Thursday, 26 July 2012

Wivenhoe, Essex

Wivenhoe, on the tidal banks of the River Colne, is utterly charming place particularly when the sun is out and it's 30 degrees in the shade! Its inhabitants, or perhaps it's the tourists, are plainly not to be trusted as St Mary the Virgin is kept tightly locked.

This is a run of the mill Victorian restored exterior (actually not  a restoration but a re-build following an earthquake) but the tower with its cupola is nice. I would have like to see for myself the brasses Pevsner mentions, not least because they appear in the family tree.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. W tower of c. 1500 with diagonal buttresses. On top a wooden cupola, C18? The rest is 1860 (by Hakewill) and of no interest. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with quatrefoils and shields. - STAINED GLASS. A good deal that is evidently of c. 1860. - CHEST. Foreign, C16, with elaborate arabesque decoration and ornamental handles. - PLATE. Cup of 1562; C17 Paten; Flagon of 1709. - BRASSES. William Viscount Beaumont d. 1507, figure of c. 4 ft length but with a triple canopy with crocketed gables etc. which makes the whole plate 9 ft long. Same length the plate for Elizabeth, widow of Viscount Beaumont and wife of the Earl of Oxford d. 1537, The figure is larger, also in an architectural surround. - Thomas Westeley d. 1535, chaplain to the Countess of Oxford; in mass garments.

St Mary the Virgin (3)

River Colne

WIVENHOE. An old fashioned little town five miles down the Colne from Colchester, it has a quay facing the River Roman, a tributary from the west. Here they cultivate oysters and build yachts. The High Street has houses 300 years old, one or two with elaborate plaster decoration of foliage and trees. Overhanging storeys, gables, and carved bargeboards give charm to these old buildings, though it was sad to see Wivenhoe, a member of the Kent Cinque Port of Sandwich, fallen on hard times.

In the churchyard is a magnificent group of chestnuts. Most of the church was made new after an earthquake in 1884, but the bold tower of 1500 stood firm in the shock, and the 14th century arcades of the nave, some brasses, and a few old gravestones, and many moulded stones remain.

A splendid monument in the church is the brass portrait of Lord William Beaumont, who was buried here in 1507; his head rests on a helm bearing a lion crest and his feet are on an elephant which carries a castle. An elaborate triple canopy with gables and pinnacles shelters this great armoured figure. His widow married John, Earl of Oxford, and was laid to rest here in 1537. Her figure is also in brass, resplendent in a heraldic cloak and a pedimental headdress with a coronet; it has a triple canopy and an embattled super-canopy as well, a magnificent brass for so late a period. The countess lived in Wivenhoe Hall, and the wing with crowstepped gables built in her lifetime still stands. Toward Colchester is Wivenhoe Park, a well wooded estate in which deer wander over 200 up-and-down acres.

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