Thursday, 2 August 2012

St Martin, Colchester, Essex

St Martin is in the care of the CCT but was very firmly locked even access to the churchyard is denied. The nave and the tower of the church date from the 12th century. The aisles, the transepts, and the chancel were added in the 14th century. The tower was damaged in 1648 during the Civil War, and has never been repaired. Following this damage, the church fell into disrepair, and in 1748 the historian Philip Morant wrote that it was in a ruinous condition and that no services were being held in it. A considerable restoration took place during the late 19th century, during which the architect Giles Gilbert Scott revealed the wagon roof in the chancel. An ambitious plan of restoration was later prepared by Rev Ernest Geldart, but it was never realised. The church then became neglected again, and in 1953 it was declared redundant.

The church was used by a theatre group between 1957 and 1987, but by the latter date it had become structurally unsafe. It then continued to deteriorate until it was vested in the Churches Conservation Trust in 1996. By this time some emergency repairs had been carried out, which were financed by English Heritage. The Trust then continued to repair the building, planning this in two phases. In the first phase, the church was made dry and stable. The second phase involved cleaning the interior of the church, including the wall paintings, limewashing the remainder of the walls that had been painted black by the theatre company, refurbishing the vestry, and providing wheelchair access. This work was supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and was completed in 2003.

ST MARTIN, West Stockwell Street. The NW angle of a C12 N aisle, narrower than the present aisle, reveals a church of that date. The W tower also Norman but a little later. It was built with much use of Roman bricks, but is now in ruins and looks very picturesque with the two fine old chestnut trees at the entrance to the churchyard. The chancel follows next; early C14, as can at once be seen from the E window, of three lights, with ogee-reticulated tracery, the S doorway, and the Piscina inside, both with richly crocketed ogee heads. The way in which the Sedilia is subdivided into two seats by simply bringing down the mullion of a two-light window in a double curve is also characteristic of the Dec style. But perhaps the · most impressive early C14 feature is one roof truss across the chancel with possesses moulded wall posts, arched braces with elaborately foiled tracery, an embattled tiebeam, an octagonal king-post with capital and four-way struts. Early Perp transepts with tall windows with panel tracery, and Early Perp N and S arcades with octagonal piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches. The S porch is attributed to the early or mid C17, perhaps on the strength of the amusing side windows with balusters instead of mullions. - FONT. Octagonal, C14, with recesses in the stone crowned by three dimensional ogee arches bending forward on to the bowl. - SCREEN. Six early C15 traceried arches below the rail. - MONUMENT. Big, heavy, Neo-Greek sarcophagus to William Sparling d. 1816, in the churchyard, S of the porch.

St Martin (3)

St Martin’s church has a 12th century tower with a ruined top mostly built of Roman bricks; most of the church is 14th and 15th century. Midway in the chancel is a rare and very beautiful timber arch six centuries old. There is a fine medieval font, a 15th century screen, and Jacobean chests, poorbox, and pulpit panels; but perhaps the most interesting possession of the church is the one so little seen, the ancient altar stone with five consecration crosses. Another ancient stone lying here is carved with what seem to be dragons.

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