Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Matching, Essex

St Mary the Virgin sits in the grounds of Matching Hall with the vicarage and a few other cottages whilst the main body of the village has, over time, moved away.

There is no mention of a church in the Domesday Book but a Norman church was probably built on an old Saxon site during the Lordship of the Gernons.

The present building was constructed on the site of a Norman church, of which the chancel survived until 1875. In the early 13th century, the nave and aisles were rebuilt. The columns are all of the same pattern with round plain bases and capitals. The arches are in the early pointed style. The south aisle was widened in the 14th century. St. Mary’s was renovated in 1730 and again in 1770, when the roof was repaired and ceiled.

In 1875 the church was extensively restored by Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson, later Lord Rookwood of the Down Hall estate. He gave £3,000 to fund the rebuilding programme to the designs of Sir Arthur Blomfield, a distinguished architect and President of the ARIBA. The old chancel was completely demolished and the nave and aisles were lengthened by one bay so that the new chancel arch was built on the old foundations at the east end. A chapel was built on the south side with an organ chamber and vestry on the north side. At the same time the walls were rebuilt and a loftier porch of brick and timber replaced an earlier one. The piscina in the south wall near the only remaining old window shows that an altar was once nearby.

So in affect the church is a modern(ish) rebuild but done exceptionally well.

The memorial brasses of John Ballett, his wife, and their children with a large coat of arms and the following inscription lie on the north wall: "Here resteth the body of John Ballett, Gent., who departed this life the 7"‘ day of Aprill, Anno Dni 1638, aged 65 years, and had issue by Rosa his wife 2 sonnes and 6 daughters". The Ballets lived at Down Hall but not this family. This brass used to lie on the floor of the old chancel with other memorials in black marble to the Ballett family but they are now lost.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. The church makes an extremely pleasing picture with Matching Hall, its barn and dovecote, the pond with a brick fishing hut and the Rectory on the other side. C15 W tower, late C14 S aisle wall, and C13 N and S aisle arcades (W parts only, with circular piers and double-chamfered arches. The rest 1875 by Sir Arthur Blomfield). - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with quatrefoils with shields and flowers. - PULPIT. A good Jacobean piece with strapwork decoration, given in 1624. - BENCHES. Four, C16, plain. - PLATE. Large Cup of 1685, with trumpet-shaped stem; Paten of 1685. - MONUMENT. Brass of 1638. - Epitaph to Nicholas Ashton d. 1716, with putti, skulls, and leaf sprays, excellently carved.

MARRIAGE FEAST Room, W of the church. Timber-framed and plastered, with over-sailing upper storey. C15, and not specially interesting visually. Its purpose however gives it a claim to attention.

MATCHING. Who does not love to think of Mr Chimney and his marriage feast? He was one of the kindliest men who ever lived and had one of the best ideas that has ever brought the glow of humanity into village life. He was part of medieval England, a Matching man who helped to make the matches of this village pleasant events indeed, and does so to this day. He set up a long building between the church and the green, with a room overhanging four rooms below, and to this upper room the brides and bridegrooms of the village have climbed for 500 years to feast with their friends. The room is called the Marriage Feast Room, and on Sundays it serves as a school for those who may look forward to a feasting when the years have rolled away. It has an open kingpost roof and is in every way a notable survival from the Middle Ages.

Matching is one of the gems of the county, with two greens, a medieval cottage, a lovely gabled house, a 17th century barn across a moat, and a church that hides itself away within field gates. It was founded by the Dean of St Paul’s 700 years ago, and its tower was added in the 15th century. There are grotesque corbels in the oldest wall, showing two poor people with toothache; Mr Chimney must have seen them when he came to church. There is more beautiful carving of his time on the font, and a family portrait later than his time (1638) showing John Ballett with his wife, two sons, and a lively group of six daughters. It is in brass.

In a modern window is a picture of the first Easter morning in memory of Lord Rookwood, who died in our own century; it shows the three women, two angels, and the hurrying disciples.

Flickr set.

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