Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Semer, Suffolk

On my way home I saw a signpost for Semer church so stopped for the last visit of the day. I drove past All Saints at least four times before I spotted it at the bottom of a field, well hidden by its surrounding trees. After finding Ringshall open I rather hoped All Saints would be too but, sadly, I found it locked, keyholders were listed but it was late in the day, starting to rain and the light was going so, since it didn't look likely to be that interesting, I took exteriors and headed home. It is a pretty spot though.

ALL SAINTS. In the meadow by the stream amid old trees. Much renewed. Chancel 1873, timber S porch 1899. - FONT. Square, plain, C14. - PAINTINGS. Moses and Aaron, C18. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup and Cover.

All Saints (1)

Astonishingly [and I am genuinely astonished as I thought that even if Mee always found something positive, however awful a place may be, he was a meticulous recorder] Semer is the third church/village that he missed in my edition. I don't know if this rectified in later editions or not.

Ringshall, Suffolk

I was pleasantly surprised to find St Catherine open as, due its remote location, I fully expected to find it locked with no keyholders listed; sadly there's not much interest inside [there's some very damaged wallpainting] but the exterior is lovely and sports a Norman tower. I have to say, though, that just for being open it's definitely right up there in my best of Suffolk list.

ST KATHERINE. Unbuttressed Norman W tower. An original S window on the ground floor, and an altered N window. Norman windows in the nave, two on the N side (visible only inside), one altered on the S. The tower was completed and remodelled c. 1300, see the arch towards the nave with triple chamfering dying into the imposts. Of the same time the simple S doorway, and the chancel S doorway. Dec chancel E window, and also Dec the timber S porch. Very rough nave roof with tie-beams, kingposts, and two-way struts. The tie-beams are placed uncommonly low and go right through the walls. In the chancel hammerbeam roof with arched braces to collar-beams. Arched braces also connecting the wall-posts from W to E. These braces are carved. - FONT. C13; Purbeck marble, octagonal. With the usual two shallow blank pointed arches on each side. - PLATE. Cup and Cover Elizabethan.

St Catherine (4)


Wallpainting (3)

RINGSHALL. It has only a cottage or two, a moated farmhouse on the site of an ancient chapel, and a church set on a hill. Most of this small church is 15th century, but it has a Norman doorway over which are traces of 14th century paintings of the Seven Acts of Mercy. Among its ancient possessions are an arcaded font, an Elizabethan chalice, and a fine hammerbeam chancel roof, on which are the initials of Richard Borsall, who paid for the roof 500 years ago. The east window keeps green the memory of Charles Parker, who ministered here for 51 years last century.

Great Bricett, Suffolk

Having finished the Lavenham deanery churches and not having planned any other visits I went on a tour looking for churches and stumbled upon SS Mary & Laurence. The oddness of this building is explained by it being the remnant of an Augustine priory. Inside it is fascinating and rather beautiful and utterly unlike a conventional church, chancel and nave are all of a piece leading to a long narrow building. Definitely the most interesting visit of the day.

ST MARY AND ST LAURENCE. The church is a fragment of a church of Augustinian Canons. The priory was founded c. 1115 by Ralph Fitz-Brian but later became a cell of St Léonard near Limoges. What remains is a long plain oblong. But the church had transepts and these had E apses. Their existence has been proved by excavation, and a main E apse can be surmised with certainty. That was the plan in the C12. It is assumed however that in 1110 no transepts were yet envisaged. Towards the end of the C12 the E end was made straight and second transepts were built to its N and S. Their responds and arches are still visible in the walls. Of the early transepts only traces can be detected. The only impressive Norman piece is the N doorway with one order of shafts, decorated but defaced, an inner order of jambs and one with close decoration, zigzag in the arch, and a partly illegible inscription down the iambs. One blocked Norman slit window in the N wall, one taller round-arched window in the S wall. Other windows of c. 1300. The big five-light 12 window with flowing tracery is Dec. In fact it is said to date from 1868, but it is most probably a copy of what was there before. Tie-beam roof with kingposts and four-way struts. - FONT. Square, Norman, with intersected arches on two sides, trefoil arches on columns on the third, and very oddly pointed—trefoil arches on the fourth. - PULPIT. A very unusual design; probably Victorian. - STAINED GLASS. Fine figures of the four Evangelists, early C14; from the tracery of the E window. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup.

Pulipt (1)

Looking east

South door (2)

GREAT BRICETT. It has the charm of blossoming orchards in spring and of thatched cottages all the year round. The white manor and the 600-year-old church stand like brothers arm-in-arm by the green, the west wall of the church forming part of the house. The church is rather like a long barn with a gable bell-turret at one end and a fine old porch paved with black and white cobbles. Near it is a round sundial which is thought to have marked the sunny hours in Norman days, or, according to Mr Munro Cautley, perhaps even in Saxon days. A Norman doorway with three rows of zigzag leads to the simple nave and chancel, with a few old carved benches and a splendid Jacobean chest and altar table. There is a fine arcaded Norman font, and in a window are some fragments of 14th century glass showing angels with outstretched wings.

Chelsworth, Suffolk

All Saints should, on paper, be awful - cement rendered exterior and overly restored inside - but is strangely lovely. I think a large part of its charm is its location beside the river Brett however that's not all, it just "feels" right. Definitely the church of the day, not even the hideously restored doom painting could spoil that, but not the most interesting one, that came later.

