Sunday, 3 October 2010

Hempstead, Essex

St Andrew was pretty much rebuilt between 1882, when the tower collapsed and the nave was badly damaged by the fall, and 1888 but the tower was not rebuilt until 1933 but, due to lack of funds, work stopped in 1934 when two thirds of the tower was complete and recommenced in 1959. You have to admire the skill of the workmanship involved as the church looks as if it has been standing here for 500 years. The church is situated in a commanding position above the village and is a veritable treasure trove.

The church is rich in memorials to people of the past who have been associated with it. The oldest of these may be seen in the floors of the nave and chancel.
  • In the centre of the chancel is a large stone slab of about 1300, around the edge of which is a French inscription in Lombardic letters, which reads; ‘Dame Margerie de Basingge gist ici dieu desa alme eit merci. Amen'. (Dame Marjery de Basing lies here. May God have mercy upon her soul).
  • There are several brasses and also the indents of others which are now lost. Those in the nave gangway, from west to east, are as follows:
  • Nicely preserved effigy of a gentleman, and beneath him are his ten sons. His wife and daughters are missing. This dates from c. 1518 and commemorates William and Ann Mordaunt. He was chief Prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas.
  • Indents of another couple and of their children beneath.
  • Smaller brasses of a gentleman and his wife - c. 1475.
  • Indent of an inscription.
  • Inscription to Richard and Jane Westley - c. 1518.
  • Effigy of a gentleman (c. 1480) and indents for his wife and children.
  • Effigies of a gentleman (with a gypciere on his belt) and his wife (c. 1530). Two rectangular plates beneath them show their children. The inscription is missing.
  • Beneath the entrance arch to the chapel from the north aisle is a fine brass to Thomas Huntingdon and his wife, Margaret. He died in 1492 and is dressed in armour. Four shields remain at the corners, but the inscription is missing.
  • There are several wall memorials to members of the Harvey family. At the east end of the north aisle is commemorated their most famous member - Dr William Harvey, Chief Physician to Charles I, who discovered the circulation of blood. His bust here is said to be a very good likeness of him (with one eye slightly larger than the other and traces of former palsy down one side of his face). The sculptor was Edward Marshall. Opposite is a plaque to Admiral Eliab Harvey’s son, Edward, who was killed whilst fighting the French at Burgos.
The Harvey monuments in their chapel are as follows: -
  • West Side Admiral Sir Eliab Harvey (whose hatchment hangs in the north aisle) by H Hopper of London. He died in 1830 and his son, William, is also commemorated here.
  • East wall A large (10 x 6 feet) marble monument, giving names and details of the members of the Harvey family who are buried in the vault. It begins with Sir Eliab Harvey, a London merchant, who died in 1661 and mentions his children, their wives and some of his grandchildren.
  • William Harvey of Roehampton (1719) and Bridget, his wife (1701). A recess containing a huge circular marble plinth, surmounted by a flaming um. Above is a coat of arms, decorated with garlands of flowers.
  • William Harvey of Chigwell and of Wincelow Hall, Hempstead. A noteworthy monument in grey and white marble, with drape-shaded medallions showing their faces in profile. It is the work of the famous Louis Roubiliac and was erected in 1758 by Mary Harvey, who was later commemorated upon it.
  • In the centre of the chapel is a large sarcophagus, made (by Maile and Sons) from a single block of Carrara marble. It contains the remains of Dr William Harvey, which were placed here by the Royal College of Physicians in 1883.
ST ANDREW. An all Perp church. Nave and aisles C14 (consecration 1365), chancel probably C15, W tower C15, but rebuilt recently (begun 1933), E end of brick, early C16, N additions of brick C17. The outer aisle walls were rebuilt in 1887-8 by S. Knight. The arcades have quatrefoil piers with slight sharp hollows in the diagonals and two-centred arches with a two-quadrant moulding. - HELM. C17; with the Harvey crest (N arcade, E end). - PLATE. Cup of 1561; Bowl of 1630, a secular piece with two handles and repoussé decoration. - MONUMENTS. Brasses to a Knight and Lady, c. 1500 (the figures 27 in. high; N chapel); to a Civilian and wife c. 1475; a Civilian of c. 1480; a Civilian of c. 1518 (3 ft long); a Civilian and wife of c. 1530 - all in the nave. - William Harvey d. 1667, chief physician to Charles I, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood. Frontal bust of outstanding workmanship, and said to be a striking likeness. No doubt by one of the best London sculptors. Restrained Baroque surround. - Sir William Harvey d. 1719. Standing wall-monument with a big arched niche inside which a low broad urn on a fat column. Baroque scrolls, flower garlands etc. No figure. - William Harvey d. 1742 and wife, erected 1758. The sculptor according to Wright is Roubiliac. Standing wall monument with the usual grey obelisk, and in front of it two profile medallions with drapery arranged around them.

