Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Church accessibilty to date

County Visited Accessible % Accessible
Suffolk 90 73 81.11%
Cambridgeshire 119 94 78.99%
Hertfordshire 78 54 69.23%
Essex 316 187 59.18%
Kent 9 4 44.44%
London 1 1 100.00%
Sussex 4 1 25.00%

Total 617 414 67.10%    

Shellow Bowells, Essex

SS Peter & Paul is a redundant church converted to a private residence.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. The whole church is of 1754, and C18 churches are a rarity in Essex. Nave and short chancel separated by a heavy rather low chancel arch. Two arched N and two S windows. Front with gable and gothicized window.

SS Peter & Paul

Yet another church that Mee missed.

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.

Stondon Massey, Essex

SS Peter & Paul professes to be normally open but if it is closed provides a number you can call to arrange an appointment to view - not altogether satisfactory and naturally I found it locked. I can't remember why but this was a church I wanted to see - perhaps because of the Norman elements.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. Nave and chancel are Early Norman. Two original windows remain on the N side and two on the S, also both doorways, though that on the N is blocked. They are completely plain and unmoulded. The only later medieval addition of importance is the belfry, which is placed a little further E than the W end. It rests on four posts carrying two tie-beams and connected with them by arched braces. There are also beams in the E—W direction forming a square with the others. - FONT. Perp, octagonal. Bowl with quatrefoils carrying fleurons. - SCREEN. Plain one-light divisions with ogee arches and a minimum of panel tracery above them. - PULPIT and READER’S DESK. Dated 1630. Good work with strap decoration and bands of diamonds. - BRASSES of 1570 and 1513.

SS Peter & Paul (2)

STONDON MASSEY. It is one of the few places with which we can associate the Father of our Music, he whose music is living again, who wrote that:

Since music is so good a thing
I wish all men would learn to sing.

William Byrd’s connection with this scattered village near Ongar has brought a new interest to the place, and a stone has been set in the church wall recording the fact that Byrd lived here. His home was Stondon Place (now made new) and it is believed that he had some difficulty over his possession of it because its previous owner had been involved in a Popish Plot. Though we cannot be sure, it is also thought that Byrd may have died on this site in 1623.

Among the meadows which slope away east of the church still stands a brick and timber house that William Byrd would know, Stondon Hall; he must often have looked at its octagonal chimney stacks. Often also he must have come into this little church, for it has been here about eight centuries, and its flint and stone walls, with Roman bricks in them, were about the first work of the Normans here. Here is their doorway, with a great hole for a bar which fastened it, and facing it on the other wall is the arch of the other door blocked up, like some of their deep-splayed windows. There are 15th century timbers in the roofs supporting the bell-turret, a 15th century font, a screen a little younger, and a reading desk a little younger still. The Jacobean pulpit has a door with the original latch, very neat. In the chancel is the brass portrait of John Carre and his two Elizabethan wives; his merchant’s mark is on it. The fragment of another brass on the wall of the nave has been twice used, and what we see is the portrait of the wife of Rainold Holingworth.

It must always be regrettable that Stondon Massey is not able to claim with certainty the grave of William Byrd, but it is highly probable that they would lay him here. At the unveiling of the tablet in the church on the 300th anniversary of his death the Gentlemen and Children of the Chapel Royal were sent by the king to this church to make Stondon ring again with Byrd’s old melodies. He was our Shakespeare of music. He wrote masses, services, madigrals, songs, and pieces for the organ, the virginal, and the orchestra.

We had all too little of his work until 1920, when, by a fine imaginative stroke of the Carnegie Trustees, it was made possible to publish all that was available. Then for the first time the world realised that the estimates of Byrd’s contemporaries were just, that he was indeed one of the supreme masters of composition in all its forms. Then we realised also that that superb compliment paid him by the Vatican (where his grand Non nobis, Domine, is engraved on a plate of gold) was well merited. But there must be more Byrd music to come from private collections; only a few years ago a bundle of his unpublished manuscripts was found in the chained library at Wimborne Minster.