ALL SAINTS. Not a big church. The outstanding feature is the early C14 tomb recess in the N aisle. It projects to the outside, and has here a flat flint wall with diagonal buttresses. Top frieze of ballflower and two circular pinnacles. Inside the recess has a depressed two-centred arch under a normal two-centred arch under a gable. The arches are carried on short shafts, still with naturalistic foliage. Between the two arches is a big, somewhat depressed trefoil, between the upper arch and the gable a slimmer pointed trefoil. The spandrel surfaces are diapered. l. and r. buttresses, diapered also in their lower parts, and ending in finials. The main gable is crocketed and carries a finial too. The interior of the niche has a rib-vault with finely moulded ribs. The style is that of the Royal Court, just before the introduction of ogee forms. The buttresses prevent the adjoining small lancet windows from having evenly splayed jambs on the l. and the r. Otherwise the church has an early C14 W tower, a Dec chancel (one S window), and two early C14 S aisle windows. Of the Perp features the best are the S porch and S doorway. The porch is tall and has Perp side windows. Handsome ceiling. The doorway is uncommonly ambitious. Hood-mould on angel-busts. Fleurons in jambs and arch. Ogee gable and two niches l. and r. Arcade of three bays. Tall piers with four attached shafts and moulded arches. - FONT. C14, with cusped, crocketed little arches. - SOUTH DOOR with tracery and a border of quatrefoils. - (SCULPTURE. Two original statues in niches in the S porch. P. G. M. Dickinson.) - WALL PAINTING. Doom over the chancel arch, badly restored in 1849. - (STAINED GLASS, in the S porch. Said to be of Pre-Reformation date.) - PLATE. Cup and Cover 1663; Paten and Almsdish 1735.

All Saints (1)

John de St Philibert 1359 (2)

South porch glass (19)

CHELSWORTH. It was to us a bright oasis in a sea of golden corn, with here a peep of beauty, there a wide vista of loveliness, a panorama seen piece by piece as we wandered from point to point. In this tranquil scene we came upon a thrilling echo from world  history, an institution once the mightiest known to man, the Holy Roman Empire.

Through the grounds of the hall meanders the River Brett, and here stands the 14th century clerestoried church, with a tower as old as itself. A curious feature of the exterior is that the north wall of the church, dignified with a ballflower cornice and octagonal turrets, is longer than the others, a riddle whose solution lies within. The south porch, with its old traceried door, has in a window 17th century glass showing a bishop and three children in a boat, and a church tower with birds in flight round the spire. The 14th century font has eight canopied panels, ancient tiles are set at the foot of the rood-loft steps, fine roofs cover the nave and aisles, there is a grand old chest, and in the sanctuary are two splendid Jacobean chairs with figures of women, one holding a cross and one a bird.

One of the medieval treasures of the church was found in the middle of last century, when a great surprise delighted the people here. During the restoration of the wall above the lofty chancel arch there was revealed a wonderful Doom picture. It is believed to have been the work of a monk of Bury St Edmunds, to whose abbey the church belonged. The painting shows Christ on a rainbow, with trumpeting angels flying about Him, the blessed crowned with haloes on one side, and on the other side a horned Satan, with a barbed tail, exulting over the condemned, encircled by flames from the pit.

In the chancel is a stone showing the handsome face of General Stracey Smyth, for many years aide-de-camp to the father of Queen Victoria. He died in 1825 when he was Governor of New Brunswick. A surprising memorial is a marble on the wall to Sir Robert Pocklington, whose inscription tells that he received the insignia of the military order of Maria Theresa from the Emperor of Germany. The order is carved beneath a feathered helmet. The emperor, who bestowed the reward in 1794, was Francis the Second, last emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Pocklington having rescued him in battle after he had been captured by French cavalry. So he saved the honour and liberty of the titular ruler of the empire won by Augustus in the sea battle against Antony and Cleopatra off Actium, in 31 BC. The crown he wore was that of Augustus, of Charlemagne, of Barbarossa, and Maximilian. That crown, spared to him by the valour of the Englishman sleeping here, he wore another 12 years, and then, quietly at a meeting of his Parliament, dissolved the Empire.

A stone canopy with pinnacled buttresses in the aisle is a fragment of a lost tomb of a lord of the manor. The peace memorial is to Charles Peck, the only man from Chelsworth who did not come home from the Great War. The one-man peace memorial declares that

The people of Chelsworth erected this tablet in proud memory
of Charles Peck, who gave his life for his country in the Great War,
25th September, 1917, aged 19

It is a very rare example of a village memorial to a single fallen soldier, reminding us that there is one

In every English wood and hill and lane
Who will not pass this way again

Bildeston, Suffolk

It is immediately obvious that something odd is going on at St Mary, first the tower, with an unlikely spire, looks wrong and then to the north west of the graveyard is a large pile of rubble. All becomes clear on entering the church where an explanatory note tells the tale of the tower collapse on Thursday 8th May 1975; it was not rebuilt until 1997.

A large building remote from the village which I found, perhaps because of repairs subsequent to the tower collapse, to be soulless which is a shame because it has several elements that should make it grand but the sum of the whole is disappointing.

ST MARY. The church is on a hill outside the village. Dec chancel with inventive five-light E window. Dec N aisle E window with reticulated tracery. Tall Perp W tower. The W doorway big with three niches over. Large Perp aisle windows with segmental arches. Clerestory with twice as many windows as bays of the arcade. S porch with flushwork, entrance with fleuron decoration. The S doorway is excellently decorated with crowns, shields, etc. Hood-mould on seated lions. Spandrels with shields. The arcade of five bays has piers with four filleted shafts and small spurs without capitals in the diagonals. The abaci have rows of small busts or leaf motifs. Many-moulded arches. No chancel arch. Roof with alternating tie-beams and hammerbeams. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp. Damaged stem. Bowl with the four Signs of the Evangelists and four demi-angels. - Wooden BALCONY from the upper storey of the porch to the aisle. - COMMUNION RAIL. Slim turned balusters. - STALLS with simple MISERICORDS, heads, etc., all defaced. - STAINED GLASS. E window by Wailes & Strang, 1874 (TK). Scenes only in the tracery heads. - One S window by Kempe, 1892. Typical of his early work. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Paten of 1639; Cup of 1780. - BRASS. William Wade d. 1599 and wife (wearing a hat).

