Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tilty, Essex

St Mary is the last remnant of the Priory which was toasted at the Reformation and is really quite amazing for its light alone. The best description I have ever read is from a contact on Flickr who wrote "If Tilty parish church .....were a used car then I would suspect it of being a 'cut and shunt'. Imagine the front half of a Mercedes car has been cut off and crudely welded onto the back half of a Ford Escort" - this describes it perfectly!

St Mary's Cistercian Abbey at Tilty was founded by Robert de Ferrers (Earl of Derby) and Maurice Fitz Jeffery in 1153. The abbey was pillaged by King John's army on Christmas Day 1215. There were 7 monks in 1377 and the same number at its dissolution on 28 February 1536. The chapel by the gate (the "capella extra portas") is now the parish church. A few fragments of the east wall of the cellarer's range with springers of a vault are all that remain. Foundation mounds are traceable over the whole site which was partly excavated in 1901. That excavation recovered the plan of the cruciform, aisled church with the claustral range to the North. Excavations by Steer in 1949 located the infirmary, a separate bulding to the east of the church.

Oddly the nave looks younger than the chancel but in fact it is the other way round with the nave dating from the early C13th and the chancel from the C14th. It has something to do with the render and the Cortina orange paint job.

Foundation of a Cistercian ABBEY in 1153. It was laid out as usual with the church S of the cloister, the refectory N, the chapter house and dormitory E, and the cellarer’s quarters W of it. All that survives is a few fragments of the E wall of the cellarer’s range with springers of a vault. But much further S is the parish church of Tilty, ST MARY THE VIRGIN, and this was once the capella ante portas of the monastery (cf. Little Coggeshall). The nave is E.E. with lancet windows, and very similar to the chapel of Little Coggeshall. The three W lancets are particularly handsome. The two plain doorways on the N and S side are also original. The chapel was, as at Coggeshall, originally nave and chancel in one, see the E window on the S side, with a higher sill than the others to leave space for the Piscina. The S porch is pargetted and probably C17. The belfry and cupola on the nave seem to be of the C18. Early in the C14 a chancel was added, taller, wider, and much more ambitious, the gift of a rich man, or a beginning of a larger rebuilding scheme. It is in the sumptuous style of the moment, with a five-light E window the tracery of which is of a very personal style, niches outside to the l. and r. of the window, placed at an angle and cutting halfway into the buttresses, a three-light N window of more usual character and a two-light S window with a higher sill to allow for the Sedilia and Piscina below. These have cusped arches, the cusping being also of quite a personal pattern. The windows are shafted inside and have hood-moulds with head-stops. Head-stops also to the l. and r. of the Sedilia/Piscina group. - PLATE. Cup of 1665; Paten on foot probably also of 1665; Paten on foot of 1689.- BRASSES to Gerard Danet, Councillor to Henry VIII, d. 1520 and wife, the figures 3 ft long; to George Medeley d. 1562, and wife, with 2 ft. figures; to Margaret Tuke d. 1590, with kneeling figures.

St Mary the Virgin

St Mary the Virgin (3)

Tilty Abbey (2)

Coffer lids
Flickr set.

TILTY. It still has a few walls from the Norman abbey in the valley of the Chelmer, and excavations have shown that here was once an abbey church with a chapter house and other buildings of the Cistercian monks. Perhaps it was their influence which gave the village church its lovely 14th century chancel where niches adorn the buttresses, an elaborate cross stands on the gable, and the east wall is nearly filled by a window with exquisite tracery, a great stone wheel crowning the five tall lights. Curious heads look out from the gables. Another lovely window is in the side wall, and within is a perfect row of four linked arches for the sedilia and piscina with heads, one of a man in a curious hood. The belfry with its handsome cupola is modern, but the nave began as a little chapel beyond the abbey walls and was built about 1220. It has a row of graceful lancets, a double piscina, and a timber-framed porch of the 17th century. Timbers of the 14th century are hidden by the plaster of the roofs, and a massive embattled beam crosses the church where the chancel meets the nave.

One of the old abbots is remembered by a brass inscription with four Latin verses, and there are line brass portraits of one of Henry the Eighth’s counsellors, Gerard Danet, his wife, five sons, and six daughters. With four heraldic shields and an inscription running round, they make a perfect group. Very well preserved is the brass of George Medeley in Tudor armour, with his family of six.

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