It was at Stondon Massey that Byrd spent the last 28 years of his life; he was a Roman Catholic and lived in the home of a member of his church who had been convicted of treason. The strongest evidence for the probability that he was buried here is the wish he expressed in his will that he might lie here by the side of his wife.


Doddinghurst, Essex

All Saints contains little of interest but I liked the rood figures (German or Italian and C16 or C17 respectively according to Pevsner and Mee) and there's some good C19 glass.

ALL SAINTS. Nave, chancel, and belfry. The bell-stage of the belfry has vertical boarding. It ends in a small, shingled spire. It stands on six posts with rather shallow arched braces and much diagonal trellis-strutting. Uncommonly large timber porch. The sides have each ten arched openings. The chancel is C19, the nave C13, see the s doorway with one order of colonnettes and a moulded arch with dog-tooth ornament. Nave roof C15, with tie-beams, king-posts, and four-way struts. - ROOD. The figures of Christ, the Virgin, and St John cannot be seen clearly from below; but seem to be German, early c16. - PLATE. Cup of 1562; Paten of 1567.

St George & the dragon (2)

West window (3)

East window detail

DODDINGHURST. Its church, which keeps some 13th century work, has a little spire on a weather-boarded turret, inserted 400 years ago through the roof of the nave; and the wooden porch, one of the best in Essex, with 20 lights in the sides and original tiebeams in its roof, is also 16th century. There is a 13th century doorway with some of the delightful ornament of its time, a 15th century nave roof, a Jacobean chair, and some 300-year-old panels in a modern chest. The painted figures of Our Lord and Mary and John on the roodbeam are thought to be Italian work of the 17th century. A parson of some note here was Nehemiah Rogers, fervent Royalist and friend of Archbishop Laud, and remembered today chiefly for his writings on the parables. He was buried here in 1660. The old stocks stand at a corner of the Common, and by the church is a tiny Tudor house in which the priest lived.

Kelvedon Hatch, Essex

There are two St Nicholas', a ruin in the grounds of Kelvedon Hall and the Victorian new build in the village. The new professes to be open daily (a note on the door so says) but was locked when I visited - it looks very run of the mill.

ST NICHOLAS. 1895 by J. T. Newman. Red brick with oddly stunted apse and dormers in the roof. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1674. - This church replaced an older one, close to Kelvedon Hall.

ST NICHOLAS. The old church is disused and at the time of writing neglected. It was built in 1753, but in general shape kept to the Essex tradition. Nave and lower chancel, and belfry. Red brick. The chancel has a Venetian E window, the nave arched windows. Also circular windows in both nave and chancel. Inside still some elegant tablets etc. of the later C18.

St Nicholas (2)

KELVEDON HATCH. It has two churches, but the old one is forsaken and has sent some of its treasures to the new. The old church was refashioned in the 18th century and stands by the woodlands of Kelvedon Hall. It has kept a few old brass inscriptions, a quaint one of 300 years ago telling how Richard and Anthony Luther were such truly loving brothers that they kept house together for 40 years “without anie accompt atwixt them.” Ringing in the little red spire of the new church is the medieval bell from the old one, and also here is the tall 14th century font, with tiny carvings of flowers and fruit, a mitre, and a captivating little head of a man with well-combed hair. The font cover is an elaborate piece of iron-work wrought by hand last century, and both pulpit and screen are excellent examples of the same craftsmanship. From the road to Ongar we glimpse the delightful timber and plaster house where the rectors used to live, built perhaps 300 years ago.


Bentley Common, Essex

Built in 1880 St Paul is a large Victorian new build which is unusually anodyne particularly given the liberal use of chunky alabaster - perhaps because it's remarkably light for a church of its age. Unusually stained glass is minimised giving a relatively airy feel - I'd rate this as good of its type.



St Paul (3)

Unusually this is the second church on this trip that both boys missed.

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.

South Weald, Essex

St Peter is a surprisingly large church which has been Victorianised to within an inch of its life but despite this I rather liked it. Curiously all, or most, of the monuments have been removed to the tower which leaves an uncluttered interior. The liberal use pink alabaster in the chancel should be awful but strangely isn't although a sign warning that the sanctuary is alarmed would be helpful!

