Monday, 19 November 2012

Shenfield, Essex

A rather uninteresting exterior contains a fascinating interior not least of which is the wooden north arcade. At the back of the church is an alabaster carving of Elizabeth Robinson and her baby. Her death in childbirth during the Civil War, when she was only 15, united the families of her husband and her father: one a Roundhead, the other a Cavalier.

ST MARY THE VIRGIN. The most interesting part of the church is its timber N arcade of six bays, with slim piers (four attached shafts and four hollows in the diagonals) and four-centred arches. Timber also, but heavier timber, the sub-structure of the bell-turret. Eight posts grouped in pairs from W to E, big braces to hold the cross-beams, trellis-strutting along the N and S walls above. The shingled spire is specially tall and thin. - PEWS. Under the tower, c. 1600, plain. - PLATE. Cup and Cover of 1663; Salver probably of 1709. - STAINED GLASS by Kempe. E window 1883, Annunciation in S window 1896. - MONUMENT. Elizabeth Robinson d. 1652. Semi-reclining and shrouded, with infant in swaddling clothes in her arms. Alabaster. No superstructure.

North arcade

Elizabeth Robinson (4)

War memorial (2)

SHENFIELD. Like York’s famous Guildhall and a very few other churches we have seen, it has in its church an arcade of wood. The arches are not old, but the fine columns are 15th century, and each is hewn out of a great oak tree which may well have been growing when Magna Carta was sealed. They are fashioned in the style of stone pillars, with attached columns, and well moulded capitals and bases. Old timbers are the pride of Shenfield, for the tower is built of them too and rises to a shingled spire, all 15th century, with most of the church. The ancient rood beam is here, the aisle roof is 500 years old, and there are about a dozen pews of the 17th century with panelled ends. The east window has an attractive Nativity scene, and on several window-ledges we found relics old and quaint—a Bible of 1611, two churchwarden pipes of 1670, a cannon ball, and a small anchor. Tucked away in a corner is the monument of Elizabeth Robinson who died in 1652. She lies in alabaster on an altar tomb, a delightful figure of her child with her.

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