Monday, 19 November 2012

Blackmore, Essex

The Priory Church of St Lawrence is locked with no keyholders listed - I actually think this a criminal act and utterly outrageous. I'll let Pevsner & Mee explain.

ST LAWRENCE. Blackmore possesses one of the most impressive, if not the most impressive, of all timber towers of England. Outside it has on the ground floor lean-to roofs on three sides, then a square part with vertical weatherboarding, then again four lean-to roofs, the square bell-stage, which is straight,‘ and finally a shingled broach spire. Internally it possesses ten posts making a nave and two aisles. The tower itself stands on the centre six, three N and three S. The arched braces for the cross-beams run N-S thrown across the second and the fourth pairs. In addition there are smaller and lower arched braces in an E—W direction between posts 2 and 3 and 3 and 4. Above these are two tiers of cross-struts. It is a most elaborate piece of carpentry and looks very powerful. The church itself is Norman and has had aisles from the beginning. The explanation of this is that it was a priory church. The priory was founded for Augustinian canons c. 115-60 by Adam and Jordan, Chamberlains of the Queen. The W wall of the Norman church still exists behind the timber tower, with a doorway of three orders of columns with scalloped capitals. The arch is stepped and not otherwise moulded. Two large windows are above, and above these is a circular window. The first bay of the nave on the N and S has a plain pier but colonnettes placed in the angles. These also carry scalloped capitals. The arches are wholly unmoulded. A first pair of upper windows can also still be seen. The E parts of the priory church and all the monastic buildings have completely disappeared. There is no indication of a crossing. All that now tells of the Monastery is two blocked pointed C13 doorways at the E end of the S aisle. One of them no doubt led into the cloister. The priory was dissolved as early as 1527 so that certain C16 alterations to the church may well be connected with the adjustments necessary, when the church became parochial. The N aisle is early C14 (quatrefoil piers with many-moulded arches), but the S aisle clearly C16. The octagonal piers and the arches are of brick. Of brick also the arches and responds to the aisle E chapel (that is the parochial chancel chapel). The half-timbered W end of the S aisle and the C17 dormers on the N, and C19 dormers on the S side, add a touch of  irresponsible picturesqueness. - BRASS. Civilian of c. 1420; lower half lost. - Thomas Smyth d. 1594 and wife. Recumbent alabaster effigies, the heads on a rolled-up mat. The tomb-chest with decorated pilasters is not original, and the tomb is not complete.

Priory Church of St Lawrence (5)

BLACKMORE. Come to Jericho, for there is much to see. It is a house that has been made new, but stands on the foundations of one where Henry the Eighth often came. “He has gone to Jericho” his courtiers would say. A charming place is Blackmore, with cottages probably old enough for Henry to have seen, and fragments of a priory pulled down at his command. It was founded in 1152, but a few stones in the garden of Jericho House and parts of the church are all that is left of it. The west end of the church is Norman, with its doorway and the windows above, but it is concealed by a great timber belfry, one of the biggest and most remarkable of its kind in Essex. Built in the 15th century, it goes up in three stages to a shingled spire, rather like a pagoda. It has a west window of its own, with a wooden frame and tracery; and, remarkable as it all looks outside, it is more impressive still within, where the massive beams illustrate the masterly way the old craftsman built for all time. There is a porch which has kept some of its ancient woodwork, and in the aisle roof, looking towards the village, are attractive gables of the 17th century. In the nave medieval arcades join on to the Norman walls, and above, in a modern roof, are bosses that were here when Chaucer was writing his Canterbury Tales. Scattered about the walls are many stones and bits of carving from the Norman builders. The font is more than 500 years old, and there is a panel of 18th century glass showing the martyrdom of St Laurence. A medieval brass portrait shows a man very prim in his fur-trimmed gown; and on an altar tomb patched with brick lie Thomas Smyth and his wife from Elizabethan England.

In the churchyard sleep two Twogoods from Queen Anne’s time, each with a skull and crossbones on his grave. A quaint inscription on another gravestone tells of Simon Lynch, who found rest here in 1660, after being much persecuted for fearing God and the King.

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