John E. Vigar MA, FSA Scot., FRSA

Church Day Trips

Sadly, I have decided to give up arranging my public church day tours. I have been running these for over 30 years. They have been thoroughly enjoyable and I have met many interesting people along the way.

 

These tours take a huge amount of organisation and since Data Protection came into force it has been almost impossible to obtain contact details for individual churches. In an average year I have to contact in excess of 50 churches (just for day tours) and when you don't receive a response from half of them and spend hours trying to make contact it just takes the fun out of it.

 

For the past two years I have run the tours at a loss and COVID-19 has made the situation even worse.

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Medieval Dedicatory inscriptions

A short vBlog

 

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A storm is brewing

This week marks the 316th anniversary of one of the worst storms recorded in England. About a third of our naval ships were lost at sea whilst on land destruction was on a huge scale. In London alone 2000 chimneystacks collapsed with great loss of life. The most famous architectural loss was the first Eddystone lighthouse, although 400 windmills were also destroyed.

At Riddlesworth, Norfolk, a ledgerstone records the death in the storm of Elinor Drury.

 

This got me thinking about other memorials I've found in churches that relate to storms. The heading photograph for this Blog is at the church at Pevensey, East Sussex and is unusual in being a timber 'headboard' type memorial. At Knowlton in Kent is the more famous monument to two brothers killed in 1707 when HMS Association ran aground on the Isles of Scilly under the command of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, who just happened to be their stepfather. It shows the ship on the rocks being tossed by the waves. Interestingly in the 1703 storm the same ship had been blown all the way from the English Channel to Gothenberg.

At Chitterne on the edge of Salisbury Plain, Robert Michells' amazing escape when a whole stack of ten chimneys fell on him whilst he was in bed in 1763 is recorded in great detail. 

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Lead Fonts of England

 

As we travel around England, we occasionally come across fonts made of metal. In own time an amazing stainless-steel font has been placed in Salisbury Cathedral and many churches use a metal bowl at the front of the church. However, metal fonts have been used for centuries and over 30 medieval examples survive in our parish churches, dating from the 11th to the 17th centuries.

There must have been many more, but lead is easily damaged and can be reused for other purposes.

There are a group of 6 identical fonts in Gloucestershire that must have been cast from the same mould.

A characteristic of the early fonts is the arcading around the bowl, which can be plain or contain figures. One at Walton on the Hill in Surrey has both arcading, figures and foliage decoration.

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A visit to Brightlingsea

Bright 1

Yesterday I paid a return visit to Brightlingsea church after a gap of about 30 years. I remembered it as being special but had no idea it contained so much of interest.

It is best known for its memorial plaques whch run around the walls of nave and aisles. They remember people who have died at sea, and were the idea of a nineteenth century incumbent. In most cases, as well as the name of the deceased, they also give the name of the boat they were in, and in some instances details of the accident. I`m sure a whole book could be written about these unfortunate people.

The east end of the church contains four wonderful fifteenth century image niches, the back walls of which retain their original colouring. In any other church these would be the highlight of a visit but here the north chapel contains a group of family brasses the envy of Essex (which as a county contains some of the best in England).

These are to the Beriff family, and date between 1496 and 1578. They were a prominent family in this Cinque Port and two of their brasses depict their merchant marks. They were all produced in London, but evidently not at the same workshop as the styles are very different.

Brightlingsea Church is open on summer afternoons and is very well worth the journey.

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Historic Churches of Norfolk - A 3 session course

To be held on

Mondays 14, 21, 28 October 2019

At King`s Lynn, Thoresby College 1000-1200 and

Fakenham Community Centre 1330-1530

Course Fee £30.00

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Norfolk Churches Study Day, April 26th 2019

Join John Vigar and Ian Groves for a tour of four medieval churches on the edge of the Halvergate Marshes in Norfolk and a discussion of the local villages and landscape.

The churches include many fascinating features such as two fine Norfolk fonts, surviving graffiti, an impressive rood screen and a remarkable set of 20th century stained glass windows. Two of the churches stand in the same churchyard - a phenomenon that can be seen in several locations around the county.

These magnificent buildings should provide stimulating conversation among attendees and the tour leaders. The day is particularly aimed at those who would like to improve their knowledge of Norfolk's churches. During the tour you will also discover how the use of churches changed over time and the importance of patronage to the way churches looked, the church in relation to its village and wider landscape, and the historic background to the extensive grazing land between Acle and Great Yarmouth.

AGENDA:

Please arrive at Acle St Edmund church (on-street parking only) for 10:45

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Norfolks Chalice Brasses

I first became interested in these unique memorials when I found the indent of one in a ledgerstone at Oulton. An indent is where the brass has gone but the shape remains. I have now recorded over 20 of these memorials in Norfolk, and realise they cover just a 30 year period.  The image above is of one in St Giles Church, Norwich which is the oldest I`ve yet discovered, 1499.

Each one is to a priest, and usually their names are quite readable. Even when the brass has disappeared the shape gives it away. They must have been made by one workshop - presumably in Norwich - and they are distributed across the eastern half of the county. They are all very similar, with minor variations of the style of chalice. 

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