Sunday, 29 January 2012

Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex

Onwards then with a heavy heart because I was fairly sure that this second Saint Nicholas would share an incumbent with Tolleshunt Major and would be likewise locked - I was not disappointed in my expectations.

This was more than usually disappointing as, unusually, I'd researched the church, and as Mee makes clear, I really would have liked to have found it open.

It has to be said though that the exterior is very pleasing and, like its neighbour in T' Major, unusual for this area with a 'proper' tower and more of a North Essex/Suffolk feel to it.

ST NICHOLAS. All Perp with embattled W tower with diagonal buttresses, and embattled S side. In the N chancel chapel a brick window. The most attractive feature is the coved ceiling inside the nave with bands of stylized flower and leaf decoration, designed by the Rev. E. Geldart of Little Braxted at the time of the restoration of 1897. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with shields and rosettes in the panels. - MONUMENTS. Brass panels, convincingly explained as the bottom strip of the border of a large German brass panel of c. 1400 (cf. Wensley, Yorkshire). In the corners the lion of St Mark and the ox of St Luke, in the middle the Virgin and Child with, to the l. and r., St Bartholemew and St Philip. - Brasses to a man and woman of c. 1425, to Anthony Darcy d. 1540 (very curious; it is either a copy of a C14 figure or such a figure re-used; the figure is c. 4 ft long), to a woman of c. 1540, to Philippe Darcy d. 1559. The two brasses of 1540 are palimpsests of older brasses. - Monument to an unknown person; in the chancel S wall. Recess with depressed segmental top and a quatrefoil frieze above. Indents of brasses in the back wall. Perhaps also used as an Easter Sepulchre. Converted into a Sedilia. - Monument to Thomas d’Arcy d. 1593 and wife, with the usual kneeling figures.

St Nicholas (3)

TOLLESHUNT D’ARCY. Winding roads with cottage doors opening on to them give a charm to this old-world place under the elms. We come into its church by a porch of 500 years ago, with carved figures on the corners of the parapet and angels at the door. The door into the nave has still the draw-bar which bolted the door when it was new, 500 years ago.

It is in the chapel that we find the treasures linking this place with the great days of the Tudors, the chapel of the Darcy family who lived at the hall next door and gave the village its name. Their portraits are in brass. Here lies Antony, in the armour he wore before the Armada. Here is Philippa, wearing a French hood, her daughter beside her. On the wall is a brass which is a spoil of the monasteries, for on the other side is an abbot of 1400 in mass vestments. Unnamed brasses of a man in the armour of Agincourt and of a woman in a veil are on the wall, and earlier still is a gem of Flemish work from a brass of about 1375. It is a rare fragment with the Madonna and Child, St Bartholomew, St Philip, the lion of St Mark, and the bull of St Matthew on a rich background of grape vine. Both sides of it are engraved.

The sculptor has added to the treasures here, with an armoured figure of Thomas Darcy kneeling face to face with his wife Camilla, an elderly woman in ruff and gown. They built the bridge which leads across the moat, and on the brick piers are their sculptured coats-of-arms and the date 1585. Inside the timbered house are doors of great beauty and a room lined with panels carved with a mermaid, an eagle, and a child. In the grounds is a dovecot with a quaint roof.

There has passed away in this village in our own time a man who had been its physician and friend for 67 years, the wonderful John Henry Salter. He left behind him a diary covering about 30,000 days written in eighty volumes and running to about ten million words. He had a wide practice in the county, and in the old days would take long journeys, sometimes using two or three horses a day.

He was a volunteer soon after the Crimean War, he served as a major in the Great War, he had shot big game in Russia, he performed scores of operations before anaesthetics were known, he loved dogs and painted them, he loved flowers and painted them, and this was one of the notes in his diary:

I have discovered how to keep well. I never have more than two meals, with nothing to eat or drink between. I go to bed at night, and wake up five hours later as sure as clockwork. The rest of the day I work.

We see his natural history collection in the Chelmsford Museum.

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