Monday, 17 October 2011

Margaretting, Essex

Having driven round in circles I finally stumbled across St Margaret down a tiny lane and stranded across the other side of a mainline rail crossing - the crossing gates seemed to close every two minutes.

After doing exteriors I was somewhat underwhelmed but decided I had time to collect keys and do interiors, and thank goodness I did.

There is a bit of everything here from a Flemish east window to old corbels via the remains of the rood screen passing by John Tanfield's monument of 1625 with a sprinkle of an unknown brass and a dash of hatchments.

As a whole St Margaret left me feeling a bit cold but, as they say (or perhaps not in this case) the Devil is in the detail and the details here are wonderful - and that includes the railway crossing.

ST MARGARET. The church should be visited by all for its splendid C15 timber W tower, on ten posts (like Blackmore). The free-standing posts are connected from N and S by three pairs of arched braces. From E to W between posts two and three and posts three and four on both sides there are also arched braces, but lower and smaller. Cross-strutting above these. Outside, the tower has a vertically weather-boarded ground floor, the roof is hipped on N, S, and W, but straight on the E and higher than the nave roof. The bell-stage is straight on again and on it sits a broach spire. Bell-stage and broach spire are shingled. The two-light W window with a little tracery is original, the N and S windows renewed. The N porch also is of timber and contemporary. Four-centred doorway with traceried spandrels, cusped barge-boarding and one-light side openings. The rest of the church is also essentially C15 and early C16, but all windows are renewed. The S arcade has first one bay, then piece of wall and then another three. The piers are of four shafts with deep hollows between them, and the arches four-centred with double-hollow-chamfered moulding. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with quatrefoils carrying flowers, a crown, a mitre, a head with tongue put out. - SCREEN. Only the dado remains, with elaborate blank tracery. - STAINED GLASS. In the three-light E window the Tree of Jesse, much restored, but yet impressive as a complete C15 composition: four medallions with two figures each in the side lights, Jesse, three medallions and the seated Virgin in the centre light. - PLATE. Large Cup and Paten of 1563. - BRASS. Knight and Lady, mid C15, the figures c. 22 in. long.

East window glass (14)

East window glass (1)

Unknown brass (2)

Tracks (1)

MARGARETTING. The timber belfry with four bells four centuries old, and a rare Jesse window, give renown to this little village on the Roman road. No lover of beauty passes it by. The church is surrounded by trees. The thick wall of the nave is Norman, but most of it is 15th century. The timber walls of the porch have lovely open tracery and the door has its original wood and iron. The medieval masons rivalled the woodcarvers; every corbel in the nave is their work, the lion of Mark, the angel of Matthew, the eagle of John, and the ox of Luke, sharing their task with grotesque heads. More delicate are the symbols they carved round the font, rose, crown, mitre, acorns, leaves, square and compass, and a face with a protruding tongue.

The wooden screen must have been very beautiful; the few panels left have five-leaf traceried heads and spandrels with owls and leopards and roses. The two doors still hang on their old hinges, bringing us into the chancel with an east window brilliant with colour and human appeal. It represents the Tree of Jesse, and there runs up through three divisions a vine-stem encircling 12 round panels with 24 figures. Flying freely above Jesse is an angel, in the middle division all wear golden crowns, in the bottom panel are David with a harp and Solomon with his temple, and at the top are the Madonna and the Child. In the side panels are Old Testament figures, Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph and the rest, all with their names.

But the most interesting thing about this group is the record it gives of the life of the time. It was the work of Flemish artists 500 years ago and the men of Jesse’s line might very well be burghers of Antwerp or any other town in the Low Countries. Cloak and hat and every detail reflect the life the artists knew, and in pose and colour remind us of the lovely paintings of the golden age of Art.

There is a hint of the rich costume women wore in the 15th century in a brass on the chancel wall, where, resplendent in jewelled headdress, with a pomander box hanging from her girdle, a lady stands by a man in armour, with their seven children below. Farther along the wall in the nave is a family group of 1600, kneeling figures of the Tanfields painted on a small tablet of alabaster.

A door in a 16th century brick arch at the end of the nave leads us to the belfry, with its gigantic timbers. Three posts to right and three to left are linked by arches and made firm by slanting beams, and above go great braces to support the bell-chamber and the shingled spire. In the tower are four bells which rang at all the weddings of our royal Bluebeard.


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