House is the inn Thomas would pass on his way to church, called the Woolpack in compli­ment to the industry which brought wealth to this town. Its embattled beams have supported the gables 400 years, and one of its bedrooms has a handsome kingpost 500 years old.

The church was made new amid the great prosperity of the 15th century, and we know from the Roman bricks among the flint rubble of the walls that it was refashioned from an older church. A perfect whole in construction and design; its graceful columns and its great windows are delightful, especially the seven-panelled east window, which looks big even from the tower arch 40 yards away. The oak roof of the nave looks down from a height of 40 feet and its old and new timbers rest on canopied figures of the Apostles placed here last century. The font is 700 years old.

Engraved on brass is the portrait of Thomas Paycocke, and on other brasses are John Paycocke of 1533 with his wife, and William Goldwyre of 1514 with his wife. Two other civilians are shown in rich robes of the 15th century, and two unknown women in butterfly headdress. It was probably in their day that the pelicans and leopards and lions in the porch and at the priest's doorway were carved.

It has happened in our own time that the church of Markshall close by has been pulled down, many of its memorials being bricked up in the vaults, and the oak choir-stalls, the reading desk, and the brass lectern were brought to Coggeshall. Several memorials to members of the Honywood family have been taken to Colchester and can be seen in the garden by the Holly Trees Museum; they include one of Sir Thomas, who took a leading part in the siege of Colchester and was brother-in-law to Sir Harry Vane. Another of this family's monuments is now in the vestry here at Coggeshall; it is that of Mrs Mary Honywood, a well-known 16th century lady who lived to be 93 and died here, but was taken to Kent for burial at Lenham. A banquet was given to her by 200 of her descendants, and the gather­ing might have been much greater had transport been much easier, for she had a descendant for every day in the year and two over. She was a brave woman, with something of the spirit of Elizabeth Fry, for she visited prisons in Mary Tudor's time.

In a delightful pastoral scene on the other side of the Blackwater is a perfect little chapel of the 13th century; we come to it by a brick bridge which has been here 700 years, perhaps the oldest brick bridge in the country. Dedicated to St Nicholas, patron saint of travellers, the chapel stood at the gate of a monastery. It is of interest on its own account and also for the small pink bricks forming the arches of the windows, the piscina, and the sedilia; the bricks are also at the threshold of the doorway where they are cut and shaped into a pattern. These bricks are under two inches thick and are the earliest known in England since Roman days; it is believed that they were made at Tylkell * on the north boundary of the county.

Fading away at the back of the sedilia in this little chapel is a consecration cross marking the place where the bishop put his hand on the wall 700 years ago. It was because the chapel was used as a barn that it escaped the fate of the great church of the abbey at the Dissolution. Not a stone of that church remains to be seen, but its Norman foundations have been traced and found to measure 70 yards long with a width of 80 feet across the transepts.

A group of farm buildings here is of very great interest. One dates from about 1200 and has roof beams 400 years old; and there is a 13th century wing connected by a two-storeyed corridor to a 16th century house built from the ruins of the monastery. The columns and arches we come upon as we wander through this quaint rambling house suggest that the old monks were building for all time.

Long after the monks had passed away there were four brave men at Coggeshall who died for their faith. Thomas Hawkes told the cruel Bishop Bonner that if he had a hundred bodies he would suffer them all to be torn in pieces rather than deny his faith, and he was burned in the vicarage field, raising his hands and clapping them together. With him were burned Thomas Osmund, a fuller, and William Bamford and Nicholas Chamberlain, two weavers. Another story of cruelty is suggested by an entry in the parish register, which records the death, in 1699, of the "Widow Common that was counted a witch." Several times had she been put in the river to see if she would sink, and it is thought that this cruel treatment was the cause of her death.

* Tilkey, adjoining Coggeshall, seems not to be another case, though it lies between Robin's Brook and the Blackwater. Apparently, its name is a corruption of Tylkell, meaning Tile kiln (see Beaumont, Hist. of Coggeshall, p. 113: 1890).

Flickr set.

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