Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Shimpling, Suffolk

If I was amazed to find St Peter, Cockfield, open I think staggered would be my reaction to finding St George unlocked - find it on Google Earth to see how isolated it is.

Sadly, despite its open status I found St George dark, cold and heartless - that might have been because the light was beginning to go and it felt like a Hammer House of Horror set but is more likely due to a thorough Victorian clean up, not, I'm afraid, my cup of tea but hats off for being open.

ST GEORGE. Reached along an avenue of lime trees. Mostly Dec, see the E window with a usual pattern of flowing tracery, the segment-headed S aisle windows, the N windows, and the arcade inside of low octagonal piers and arches with one chamfer and one hollow chamfer. The chancel S doorway has a frieze of dog-tooth inside, a motif usually earlier than the date of the church. - FONT. Odd, octagonal, probably C14. Stem with eight attached shafts. Bowl shallow with quatrefoils and tracery. - MONUMENTS. Elizabeth Plampin  d.1774. By R. Westmacott Sen. Woman standing by an urn on a sarcophagus. - Thomas Hallifax d. 1850. Unsigned. Niche with two angels in profile kneeling symmetrically against an altar with a cross over it.

St George (1)

Henry Holiday south aisle (2)

Thomas Hallifax 1849 (1)

SHIMPLING. An avenue of limes shades the way to its 14th century church. It has a 15th century font and a Jacobean table. Some of the windows casting their dim religious light have fragments of ancient glass, bits of 14th century canopies, and heraldic shields thought to be 12th century, precious fragments indeed, for glass so old is rarely to be seen; there is exceedingly little of it in England. Outside, on a sunny wall, is an old mass dial.

Cockfield, Suffolk

I knew St Peter was going to be locked the moment I saw it - on its south side are two houses, to the east a barn and errrm that's it but to my not inconsiderable amazement it was open. Oh and it's very large and seems incongruously placed - perhaps the village moved away leaving it stranded with its two companions.

Even though, for a church this big, there's not a huge amount of interest I loved it just for being open and I think that's reason enough.

ST PETER. Quite big. Dec W tower with flushwork chequer pattern on the buttresses. Dec N aisle. Early C14 chancel, see the outlines of the windows inside, the buttresses with ogee headed niches, the Piscina, and the splendid, if grossly over-restored EASTER SEPULCHRE. Niche with three stepped steep gables with blank quatrefoils. Cusped and sub-cusped arches with crockets. Angle buttresses. Hardly any ogee forms yet (cf. e.g. Edmund Crouchback, Westminster Abbey). Perp S aisle and clerestory. Elaborate S aisle battlements. Fine S aisle roof with carved beams. S porch with a front with flushwork panelling. Three niches round the entrance. Doorway with fleurons and shields. The battlements are different from those of the S aisle. Tall Perp chancel windows. Arcades of five bays with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - STALLS. Not much survives, but it includes ends with tracery and poppy-heads and some minor MISERICORDS. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters; late C17. - STAINED GLASS. (In the easternmost S aisle window four original heads.) -  E window by Kempe, 1889. -  PLATE. Two Flagons 1743; Alms dish 1759. - MONUMENT. James Harvey d. 1723. By N. Royce of Bury St Edmunds. Standing wall-monument. Coupled Corinthian columns against coupled Corinthian pilasters. Pediment. Bust on a short black sarcophagus. The quality is not high.

CHURCH COTTAGE. A handsome C15 cottage along the churchyard. Timber-framed with brick infilling. One original doorway.


NE aisle window (1)

St Peter (3)

COCKFIELD. It has an irresistible appeal to lovers of Robert Louis Stevenson, as the scene in which his genius was first called into activity. Scattered near a stream flowing to the Bret, it has a windmill, a gem of a farm, old houses with rare woodwork and fine chimneys, and near the peace memorial in the lane to the church two wonderful 14th century cottages, with massive beams supporting their low roofs.

The handsome clerestoried church, with its 15th century tower rising above the trees, has little heads watching warily above the doorway of the porch, fine pillars with moulded capitals carrying the nave arcades, a new font copied from the medieval one whose bowl is still here, and a handsome nameless tomb of the 14th century.

Keeping fragments of its ancient glass, the church has a beautiful window with New Testament scenes in memory of Churchill Babington, a kinsman of Macaulay who, after a brilliant career at Cambridge, where he was professor of archaeology, made notable contributions to scientific literature and came here to spend the last 22 years of his life as vicar. He won Mr Gladstone’s approval of his essay traversing the famous third chapter of Macaulay’s History dealing with the clergy of Stuart England, but his main delight was in nature and antiquities. He wrote on the birds and flowers of Suffolk, and collected such a host of antiquarian treasures as to make the vicarage a little museum. His wife was a cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson, who came here on a visit which had memorable results. He met here another guest, Sidney Colvin, who gave him his first introduction to a London editor, revised his first writings, and set him on the path to fame. The old vicar witnessed the first handshake of the two new friends, neither dreaming that one was to write his way to fame and the other to edit his works and write his life. Host, hostess, and guests are all gone now, and the little museum has lost its treasures, but the old vicarage in the fields is a place of pilgrimage to those who hold dear the author of Treasure Island and the imperishable essays.

Bradfield St Clare, Suffolk

St Clare was locked but with a notice informing visitors that it is open from dawn to dusk at weekends from some date to another - I forget which dates but suspect it was summer months - which is not much good if you're visiting on a Wednesday in February, so I took exteriors and moved on to the more welcoming Cockfield.

ST CLARE. An unusual dedication. Nave, chancel, and W tower. No architectural interest, except for the roof, which has arched braces reaching high up to a collar. - BENCHES. Some simple ones, with poppy-heads. - PLATE. Cup of 1668.

St Clare (1)

BRADFIELD ST CLARE. All travellers to Italy may see St Clare, the friend of Francis of Assisi, lying in a glass case on the hilltop where she walked with him. This village is named after her*, and a farmhouse with a moat still wet round it was once St Clare Hall, a home of the monks of Bury; the church is the only one in England that bears her name. It is a gracious little place with a porch made new last century in memory of three dear old people. There is a carved oak reredos, the names in brass of five men who live for evermore, ancient timbers in the chancel roof, and windows in the 13th century walls through which we see the cornfields.

* This is nonsense - it is named after the St Clere family Lords of the manor back in the day.