South door (1)

C15th head in N aisle

Lady chapel reredos (5)

BILDESTON. One of Suffolk’s pleasant little towns, it has some fine old timbered buildings and was once famous for its cloth and blankets. Its church away on a hill is surprisingly big and lofty, and is mostly 500 years old, though the lower part of the tower is a century older still. There is a mass dial. Much carving the church has in wood and stone, a doorway with lions, crowns, and an angel, a beautiful old door with tracery and birds, a huge old font with angels and symbols of the Evangelists and tiny battered human figures, and lofty arcades with men and women and angels. The old altar rails are gracefully turned, and near by are some old stalls with poppyheads still fine, though the carvings on their tip-up seats are badly damaged. An attractive south porch has a room above leading to a little wooden gallery in the nave.

Here in brass are portraits of Alice Wade and her children, wearing the clothes in which they came to worship in Shakespeare’s day. Alice has a brocaded petticoat, the sons are in cloaks and ruffs, and the daughters are wearing high hats. More exciting for its memories is the stone to Captain Edward Rotherham, who sleeps outside, where the wind blows over him as it blew through the rigging of his ship. He was with Lord Howe in the victory of the famous First of June; and was in command of the Royal Sovereign at Trafalgar, well and truly doing the duty England expected of him.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Kettlebaston, Suffolk

At the time I was uncertain about St Mary - it all seemed rather garish - but looking through the photos with 12 days worth of hindsight I think it's charming, if a little over the top [with reference to the chancel screen and reredos but in a good way]. A good start to the day and a good font.

ST MARY. Flint and stone. Norman nave, see one blocked N window. Transitional S doorway. The shafts and scalloped capitals are purely Norman, but the arch is decidedly pointed. No zigzag; flat row of small triangles instead. Dec chancel and W tower, see the bell-openings, and in the chancel one S window.* The reticulated E window is of 1902, but may be a correct replacement. Also Dec the Piscina and Sedilia. Their forms look in fact rather like c. 1300, whereas the preserved window has ogee arches, as has also a tomb recess in the N wall. - FONT. By the same workmen as the S doorway. Square. The decorative motifs are undisciplined: big chevrons not accurately placed, strips of triangles, etc. - PAINTING. In the Norman window three red trails with buds or knobs at the end, as familiar from Norman illumination.

* (Also in the chancel an ogee-headed niche. This is in the SE buttress.)

Chancel screen (2)

Chancel screen (1)


KETTLEBASTON. Most of its ancient treasures are in the medieval church, chiefly 14th century, but with a Norman window and traces of red wall-painting nearly 700 years old. There is a massive Norman font with zigzag ornament, a finely carved old chest, and a bell which rang out sadly and gladly in Elizabethan England. Hanging on the wall are photographs of its greatest treasures, found last century embedded in the chancel wall, and now at the British Museum. They show fragments of alabaster panels with figures notable for the delicate carving of their draperies.

Buxhall, Suffolk

Having visited Hitcham the light was fast fading so I decided to call it a day and head home, the last two Lavenham deanery churches would have to wait for another day. My route took me past St Mary and not knowing if or when I'd next be here I decided to stop despite the fading light. Tedious as it may be this is yet another splendid exterior concealing a disappointing interior scrubbed to within an inch of its life. Inside only the double piscina and font stood out, whilst outside an exceptionally touching toddlers headstone stands out.

ST MARY. Nave and chancel and W tower. All Dec except for the Perp tower. Wide nave and chancel. Tall two-light windows. Only the E window is bigger - a good piece of five lights with flowing tracery. Double Piscina with ogee arches and steep gable. The Sedilia which were set against the window are mostly broken off. Dec N porch with two-light windows. Niche over the entrance. Battlements with flushwork chequerboard decoration. - FONT. Octagonal. Early C14. Simple arches under gables, much use made of the encircled quatrefoil. Embattled top. No ogees. - BENCHES. A few in the chancel. - STAINED GLASS. Fragments in several window-heads. - PLATE. Cup 1624; Paten c. 1710; Almsdish 1765.



In small proportion

BUXHALL. God’s house here is nearly all of it 600 years old and stands prettily by the parsonage at the back of a meadow. Big and lofty it is, with a fine massive tower whose buttresses are patterned with squares of flint and stone. It has a mass dial. The east window is striking for its flowing tracery, and the west window is even better, for in it are four delightful panels of 14th century glass showing yellow figures on red backgrounds. We see two golden-winged angels, a saint seated, and Christ with His hand raised in blessing. Just as old, and fine too, is the font, decked out with battlements and buttresses and pinnacles and tracery round its sides. There is a piscina with two elaborate canopies, an old coffin-lid with a floral cross, and a pair of old panelled benches carved on the front with tracery, their poppyheads fashioned into heads of strange animals and curly-haired boys.

Buxhall has had its Dick Whittington, for here was born in 1512 Sir William Coppinger, who became Lord Mayor of London. Half his estate he left to the poor, and half to his relations, whose hospitality was such that “to live like the Coppingers” became something of a byword. It was to one of them, Walter Coppinger, that Henry the Eighth in 1512 gave permission to wear his hat in the royal presence. The document concerning this privilege, which is now in the safe keeping of the British Museum, quaintly puts it in these words:

We be credibly informed that our trusty and well-beloved subject Walter Coppinger is so diseased in his head that without his great danger he cannot be conveniently discovered of the same: In consideration thereof we have by these presents licensed him to use and wear his bonet upon his said head as well in our presence as elsewhere. Henry R.

Hitcham, Suffolk

Another large barn of a church All Saints' location and exterior are lovely but the interior lacks soul following over zealous restoration. It once had some magnificent brasses, long since gone, judging from the matrices in the chancel, has an interesting painted rood screen dado [angels rather than the usual saints] and is memorable for being the resting place of John Stevens Henslow - click on his memorial for his biography.

