Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Stambourne, Essex

St Peter and St Thomas Becket has the largest tower footprint I've yet seen - I've seen better, I've seen prettier, I've seen more striking but I've not seen bigger. It's reminiscent of a peel tower and I imagine, given its 17 sq foot size, that it must have been built with defence in mind.

The nave, chancel and south porch seem diminutive in comparison and contain some fine carving, glass and old painting on the rood screen.

ST PETER AND ST THOMAS. Impressive broad and powerful C11 W tower, unbuttressed with two large windows fairly high up on the W, N, and S sides, an arch to the nave with decoration on the N abacus, and later battlements. The rest C15 to early C16 (early C16 the plain brick S porch), and apparently largely due to the generosity of the Macwilliam family. All windows Late Perp, several of three lights with depressed heads and intersecting tracery. One S window in the nave has four lights, and the E jamb inside is decorated by two niches with elaborate canopies. The N arcade of three bays has slim octagonal piers with partly wave-moulded arches. The N aisle roof is specially good. The N chancel chapel is only one bay long, but the E respond has a quite exceptional enrichment; a niche for a figure and above it a shield with the Macwilliam arms, a beautifully carved helmet and as a background a spray of leaf-work. - STAINED GLASS. In the E window the kneeling figures of Henry Macwilliam and his first wife who died in 1530; also small fragments in the tracery. - FONT.  Octagonal, with traceried stem and the usual quatrefoils and shields on the bowl. - SCREEN. One-light divisions with ogee tops and simple panel-tracery above. The dado on the l. side painted with figures of saints - an East Anglian rather than an Essex tradition. The quality of the paintings is low. 

St Peter and St Thomas Becket

Henry Mackwilliam arms

Christian Mackwilliam nee Hartishorn

Rood screen

STAMBOURNE. Charles Haddon Spurgeon knew its lanes long before he began preaching, for he spent much of his youth with his grandfather at the manse. The medieval Lion Inn was once Moone Hall; it has a 17th century chimney in its moss-covered roof, and a gable with its original woodwork. The wide and massive Norman tower of the church reminds us of a castle keep. Its walls are four feet thick, and built into the corners are Roman bricks. Roman tiles form the sides and round heads of five Norman windows, and grotesque gargoyles run round the parapet.

The Tudor porch covers the original doorway of the 14th century nave, which has rafters 500 years old, and but a century later is some brightly coloured glass showing the shield and badge of the Macwilliams, a local family. The lofty chancel arch is 15th century, crossed by a glorious wooden screen over 400 years old. It has five bays of beautiful tracery, some of the lower panels painted in red, green, and gold, with four figures on pedestals. We see St Denis as a bishop holding his head in his hands, St George cheerfully spearing the dragon, Edmund the Martyr with the arrow which killed him, and that unofficial saint Henry the Sixth, standing on an antelope and holding an orb.

The 16th century chancel has its original roof carved with foliage, and some glorious glass possibly put up by Henry Macwilliam in 1530 to show his pedigree. The east window has two big panels showing a woman in a heraldic mantle kneeling at a prayer desk, with her an armoured man in a tabard. In the tracery are shields held by figures or hung on trees. In the chancel wall is a pointed arch on which one capital is beautifully carved with a helmet, mantling, and shield; below is a delightful little niche. Through the arch is a 400-year-old chapel with its original roof and studded door. The north aisle is 16th century, and also has its original roof. By a window are two lovely niches matching two in the nave, all a feature of the church. The aisle is divided from the nave by a gracious medieval arcade. The dignified pulpit has plain 18th century panels; one richly carved chair in the sanctuary is 16th century, and has an inlaid back. A medieval chest by the tower has three hasps, its little panels deeply sunk.

Flickr set

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