Bradfield St George, Suffolk

St George was, I think, the most tranquil visit of the day, its setting is a rural idyll and its best feature is a very Catholic looking reredos depicting the Nativity with lots of gold and red - it's stunning. The pulpit and medieval poppyhead and St George stained glass are also worthy of mention.

ST GEORGE. A Norman window in the nave on the S side. A very charming Dec S doorway with a much moulded ogee arch. Perp three-bay arcade (four shafts and four fine hollows) and diverse Perp windows. Nave roof of low pitch with arched braces. Their spandrels have tracery. Perp W tower. On a W buttress the name John Bacon is recorded, no doubt as a donor. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, simple. -  PULPIT. Jacobean, with two tiers of short blank arches. - BENCH ENDS. With poppy-heads and traceried backs (N aisle). - STAINED GLASS. Lower half of the figure of a Knight (clerestory S), c. 1500. - PLATE. Cup 1661; Paten 1686; Flagon and Alms dish 1720.


St George (5)


Poppyhead (2)

BRADFIELD ST GEORGE. A pathway runs up between the poplars and a lake of floating lilies to the lime trees gathered about its handsome rectory and the medieval church. Its sturdy pinnacled tower and porch are 500 years old, the richly ornamented south doorway a century older. In the 15th century north aisle are a few old bench-ends, and in the 13th century chancel is a modern reredos with paintings of the Adoration of the Wise Men and one of St George - of England and of Bradfield.

Stanningfield, Suffolk

I loved St Nicholas as much for its location, its quirky exterior and the faded, but still excellent, doom painting.

It sits away from the main body of the village with a farm and a hall as neighbours. At some time its tower fell and was replaced by what can only described as a pyramidical cap which gives it its quirky appearance and the Norman north door is fantastic.

ST NICHOLAS. Norman nave. Preserved one N and one S window and the N doorway. Shafts with decayed capitals, arch with slightly decorated zigzag. The church has an incomplete W tower and an uncommonly interesting chancel of c. 1300. The designer certainly liked personal tracery, see the E window with cusped intersections broken by a quatre-foiled circle at the top, the N windows with double-cusped quatrefoils in circles, and particularly the S windows with four pointed trefoils radially in a circle. Squint in the form of a quatrefoil diagonally from the chancel to the outside, that is really a low-side window. Nice, modest contemporary S doorway into the nave, with two orders of closely set fleurons in jambs and arches and a hood-mould with ballflower. - FONT. Octagonal, C14. Panelled stem. Bowl with shields in quatrefoils and panels with blank arches. - SCREEN. Simple, with one-light divisions. - WALL PAINTING. Big C15 Doom over the chancel arch. Dark and not well preserved. - MONUMENT. Good monument to Thomas Rokewode, Late Perp, chancel N wall. Tomb-chest with shields in quatrefoils. Segmental arch and cresting with shields.

North door (1)

Wallpainting - Doom (5-4)

Wallpainting - Doom (3-3)

Wallpainting - Doom (2)

STANNINGFIELD. It stirs us with dramatic memories of Gunpowder Plot, and of a Shakespearean might-have-been, and it has a pleasant appeal as the birthplace of a woman whose writings charmed readers and playgoers in Trafalgar and Waterloo days.

There are few houses in the village, but more at Hoggard’s Green near by, where, with thatched cottages grouped about the pond, stands an ancient dovecot and a massive wooden cross.

Everywhere the name of the Rookwood family speaks to us from the past. They had owned the manor three centuries before the Stuarts succeeded the Tudors, and had built their first home beside the Norman church. Only the fishponds and the moat remain from that old house, and it is near it, hidden among noble trees, with the top of its tower gone, that we find the church. We may come into it by two Norman doorways, one with zigzag and the other with flowers, one protected by a magnificent timber porch. There is Norman work in the nave, but the chancel, with a striking quatrefoil peephole near its arch, was a 14th century gift of the Rookwoods; the font bears their arms. There is a canopied Tudor tomb guarded by angels, the last resting-place of Thomas Rookwood, and many other members of the family are here, including Sir Robert, son of a man James the First sent to the scaffold. Over the chancel arch are traces of wall-paintings, and there is a screen which was carved 600 years ago. The benches have fine old poppyheads.

Coldham Hall, a mile away, succeeded the house by the church, being built in the reign of Elizabeth by, Robert Rookwood, father of the Rookwood of Gunpowder Plot.’ Untouched by the Reformation, the Rookwoods remained Roman Catholic and suffered grievously for their faith; but they lived happily here under the last of the Tudors and the first of the Stuarts.

They had a magnificent stud of horses, one of the finest in the country, and Catesby, when the plans for the Plot were ripening, invited Ambrose Rookwood to join the conspiracy; he was to prepare a rising, for with his swift horses he would be helpful. Ambrose hired a chain of houses between the Severn and the Avon in Warwickshire, to which mysterious men, mounted on his horses, came riding day and night. He himself took Clopton House, which stood in grounds adjoining the Welcombe lands where Shakespeare was just building up an estate. The dramatist was there among his fields round Clopton House while Ambrose Rookwood in his “Hungarian riding cloak, lined all in velvet exceeding costly,” was at the house putting the finishing touches to his share of the Plot.

Clopton House was to be the nearest post to the general point of assembly for the rising after Guy Fawkes had fired his powder, but Rookwood, being little known in London, rode to the capital, and there, four days after his arrival, he was informed of the arrest of Guy Fawkes. The next morning he rode to Brickhill in Buckinghamshire, where he joined Catesby and galloped with him to Holbeach. There he was injured by an explosion of gunpowder stored by the conspirators.

Fighting to avoid arrest, he was wounded and overcome, imprisoned in the Tower, and executed, declaring himself penitent and wishing the king long life and conversion to Roman Catholicism.

It was from the home of her father here that Elizabeth Inchbald stole away to shape a career, first as an actress and afterwards as a novelist. She was a beauty, and famous as actress, playwright, and novelist of the days of the Georges; and now she is all but forgotten. Mrs Inchbald, who was really Elizabeth Simpson, the daughter of a farmer, married Joseph Inchbald the actor, and wrote a number of farces of which only their names remain, All on a Summer Day, which was hissed on the first night; Young Men and Old Women, Wives as They Were, Maids As They Are, and others. A romantic novel called A Simple Story is the piece of literature that has kept her name alive. It was written a generation after Richardson's Pamela and Fielding’s Torn Jones had established the English novel, and before Walter Scott had given it a new direction. Her work differed from any of theirs, and it is nearest in motive to Charlotte Bronté’s Jane Eyre. If she achieved no lasting fame she was well paid for her work as writer, dramatist, and journalist. She was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, and a portrait of her hangsin the Garrick Club. Her reputation was blameless, and when she died she left instructions that her memoirs, for which she had been offered £1000, should be destroyed, so that if she made few enemies in her life she created no new ones after her death.

