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Thursday, 19 March 2015

St Augustine of Canterbury church, Rugeley

Although this church on the outskirts of the town is relatively modern - it dates from the early C19 - it has the size and feeling of a much older, grander church. I attended a wedding here when I was a child and remember thinking what a splendid building it was. It replaced the old church, now called ‘The Chancel’ which stands on the other side of the road.
            The first church dedicated to St Augustine of Canterbury  in Rugeley was small, and when it deteriorated into decay it was thought too small for the growing populous, so a  new larger church was built, but the stone tower of the old C14  church was retained to grace the skyline.
.....The building of the new Gothic style church began in 1822 and was consecrated on New Year Day 1823.  Because the church was originally meant as a ‘preaching’ church it is simple in design, with the nave the dominate feature. Toward the end of the C19 a chancel was added onto the existing building, with a new altar and choir stall and by 1908 the Lady Chapel, organ gallery and vestry were also in place. Hence the church as we see it today is little more than 100 years old.
The East window is quite lovely and stands above a splendid reredos and high altar. It depicts the figures of St Augustine, St Chad, St John the Divine and The Virgin Mary in it’s panels.

The altar in the South aisle was carved and donated by an ancestor of my husband. It’s nice to think it will be there for many following generations to see,

...and I found the Lady Chapel delightful  >>>

                    The  pulpit has a carving of St Augustine on it.. 

....and the brass lectern standing at the head of the nave is most impressive.

I found the circular font unusual as it is made from alabaster and differs from the more traditional fonts that we see.

 < Looking from East to West in the galleried nave

             central nave >

  < choir stalls 

This is a church which encourages bell ringing skills, and the bells of  St Augustine’s are rung on a regular basis. Apart from the Sunday summons to prayer, the bells can also be heard during the week  when bell ringing practice takes place

 In the churchyard outside of the West door is the tomb of John Parsons Cook who was a victim in 1855 of the notorious C19 murderer William Palmer… also in the churchyard is the headstone for a Christina Collins who was murdered in 1839 on a canal boat locally. It’s good to know  that justice prevailed and these murderers met their just deserts!

St Augustine’s is a fine church which is in daily use and bears witness to the faith of it’s parishioners.

With thanks for extra information to ‘The guide and History of St Augustine’s’ by S.M.Simpson

Friday, 13 March 2015

St Mary The Virgin, Aldeby

…originally this was a priory church.
The peaceful parish of Aldeby reminds me of an outpost almost lost in time, surrounded by water on three sides – the river Waveney and the North Sea.. It’s difficult to imagine what this place must have looked like a thousand years ago when the area was a populous place.

 This C12 church began life for an order of Benedictine monks., their abbey which was adjacent to the church was dissolved in 1538 and left to become ruinous. A farm now stands in what was the abbey grounds, with few signs of the abbey which went before
The church was used by the public as well as the monks between 1100-1538 – the public enjoyed the use of the nave while the monks monopolised the chancel.
Standing at the West end of the church and looking East through the lovely transept arches to the East window gives the impression of extra height and length to the church, especially with it’s white plastered ceiling.

Walking up to the church the first thing which caught my eye was the splendid West C12 Norman door with it’s three shafts on either side and lovely capitals.
…but entrance into the church is through the pleasing C14 North porch

Inside there’s a handsome C15 font with octagonal bowl and decorated with roses and shields. I think it’s cover might be Jacobean.

 The chancel being somewhat darker than the nave gives the simple Sanctuary a serene atmosphere, and displays the lovely 1888 stained glass East window to perfection.

 There is a fine piscina and sedilla which are survivors from the early priory days.
The north transept used to be a chapel (dedicated to St Fursey) but this is no longer in use.
 An old ledgerstone dated 1652  for Thomasine Trott made my visit complete…such a great name!

.. Sadly some parts of the churchyard could do with some tender loving care, so hopefully it's been tidied up since I visited.

                                     Celtic Cross War Memorial

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A Hidden Church...Thorington

                                     St Peter's Thorington
 I was looking forward to seeing this little medieval church and it did not disappoint.   It is situated off a country lane and could so easily be missed as one passes by. It is set amidst an abundance of trees and hedgerows which, through the passing of centuries have grown tall to shield and protect this lovely building.
It was a gorgeous Summer’s day when I visited, and with the sunlight piercing the leaves and spreading dappled light all through the church and churchyard it felt an almost magical place.

The C14 porch has a fairy story appeal to it, as it’s walls lean outwards and it’s built off-centre to the inner North door.


The round tower is superb. It was started in the Saxon period, heightened by the Normans and topped off with stepped battlements by the Tudors.


On entering this church only one thing was a disappointment – the mock Norman arch the Victorians, for whatever reason, had built in the West wall between nave and tower.. it is rather garish and unappealing to my eyes inside this simple little church.

The font has a C13 Purbeck marble bowl but I think it’s stand is from a later date.

One curious thing is the cut-back walls on both sides of the narrow nave. This was possibly done to allow for the width of the bench pews to have an aisle down the centre..

On the North wall hangs a Flanders cross – a poignant Great War reminder and on the North wall of the chancel is a huge memorial plaque to the Bence family

The lovely oak reredos comes from the late C19, as does the pulpit.

One charming thing which is a reminder of the Victorian era is the oil lamps placed on the walls around the church. I’m not sure if they are

still in use, although oil was present in at least one of the lamps.