HEMPSTEAD. Here was born a ruffian and here lies a hero. The ruffian was Dick Turpin, born at the 17th century inn and baptised at the 14th century font; the hero, who lies under an altar tomb, is William Harvey, immortal throughout the world for his discovery of the fact of the circulation of the blood. Turpin was a butcher’s apprentice who grew up a thief and was hanged at York for murder, a despicable fellow unworthy of any of the romance which has been woven about him.

There are majestic oak trees hereabouts, and it was sad to see in a field a tremendous ruin of one of them. It is recorded that in 1801 it stood 100 feet high and 50 feet round its trunk. A little ring of trees in the heart of the village is known as Turpin’s Ring, it being believed that it was once an enclosure for cock fights.

Hempstead Hall about two miles away, built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, has beside it a moat enclosing an island reached by a wooden bridge with timbers in it 300 years old.

The church on the hill has a fine new tower overlooking the village; it was built up last century by the Royal College of Physicians as an honour to the memory of William Harvey, who sleeps in the vault among his people. On a wall of the Harvey chapel is a huge black and white monument to Harveys from 1661 to 1710, and 13 remarkable lead coffins with modelled faces on them contain their bodies in the vault below.

The great Harvey himself looks down from a niche, his little beard giving dignity to the solemn face on this very lifelike bust. Two white medallions by Roubillac have portraits of an 18th century William Harvey and his wife, and there is an urn on a pedestal in memory of still another William of a generation earlier. A memorial in which the foliage on the pinnacles finishes in little heads is to the memory of Sir Eliab Harvey who sailed in the Fighting Téméraire on the heels of the Victory into Trafalgar Bay. He lived to tell the tale and was laid to rest here in 1830. He must often have looked up at the splendid funeral helmet used by one of his ancestors in the 17th century; it hangs in the nave outside the chapel, a hand rising above it grasping a crescent. The nave has a group of brass portraits of the 15th and 16th centuries; a civilian of 1480 and another with his wife of a few years earlier, and still another civilian with his wife and their nine children buried here about 1530. Thomas Huntingdon is magnificent in armour with his wife in a pedimental headdress of 1498, and on the biggest and best brass is William Mordaunt in a fur-trimmed cloak with a group of his ten sons. We open a 15th century door into the 17th century vestry and find a big chest of the 16th century, three centuries meeting in this room.

A Momentous Discovery

WILLIAM HARVEY, discoverer of the circulation of the blood, was born at Folkestone in 1578 and was buried at Hempstead in 1657. After King’s School at Canterbury and Caius College, Cambridge, he studied at the great medical schools of Italy, which were then the best in Europe. Among his masters was Fabricius of Aquapendente, discoverer of the valves in the veins which favour the flow of blood in one direction. Returning to London, he practised as a physician, numbering Francis Bacon among his patients. At 37 he was appointed lecturer on anatomy and surgery at the College of Physicians, and it was there that, in the course of his ordinary lectures, he gradually developed and expounded his views on the circulation. The revolution in knowledge did not reach the world for another 15 years, when Harvey published it.

As a court physician he accompanied Charles the First through a great part of the Civil War, and was once reading to the two princes under a tree on the battlefield when a cannon ball fell near him. Happily he lived to print his momentous secret, but the publication of his discovery called down fierce hostility upon him from professional and lay critics alike. His practice dwindled almost to nothing; his house was pillaged and his papers burned. He committed all his worldly affairs to his brother, contented himself with study, and managed to leave a comfortable estate to the College of Physicians at his death.

He had pioneer predecessors, but the mastery of the great secret of the circulation of the blood was entirely his own. Servetus had described the passage of the blood from the right side of the heart, through the lungs, to the left side, but nobody before Harvey knew that the muscular contraction of the heart is responsible for pumping the blood. The wisest of his rivals imagined that the swelling of the heart attracted the blood to it, and that when the body drew "nutriment," in the form of blood the heart collapsed. It was Harvey who first introduced the law of mechanical science into biology.

The full set can be seen here.

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