Lawshall, Suffolk

All Saints was the first big church of the day and was remarkably uninteresting although I liked the painted angel corbels, the east window and a modern (millennium?) window in the south aisle.

ALL SAINTS. Quite big. Tall W tower, nave and aisles, clerestory and lower chancel, the latter in all its E.E. details Victorian. Arcade of four bays. Piers with four filleted shafts and in the diagonals a thin shaft between two hollows. Castellated capitals. Above the arches a string-course with demi-figures of angels. - FONT. C14, with tracery panels, recently rather garishly painted. - MONUMENT. J. B. van Mesdag d. 1945. Large inscription plate made up of small tiles. Designed by the distinguished typographer Jan van Krimpen and made at the Royal Goedewaagen workshops at Gouda.

Corbel (8)

North aisle window

Font (2)

LAWSHALL. It must have been a scene of titanic labours in bygone days. The hall, now a farmhouse, with walls six feet thick in places, has it is said the remains of a tunnel which led to Coldham Hall. Over the door are the arms of the Drurys and the date 1557. Ten years before the Armada sailed Queen Elizabeth and her retinue were here as guests, for the owners were rich and famous with a Speaker of the House of Commons and a great law-maker, among their ancestors.

Fine limes lead to the clerestoried medieval church, which, with its lofty tower, forms a noble picture, standing on some of the highest ground in Suffolk. In the spacious interior are graceful pillars, a finely carved cornice of angels and flowers, and a 15th century font rich with tracery. The best woodwork is that of a chest three centuries old, with shafts between bands of foliage beautifully wrought on its panels.


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Brockley, Suffolk

I'm not sure that any other church I've visited  to date can beat St Andrew in terms of its location; farm buildings to the west, hall to the south west and open fields everywhere else. A Victorian restoration has rendered it somewhat aseptic but nonetheless this is still a lovely church.

ST ANDREW. W tower with diagonal buttresses carrying flushwork panelling. On the base of the S wall of the tower an inscription commemorating Ricardus Coppyng, who no doubt gave the money for the building of the tower. Nave of c. 1300, chancel Dec. - In the S wall inside a big ogee-headed recess. - SOUTH DOOR. With interesting knocker and lock, probably also early c 14. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Flagon 1771; Almsdish 1817.


Ogee arch

Reredos (1) 
 Reredos (2)

BROCKLEY. Its oldest neighbours, standing aloof, are the 14th century church, a mossy base of a Tudor churchyard cross, and a farmhouse which was once the hall and still has part of its ancient moat. The church tower has fine panelled buttresses and a stone inscribed with the name of Ricardus Coppynge, who builded well five centuries ago. The chancel has an old carved chair, the nave a splendid arched recess in its south wall, and the door is 500 years old with four lizards on its handle.

Rede, Suffolk

All Saints best aspect is from the south west but is rather disappointing inside since it has been thoroughly airbrushed, though I liked the pulpit and the rather odd (I assume Victorian) fake misericords.

ALL SAINTS. W tower of c. 1300, see the bell-openings. S porch C15, with pinnacles and a niche crowned by a nodding ogee arch. Chancel 1874. - PULPIT. C17, with scrolls for the book rest. - BENCHES. Some with poppy-heads. - STAINED GLASS. E window of 1874. It must for stylistic reasons be by Kempe, a very early piece. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Paten c. 1662.

All Saints (1)



REDE. It might be called the crown of Suffolk, for here is the highest ground in all this flat county, over 400 feet above the sea. The little church is 600 years old, with a chancel made new last century. It has some old carved benches, a Jacobean pulpit and three bells still tolling as they tolled for the death of Queen Elizabeth.

Denham, Suffolk

Last Wednesday I visited 10 new churches (the elusive St Mary in Little Bradley eluded me) and made 5 re-visits (Barnadiston, Rougham, Alpheton, Little Thurlow and Great Wratting).

St Mary was the first new visit of the day but was sadly locked although a keyholder was listed - in keeping with my philosophy I shot exteriors and moved on.

ST MARY. Almost a C19 building. N doorway plainest Norman. NE chapel a C17 addition. - PLATE. Paten 1728. - MONUMENTS. Sir Edward Lewkenor d. 1605. Big four-poster with kneeling family, ten of them, in double file, facing E. Big super-structure with obelisks and strapwork. Not good. - Edward Lewkenor d. 1635. White and black marble. Recumbent elfigy in armour, his head on a half-rolled-up straw mat. Tomb-chest with columns and cartouches with shields. Back wall with columns carrying an entablature rising in a semicircle in the middle.

St Mary (1)

DENHAM. It is near Bury St Edmunds, and to it came the ancient Britons, the Saxons, and the Normans, occupying in their turn the fortified mound called Denham Castle. Its medieval church has a red-brick chapel railed off by ironwork, into which we can peer at two fine monuments of the Lewkenors, whose home was close by at a farmhouse which has still one of its four old guardhouses. Kneeling in pairs on a tomb are Sir Edward Lewkenor of Shakespeare’s day, his wife, and eight children, above them being a gorgeous canopy on marble pillars. On another tomb lies a later Sir Edward Lewkenor in armour, sculptured in white marble with his sword by his side.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Bradfield Combust, Suffolk

From the exterior I assumed that All Saints was Victorian built - having missed, or more accurately not noticed because I assumed I was looking at etc.., the Roman tiles in the east chancel wall - but stepping in to the ugly (and I imagine nowadays unnecessary) south aisle you almost immediately notice two large medieval wallpaintings which immediately put you right.

I agree with Pevsner when he says "very mixed and not very interesting" but rate the paintings much higher than he does considering them, but particularly St George, to be amongst, if not the, best I've seen in Suffolk. The other item of note here is the Norman font though somewhat spoilt, to my mind, by the later carvings.

The name commemorates the burning of the Hall at the time of the riots against the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds in 1327.

ALL SAINTS. Nave, chancel, S aisle, bellcote. Very mixed and not very interesting. Is the chancel E window with three unenclosed pointed trefoils a true copy of the original? C14 arcade with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. - FONT. Square, Norman, with scalloped underside. Later in the Middle Ages the heads at the corners and one quatrefoil panel on the bowl were carved. - SCREEN. Two parts of the dado were re-used for the organ seat. - PAINTINGS. Large, once splendid St George of c. 1400; very large St Christopher. - STAINED GLASS. In the S aisle two windows with glass of c. 1855 in the C13 style. - PLATE. Cup 1570; Paten 1748.*

* Pre-Reformation BELL with the emblems of the four Evangelists.