I was confused to begin with why the splendid piscina was so low to the floor but then realised the chancel floor had been raised during the C19 restoration of the church.

The churchyard is a haven of peace and tranquility, a perfect place to sit for quiet reflection.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Covehithe.. the Church of St Andrew

I have been back to visit this church and the surrounding area many times over the last few is adjacent to the North Sea on the Suffolk coast and proves to be a lovely tranquil place for me to visit especially during the Summer months.
 Covehithe is  a tiny hamlet tucked well away from any urban development, it is reached by a narrow lane which leads to nowhere- except to the speedy encroachment of the sea erosion
...In less than a hundred years from now I fear this church will be lost to the sea as so many others along this stretch of coastline 
have been.

Lane leading from the church to the cliff edge... 

The original church built in the 15th century was very large but the upkeep of it proved to be too expensive. At this period the rural people were extremely poor and were of a more puritan leaning, so they allowed what must have been a magnificent building to deteriorate…At the peak of the puritan cleansing the stained glass was removed and either destroyed or sold.  In the 17th century the roof was removed, and  permission was granted for a small thatched roof church to be  built inside the outer walls of the original one and adjacent to the original Tower…this Tower at one time used to act as a marker for the ships at sea.

On entering the Church the first thing I noticed was the alarming sight of green mould streaking up the wall of the original
West Tower!

 The impressive 15th century sculptured Font now stands in situ in front of this West wall.

The pews are also 15th century and adorned with lovely poppy head carvings on their ends.

The beautifully carved Pulpit is 17th century and octagonal in design

There are five bells which are believed to be some of the oldest in the Country.

The Royal arms of George 111 is on the the outer wall under the tower arch and overlooks the entrance into the church.      

Although this small 17th century church is simple and maybe isn’t of too much interest to some visitors, the sight of the impressive ruins acting as it's dramatic backdrop  is a picture one will always cherish.

The CCT have taken over the upkeep of the Tower and original ruined walls.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Cathedral of the Marshes..Holy Trinity, Blythburgh

There is so much to write about this wonderful church , known as *The Cathedral of the Marshes*   It is no ordinary country church as it’s so large and light. It typifies the open landscape and coastline that it represents, and has excellent acoustics which is demonstrated when musicians and singers perform here.
 This is a church brought back to life from it’s ruinous state. 
The church of Holy Trinity was built in 1412 for the high class rituals of the Catholic church. Originally everything inside of the church would have been brightly painted – today we would have called it garish with  it’s boldness... After the dissolution of the nearby monastery in 1538 the church was beset by mounting problems
… In 1577 during a great storm lightning struck the church spire which sent it crashing down through the roof damaging the font. (There’s a superstition that the scorch marks on the Great North Door were made by the Devil’s claws during this storm)
…In 1644 the church was victim to the Puritan leanings of that time and was stripped of most of it’s fine medieval trappings, even the brass memorial plaques belonging to the tomb slabs in the floor of the Nave were taken up and disposed of.
Because of the extreme poverty of the rural community,  and their attendance at the small primitive Methodist chapel, the Church was left to decline… It wasn’t until 1881 that any restoration of Holy Trinity church began to take shape, and it was three years before they were able to open the church to a congregation. 

On approaching the church there are three things of note on the outer wall (a) a Lombardic inscription set into the wall (b) what looks like a medieval font which stands by the porch door and was used as a stoup for holy water, and (c) a modern statuette by Nicholas Mynheer of the Holy Trinity placed in  the niche over the porch door.

…The Southern side of the church is more resplendent than the Northern side, as it displays  stone grotesques and lion’s heads for all to see.

It is on entering the church itself that one can immediately see what a majestic building this must have originally been. It is spacious with a high ceiling, and has stone columns with carved heads on the corbels dividing the nave from the side aisles..

 There are two rows of windows along each 
side of the church and light shines in through the plain glass windows of the clerestry displaying  the ceiling angels in their (albeit now faded) glory.

…The pew ends seem older than the pews themselves and have  carvings on them depicting the seven deadly sins and the four seasons..

Very little remains of the medieval stained glass from the lower storey of windows in the church, these have mostly been replaced by plain glass.

Just inside the porch door and to the left there is a flight of circular stone steps leading to the Priest’s Room, which is now used for prayer and contemplation.

…Facing the porch door is the 15thcentury octagonal font- originally this would have had lovely carving on it, but this was stripped away in the 1540’s
The font stands at the west end of the church looking down the long nave toward the rood screen, chancel and altar…

.Just in front of the rood screen stands the beautifully carved 17th century pulpit.

To the left of the chancel and altar is the chantry chapel dedicated to John Hopton who was Lord of the manor in 1478, his elaborate tomb stands between the chantry chapel  and the chancel

 Inside the chancel are the wonderfully old choir pews with their carvings of the Apostles and Saints

There are two niches in the stone walls – the one near the organ contains one of the few remaining working
*Jack’o the Clock* figures dating from 1682…The other niche holds a modern carving of Virgin and Child by Peter Eugene Bell.

To the left of the chantry chapel by the small North door are some spiral steps which used to lead up to the upper rood screen
…there’s also an alms box dating from 1473.
 Tethering rings are set into the pillars by the Great North door. One assumes these were for congregations to tether their waiting horses while they were attending service.

It’s good to see restoration work on Holy Trinity continuing…It would be almost unthinkable  to lose one of our most loveliest of churches . 
With the grace of God it will still be standing for many more years, for our descendants to visit and worship.