Thursday, 25 October 2012

Stanford Rivers, Essex

The rather unprepossessing rendered exterior of St Margaret conceals what is an interesting and lovely interior. Chief points of interest are the 1952 FW Skeat east window, a stained glass window in the south nave window, some Norman windows and a fine collection of brass.

ST MARGARET. C12 nave with original W window high up, two N and two S windows. The W window is blocked by an intriguing slab with a primitive figure carving. The chancel is Dec, see the windows (but the E window is C19). Good N porch of timber; late C15, now blocked. Belfry on four posts as usual and with leaded broach spire. Nave roof with tie-beams on braces and king-posts. - FONT. Of the usual Purbeck type of  c. 1200, but of Barnack stone. Octagonal with two shallow pointed arches to each side. - SCREEN. Bits of the tracery have been re-used in the W gallery. - BENCHES. Eighteen oak benches; plain ends with two buttresses each. - COMMUNION RAIL. With turned balusters, mid C17. - PLATE. Set of c. 1780 in silver on copper. - BRASSES. Hidden below the altar (see Royal Commission).

South chancel windows

East window FW Skeat 1952 (1)

South nave window (1)

STANFORD RIVERS. A narrow avenue of lofty limes leads us to the door of a church four times as long as it is wide, with Norman windows in the nave and a chancel made new in the 14th century. By one of the nave windows is an old sundial. The bell-turret added 100 years after has a graceful leaded spire. The work of an artist of 600 years ago remains in faint outline on the splay of a window, two figures appearing in colour under gabled canopies. Other medieval craftsmanship is in a gallery with nine traceried heads from the old chancel screen, and about 20 of the old carved pews are still in the nave. Portraits of some of the old inhabitants who sat in these pews are here in brass. Robert Borrow is with his wife, who wears a headdress of about 1500; the infant Thomas Greville is here; and framed in an arch are Anne Napper and her six sons. All these lads would thrill at the tales brought to the village about Francis Drake, who was knighted by Elizabeth three years before this monument was set on the wall.

There is another little tale we remember here, of David Livingstone. While qualifying for his mission to Africa he was sent down to Essex to study for three months; it was a probationary period, and upon the report of his tutor, the Revd Richard Cecil of Chipping Ongar, depended his acceptance or refusal by the London Missionary Society. Part of his task was to prepare sermons and submit them in writing to Cecil, who would read and correct them if necessary, where-upon the student had to learn the sermon by heart and preach it to one of the village congregations round about. The minister of the chapel here being taken suddenly ill, the young Scotsman was called upon to take the evening service, and all went well until the sermon, when Livingstone slowly read out his text - and paused. He said afterwards that it was as if midnight darkness had descended upon him. The sermon, so perfectly memorised until a moment before, had fled, and his mind was filled with blank terror. “Friends,” he haltingly said, “I have forgotten what I had to say,” and abruptly he left the pulpit, and fled.

Yet the real man showed itself, even here. He had to visit a relative on the far side of London, and, too poor to ride, he set out at three o’clock on a bitter November morning to walk 27 miles. It was so dark that he fell into a deep ditch, but he reached London, discharged his business, and set out on the return journey. A few miles out he found a lady lying unconscious by a trap from which she had been thrown, carried her to a house, made sure that she was not badly hurt, and continued on his way, only to lose himself completely. He was about to lie down in a ditch for the night when he stumbled on a signpost and plodded on, reaching home at midnight after 21 hours of walking, footsore, speechless with fatigue, but triumphant, as he was to be so often in the years to come.

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