Saturday, 22 October 2011

Pentlow, Essex

This was my third attempt at finding SS Gregory & George (success was due to making a note of the address before departure) and, despite it being locked with no keyholder listed, I was blown away - regular readers will no I'm a sucker for a round tower and an apse.

Having read Mee and Googled the church I do really wish it was left open - it sounds fascinating.

The Church (St. Gregory,) is an interesting structure of great antiquity, having a semicircular east end, and a round tower, containing five bells. The architecture is a mixture of the pure Norman and pointed styles, and the large stone font has a wooden covering, ornamented in the florid style of the time of Henry VII. The walls of the tower are of flint, 4 feet thick. On the north side of the chancel is Kemp’s Chapel, in which is a very fine tomb, on which are recumbent effigies of Judge Kemp, his lady, and his son John, who died in the early part of the 17th century. Round the tomb are 14 kneeling figures of children. The Chapel window is filled with stained glass, and the roof is divided into compartments, with Gothic quartre-foils. In the chancel is a curious old tomb of the Feltons, who were connected by marriage with the noble family of Hervey.

ST GEORGE. Nave and chancel are Norman. The apse is completely preserved, with its three windows. As for the nave the W doorway survives. It now leads into the tower, one of the round towers of Essex, and a late one, C14 according to the E windows. It may replace an earlier one, but when the nave was built, there obviously was no tower yet in the W, or else the doorway would not have been enriched by columns (one order with decorated scalloped capitals) and the little animal’s head above the arch. The N chapel was added to the chancel in the C16. It has stepped brick gables to the W and E and Late Perp windows. The E window seems C15 and may be re-used. The chapel has a charming panelled tunnel-vault. It houses the MONUMENT to George Kempe d. 1606, John Kempe d. 1609, and his wife, three recumbent effigies on a tomb-chest with kneeling children against the front of the chest. The Royal Commission assumes that the chapel was built for this monument. But can that really be the case? Another MONUMENT in the chancel. Edmund Felton d. 1542 and wife. Tomb-chest with shields on cusped panels; no figures. - FONT. Square, with angle colonnettes, Norman. The sides decorated with a cross and interlace and leaves, a star, branches etc. - all very stylized. - FONT COVER. Square with muted front. Niches with nodding ogee arches. The canopy with buttresses, canopies etc., crocketed and ending in a finial. - PLATE. Cup and Cover of 1724; Paten also of 1724; Flagon of 1722.

SS Gregory & George (3)

Among the old houses of Pentlow are Paine’s Manor with a carved beam of Shakespeare’s day; Bower Hall of about 1600 with original chimneys and a 15th century barn; and Pentlow Hall of about 1500, with much old woodwork, a line bay window of Elizabeth’s day, and an oriel with 16th century glass showing a hawking scene and shields. It is charming from the churchyard, looking under a great cedar and across the moat still wet. The fine church tower is remarkable as being one of the six round towers of Essex, with walls four feet thick. It was probably added in the 14th century to the nave and apsidal chancel built by the Normans, and protects the Norman west doorway, which is carved at the top with a muzzled bear. The 15th century chancel arch is wide and very high, and a flat arch leads to a chapel of about 1600. There is a 16th century chest, a 17th century table, twisted altar rails a little younger, and scraps of 14th century glass in the east window. But finer than anything is a huge Norman font elaborately ornamented on its four sides, the cover a rich piece of 15th century work with canopies and pinnacles. A Tudor altar tomb in the chancel is the sleeping-place of Edmund and Frances Felton, and a great tomb in the chapel has figures of George Kempe of 1606, his son John who died three years later, and John’s wife Elinor in an elaborate headdress and tight-waisted gown. The men are carved in their furred robes, and on the front of the tomb are kneeling figures of the children of John and Elinor, eight daughters with their hair brushed back, and four curly headed sons in cloaks. It is an impressive monument to three generations of an Essex family in the days when Shakespeare was writing his plays.

A window of St Gregory and St George is in memory of Felix Edward Bull who began his ministry in 1877 and preached for 50 years; and a testimonial hanging on the organ tells of Sarah Clark, who played her first voluntary in the year the Crimean War began, and her last two years after the shadow of the Great War was lifted from Europe. For 66 years she was organist, and for 43 she was at the organ while Felix Bull was in the pulpit, a wonderful fellowship of prayer and praise in this small place.

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