ST PETER. A large church in a fine position and with a surprisingly big W tower of c. 1500, ashlar-faced, with angle buttresses, battlements and a higher stair turret. The medieval church behind it consisted of nave, chancel and N aisle. Its S and E walls survive, but heavily over-restored, when they were reduced to being the S aisle of a new church with its own large chancel which took the place of the former N aisle. The arcade is reconstructed but, it is said, correctly. With its circular piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches it represents a C13 model. Older still and fortunately preserved is the Norman S doorway. It has one order of columns with zigzag-carved shafts, a carved lintel, an arch with zigzag decoration, and a tympanum with diaper ornament, little squares divided into two triangles. The new church is of 1868, designed by Teulon. - FONT. 1662, polygonal, with thick leaves sprouting up the stem. - COMMUNION RAILS. Of iron, designed by Scott. - STAINED GLASS. Two late C15 panels in the W window, probably Flemish. - E window and S aisle E window by Kempe; 1886 and 1888. - PLATE. Cup of 1564; large Cup of 1635; Paten of 1686. - MONUMENTS. Set of Brasses at the W end; returned to the church in 1933. All small. Civilian of c. 1450; Woman and Children of c. 1450 (originally husband, three wives and three groups of children); Civilian of c. 1480; Kneeling Children of c. 1500; A. Crafford d 1606; Robert Picakis and Allen Talbott, two Kneeling Children d. 1634. - Hugh Smith d. 1757. Standing wall monument with sarcophagus and grey obelisk. Against it large roundel with two profiles facing one another. Unsigned.

C15th Flemish glass (1)

c. 1450 (2)

c. 1500

SOUTH WEALD. It has a lovely walk through an old deer park, the path bringing us by a pleasant lake, and it is famous for old buildings. Weald Hall in the lovely park has been much refashioned, but has two 16th century wings, one with gables and solid-looking turrets, and one with a parapet and fine chimneys. Here sometime before she became queen lived the terrible Mary Tudor, and the lodge of the hall is known as Princess Mary’s Chapel. It stands by the road for all to see, with tall turrets, a fine doorway, and a broad window of seven lights. There are two old inns of the 15th and 18th centuries, and the 18th century Brook House.

High above the churchyard are the rookeries of the park, old but not so old as the church, which has Norman stones in its walls. It has been refashioned with modern windows, but has a Norman doorway carved with chevron and with old ironwork on its door. The door to the turret of the tower has been opening and shutting 500 years. In a window of the tower is medieval glass with two panels showing the Sacrifice of Abraham, and the Queen of Sheba in white and gold. In the tracery above are 17th century figures of four saints. On the wall of the tower is a medallion portrait of Francis Wollaston, a famous scientist who was vicar here a hundred years ago. He was Professor of Chemistry at Cambridge, where he was famous as an experimenter. The vicar who followed him for 53 years was the remarkable Charles Almeric Belli, a man of great energy who lived to be 95 and called in Sir Gilbert Scott to rebuild this nave and chancel. The oak chancel screen is the work of Scott, resembling a medieval screen. The chancel roof has a choir of angels. In the chapel beyond the gilt iron railings is a wooden cross from Flanders brought from the grave of Christopher Tower, who gave his life for us.

On the wall are brass portraits of an attractive group of children, little Robert Picakis aged seven, and Allen Talbot aged two, a bonny lad with curly hair who died in 1634. There are two groups of children in the clothes they wore in 1500, and a mother with 12 children of half a century earlier.

Lying here is the old owner of the manor, Lord Chief Justice Scroggs, bracketed equal-first with Jeffreys as one of the worst judges who ever disgraced the English bench. The son of an Oxfordshire butcher, he left Oxford an MA, and, preferring the Bar to the Church, escaped conviction for assault and battery during a drunken bout, reached the bench at 43, to become Charles the Second’s Lord Chief Justice in 1678.

