Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Rayleigh, Essex

Holy Trinity is a big church with, presumably following refurbishment, very little interior interest. I found it soulless and dull but I will admit to having missed the brass * which may have changed my mind.

HOLY TRINITY. Big, tall C15 W tower with diagonal buttresses and higher stair turret. W doorway and three-light W window. C15 and early C16 is indeed the date of the whole church. Its show front is the S side with the embattled S aisle, the embattled S chancel chapel built by William Alleyn in 1517, and the delightful brick porch, with two-light brick side windows and stepped battlements on a trefoil-arched corbel frieze. Inside the porch, the S doorway of the church is clearly C13 and probably re-used. The aisle-windows are all large, of three lights, Late Perp. The N chapel has a four-light E window with Perp panel tracery. The interior is spacious and light, thanks to the aisle windows. Four-bay arcades on thin piers of the four-shaft-four-hollow type, two-centred arches. Tall tower-arch, broad chancel arch. The S chapel opens into the chancel with one broad Perp arch on responds with concave sides. Rood Stairs on the N side complete with the cusped upper exit. Original roofs, much restored. - SCREEN between N aisle and N chapel with cusped single-light partitions and castellated top beam. - CHEST. Dug-out type, under the tower. - PLATE. Large Cup and Paten of 1681. — MONUMENTS. Brass to John Barrington d. 1418 and wife, the figures only 19 ins long (N aisle). - The S Chapel houses the most important piece in the church, the Alleyn Monument of c. 1517. Recess with flat niches in the back wall, cambered and panelled ceiling and tomb chest with three large, richly cusped quatrefoil panels.

Holy Trinity (4)

RAYLEIGH. An ancient stronghold on the hills dividing the valleys of the Crouch and the Thames, it has lost its ancient castle but has kept the mound on which it stood. With a ditch all round it, the mound rises 50 feet high and looks down on raised terraces, but of the strong walls raised in the Conqueror’s day not a stone remains.

Something remains of the church of his day, for it has Norman work in its chancel walls, the font at which the Normans christened their little ones, and we may see in the outer corners of the chancel the Roman tiles the Norman builders picked up here and used for strengthening their masonry. Near where the road widens in this little town two cottages face each other, one with an overhanging storey four centuries old. Up the hill is the rectory, older still, with two wings giving it charm and beauty, and high on the ridge of a hill is something older than anything else hereabouts, earthworks of a prehistoric race.

A lovely cedar welcomes the climber into the wide churchyard where the massive tower has dominated the church about 500 years. Fine columns support the ancient timbers of the roof, and great windows fill the place with light. A heavy cross-beam with Jacobean ornament spans the tower; it is a relic of the ringing gallery of long ago. A remarkable alms-chest with its original hinges and lock was cut out of a solid block in medieval days. On the arch of the tower are the consecration crosses, and in the tower still rings a bell which may have rung for the victory of Agincourt. There are fine screens old and new; a 15th century one has four traceried bays, and a modern one in memory of a gunner in the war shows the hero stricken on the field gazing at the Cross. In a peace memorial window are the archangels Michael and Gabriel with an angel by the empty tomb.

The splendid tomb of someone unknown has rich carving of niches and pedestals and faces by a craftsman of the 16th century. A brass portrait shows John Barrington, keeper of a royal park here, who was laid to rest soon after his king came home from Agincourt.

* Clayton reported that there was formerly a monument in Rayleigh [church?] to the memory of John and his wife Margaret.  This is reported in Harl MS 5195:

Orate pro aibus Johis Barrington, Armigeri, at Thomasine us'is eius expectante miam Dei, qui qudm Johes obiit viii, die mensis Novembris Ao Dni 1416 & p'dca Thomasina obiit 15 die mensis Septembris 1420, Quoru aidus propicentur Deus, Amen.

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