ALL SAINTS. Quite large; at the far S end of the village. Nave with clerestory and aisles, W tower, S porch, and a chancel largely rebuilt in 1878. Its forms are Dec, and it probably was Dec. Vestry to its N, two-storeyed, Dec. N aisle doorway Dec, aisle windows Dec with segmental heads. Arcades of five bays with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. That also is probably C14. The clerestory has quatrefoil windows. Sturdy W tower with stair-turret not going externally to the top. W doorway with niches l. and r. Perp S porch with flushwork panelling. Entrance with motifs of crowns and lions and a niche over the arch. Perp S doorway of the same style with shields and crowns. Hood-mould on seated lions. Fine Perp lean-to roofs in the aisles with bosses. Fine roof in the nave alternating between double-hammerbeams and arched braces masquerading as hammerbeams. Against the lower hammer-beam ends big emblems such as roses, shields, a sun with crowns over. - SCREEN. Dado with eight painted figures, c. 1500. - SOUTH DOOR with tracery and a border of foliage trails. - PLATE. Two Flagons 1637; Cup and Paten 1639; Paten 1731.

John Stevens Henslow 1862

Rood dado l

Matrix (3)

HITCHAM. It has a fine 14th century church in a commanding position above the high road, with a beautifully panelled porch restored last century as a tribute to the distinguished botanist John Henslow. Here he ministered many years, and in this churchyard he sleeps. There is a stone to his memory in the chancel.

Within the porch is a door carved with a beautiful band of vines. At the top of it is some old tracery. The tower is 15th century, and the west doorway has a niche on either side. Over the nave is a 15th century hammerbeam roof with fine bosses, at the ends of the beams being monograms under crowns. There are a few bench-ends with rich poppyheads, a piscina with a very attractive canopy, and an inlaid vestry table made from a sounding-board. The lower part of the chancel screen is here still, with faint paintings in the panels of saints in ermine capes.

John Stevens Henslow, who was rector here, lives in the memory of all who honour Darwin, whose career he fixed. He was born at Rochester in 1796, and was devoted from childhood to the study of insects, shells, and minerals, becoming first a professor of minerals and then of botany at Cambridge. Darwin,who went up to Cambridge regarding Henslow with awe and veneration, found himself a favourite with the great man and chosen by him for special rambles, so that dons used to speak of Darwin as “the man who walks with Henslow.” Today we remember Henslow as the man who walked with Darwin.

But he did more than that; Henslow’s influence secured Darwin’s appointment to the Beagle, with consequences terrifying to the old scholar, who was appalled by the theory of the Origin of Species. He was passionately orthodox and told Darwin that it would be a great personal grief to him if even one word of the Thirty-Nine Articles were altered. But he was fair if he was fearful: he gave Darwin a copy of the revolutionary Lyall’s Principles to read, but implored him, while believing a little, by no means to believe all! Darwin at first detested geology, but Henslow inspired him, and in a month had him “working like a tiger” at it.

So far the great Professor Henslow whom all Europe knew; but there was Henslow the Hitcham parson, beloved of his parish. In spite of the opposition of the farmers here he started elementary schools from which arose first-rate naturalists. He founded benefit clubs, cricket and football clubs, allotments for landless parishioners, and annual shows at which he delivered delightful little lectures on the exhibits.

As at Cambridge with undergraduates and professors, so here he took his parishioners on rambles, into the fields and byways and to the cities. He taught Suffolk farmers the value of manures, and, having done that as a chemist, he went out as a geologist and found the precious deposits of phosphates in the Suffolk Crag, the bones and refuse of prehistoric monsters to make the fields of England fertile. He was a far-ranging Gilbert White, with interests greatly multiplied. Our foremost botanist, he helped to found the splendid museum at Ipswich when he was busy preparing models of the structures of fruit that were to gain him a medal at the Paris Exhibition; helping to form the museum at Kew, lecturing at Cambridge, presiding over sections of the British Museum, acting as Examiner in botany at London University, and generally living a dozen men’s lives. His memory should be cherished here, for he converted it from a lost and backward district to a model parish.

Little Finborough, Suffolk

St Mary sits out in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere and is kept locked with keyholders listed. Now normally I'd let this go since it is isolated [and I don't think the inside would be very rewarding] but the keyholder notice says "a key to the church may be obtained from one of the following by prior arrangement" - my italics.

As I've pointed out elsewhere this is probably more irritating than not having keyholders listed for one simple reason: how is a visitor who has travelled 55.5 miles [I google mapped it] to visit your church meant to know in advance that a key is available by prior arrangement? I just don't understand the mentality behind these kind of keyholder notices.

ST MARY. Nave and chancel and bellcote. Nothing much of interest. (Plain tympanum between nave and chancel. Cautley). The nave was rebuilt in 1856.

St Mary (3)

Bizarrely Mee also missed St Mary as well as Felsham.

Brettenham, Suffolk

Externally St Mary the Virgin is pretty atypical of the churches round here with its flintwork and south porch tower. Why the towers were built as south porch towers I don't know though. Internally over restored but containing some good ledger stones and glass including what I am convinced is an unsigned Christopher Webb Resurrection in the south chancel window.

ST MARY. Essentially C14, with a S porch tower. Nave W window with flowing tracery. Dec Piscina in the chancel with the arms of Stafford and Buckingham. But Perp chancel windows. - FONT. C14, octagonal, with crocketed ogee gables in the panels (cf. Rattlesden). - SCREEN. Bits of tracery from the dado preserved. - LECTERN. A C17 turned baluster. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters,c. 1700. - SOUTH DOOR. With a foliage-trail border. - STAINED GLASS. One S window by H. Hughes, 1866. - MONUMENTS. Three coffin-lids with foliated crosses.

S chancel window Christopher Webb Resurrection (8)

George Weniffe 1611 (3)

Margaret Torkington nee Gilbert 1676 (4)

BRETTENHAM. It has a hall with oak avenues running through its 150 acres, a Roman camp a mile away, and a 600-year-old church facing the little green. In the church are altar rails with twisted balusters about 300 years old, some fragments of 15th century glass, two ancient coffin lids with beautiful crosses, and a little traceried screen work. But best of all is the 14th century font, with rich canopies round the bowl; its base is panelled, and the cover must be about half as old as the font itself. In the sanctuary floor we read on a brass that Thomas Wenifie was a gentle and modest young man.