There centred about this man the chief prosecutions in the bogus Popish Plot of Titus Oates, which, based on some petty Roman Catholic movement towards strengthening the position of that church in England, was magnified by Oates and his creatures into the story of a plot to assassinate Charles the Second and to massacre the Protestants. The part of Scroggs was to convict the prisoners, no matter how lowly or how exalted their status, to rant and roar them into silence, to act as prosecutor as well as judge, to maintain the evidence of Oates as little less than sacred, and to assert that any testimony advanced for the defence was blasphemous perjury.

All England was in a panic, for none doubted the truth of these fictions. Scroggs sent the innocent to the gallows in batches, adding insult and denunciation to the bitterness of the penalty to which he doomed them, asserting that it was better to hang one Papist than three felons. Titus Oates gave a political party its label, naming the opponents of the persecution Tory, after the Irish murderers of English settlers.

When the panic was at its height the accusers declared the queen and her physician to be implicated in the plot to murder the king; and a bill was laid before the grand jury naming the future James the Second as a Papist, to be excluded from the succession, and the king’s favourite the Duchess of Portsmouth as a public nuisance.

The tide had begun to turn; Scroggs’s heart failed him; he dismissed the grand jury before it could act. He now turned about, and acquitted persons falsely accused, traversed the evidence of Oates and his confederates, and was pilloried in broadsheets and publicly assaulted for his pains. Impeached for his offences, Scroggs was saved by Charles, who dissolved his Parliament and never summoned another; but he no longer dared to continue the unjust judge in office, retiring him with a pension of £1500 a year, to die two years later, in 1683, the scorn of his generation. Scroggs was a witty and powerful speaker, but without conscience or scruple, a paid ruffian of the Court, and a man of infamous private life. He is admirably pictured in Scott’s Peveril of the Peak, where he is shown after fear has taken possession of him and he knows not what to do with his prisoners.


Warley, Essex

Christ Church is a large brick built Victorian church which is, fortunately, kept locked. It has for a neighbour the uninspiring Roman Catholic Holy Cross & All Saints.

Neither Pevsner nor Mee cover Warley.

Christ Churh (2)

Holy Cross & All Saints (2)

Ingrave, Essex

I know on an intellectual level that I should dislike St Nicholas but I don't - it's splendid but sadly locked.

ST NICHOLAS. The most remarkable C18 church in the county. Erected in 1735 by Lord Petre of Thomdon Hall. The architect is unknown. He cannot have been far from Hawksmoor. Red brick. Massive W tower widened by recessed polygonal turrets, which rise above the parapet of the tower. This rests on an arched corbel frieze. Big inscription plate. The interior much plainer. Nave with central entrances from N and S; arched windows. Narrower chancel with arch on very thick imposts. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, with quatrefoil panels. - PULPIT. Panelled, probably c. 1735. - BRASSES. Margaret Wake d. 1466, wearing a butterfly headdress. - Sir Richard Fitzlewes d. 1528 and his four wives.

St Nicholas (2)

INGRAVE. It lies two miles from Brentwood by the lovely woodlands of Thorndon Hall and a medieval farm with a timbered house. The church is one of the rare 18th century buildings, with a big tower, and in it are some treasures from the lost churches of this and a neighbouring village. From old Ingrave church came the Tudor font and a 17th century communion table; and from West Horndon came the most beautiful things Ingrave has to show - a stately brass of Margaret Wake, who died in 1466, and a magnificent group of Sir Richard FitzLewes and his four wives. Sir Richard, who died in 1528, wears a rich tabard over his armour and his head rests on a crested helmet. Three of his wives wear heraldic mantles which give them great dignity. There are roundels and ermine, bugle horns and a dancing goat, and other quaint heraldic devices.

A bitter fate was soon to befall this family. In a few years time, so the story runs, John FitzLewes was burned to death with his bride on the night of his wedding, and his wealth passed to his sister, who became a ward to Henry the Eighth, he giving her in marriage to John, the son of the first Lord Mordaunt. They lie in one of the lovely tombs at Turvey in Bedfordshire.

Thorndon Hall and its 1500 acres passed to the Petre family who came here from Ingatestone in the reign of Elizabeth. In its 18th century Roman Catholic chapel lies James Radcliffe, the romantic Earl of Derwentwater who perished on Tower Hill in 1716. His was a tragic story.