Wallpainting St George (1)

Wallpainting St Christopher (1)


BRADFIELD COMBUST. Its odd name reminds us of a little piece of Suffolk history 600 years ago, when there was land here belonging to Bury Abbey. The people quarrelled with the monks, burning down their grange and at the same time plundering the abbey itself.

A 400-year-old inn by the church has an attractive sign outside and some fine beams in its low rooms. It is opposite the park, where a new house stands in the place of the one in which Bradfield’s famous man spent most of his 79 years. He was the agriculturist and writer Arthur Young. This is the village in which he was brought up, and here in the old churchyard he sleeps. Though his old home has vanished we can still see the stately avenue of limes which led from it to the high road. For 200 years the bees have been coming to the flowers on these trees planted by his father, and in this park Arthur Young himself planted about 40,000 larches and oaks. His ancestors were here soon after Shakespeare’s day, and many of them are remembered in the 14th century church, a place of such great peace that a brown squirrel was sitting by the timber porch when we called. The charming open bell-turret has three bells, and there is a built-up doorway through which the priest once went. The church has a finely carved stone pulpit and a splendid Norman font with an oak cover; and on one of the walls are black and red paintings of St Christopher, St George, and an angel; they have been here since about 1400. One beautiful window* shows Christ in Glory, in memory of a rector’s wife; another has the Women at the Sepulchre, in memory of an Arthur Young who died in 1855; and the east window, a very fine Crucifixion, is a tribute to the famous Arthur Young, whose father was rector here 40 years. Another tablet in the vestry has the last pathetic words of Martha Anne Young, who was only 14 when she passed away in 1797:

Play for me, Papa. Now! Amen.

An altar tomb in the churchyard marks the place where Arthur Young has been lying with his wife since 1820, and a more delightful resting-place he could not have desired.

Creator of the literature of agriculture, he was born in London in 1741, was irregularly educated, spent some years in a merchant’s ofiice, and then, his father dying heavily in debt, came here to farm his mother’s land. Marrying at 24, he took a farm for himself, and from this experiences sprang the first of many books. His Political Arithmetic won him a European reputation. His Annals of Agriculture, for which he induced George the Third to write him an article under the name of Ralph Robinson of Windsor, had run to nearly 50 volumes before his death. His most famous work described his travels in France, where he perceived abuses leading inevitably to the Revolution, whose early stages he lived through.

No phase of life on the land was left untouched by his vivid pen, which popularised scientific agriculture with the aristocracy, and left pictures which live in literature of scenes he loved. He was appointed Secretary to the Board of Agriculture. One of his visitors at Bradfield was Fanny Burney, a relative by marriage, who greatly esteemed him and described his home in her novel Camilla. They were together present at the Warren Hastings trial at Westminster. His closing years were unhappily saddened by blindness.

* This has either gone or my taste differs from Mee's - I found all the glass here execrable.


Chevington, Suffolk

Did I say that St Edmund in Hargrave was my favourite church of the day? Well All Saints would push hard to replace it with an extraordinary chancel arch, stunning poppyheads and a beautifully laid out, light and airy chancel (actually the whole church is light and airy) and the exterior is pretty special too especially the Norman south door.

ALL SAINTS. Of flint and septaria. Transitional nave, see the S doorway, which has a round arch, one order of shafts with thick crocket capitals, and an outer arch order of dog-tooth, repeated in the outer order of the jambs. One small Norman N window also preserved, and the plain single-chamfered N doorway. E.E. chancel with windows. The E window is of 1697, still ‘ Gothic’ in so far as the five lights of the straight-headed windows are arched. The chancel arch is very original and successful. Tall rather narrow arch on moulded corbels and two completely plain side arches no doubt to put altars in. The nave has one C13 window with plate tracery on the S side, another with slightly later tracery on the N side, and Perp windows otherwise. The nave roof has carved tie-beams dated 1590 and 1638. The W tower is Perp. Money was left for its building in 1484. Base with flushwork panelling. The prominent pinnacles are a restoration done by the Earl of Bristol, Bishop of Derry, i.e. c. 1800. - FONT. Perp, octagonal. - BENCHES. Broad with blank tracery and poppy-heads, some of them figures with musical instruments. - CHEST. Dec with tracery and large leaves. On the l. upright affronted animals. - PLATE. Cup 1595.

South door (2)

Looking west (1)

Chest carving (1)

Poppyhead (19) Poppyhead (12)

CHEVINGTON. Its houses are scattered in wild heath country, but the scene round the village pond has a beauty of another kind. Here the monks of Bury had a country house, of which the moat, still full of water for most of the year, can be seen. The monks saw Chevington’s church much as we see it. It was built when the Norman style was changing into English, and has good work of that period in the north and south doorways. The chancel with its lovely windows is 13th century, and the tower, with ornamental pinnacles, 15th. Inside are Elizabethan roof beams resting on stone angels, a fine roodbeam, a 15th century font, a lovely screen with tracery outlined in gold, and some old poppyheads showing quaint musicians. Every pew has its three-branched iron candlestick. On the altar is a beautiful crucifix with an ivory figure, but the best possession of the church is a rich 14th century chest, with carving of birds, a winged monster, and apes shaking hands. A parson of the 13th century is remembered because his coffin lies here, and another parson of the 20th century is remembered for his service of 55 years. He was John White, and the lectern and the pulpit are in his memory.


Ickworth, Suffolk

I had given up on St Mary regarding it as an inaccessible church for the simple reason that, unlike at Wimpole in Cambridgeshire, you cannot visit unless you pay to enter the grounds of Ickworth - however having discovered you can visit the gardens for as little as £3.10 a re-visit is on the cards, I'd assumed, this being a National Trust property, entry would a lot pricier for very little return.

Unlike Wimpole, which is still a working church and thus kept accessible, St Mary was made redundant in 1970 and has, seemingly, been slowly dying ever since. Simon Knott's entry can be found here.

UPDATE: St Mary is currently being extensively restored and it is hoped that it will be open to the public this summer. So a re-visit re-visit is on the cards. Details of the restoration project can be found here.

