Saturday, 29 January 2011

Belchamp St Paul, Essex

St Andrew is stunning, as is Belchamp St Paul and its environs, and contains something for everyone but the real pleasure of the day was that out of eight churches visited all but two were open and that, given their location, the two that were locked were totally understandable (but keyholders would have been nice because both looked to have points of interest).

It would seem that after the visitation of Dean William Say in 1458 a major rebuilding of the church took place which was completed in the year 1490. The building which we now see consists of a chancel, nave, north aisle, tower and south porch.

The chancel was rebuilt in 1490 when it was widened and the east window, of five cinque-foiled lights, restored. The western most window is continued down below a transom (beam of timber), the lower lights being fitted with modern shutters. The sill of the south-east window of the chancel is carried down low to form a sedilla; the west splay of this window is cut back and cinque-foiled (dates from 1440). Between the windows in the south wall is a doorway with a two-centred arch dating back to 1490. The roof dates from 1490 and is of the trussed rafter, beam type, often found in Essex churches.

In the centre of the floor, just in front of the altar rail is a floor brass. This consists of two brasses, the first being to Elizabeth West second wife of William Golding, 1591, and depicting two groups of children and three shields and an inscription. The second brass is to William Golding, 1587, consisting of a gentleman in plate armour, two groups of children, two shields and a figure of a woman. The foot inscription to this brass has been lost. Both of these brasses have been re-set in the same slab and disarranged.

On the Chancel floor is a black marble slab with two shields inlaid in white marble being the tomb of Freere, son of Christopher Layer. While in front of the sedilla is a black slab of marble to Christopher Layer. The tomb of his wife Susanna is on the north side of the sanctuary.

The chancel has two choir stalls 15th or early 16th century, five on either side with grotesque and foliated misericords, the fronts are elaborately decorated with poppy heads and foliated scroll mouldings and two standards with elaborately carved figures of a seated king and a monk both holding a book. There is a story that the choir stalls came from Clare Priory, after the dissolution in 1538, but the Rev Robert Flynn was of the opinion that the carving of an ecclesiastic in doctor's robes was perhaps the effigy of Parson Loker, who was also rector of Upper Yeldham, Rector of Fairstead and Great Henny. This suggests the seats to be original to the church. The only certainty about them is they are the only misericords in Essex apart from Castle Hedingham.

The chancel was restored by the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's in 1870/1. The nave has a north arcade of three bays. The easternmost arch dates from C1450 and is two-centred. The shafts supporting the arch are semi-octagonal with moulded and embattled caps on moulded bases. The arch opens into the north transept. The two westem arches date from C1490.

The window in the north chapel bears the arms of Arthur Golding who died in 1606 and lived at Paul's Hall. He was a renaissance scholar, a translator into English of Ovid, the institutes of John Calvin and the Theological Treaties of Beza, the Swiss theologian. Arthur Golding was also known as being a friend of Shakespeare, who it is thought was a visitor to the area.

ST ANDREW. Nave, chancel, and W tower, all C15. The W tower has diagonal buttresses with fine set-offs and battlements. Chancel with good roof with embattled wall-plates and E window of five lights with panel tracery. N arcade of two bays, with octagonal piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches. N chancel chapel of one bay with embattled capitals to the responds. - FONT. Octagonal, with sunk panels decorated by saltire crosses, shields etc. - CHANCEL STALLS. Seats with misericords decorated by simple flower and leaf motifs  - the only misericords in Essex except for Castle Hedingham. Traceried fronts and ends with poppy-heads and good carved seated figures. - PLATE. Cup and Paten on foot of 1680. - MONUMENTS. Brasses to members of the Golding family, 1587 and 1591, the figure of the man in armour, two feet long. - Tablet of 1811 by J. Challis of Braintree, a reminder of how long local craftsmen provided monuments in churches. 

Belchamp St Paul, Essex 

Belchamp St Paul, Essex

Belchamp St Paul, Essex 

BELCHAMP ST PAUL. It is St Paul because Athelstan, first King of All England, gave it to St Paul’s Cathedral a thousand years ago, and it is interesting because it was the home of a man to whom Shakespeare must always have been grateful - Arthur Golding. There are pleasant houses round the green, 17th century farms and a 15th century church among the trees. There is also still left a wing of the house in which the Goldings lived, Paul’s Hall. We see a brass portrait of William Golding at prayer in his armour
in the church; he died in 1591 and has round him his six sons and four daughters.

It was Arthur Golding’s translations from the classics that were of such great value to Shakespeare, who took other people’s stories instead of troubling to invent his own. Arthur was born about 30 years before Shakespeare, but outlived him, and he brought up in this village a boy who was to be famous in the Elizabethan scene - the poet Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere. Golding’s own contributions to literature are his classical translations, his chief work being Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It was from these translations that
Shakespeare took the last speech he put into Prospero’s mouth in the Tempest, so that he was using Arthur Golding’s work in the last thing he wrote for the world.

Shakespeare’s speech begins:

Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves;

and Arthur Golding’s speech begins:

Ye ayres and windes, ye elves of hilles, or brooks, or woods alone.

There is in the church a heraldic window in memory of this man who inspired Shakespeare, given by a direct descendant of his in New York.

The great sight in the church is its collection of ten old chancel stalls with tip-up seats finely carved in the 15th or 16th century. They have poppyheads with foliage, a king, and a monk holding a book. The altar table is Jacobean, an old font bowl is carved with a rose, and there is a monument to Edward Pemberton, who died in 1859 after preaching here nearly 50 years, his ancestors having preached from his pulpit in unbroken line for over a century.

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