When James the Second, flying in haste from the throne of England settled at St Germain in France, the second Earl of Derwentwater and his wife (a daughter of Charles the Second) joined him in exile. There in 1689 was born their son James Radcliffe, to spend his childhood with the young James Stuart, known in history as the Old Pretender. James Radcliffe came to England in 1710 and lived in his ancestral homes at Dilston in Northumberland and on Lord’s Island in beautiful Derwentwater.

Five years later the Stuarts raised their call again, summoning their friends to the hopeless task of regaining the throne for them. Radcliffe was wise, and he hesitated, but the king’s sister he had married accused him of cowardice, threw her fan at his feet, and cried : “Pick up that fan and give me your sword. I will take the field and you can stay at home.”

Stung to the heart, the earl picked up the fan and solemnly handed it back to his wife; then, drawing his sword, he cried, God Save King James, and set out for battle and the grave. With a small group of retainers he eluded the oificers who already had a warrant for his arrest, and joined the Jacobite Army. He fought with great courage at the battle of Preston, but was taken prisoner and carried to the Tower. There was a great trial in Westminster Hall, and he was condemned to death. So gallant was his bearing that he won the admiration of all, and his friends made great efforts to save him, £60,000 being offered to Sir Robert Walpole for his life, while his wife, in her remorse, went on her knees to King George the First to beg for his life. But there was no mercy for this tragic youth; he died in the cause of the companion of his childhood, one of the last of a faithful host sacrificed for a faithless House.

Hutton, Essex

All Saints was locked with a keyholder listed but as it looked to me a Victorian church I moved on and apart from the brass and the screen I don't think I missed much.

ALL SAINTS. Rebuilt by G. E. Street in 1873. A small church and not one of Street’s masterpieces. Of the medieval church the nave arcades with quatrefoil piers, moulded capitals and arches of one wave and one hollow-chamfer mouldings survive - typical C14 work. The chancel arch, and the nave roof belong to the same date. The bell-turret is also medieval, but probably of the C15. It stands on six posts, the distance between the first being much wider than between the others. Tall braces from N and S and trellis strutting from W to E. - LECTERN etc., metalwork in the typical Street style. - PLATE. Cover of 1567; Paten on Foot probably of 1648. - BRASS. Knight and Lady of c. 1525.

All Saints (2)

HUTTON. It lies on the road from Brentwood to Billericay, but its delightful church is down a lane, by the limes in which the rooks have a village all their own. So thoroughly was the church restored last century that little remains of its medieval walls, but most of the wooden porch of the 14th century has been replaced on new dwarf walls. The beam over the outer arch is carved with trefoils, richly traceried heads make beautiful the four windows in the sides, and there is a bargeboard of great beauty. The roof of the nave is as old as Parliament, and is continued over the tiny aisles, resting on the original clustered columns. A brass of about 1525 shows an unknown man in armour with his wife and their 16 children. The church also has a splendid modern screen with oak statues of St George, Joan of Arc, Sir Thomas More, and Bishop Fisher. Another imposing piece of craftsmanship is the high font cover, with a relief of a woman clinging to a rock; it is a memorial to a Mrs Hamilton who perished in a wreck.


Stock, Essex

Heading for a sweep of the villages in the Brentwood area I had very low expectations but was pleasantly surprised by this visit.

All Saints is fairly unprepossessing but does house four good windows, two by Reginald Bell and two by his son Michael Farrar-Bell. The interior has been much restored following the detonation in 1940 of a land mine which badly damaged the south side of the church, the nave roof, the stained glass and tracery and the belfry and little else of interest remains. The belfry, which Pevsner calls 'The most interesting part' is sadly locked.