ST MARY. In the park of the house, a considerable distance from this and anything else. Stuccoed W tower of 1833 in the lancet style. In the porch head of a Norman window with saltire-cross decoration. C13 chancel of knapped flint. On the E side three stepped lancet windows and an oculus over. Double-chamfered reveals. Slit lancets all along the S side. Early C14 N aisle. Three-light intersected windows with cusping. The S aisle is of 1833. - WALL PAINTING. S of the E window. A whole-length figure, probably the angel of the Annunciation. Early C14. - STAINED GLASS. Mostly Flemish roundels. - PLATE. All silver-gilt: Flagon 1697; Almsdish 1758; French Paten C18; Cup 1810.

St Mary (1)

....... In this lovely setting stands the church, whose 700-year-old chancel and 600-year-old nave are under one fine roof. The tower, like the hall itself, is 18th century. The interior has much beautiful modern oak, and among the old possessions of the church are a three-decker pulpit, a tiny window which was once a peephole, a double piscina unusually placed in the angle of a nave window, and a medallion of old glass. On the gallery wall are the royal arms in needlework, and in the chancel is an old wall-painting of Gabriel.

But it is the memories of the Herveys which make the greatest appeal in this place. The fine east window has a Jesse Tree in glass as a tribute to the Marquess of Bristol who died in 1911, and there are verses by Horace Walpole on the gravestone of Lady Mary Hervey, whose praises were sung by Pope and Gay and the immortal Voltaire. Under the painted roof of the south aisle is a beautiful marble tablet to those of the family buried in the vault. More than a score of them lie here, many with memorial stones, a family record stretching back to the 15th century.

Hargrave, Suffolk

Back on course I found St Edmund surprisingly open given its location up a lane and quite isolated and charmingly rustic. You enter, unusually, via the chancel - which is separated from the nave by a simple screen with naive carvings in the spandrels -  and immediately the simplicity of the building enwraps you. I have to say that St Edmund was my favourite visit of the day.

ST EDMUND. Plain Tudor brick tower with buttresses and a Perp stone window. Nave and chancel. The S doorway Transitional and very simple. The chancel windows E. E. but all C19. Humble N aisle of 1869. - SCREEN. Perp, rather raw; the top parts must have been odd. (On the E face carvings of a dragon, a fox, fishes, a unicorn, etc. Carved rood beam above. LG) - PLATE. Cup 1663.

Rood screen

Rood screen detail (1)

Rood screen detail (5)

HARGRAVE. In this charming corner of England, now with a hall, church, and rectory among the cornfields away from the village, the Normans built a church, but only their plain doorways are left. The brick tower was built in the 15th century when the chancel was 200 years old. There is a 15th century font with an old cover, and an old carved roodbeam; but the best possession is the 15th century oak screen, with fine carvings of a fox and a unicorn, with dragons, fishes, and eagles.

Hoxne, Suffolk

On my way to Hargrave to get the visit back on track I passed through Hoxne and stopped at SS Peter & Paul which is simply huge but felt sadly neglected. The north aisle has been turned in to an exhibition hall focusing on St Edmund and the Hoxne Hoard - the hoard is self explanatory but the reason St Edmund is of interest here is because Hoxne is the reputed site of his martyrdom.

Despite the general air of dilapidation there is a very good font, some excellent, albeit vandalised, poppyheads (including the wolf guarding St Edmund's head) and a series of faded wallpaintings.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. One of the grandest of the W towers in this part of Suffolk. Perp. Stair-turret higher than the tower, tall angle pinnacles. Frieze of shields in quatrefoils at the base. Buttresses and battlements with flushwork panelling. W doorway with crowns, mitres, fleurons, and shields in the arch mouldings. Two niches by the W window. Nice, more modest N doorway, but also with shields and fleurons in the arch. Perp also the rest of the church except for the chancel which was rebuilt in 1879. Tall windows. The arcade of six bays seems earlier. Octagonal piers, arches of one chamfer and one hollow chamfer. Perp clerestory on the S side only. - FONT. Octagonal. Against the stem four seated and four standing figures. Against the bowl the Signs of the Evangelists and four angels with shields. - BENCHES. Four with poppy-heads and two seated figures to each end, l. and r. of the poppy-head. - WALL PAINTINGS. Against the N wall, from W to E: St Christopher, the Seven Deadly Sins represented as growing on a tree (two devils are busy sawing it, while at the top of the tree stands an elegant youth), the Seven Works of Mercy with explanatory scrolls; dim. - PLATE. Set 1790. - MONUMENT. Thomas Maynard d. 1742. By Charles Stanley. Standing, in the pose made fashionable by Guelfi’s Craggs Monument in Westminster Abbey. His elbow leans on an urn standing on a pedestal. Against this a fine relief of a woman and eight children. Obelisk background.

Font (1)

Poppyhead (9)

John Thruston 1606

HOXNE. It is King Edmund’s village; its people will always believe that here the martyr king was chained to a tree, scourged with whips, and riddled with arrows till he died. On the death of King Offa Edmund was crowned King. of East Anglia, though he was only 15. He was a man whom Alfred would have loved, a model of Christian virtue and enlightened government. An old chronicler tells us that he turned neither to the right hand by being puffed up, nor to the left by yielding to the faults of human weakness; that he was a cheerful giver, and to the widows and orphans the kindest of patrons. For ten years he reigned in peace by paying tribute to the Danes, but in spite of his tribute the Danes burst in to East Anglia, burning the towns, and destroying the monasteries as they came. On this very ground the battle was fought, and to save further bloodshed Edmund surrendered himself to the foe. They bade him surrender half his treasure, to reign as a vassal, and to change his faith. His faith he refused to change, and they stripped him, chained him to a tree, scourged him as the Romans scourged his Master, shot him with arrows, and finally beheaded him. His body lay here for 33 years before it was taken to the splendid shrine at Bury St Edmunds. In after years Canute rebuilt the minster there, laid his crown upon the altar, and endowed the church as a Benedictine Monastery. Below the church at Hoxne is an old brick bridge replacing the wooden one which is believed to have been set up near the spot where the king hid from the Danes; in the library close by is a medallion showing him hiding under the bridge. The story is that he took refuge from his enemies until he was discovered by a wedding party, who saw his spurs glittering in the moonlight and sent news of his whereabouts to the Danes.