Felsham, Suffolk

Externally St Peter is lovely, particularly the fabulous north porch, but inside it has suffered an appalling Victorian refurb and is now utterly bland containing virtually nothing of interest barring the recycled font used as a base for the font.

ST PETER. Dec W tower. Wide Dec nave with tall two-light windows. On the N side panelled battlements, on the S side a more modest treatment. No aisles. N porch with much flushwork panelling on the buttresses and the battlements. Side windows with tracery. Entrance with three orders of fleurons. Three niches round the entrance. Chancel rebuilt in 1873. - FONT. Octagonal. Really two fonts; for the base is clearly the mutilated bowl of a font. On it animals, human faces, etc., below ogee arches. On the other bowl demi-figures of angels on the underside and tracery patterns on the eight sides. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup, altered; Paten perhaps C17; Flagon 1717.

North porch



Rather surprisingly my fourth edition of Arthur Mee's Suffolk misses Felsham.


Monday, 31 October 2016

Gedding, Suffolk

St Mary was the church that brought into question whether the Chapel of St Nicholas, Gipping was in fact the church of the day. Looking back I think Gipping outclasses St Mary but at the time I seriously wondered which was best.

This is, albeit heavily restored, a Norman church and is utterly charming if simple. The best feature of the plain interior is the chancel arch with its arches and mouldings. Perhaps not after all church of the day but a very close second [not least for the fact that they had a note on the door militantly stating that this church is open every day but the door is a little stiff].

ST MARY. Nave and chancel, and a W tower finished in brick. In the nave two Norman windows, one N, one S. The rest of the details is Dec. The church has no porches. Its most interesting feature is the chancel arch. It is double-chamfered with continuous mouldings and flanked by one tall cusped lancet-like niche l. and one r. Roof with scissor-bracing below and above the collars. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with simple cusped blank arches and shields. - BENCHES. Three; humble. - (The churchyard has a moat. LG*)

St Mary (3)

Chancel arch


GEDDING. Its little Norman church was once encircled by a moat, parts of which can still be traced. The nave has walls beginning three feet thick, 14th century timbers in its roof, and a pretty lancet with zigzag. Here are five 15th century benches with carved backs, and a fine medieval font with shields and tracery. On the floor when we called was the six-sided bowl of another old font.

The 14th century tower, with patterns in flint and stone on its buttresses, and topped with brick last century, has two bells from Elizabethan England. The 14th century chancel has a rare triple arch, the centre one plain and the side ones lovely with foliage.

Near the church is a fine Tudor house of mellow red brick, with a towered gateway and a moat; it is a splendid sight.

* Everyone seems to be terribly excited by the moat, it looked more like a pond to me.

Rattlesden, Suffolk

St Nicholas approached from the south east is picture perfect, I'm sure it appears on a chocolate box or two. A large but rather sterile interior contains some good windows, some interesting screens and chancel and nave roofs but overall I was rather underwhelmed. The exterior and location do lift it out the mundane however.

ST NICHOLAS. On a slight eminence in the middle of the village. Quite big, with a Dec w tower with clasping polygonal buttresses and a shingled broach-spire. Finely detailed S doorway of c. 1300 with a circular window over. In the window a cusped quatrefoil. The S aisle and the clerestory (which has single, not double windows per bay) are given battlements decorated with lozenges and shields. Pretty SE spirelet. The S porch has the same battlernents. On the N side the aisle also has them; the clerestory battlements are simple. The S porch has a fine stone-faced facade with a tall entrance. The front is panelled and has one niche above the entrance. (Early C16 chancel chapel with room over. LG) Wide interior. C14 arcades of five bays with octagonal piers, decorated with blank cusped arches at the top, and arches with two hollow chamfers. Good C14 AUMBREY in the chancel N wall. Arched top, crocketed gable, and pinnacles. The tower arch is triple-chamfered. The arch dies into the imposts. The nave roof has double hammer-beams. Unfortunately the angel figures, also those of the arch-braced lean-to roofs in the aisles, are nearly all C19. Below the roof the nave has a large E window. - FONT. C14, octagonal.  Panels with thickly decorated ogee arches resting on heads. Castellated top. - SCREEN. Six parts of the dado are preserved under the tower arch. Painted panels, almost unrecognizable, in the back wall of the C19 Sedilia. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - BENCHES. Some with poppy-heads. - COMMUNION RAIL. Later C17, re-used in several parts. - STAIN ED GLASS. Original bits in the W window and the second N window from the E. - E window by Clayton & Bell, 1884. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Flagon 1729; Paten 1731.

St Nicholas & Old Moot House

South porch

Chancel window W Atkinson 1928 (2)

RATTLESDEN. Its church is supposed to have been founded 700 years ago by the monks of Bury. The high tower comes from the original building, the nave parapet is battlemented in flint and stone, and extraordinary gargoyles look down from the clerestory, among them huge faces with fat cheeks, sleepy and smug. Below the rich cornice of the nave is a frieze carved with angels.

St Nicholas greets us from a Tudor porch as we come in to admire the fine woodwork of this old place, much of it modern but all in keeping with the 14th century arches, the dignified 17th century pulpit, and the medieval font with its handsome tracery and eight heads. The splendid nave roof has 66 angels with outstretched wings, and in one of the aisle roofs is the last of the oak angels from the original roof. One of his wings has gone, but he still carries a shield. The finest bit of modern craftsmanship here is the beautiful screen with its vaulted roodloft. The wide cornice is handsome with foliage, and delicate tracery hangs down like lace. A delightful screen in the same style connects this masterpiece with the stone stairway in the aisle wall, up which the priest would climb to give out the good news.

There is much woodwork from Tudor times, the panelled base of the old screen being now under the 13th century tower arch. Other parts are in front of the choir-stalls; and there are old bench-ends with their fine poppyheads, one showing a head with four faces. Three Tudor doors are connected with the 15th century vestry, which once had an upper room. One leads to it from within, the others belong to the old staircase. The village treasures a solid silver chalice from the same time.

