As I write this post the timbers are still smouldering at Wimbotsham church in west Norfolk. This is the most recent of what seems to have been a rash of fires in medieval churches.
Wimbotsham church is essentially Norman in date with fine Romanesque doorways to north and south and built of the local Carrstone. The walls are characteristically thick. The tower was remodelled in the fifteenth century and contains two medieval bells. The chancel was substantially rebuilt in the 19th century, in keeping with the Romanesque character of the original. It carries a wonderful corbel table.
There were a wonderful set of bench ends in the church. A few were medieval but most were outstanding work by James Ratlee (born 1820) who is best known for his woodwork in Ely Cathedral.
Yesterday I spent a day with my old friend Simon Knott www.norfolkchurches.co.uk on an exploration of a circle of churches around Norwich. Here`s how we got on:
Trowse Newton - a village church immediately outside the inner ring road. A charming spot where we were given a warm welcome by the keyholder. The architecture is important - the east window being dateable to the 1280s but what struck us was the group of musicians around the pulpit. Almost life size they must have come from a continental church organ.
Earlham was locked with no keyholder notice. One for pre-arrangements another day.
Colney - a round towered church just inside the outer ring road. It contains one of the 30 or so chalice brasses for which Norwich is known and a fine East Anglian Type font which depicts the martyrdom of St Edmund.
Bawburgh is another round towered gem which is now open daily. Famous for its own saint, St Walstan, we were taken by the variety of monumental brasses and by the screen, loft and rood beam. We met the churchwarden who was very proud of her well cared for church.
Simon Bradley, Churches: An Architectural Guide (Pevsner Architectural Guides)
Yale University Press, 2016. Hardcover, 192 pp., 90 col. and 50 b/w ills. ISBN978 0 30021 553 3, £12.99.
The majority of books about English parish churches take the form of architectural guides and I found it a little difficult to determine who this guide was written for. Those with a specialist interest will already have at least one Pevsner county guide with its much loved Glossary. Those with an embryonic interest in architecture would almost certainly find this guide too dry, trying as it does to set all the terms found in a standard Pevsner Glossary into their historical context. At times it feels like too much has been squeezed in; at others that something one knows really needs a full explanation has been reduced to just two sentences. Not that this is a bad thing. It challenges the reader in the same way it must have challenged the author and Dr Bradley has produced a book that is densely packed with facts and which offers exceptional value for money.
The book takes a comprehensive and chronological look at the architectural development of churches and their furnishings. I loved the fact that parish churches that are rarely illustrated in books pop up throughout the volume – for example Crondall, Hampshire and St George, Stockport, Cheshire. The illustrations throughout are of good quality, though I would have preferred less black and white images, especially where they are juxtaposed with colour. It was also frustrating when Dr Bradley used a particular church in his text and then accompanied it by an illustration from somewhere else. For example he mentions the Romanesque lead font at Brookland, Kent and illustrates the example at Ashover, Derbyshire. Occasionally I found that an illustration didn’t work at all. However important St Matthias Poplar is in art history terms (being built during the Commonwealth) the photograph of it showing modern infilling of the aisles, fitted carpet and potted palms in stainless steel pots seemed surplus to requirement.
As one might expect in such a densely packed volume, stained glass takes up just a few pages, appearing first in a section on medieval imagery, illustrated by 14th-century glass at Cockayne Hatley, Bedfordshire and a 15th-century detail from Greystoke, Cumbria. Post-medieval glass is covered in six pages of illustrations beginning with 17th-century armorial glass and moving through Pugin, Burne-Jones and Whall to Reyntiens at Marden in Kent, which seems to have been included as an example of mid-20th-century glass without being referenced in the text at all.
Churches of the Kennet Valley. 23/07/2019 5pm to 26/07/2019 1pm
This 3-night course is based at Denman College near Abingdon. Transport is included for two full day outings and selected trains are met at Didcot or Oxford stations for those coming without their own transport.
Discover a new selection of churches in the wonderful Kennet and Lambourn Valleys. We will learn about the architecture of the churches, their building materials, furnishings, memorials and stained glass. There will be two full day outings to enable hands-on exploration so a degree of walking will be involved.
Includes visits to Savernake, East Shefford and Lambourne.
LEDGERSTONES are a familiar sight in our churches but are frequently dismissed as boring or less important than other features. However I want to tell you why I feel they are so exciting and what clues they give us.
In these days of church reordering ledgerstones are frequently lost under carpet or find themselves inside toilets and kitchens and it is important that we should record them before they are lost forever.
For several years I was Secretary of the LSEW and we estimated that there are 250,00 surviving examples. Whilst there are engraved grave markers going back to about 1200, ledgerstones as we recognise them today really start appearing in the early 17th century, when black Marble started to be imported from the continent.
They each cover an individual burial vault and may be likened to the lid of a rectangular biscuit tin. The vault itself may be up to 12 feet deep, enough for 6 coffins, and brick lined. The ledgerstone sits on top of the brick walls and lies flush with the church floor. More often that not the slab is then engraved with an inscription to the deceased. At a later date if more family burials are to be made into the vault the lid is prised open and relaid, often with a further inscription added on the slab.
For the next 4 Monday evenings at 8pm I am giving online lectures. The titles are as follows: Monday 6th JulyBedrooms, Banquets and Balls - an off-beat look at the English Country House Monday 13th JulyBritain with Betjeman - the architectu...
I'm presenting my popular lecture "Murder Sex and Mayhem in English Churches" via Zoom on the evening of June 29th.All you need is a computer or tablet and internet access. Full booking details hereMurder Sex and Mayhem - BOOKING...
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 organ...