A little way up the road is one of Suffolk’s delightful English houses, known as The Abbey. It has beautiful brick and timber walls, a quaint porch, and four curious wooden figures linked with Roman mythology, but it is chiefly interesting because it stands on the site of a wooden church in which King Edmund’s body is believed to have rested for a generation while the shrine was being prepared at Bury St Edmunds. It is said that from the windows of the Abbey can be seen beyond the trees the very field where the king was done to death. We came to it when the harvest had been gathered and the hillside was waiting for the plough, and we remembered that in olden days (indeed until almost within living memory) there stood here a great oak like a lonely monarch of the fields. It crashed one summer’s day near the middle of last century. It had long been a place of pilgrimage, and today there is here a stone cross with two arrows and a simple inscription based on the old tradition. It all seems true enough, for many years ago there was in Hoxne church a block cut from the trunk of the tree, and embedded in it was an arrow, which is today preserved at Hengrave Hall, Bury St Edmunds.

The houses of this town are a veritable delight, some timbered and many thatched, their windows looking over the lovely country where the River Waveney winds among pleasant woods and meadows. It has elms shading an old fashioned well on a tiny green, almshouses that have long survived the great house of the man who built them, and a medieval vicarage with quaint brickwork, grand old beams, and traces of a moat. Charming above the red roofs is the grey tower of the 15th century church, massive and about 100 feet high, with a beautiful window set between canopied niches. The south porch has a doorway of the 14th century, and we come into the nave (which has a handsome old cornice on the roof) by a door that has been opening for over 400 years. The nave arcade of six low arches rests on 13th century pillars, and the nave walls have fragments of paintings fading after 500 years; they show the Works of Mercy and the Last Judgment, and one has a tree which is being sawn through by demons, its branches having quaint figures on them. Among the treasures of the church are an ancient altar stone, a reredos made from an old screen, an exquisite peace memorial with a little silver Crucifix and beautiful lettering, and two flags which tell a tragic tale. They were flying at the masthead of a ship wrecked in a terrible storm in 1870, and, having been picked up by another vessel off Cape Finisterre, they were given to this village in memory of two Home seamen who perished in the wreck.

The splendid font, with rich panels above a moulding supported by angels, is 15th century. The organ was made from an old barrel-organ. Among the little wooden figures on the benches is a quaint carving of a wolf holding King Edmund’s head, and on modern screen in the tower are four soldiers shooting St Edmund. In the north chapel stands a finely carved figure of Sir Thomas Maynard of the 18th century, and on a marble monument with a canopy are inscriptions to Sir Edward Kerrison of 1886 and the famous Sir Edward who commanded a regiment at Waterloo, where a horse was shot under him.

Denham nr Eye, Suffolk

Having realised I was in the wrong place I decided to press on to St John the Baptist nevertheless, after all I was where I was so I might as well carry on.

St John is small and remote, one might even say isolated, so I was amazed, and delighted, to find it open. Towerless with a huge bricked up arch in the south nave wall, which implies that this was once a much larger building - apparently there was once a college here -  and a rather austere interior but altogether charming. Of note are the CIR arms and the unknown effigy, both Pevsner and Mee mention the Bedingfield palimpset brass but I could see no sign of it.

ST JOHN BAPTIST. The W tower exists no longer. Dec chancel, see the S doorway. Perp nave. Much brick repair. The N chapel of one bay has also been demolished. The arch is still visible. - MISERICORDS. The centres in every case hacked off. - STAINED GLASS. In the W window one angel. - MONUMENTS. Excellent late C13 effigy of a Lady wearing a wimple. She is holding her heart in her hands. Two angels by her head. - BRASS to A. Bedingfield d. 1574. Palimpsest of a Flemish brass to Jacobus Wegheschede, c. 1500. The rest is used for a brass of c. 1580 at Yealmpton, Devon.


Unknown C13th lady (1)

CIR arms

DENHAM. It is near Eye and has signs of an ancient past; it is thought there was once a college here connected with Home Abbey little more than a mile away. A moated farm by the church is still called College Farm, and six misereres in the chancel were probably the stalls of the brethren. The built-up arch of a transept and the foundations of a tower speak of a more imposing building. Outside, below the east window, is a Latin inscription in worn lettering saying that “William de Kirkesby, Prior of Norwich, placed me here, on whose soul God have mercy.”

There was a Norman church on the site, but most of the present building is left from the 14th century. Of that period are the fine windows of the chancel. The miserere carvings are much defaced. A tiny angel and a fleur-de-lys, pale and delicate, are fragments of the early glass of the west window. Here lie many of the Bedingfields, in a chapel of which the arch remains. There is a nameless figure on a tomb, and a palimpsest brass in the chancel has on one side a portrait of Anthony Bedingfield in ruff and gown, and on the other a Flemish inscription of 1500, and part of three figures. There is a pathetic interest about the nameless stone figure of a girl in a recess of the nave. A wreath holds in the folds of her veil, angels support her head, and the small hands are clasped over a reliquary.

Eye, Suffolk

Last Thursday didn't go quite as planned due to the stupidity of relying on Google and TomTom - a combination that is always going to end in disaster. My intention was to take advantage of the eldest being back from Uni (thus freeing me from having to be back home for the youngest at the end of the schoolday) to knock off 11 churches in the Ickworth area starting with St Mary Denham.

Having Googled Denham for the postcode - no I didn't notice that the church was called St John the Baptist nor that every other church was in IP29 and this was IP21 (who knew Suffolk was so big) and not even the fact that Tom reckoned it would take 1hr 35mins to get there alerted any alarms - I set off into the depths of Suffolk missing my intended first visit by almost 35 miles.

Happily this overshoot took me through Eye so I stopped off at SS Peter & Paul. One of those spectacularly massive wool churches that Suffolk is known for, the exterior is lovely but inside it has had a good scrubbing and is not the interior it could be. Having said that the rood screen and dado are amazing and there's enough interest to make this well worth a visit.

