Sunday, 22 July 2012

Middleton, Essex

I've tried to find All Saints a couple of times previously without success but armed with a postcode I finally tracked it down and, to be honest, was seriously disappointed at first sight.

The very drab exterior conceals a seriously exciting Norman carcass - the first hint of which is the fantastic south door and inside the chancel arch is equally good. To the west of the arch is what appears to be an old doorway and in the nave are two similar recesses - purpose unknown.

The chancel has four good, modern, poppyheads, an elaborate ledger stone to Sire James Samson d.1349 and a wooden Bas relief Tudor coat of arms.

ALL SAINTS. Nave, chancel and belfry. The church was at the time of writing in a very neglected state. The S porch had fallen in and the spire was reduced to a timber skeleton. Yet the church is of some importance, especially for its Norman features. The S doorway has colonnettes with scalloped capitals and two orders of zigzag. The chancel arch has columns also. The inner order is of a remarkable design. Polygonal shafts decorated down each side by a chain of triangles. Another such column is now (re-used?) in a C13 recess at the E end of the S aisle. The capitals are scalloped or with volutes and slight leaf decoration. The chancel arch above the columns has decorated abaci. The arches are provided with a zigzag moulding and another with zigzags and a kind of stylized tongues lapping into them. In the nave N and S walls two identical C14 recesses on short triple shafts. - DOOR with traceried panels, C15; in a bad state. - STAINED GLASS E window, in the style of Warrington. - PAINTING. Annunciation, by a follower of Titian. A good picture, and ought to be looked after. - MONUMENT. Incised slab to James Samson, a priest d. 1349, 7 ft long. The style is Flemish rather than English, with an elaborate architectural surround, but the slab is of Purbeck marble, and we know too little of such pieces to decide against English authorship. The head of the figure unfortunately is renewed.

James Samson 1349 (1)

South door

Chancel arch capital

Elizabethan arms

MIDDLETON. It clusters under a hill in the Gainsborough country, its small church with the rectory shaded by the fine beeches of the park. The 19th century spire, rising above the old timbered turret, looks down on the Norman walls of the chancel and the nave; we come into them through a doorway much as the Normans left it, with their round shafts, their zigzag on the arch, and their handsome capitals. Still swinging on its hinges is a door with the beautiful tracery of a medieval carpenter. There is a 16th century chest with quaint ironwork, and a painting of the Annunciation of the same age. In the floor of the chancel is a stone engraved with the portrait of James Samson, a rector of nearly 600 years ago, under a pinnacled canopy. The oak reredos is in memory of a rector who followed him after 500 years and stayed for over two generations. He came in 1823 and was rector till he died in 1889, aged 95. It is one of the most remarkable cases of long service we have come upon, for this rector, Oliver Raymond, followed his father Samuel who was rector for 54 years before him, so that father and son preached in this church for 120 years, through all the life of Napoleon and the French Revolution, through all the rise of modern England till after Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.


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