Scraps of old glass make a patchwork in the tower, and a peace memorial window shows St George standing on the dragon and David with his sling ready for Goliath. On the list of rectors we noticed that James Oakes served the church for 53 years last century, preaching at the end of his life to Zachariah Howes, whose memorial says he was a ringer and a singer for 62 years.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Wetherden, Suffolk

St Mary was another chance encounter and a delightful one at that. To the north and west the churchyard is kept neat and pristine but the south drops off to a satisfying wilderness. The south porch offers a scratch dial, a frieze of Sulyard arms, a rare, at least to me, Annunciation lily and some great flintwork. Inside is a wealth of poppyheads mostly C19th but with some, to my undiscerning eye, original work and a quality nave double hammerbeam roof.

To top it off an unexpected family tree connection to the Sulyards and the addition of John Sulyard's monument to the tree. Altogether sublime my only criticism being that the south aisle box pews have been turned in to a dumping ground for the church detritus making the two monuments hard to photograph.

ST MARY. Dec W tower and Dec chancel with an E window which has reticulated tracery and a niche over. Inside it has niches l. and r. The Piscina is contemporary too. The rest is Perp, i.e. the other windows of the chancel, the Treasury or Vestry N of the chancel with a curious heavy half-tunnel-vault with closely set single-chamfered ribs, the tower doorway and the window above it, the N side of the nave, and the spectacular S aisle and S porch. The two latter were built by Sir John Sulyard c. 1484. The porch is attached to the W end of the aisle and forms part of it. Base with a frieze of shields and flushwork panelling. Also a frieze of shields above the entrance. Among the flushwork is a lily in a vase (buttress between porch and aisle). The S arcade inside is Perp too, with capitals only to the shafts towards the arch openings. Double-hamerbeam roof, the hammer-posts and upper hammerbeams being false. Three-tier decorated wall-plate. Figures (not original) on the pendants. The aisle roof has cambered tie-beams and figures at the springing of the arched braces. - PULPIT. Perp panels are used. - SCREEN. Fragments of the dado re-used behind the altar. - BENCHES. With poppy-heads and, on the arms, beasts and birds. Carved backs of the seats. - BOX PEWS in the S aisle.- STAINED GLASS. E Window by H. Hughes, 1863; bad.  PLATE. Cup and Cover c. 1680; Set C18.- MONUMENTS. Tomb-chest with three lozenges with shields. Not in a good state. - Sir John Suliarde (Sulyard) d. 1574. Tall tomb-chest with fluted pilasters and shields. On it a stone panel with a framed shield with foliage flanked by two columns. Below the panel four small kneeling figures, Sir John and his family. Not a convincing composition. As a rule such monuments as this have no figures at all.

Annunciation lilly


Box pews

WETHERDEN. For its fine old limes round the church it has to thank an 18th century vicar who planted them; and for part of the church itself it is grateful to Sir John Sulyard, a forgotten Chief Justice of Richard the Third’s time. He built the porch and the aisle where his family were laid during four centuries, and on both appear his arms on stone shields. Both porch and aisle have a very effective frieze of little narrow arches. The tower is 15th century too, and has three beautiful canopied niches by the west door. The 14th century chancel has one also, over the east window outside. The little vestry is interesting because it was once a chapel and has a vaulted roof and a piscina. It is only seven feet by five.

The 15th century nave is adorned with handsome woodwork, the richly carved roof having double hammerbeams and two rows of angels on each side. Some of the seats are modern copies, but many of the old ones are left, with beautiful traceried ends and fine poppyheads. On the elbows are perched such curious sights as monkeys eating, horses licking their backs, squirrels with nuts, a bird putting its head into an animal’s mouth, a pair of lions, delightful dogs, and two beasts with long horns. Very different these seats are from the high box-pews in the aisle. The font was carved 500 years ago, and its bowl rests on eight heads which have the pointed ears of devils though their features are human and refined.

There is a notable monument to one of Wetherden’s old family who died in 1574, an altar tomb with coats-of-arms, marble columns, and the mutilated figures in relief of John Sulyard kneeling in armour and his three wives kneeling behind him with their children. One of the Sulyards built Wetherden Hall, still carrying on as a farm.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Haughley, Suffolk

St Mary the Virgin, like most, if not all, of today's churches, has been heavily restored which, for me, affects its attractiveness but as this was not a planned visit I'll forgive it this once. This is a barn of a church with a most peculiar layout, it looks like the three separate parts, tower, nave/chancel and south aisle, have been bolted together to form the whole but that each part is individual to and of itself - my children used to have a wooden railway set which had blocks for houses and I imagine they would design a church like this.

Inside all is much restored but the nave and south aisle roofs are pleasing [I thought the angels in the south aisle were replicas, Pevsner seems to think not] and the font is excellent. Perhaps I'd been jaded by Gipping but I found it rather pedestrian.

ST MARY. All of c. 1330-40. Nave and chancel, S aisle and S porch tower. Inside the tower good doorway with two orders of slender shafts and a finely moulded arch. The S aisle E window has a very pretty enrichment of the usual reticulation motif. Each unit has a lozenge in the middle held by four bars. The W window has two cusped spherical triangles above the even three lights. The N windows of the nave are segment-headed, again with reticulation motifs. The five-bay arcade which separates the nave from the wide S aisle has octagonal piers and double-hollow-chamfered arches. Beautiful nave roof with alternating tie-beams on arched braces and arched braces meeting at the ridge. Large bosses. S aisle roof on demi-figures of angels. Smaller angels on the wall-plate as well. - FONT. Against the stem four ferocious seated lions and four Wild Men. Against the bowl the Signs of the Evangelists and angels holding shields. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Set of 1758. - CURIOSA. In the porch hang thirty-three leather buckets of 1725 and 1757.