ST PETER AND ST PAUL. The W tower of Eye church is one of the wonders of Suffolk, 101ft tall and panelled in flushwork from foot to parapet. A frieze of shields at the base. A frieze of shields above the W doorway, which is also flanked by niches. A four-light window with transom, then a small two-light window, another above that, and then the bell-openings, two of two lights side by side in each direction. The parapet is of stone, very tall, and panelled also. It carries battlements and pinnacles. Among the shields is that of the de la Poles. The ground floor of the tower is fan-vaulted. The first floor opens with a stone gallery towards the nave (cf. Mildenhall). Perp S aisle with battlements decorated by flushwork emblems, Perp S chapel with a flying buttress supporting the wall in front of the priest’s doorway (cf. Blythburgh, Yaxley). Chancel with buttresses decorated by flushwork. Clerestory with double windows in the chancel, single windows in the nave. In the chancel flushwork panelling between them. Perp S porch of two stages. The sides are panelled all over, and it certainly adds a piquant touch that at some restoration the flint has here been replaced by brick. The front is all stone-faced. Big polygonal buttresses, left incomplete. Above the entrance a frieze of quatrefoils, then one of lozenges, then a two-light window. The interior was vaulted, but only the angle-shafts remain. All this is Perp, but the s doorway is a survival from a preceding building, a good piece of the C13, with one order of shafts carrying crocket capitals and a finely moulded arch. The inner order has a band of dog-tooth. The nave walls inside cant towards the tower. The arcades are of five bays, with octagonal piers, finely moulded capitals, and arches of one chamfer and one hollow chamfer  - rather disappointing after the external display. Chancel chapels of two bays, C14. The N arcade has quatrefoil piers and arches with two hollow chamfers, the S arcade piers are quatrefoil with fillets on the lobes and spurs in the diagonals. The arches have three hollow chamfers. The capitals also differ a little. In the N aisle is a big recess with cusped and sub-cusped arch and crocketed ogee gable flanked by buttresses carrying finials. That also must be c. 1350 at the latest. So the whole arcades and the walls of S as well as N aisle are really pre-Perp . Arch-braced nave roof springing from wall-posts. They alternate with arched braces springing from the apexes of wide wall arches made of arched braces running W-E. - SCREEN. The only screen in Suffolk restored with loft and rood. On the dado fourteen paintings of c. 1500, all bad. Rich cusped and sub-cusped entrance arch. Carved foliage trail on the rail above the dado. The rest in a bad state. Ribbed coving supported in front by traceried pendant arches. Above this an upper tier of ribbed coving. A cresting on top. Inscription commemorating John Gold. - Interesting C17 stone SHELF for charity loaves (S porch). — MONUMENTS. In the N aisle to Nicholas Cutler, 1568. Tomb-chest with three shields in lozenges. On this two poor columns and a flat Perp arch with straight top. Quatrefoil frieze and cresting above this . The columns are the only indication of the Renaissance. - William Honyng, 1569, in the S chapel. A copy of the former. - John Brown d. 1732. Unsigned. At the foot an excellent relief of the Good Samaritan.

Rood screen


North aisle window

EYE. It is a quaint town of delightful byways with many fine old houses, a castle on a hill, and a grand old church. The Romans knew it, for many of their coins and fragments of one of their houses have been found. On the hill where the Saxons had a fortress the Normans built a castle, and in the Conqueror’s day a priory was also founded here; we can still see one of its archways, and fragments of its broken walls, in a charming garden. The castle crowns a remarkable hill from which Romans, Saxons, and Normans have looked far over the county, as if it were indeed the eye of Suffolk. It is very small and now a little forlorn, but it has a courtyard protected by eight strong buttressed walls with Roman brick among the stones, and a tower built by Robert Malet, whose father fought at Hastings.

The church is a noble building with 13th century fragments, but much of it was rebuilt five centuries ago by John de la Pole. His shields are on the splendid tower with striking buttresses and a magnificent parapet soaring over 100 feet. The medieval builders of Suffolk delighted in their glorious porches, and the south porch here is a great example of their fine achievements. It shelters a lovely 13th century doorway with rich moulding and capitals, and has a magnificent carved door believed to be as old as itself. The curious dole table close by is a monument to Henry Cutler, who died in 1601 and left money for the poor. Both nave and aisles have battlemented parapets, and the modern oak roof of the nave has fragments of old work richly painted and gilded, with a host of saints, elaborate bosses, and queer old heads, smiling and ugly, supporting the wall-posts.

The spacious nave has 14th century pillars and a 15th century clerestory, and the old arches of the tower and the chancel enhance its dignity. The chancel also has a clerestory with fine flint arcading between its 12 windows. The buttresses of the east wall are panelled, and one of the little surprises is a buttress cut away to make room for a chancel door. The south chapel was built about 1410, the north chapel with its ancient altar stone a century later. The 15th century font has a remarkable cover like a lantern, with eight shafts, a white dove emblazoned on its ceiling, and a canopy rising about 20 feet.

There is an Elizabethan monument to Nicholas Cutler, whose helmet hangs here; another to his friend William Honying, and a beautiful 14th century recess which has lost the tomb of a knight. One of the Windows is in memory of General Kerrison, who fought at Waterloo and was for 28 years the town’s MP; another is to George Herbert, who died in 1873 after having been parish clerk  since the close of the 18th century. The lovely chancel has a remarkable reredos with a sculpture of the Ascension designed by a vicar of our own time. The iron handle on the vestry door is a fine bit of smithwork, and beautiful silver lamps hang from the roof.

The chief glory of the church is its screen, owing its splendour to old artists and modern craftsmen. The new in it is beautiful, the old is priceless. One of the outstanding roodscreens of Suffolk, it has been much restored this century; the top part is all new, but it is all admirable. The great roodbeam and the Crucifixion group is a triumph of modern carving which would enrich any screen; it has 11 angels praying high above the nave. The old craftsmen’s work has 11 panels with exquisite canopies, their spandrels full of flowers, the rich cornice boldly carved. The lower panels are as fine as any in the famous Devon screens, and here, among a quaint collection of portraits, are St Agnes, St Cecilia, St Edmund, St John, Edward the Confessor, and Henry the Sixth. One lovely panel shows St Ursula with nuns gathered under her cloak and St Helena carrying her cross. But perhaps the most interesting painting is of William of Norwich, the boy said to have been crucified by the Jews in the 12th century. He is shown with wounded hands and feet, a heavy cross on his shoulder, and three nails in one hand.

Next door to the church is a charming old timber house with an overhanging storey carved with shells and oak leaves, and a corner-post with a canopied niche sheltering the angel Gabriel. It is a bit of pure Suffolk delight, one of the lovely old houses which seem to whisper that they are well content.

A famous citizen of the town was William Hoare, RA, the son of a well-to-do farmer who afterwards lost his money in the South Sea Bubble. Here early in the 18th century he drew his first pictures, forerunners of fine portraits which were to make him famous. Most of his days were spent at Bath, but it was here that he first saw beauty.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Our Lady & The English Martyrs, Cambridge

Yesterday I revisited St Peter for internals and finished of Cambridge, visiting seven Victorian built churches only one of which, Our Lady & The English Martyrs, is worth writing up.