ALL SAINTS. The most interesting part of the church is the belfry. Square ground floor with four posts set so as to form a Greek cross with four small corner spaces. The W arm serves as the entrance to the church. It has a doorway with three tracery panels over. The N and S arms have one three-light traceried wooden window each. The tracery differs slightly. The centre is braced from N to S as well as E to W. The arms have N-S braces. Trellis-strutting above from E to W and N to S. The upper part of the belfry has a stirrup on the E side. Tall bell-stage and tall thin broach spire. The weatherboarding is dark and vertical below, white and horizontal above. Of timber also the S porch, with six ogee-arched openings on the W and E sides. The doorway has blank panel tracery above. The church itself is of less architectural interest. The E chapel of the aisle and the chancel are of 1848. The front of the S aisle is heavily renewed. N arcade inside of three bays with octagonal piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches, that is C15. The chancel roof has recently been prettily painted, somewhat in the taste of Sir Charles Nicholson. - CHAIRS. In the chancel two richly carved late C17 chairs. - BRASS to Richard Twedye d. 1574, in armour.

Reginald Bell east window (1)

Reginald Bell south chancel window (1)

Michael Farrar-Bell south nave window (1)

Michael Farrar-Bell south nave window (8)

STOCK. On the hills between Chelmsford and Billericay, it has a pleasant green made bright on one side by the vivid red of a row of almshouses, and has at one end one of the most delightful timber spires in Essex. It rises on the belfry of the 14th century church, the belfry being also of wood, older than the church itself. Above the doorway of the belfry are three square windows with lovely tracery, and inside is one of those amazing timber constructions characteristic of this part of England. So huge are the curved beams that the biggest oaks in the forest must have been felled for them. The arrangement of the beams makes a pleasant design, all meeting in a grotesque boss.

The medieval masons were still extending the church in the 15th century, adding an aisle and leaving us the quaint round face of a monk looking down on it. There are four poppyheaded bench-ends from the pews of that period. On the wall behind the pulpit is the brass portrait of Richard Twedye in his 16th century armour, set in an old altar stone with two consecration crosses. It was he who built the almshouses on the green, as a comfort for the declining years of four knights fallen on hard times.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Great Easton, Essex

Another St Mary the Virgin which I have visited several times (it's more or less my next door village) in order to try and persuade myself that I am missing something, sadly each time I do I come away thinking that I'm not.

I recently had reason to revisit my entry for Great Easton and found that I hadn't done interiors and was exceptionally harsh in my assessment; not only that but I got the dedication wrong - my only defence is that SS John & Giles was one of my early visits and I was comparing it to some of the great churches I visited before coming here (also I didn't know what I was looking at then).

Having said that this is not the most interesting of churches but does have a Carl Edwards window, an interesting altar and reredos of 1912 and rood statues of indeterminate age; it's nave is also fundamentally Norman.

I still think the squat tower is ugly but, with a more educated eye, found much more interest here than previously.

ST JOHN: AND ST GILES. Nave and chancel and C19 belfry. The nave is Norman, see the S doorway with one order of columns (scalloped capitals). The E half of the nave has noticeably thicker walls, an indication that originally it carried a crossing tower. The chancel is E.E., with lancet windows. - PLATE. Cup and small Paten on foot of 1634; Paten on foot and large Stand Salver of 1686; Flagon of 1712. 

Carl Edwards 1975 (1)

 Statues (2)

Reredos (1)

GREAT EASTON. Its oldest possessions are the Roman tiles in the walls of the church, but next in age comes what is left of a Saxon fort, a mound about 20 feet high surrounded by a dry ditch. It is in the grounds of Easton Hall, an old house with Tudor chimneys and a wing with 15th century roof timbers. The hall is close to the little green where a tall peace cross stands proudly, and is only one of Great Easton's old homes. Another opposite the green has a beehive and other devices worked in plaster; others of the 16th and 17th centuries line the lane; and by the footbridge over the River Chelmer is a timber-framed farm with Tudor chimneys, its next-door neighbour a perfect 15th century house with traceried bargeboards.

Norman builders fashioned the nave of the church, which has walls so thick at one part that it is believed to have had a central tower. Two of its five bells are 15th century, and all are doomed to ring in an unattractive wooden turret set up 100 years ago. The chancel is 13th century and has kept its ancient piscina and scratch dial. The vestry is built round a Norman doorway.

The exterior is dull and the interior is duller; it's almost a transplanted style from south of the A120 dumped in Uttlesford. The only redeeming interest is that it may once have been a cruciform church which has, at some stage, been reduced to the sad mess it is today - so, actually, that's not redeeming.