Font (2)

Font (10)

Nave roof

HAUGHLEY. Thatched houses are gathered in friendly fashion round its green, and an old mill waves its arms on the hill above. It has a stately Tudor house with battlemented bays and crow-stepped gables, and a flint church 600 years old. But the great surprise of this ancient town is in its High Street, the deep waters of a moat and a wooded mound of a Norman castle. The castle was captured and razed to the ground in 1173 during the struggle between the Kings and the Barons, but the mound remains, a stronghold, it is believed, of Danes and Saxons, the survivor of probably 20 centuries or more of unhurried but continuous change.

The 14th century nave of the church has a 15th century clerestory, and keeps its medieval roof with embattled beams and bosses of spreading leaves. There is some ancient glass in the west window with the heraldic arms of Hales Abbey, to which the church once belonged. The font is 500 years old, with angels on its bowl and lions with wild men with bludgeons guarding the base. There is an Elizabethan chalice, and in the porch hangs an old leather bucket. A vicar of last century, Edward Ward, was here for 56 years.

Gipping, Suffolk

It's unusual to decide that the second church you've visited on a trip is your church of the day but that's what happened at the Chapel of St Nicholas. Ignore the hideous Victorian rendered tower and luxuriate in the splendid flintwork, Tyrell carvings and the stunning setting; this is nigh on perfect and then you go inside. Due to the lack of stained glass this is an extraordinarily light interior, think Tilty in Essex, the airy feeling is helped by the light wood pews and cream painted reading desk and pulpit.

Simply put this is a stunning interior and then on top of all that the five light east window is a fantastic mosaic of medieval fragments. Nothing would top this building today, or so I thought.

CHAPEL OF ST NICHOLAS. The private chapel of Sir James Tyrell, who died in 1502. Built probably c. 1483. The chapel was close to a mansion of which not a trace is left. The plastered C19 W tower spoils what would otherwise be a singularly perfect piece of late medieval Suffolk architecture. The building is all of a piece, nave and chancel and a curious N annexe. This has a fireplace in its N wall, and it has been assumed that originally it was the chaplain’s dwelling. The wall behind the fireplace is treated as a dummy bay window. It is canted, and the one-light, three-light, one-light rhythm with transoms is all made up of flushwork. W entrance to the room with inscription: ‘Pray for Sir Jamys Tirell and dame Ann his wife.’ The Tyrell knot appears everywhere in the flushwork decoration, which is generously applied to walls, buttresses, etc. The composition of N and S doorways is identical, and they are charming pieces too. Whereas the other windows are of three lights and transomed, there are here four lights and the lower part of the middle two is taken up by the doorway. The lower parts to its 1. and r. are again flushwork dummies, and in the upper parts flushwork also is inserted between the two l. and the two r. lights. E wall with polygonal buttresses. Five-light E window. The interior is as translucent as a glasshouse. What effect the original glass must have had, of which fragments and five small figures remain in the 12 window, it is hard to guess. - BENCH. One original kneeling-bench; the end is of quite exceptional, very simple shape, and has the Tyrell knot. Twisted-leaf frieze along the back of the seat. - PLATE. Two
Patens 1704; Cup 1712.

Looking east

East window (20)

East window (3)

GIPPING. One of the blackest deeds in human annals must always be remembered here, yet Gipping has much charm. It gives its name to a river; it has a Saxon burial-place near by; and close to the green stands a fairy-story cottage, with dormer windows in a steep thatched roof.

We come to the church by a wooden footbridge in the shade of a yew, pausing to admire its effective ornamentation in flint and stone. The tower is modern, but most of the building is 14th century. There is a very old font bowl, but the great sight is the old glass filling the east window, which has beautifully coloured figures of Mary and John (from a Crucifixion), an abbot, a knight, and a lady. With them are parts of golden canopies and many glowing fragments. This window has been reconstructed in our time with the help of a grant from the Pilgrim Trust.

Yet the most stirring thing in the church is an inscription over the vestry doorway outside, asking us to pray for Sir James Tyrrell and Dame Anne his wife. We cannot look at it without feeling that he needs all the prayers we can give him, for it was he who carried out the murder of the little princes in the Tower, which Shakespeare calls

The most arch act of piteous massacre
That ever yet this land was guilty of.

The order came from the bloodstained Richard the Third, and was refused by Sir Robert Brackenbury, who passed it on to James Tyrrell. To him were given the keys of the Tower for one night, and in his presence two rutfians did a thing which has become an everlasting shame to England. There is a tradition that the vestry was built as a chapel by Tyrrell in remorse for his crime; he certainly settled here before he died a traitor’s death.

Three Tyrrells stand out in history, all of the same family: Sir Walter, who slew Rufus; Sir John, who fought at Agincourt and was Speaker of the House of Commons; and Sir John’s grandson Sir James, murderer of the princes.

On the death of Edward the Fourth in April 1483, his elder son, aged 13, became Edward the Fifth. Three weeks later he was in the hands of Richard and sent to the Tower, where he was joined by his younger brother, Duke of York. On June 26 Richard got himself declared king, but with the princes alive his position was insecure, so, while lying at Warwick Castle, he sent word to Sir Robert Brackenbury, Lieutenant of the Tower, hinting at his foul intent. Brackenbury received the message while on his knees at prayer, and indignantly refused to do the deed.

Sir James Tyrrell was more pliant. Hearing that Brackenbury was obdurate, Richard went in the middle of the night into a room where Tyrrell, his Master of the Horse, lay on a pallet bed. Tyrrell needed no urging. With the dawn he was riding to London bearing a royal order that Brackenbury should deliver to him the keys and passwords of the Tower for one night. With Tyrrell rode two brutal knaves, John Dighton and Miles Forrest, who suffocated the sleeping boys while Tyrrell kept guard at the foot of the stairs.

Tyrrell lived on in profit and honour, fought at Bosworth Field, served Henry the Seventh, but at last came himself to the Tower, and before his execution confessed the whole story.

The skeletons of the victims were found during reconstructions at the Tower in the time of Charles the Second, and were interred in the chapel of Henry the Seventh in Westminster Abbey.