At first sight I wrote OLEM off as a Victorian Gothic monstrosity but as I wandered around the exterior I was struck by the quality of the building and the interior stunned me with lots of rather good glass and impressive architecture (oh and apart from three revisits, Babraham, Guilden Morden and Stow cum Quy, that finished the north west quadrant).

The Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, or OLEM,  is situated in the heart of the city of Cambridge. An imposing example of the 19th Century Gothic Revival, it was built to the designs of Dunn & Hansom of Newcastle between 1885 and 1890, and founded solely by Mrs Yolande Marie Louise Lyne-Stephens, a former ballet dancer at the Paris Opera and Drury Lane, London, and widow of a wealthy banker. She promised to build the church on the feast of Our Lady of the Assumption, and Monsignor Christopher Scott - the first Rector - also wished to commemorate the Catholic Martyrs who died between 1535 and 1681, over thirty of whom had been in residence at the University.
Designed by architects Dunn and Hansom of Newcastle and built by the Cambridge firm of Rattee and Kett, OLEM is constructed in Casterton, Ancaster and Combe Down Stone.  The church is a traditional cruciform structure in the early-decorated style with a large tower at the crossing, a polygonal apse and a west bell tower with a 65-metre spire, visible for miles around Cambridge. Quite often, it is quoted by visitors and local residents as a location point. The approximate internal dimensions of the church are: length 48 meters [156 ft] width across the aisles 16 meters [51 ft] width at the transepts 22 meters [71 ft], the height of the nave 15 meters [71ft].

Inside and over the west door stands the figure of Our Lady of the Assumption crowned with lilies and standing on the crescent moon with the vanquished serpent beneath. The west window shows the English Martyrs arranged in two principal groups, the clergy on the south side with St John Fisher in their midst and the laity on the north grouped round St Thomas More.

Beside the South aisle is an ancient statue of Our Lady with the Child Jesus.  This statue is understood to be a gift in 1850 from Emmanuel College, which was built on the site of a Dominican Priory dating back to 1274.  The Church of the Black Friars of Cambridge contained a statue of Our Blessed Lady to which much pilgrimage was had.  Although unconfirmed this could be that statue.

The Chapel of the Holy Souls with the book of Remembrance is located at the west end of the south aisle. The sculpture above the altar depicts the solace and relief of the Holy Souls in Purgatory through the intercession of Our Lady and the angel who comforted Our Lord in Gethsemane. The Chapel is now appropriately used at the two great Christian celebrations: at Easter for the Empty Tomb indicating the Risen Lord, and at Christmas for the Crib.

The aisle windows were almost completely destroyed when the church was struck by a bomb on 1941, but were subsequently replaced in their original form. They epitomise the various sufferings of the English Martyrs, their being brought before the Council, racked, hung, drawn and quartered in the sight and sympathy of the faithful. The windows of the north aisle portray Carthusians, St Thomas Moore, B. Margaret Pole and others, while the south aisle is made a “Fisher Aisle”, devoted to scenes from the life of St John, Cardinal Bishop of Rochester, who in so many important ways is identified with Cambridge.

The best general impression of the interior is obtained from the gateway in the iron screen dividing the nave from the ante-chapel.  The heads of the four great preachers of Our Lady’s Graces are carved in the four corners of the nave. The windows along the nave represent saints connected with the Church in Britain, arranged approximately in chronological order from east to west with a few additional figures in the eastern windows.

The Rood which is between the nave and the sanctuary is of the type known as “Majestas”; the figure of  Our Lord, with glorified wounds, robed in alb, stole and pallium [as High Priest] and crowned [as King “reigning from the Tree”]. This was the earliest type of crucifix; the realistic figure, now almost universal, did not come into general use until the beginning of the thirteenth century. The cross, inspired by that at Nuremberg, is about 6 metres high, carved in oak; the figures of Christ and of Our Lady and of Saint John are of Kauri pine. They were carved locally by Mr. B. Maclean Leach and completed and blessed in 1914.

Beyond the present, modern altar is the High Altar with the relics of Saints Felix and Constantia, martyrs of the early Church. The tabernacle and ornaments of the altar are of exquisite French workmanship from Lyons. The baldacchino which covers the High Altar is similar to that over the tomb of Robert the Wise (1275-1343) at Santa Chiara, Naples. It is one of the earliest forms of adornment of a Christian altar. At the top is the figure of Our Lord in glory supported on each side by angels in act of adoration.

The design and the re-ordering of the sanctuary was done by Mr. Gerard Goalen of Harlow after the Second Vatican Council. On 7th April, 1973, Bishop Charles Grant consecrated the present central. The original High Altar has subsequently been used mainly for reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.

OUR LADY AND THE ENGLISH MARTYRS (R.C.), Hills Road (B). 1887-90 by Dunn & Hanson. A very ambitious big building appearing  to its greatest advantage from the lawns of Downing College. Tower with tall spire over the E porch, crossing with big crossing tower. Transept of two bays depth separated from the crossing by a very tall octagonal pier. The (ritual) E end is polygonal. Stone tierceron vault. All the detail Dec. Much carving, the statuary by Boulton of Cheltenham.

North aisle window (4)

 Corbel (8)

Reredos detail

The Roman Catholic church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs is an imposing 19th century building with a fine belfry tower and a spire rising 216 feet, the most conspicuous feature of the town till the coming of the great tower of the University Library. It has a second tower over the central crossing, an embattled lantern with a staircase enclosed in a turret of pierced stonework. The walls inside and out are richly adorned. There are flying buttresses from the aisles to the nave, beautiful vaulted roofs, and richly moulded arches on clustered pillars with handsome capitals. On the west front are figures of the Madonna with St Joseph and St Anne, and a scene of her Crowning. On the north porch, under the belfry tower, is the Madonna with the English martyrs, and between the two doors stands John Fisher in his cardinal’s robes. In the porch are carved portraits of the Duke of Norfolk who gave the site and Mrs Lyne-Stephens who gave the church. Among the heads on the hoods of the south aisle windows are the architects (Dunn and Hansom), Christopher Scott (pastor for 54 years), and Cardinal Newman.

Over the west doorway, within the church, the Madonna stands on the crescent moon with the vanquished serpent below, and on each side are Prior John Houghton and John Fisher, who stands also on the rich stone reredos of his memorial chapel. The glass in the west window shows two groups of martyrs, the clergy with John Fisher, the laity with Sir Thomas More, and the aisle windows have scenes of their suffering. Under a canopy in the south aisle is an oak statue of the Madonna 400 years old.