Friday, 18 January 2013

Ramsden Bellhouse, Essex

St Mary the Virgin - locked no keyholder.

ST MARY. 1880, except for the  S porch and the belfry. The porch may be as early as the C14, with coarse timbers. Braces from the doorway. The belfry stands on four posts with heavy braces from N to S. Weatherboarded aisles on N, S, and W. Original C15 timber doorway. The spire is hipped. The roofs of chancel and nave are also C15 or early C16. - FONT COVER, c. 1700. - CHEST. Heavily iron-bound, 7 ft long. - CHAIRS. Three in chancel, thickly carved, early C18. - PLATE. Cup with bands of ornament, 1562, and Paten of the same period.

St Mary the Virgin (3)

RAMSDEN BELLHOUSE. Its name comes from the Bellhus family, but it might well have come from the 15th century wooden tower and spire of the church, an example of the astonishing timberwork for which Essex is famous. It is almost the only part of the church not rebuilt, and for over four centuries has kept its huge beams inside, its oak doorway carved with a rose and a shield, its door with hinges older still, and its belfry steps with their unshaped treads. The nave roof is just as old, and a beam in the chancel is enriched with twisted foliage. From the 14th century are the rafters and bargeboards of the porch and a beautiful little piscina arch with tiny quatrefoils in the spandrels. There are three chairs elaborately carved in the 17th century, when the graceful cover was made for the 15th century font; and there is a big medieval chest six feet long, the lid so heavy that it is in two parts each with two handles.

God’s Acre charms us here with a cluster of elms higher than the weathercock, and standing in their shade we have a lovely view over rolling meadowland. Under a gravestone carved with an hour glass lies one whom we may perhaps call the most remarkable child in the village, Anthony Child who died an old man in 1726. He had lived under seven rulers, six kings and Oliver Cromwell, and missed the eighth only by a year.

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