Old Newton, Suffolk

My intention last week was to complete a long standing ambition to visit the remaining 11 Lavenham deanery churches and the wish list Chapel of St Nicholas at Gipping but over two days I added a further unintentional eight to the list. The first of which was St Mary.

An interesting font, a good Georgian gallery and a fine sedilia - a good, if run of the mill, start to the day which was picked up by finding, supposedly, Britain's oldest working clergyman's headstone.

ST MARY. The remaining medieval work is entirely Dec, with good tall two-light windows. The W tower has Y-tracery in the bell-openings and flushwork arcading on the battlements. To the l. and r. of the E window inside two ogee niches. - FONT. Octagonal. Against the stem four lions and four Wild Men. Against the bowl four lions and four angels. - BENCHES. At the back. Plain, c 17, with poppy-heads. - STAINED GLASS. Some in the heads of the nave N windows. - PLATE. Cup c. 1680.

Font (1)

From the gallery

Edward George Falconer known as Britain's oldest working clergyman (1)

OLD NEWTON. Its ivied church, screened by a row of stately sycamores, is 600 years old. Here are one or two carved bench-ends, a few fragments of ancient glass, and a splendid old font. On its bowl are angels and symbols of the Evangelists, while eight faces peep out below and four dilapidated lions with headless wild men clad in leaves sit round the base. At this font two clever men were baptised, a mathematician and a philosopher. John Mole, born here in 1743, was the son of a farm labourer. His only schooling was at his mother's knee, but soon he was to astonish all his friends with his marvellous calculating powers and to make a name for himself as the author of two books on algebra. John Bridges, born here nearly a century later, was the son of the vicar, and in turn brilliant scholar, doctor, lecturer, and writer, but is best remembered as one of the leaders of the modern system of philosophy called Positivism.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Breast Cancer

Utterly unconnected to the usual content of this blog:

A friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and her 16 yr old daughter has decided to undertake an 18 mile walk to raise money [she's aiming for £1000.00 but let's make it more]  for Maggie's Centres which like you I'd never heard of before today.

If you happen to find this post please contribute  here.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Wilburton, Cambridgeshire

St Peter is utterly charming from the setting to its welcoming open status. Inside there are bits and bobs such as the impressive brass to Richard Bole [and two other less than impressive brasses], some good panelling, a nice rood screen, a modern sculpture, Ecce Homo, commemorating the Pell family and a, what can only be called garish, striking east window. I'm sure this is a marmite feature but I liked it. Oh and a wallpainting as well.

Even though when I arrived a pre-Mass meeting was being held the lovely lady vicar more than welcomed me to look around; all in all a thoroughly enjoyable visit.

ST PETER. Of a previous Norman church two fragments of shafts with capitals are kept in the S porch. The tower and the chancel arch seem to be late C13. All the rest is Perp, except for the transept which was added in 1868. A generously spacious nave of four bays, with the windows set in blank arcading. The wall shafts of this are slim and lozenge-shaped. Perp also the good-original nave ceiling, the upper parts of the smallish W tower, the two-storeyed N porch, the low SE vestry and the chancel. The chancel has a five-light E window and three-light side windows. Inside there are niches to the l. and r. of the E window and again tall blank arcades embracing the N and S windows. - ROOD SCREEN. Perp with single-light divisions. They have cusped arches and panel tracery above. - COMMUNION RAIL. With twisted balusters, probably c. 1700. - BENCHES. Two simple C15-C16 benches in the chancel. - PANELLING. Elizabethan or Jacobean, from Stretham church, put up along part of the W wall. - PAINTING. Original wall painting of two bishops, and another more defaced representation on the nave N wall. - PLATE. Chalice and Cover of 1569; flagon of 1714; Paten of 1724. - BRASSES. Richard Bole, Archdeacon of Ely d. 1477, 4 ft figure with architectural surround (ogee gable). - John Hyll d. 1506, wife and children, 18 in. figures. - Will. Byron d. 1516, wife and children; the figures c. 21 in. - MONUMENT. Three panels of a tomb-chest with quatrefoil decoration (chancel, N wall).

Richard Bole d 1477, Archdeacon of Ely (1)

E window (2)

SS Blaise & Ledger (1)

Ecce Homo David Hughes 2001 (2)

WILBURTON. Its life was going on far back in the mists of time, and sometime in the Bronze Age men tipped into the fen of the Old Ouse near Wilburton a great collection of swords, spears, and axes. We may hope they had no more use for them. Three thousand years later this strange rubbish heap was found and some of its treasures are now in our museums. The church, with a tiny spire on its tower, is young compared with all this, 500 years old and much restored, but we come into it by a porch with something of a Norman arch left in its wall, and Norman stones in its roof supporting an upper room. There are lofty arcades and great nave windows, and the east window has a carved niche on each side. In the peace memorial window are the two warrior archangels with their dragons, and another window has St  Etheldreda with a model of Ely Cathedral. The twisted altar rails are Jacobean. The old wall paintings are fading away.

On the last pilgrimage to Etheldreda’s shrine at Ely the rector here, Thomas Alcock, entertained Henry the Seventh and his young Prince Hal at the rectory, and the three cocks from the Alcock shield appear in the fine old roof, with six more over the opening of the rich medieval chancel screen, which has dragons in the tracery, rude faces in the spandrels, and a new vaulted canopy. Thomas Alcock’s predecessor, Richard Bole, is on a fine brass in rich robes, under a pinnacled canopy, and another brass has on it John Hyll of 1506 with his two daughters. William Byrd of 1514 has his family of nine with him on another brass, and inscriptions tell of the Markwell family, who made a record in the belfry, each ringing the six bells for 50 years.

A hero of the Great War, Albert Pell, has a monument in medieval style, taking the shape of a little tomb under an arch. He lived at the big house designed by Pugin in the park, where also stands the red gabled manor house built for a London alderman in the last years of Queen Elizabeth. It was long neglected, but has been restored and is a charming home again; on the way to it we pass a venerable oak six yards round the trunk.