Thursday, 26 July 2012

Ardleigh, Essex

St Mary the Virgin is a decidedly Suffolkesque looking church quite out of keeping with it's nearest neighbours but more akin to the further north Dedham and Stratford St Mary. The south porch and tower are particularly fine but the interior suffered a Victorian makeover (with the chancel being transformed into my idea of d├ęcor from hell.

It was, however, open so I will cut it a major slice of slack for that and the exterior.

ST MARY. W tower of c. 1500: brick with diagonal buttresses and pinnacled battlements of flint and brick decoration. S porch of about the same date. Extremely elaborate East Anglian work, all flint inlay and stone. Decorated walls and battlements. Pinnacles with figures. Two figures of lions couchant as stops of the hood-mould of the doorway. In the spandrels of the doorway lively figures of St George and the Dragon. Above the doorway three niches. The inner doorway has angels in the spandrels and also a niche above. Side-openings of three lights with Perp tracery - the pattem identical with that of the aisles at Brightlingsea. The rest of the church by Butterfield 1881, except for the W bay of the nave. Butterfield enjoyed the ornate medieval parts, but his forms are bigger. In the interior he is here very restrained. - SCREEN. Dado only, with pretty traceried panels. - DOOR, c. 1500, elaborately traceried. -  PLATE. Cup of 1584; Paten probably of the same date; both with bands of engraved ornament.

South porch (1)

South porch (2)


ARDLEIGH. It must have been an ancient home of men, as it has enriched the great museum of Colchester with Stone Age relics; but we found it gay with flowers and glorious with cornfields, for it has great nurseries and many farms. Ardleigh Hall has fine medieval timbers. There is a timber cottage of the 15th century near the church, and many quaint buildings go back 300 years.

The splendid tower of the church is 15th century, and in it hangs a bell cast in the years that followed Agincourt. The flint and stone work of the south porch is medieval, but the three old niches above the richly carved doorway have modern sculpture, and in their spandrels are St George and the Dragon. Crowned lions flank the door and two beasts sit on shafts running up from the buttresses. The doorway itself has quaint sculptures of Adam and Eve, and the door, with traceried heads, has been on its hinges for 450 years. The church has fine tracery in the base of an ancient screen rich in carvings of foliage, grotesque heads, and dragons.

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