Monday, 22 November 2010

Marks Tey, Essex

St Andrew shouldn't work but does - its practically on the A120, its been heavily, or should that be overly, restored at several points, there's a drum kit in the sanctuary (which I think you'll agree is telling) and almost everything of interest has, over the years, pretty much been stripped out and yet it's somehow lovely. Even the guide starts "Unlike many Essex villages there is nothing striking in the appearance of the village of Marks Tey" - hardly a ringing endorsement and yet.

Standing some distance from the main road, its weather worn structure is a pleasant sight among the trees. Its general appearance is strikingly uncommon because of the strange construction of the tower which suffered during one of the most remarkable periods in English history. Originally the tower was built of red brick but owing to being in the line of fire when General Fairfax and his troops marched along the Coggeshall road through Marks Tey to raise the siege of Colchester in 1648, the upper portion was demolished by cannon balls. It was afterwards replaced with wood and crowned by a shingled spire. The tower is a reminder of the grim days when Royalists and Parliamentarians fought for supremacy.

The 15th century font is the glory of the church and is of striking interest because wood instead of stone has been used for its construction. It is unique in Essex and there are only two others (in England), one at Chobham and one in North Wales. Its octagonal shape and its decoration are typical of the style of the 14th century. The panelled sides of the font are divided by buttresses each panel originally enclosing a carved figure on a throne and an evangelistic symbol alternately. Unfortunately this part of the font has been cut away and debased, probably the Cromwellian vandals. The cover; of octagonal pyramid form, is of a later date, probably early 17th century (I saw no sign of the cover). The cover and its lock or locks were especially important to prevent persons practising Black Magic from stealing the Holy Water for their evil rites.

As I said St Andrew shouldn't, but does, do it for me.

ST ANDREW. Base of a brick W tower with diagonal buttresses and stair turret. Continued with vertical weatherboarding. Even the battlements are of vertical boards. Nave and chancel. In the S side one small Norman window, in the S and N sides plain Norman doorways. These and the window have surrounds of Roman bricks. Chancel C14. S Porch C15 of timber, plain. - FONT. C15, octagonal. The remarkable thing is that it is of oak. Stem with tracery panels with roses in the centres, bowl with tracery panels formerly with seated figures. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup and Paten of 1567. 

St Andrew (2)



MARKS TEY. It stands on the Roman road near Colchester, ancient enough for its name to have come from the Norman family of De Mark. Its great treasure is in the church, where there is a very unusual 15th century font made not of stone but of wood, something we have come upon only a few times in all England. The font has eight panelled sides divided by little buttresses, the panels showing throned figures and the symbols of the evangelists. Roses are carved on the bowl and the traceried stem. The cover is pyramid shaped and comes from the 17th century. The tower was rebuilt by the Tudors, and has an oak door as old as itself; the brickwork is said to have been damaged during the siege of Colchester in the Civil War, when it was repaired with timber-work now green with age. There are two doorways and a window shaped by the Normans in Roman bricks, a chancel rebuilt with its arch in the 14th century, and a fine Tudor porch. From the 17th century come a carved chest and two old panels in a modern chair; and there is a tablet to Peter Wright, who was rector for 57 years of last century. Against the wall is a striking peace memorial with brass figures of an archangel and a soldier in khaki.

Flickr set.

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