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Saturday, 13 December 2014

Christmas wishes...

We have reached that joyous time of year again… Christmas.

    My only concession to very early Christmas preparation is the making of the Christmas cake and mincemeat which I usually do in October
….I start preparations in earnest once December has arrived, first with sorting out and writing Christmas cards, and then making my gift list, which more often than not gets revised a few times before the actual purchases begin…I never leave it until Christmas Eve to shop for presents, I like mine all to be wrapped before then, so that I can spend the last few days prior to Christmas day concentrating on what food to get in for over the festive period.

    I love to see all the shops and department stores come alive with Christmas decorations while carols play quietly in the background, and the excited chatter of children with their eyes round in wonderment takes me back to when my own children were young enough to believe in all the magic that Christmas brings

     Although my children had all the commercial trappings that go with Christmas, first and foremost they were taught the true meaning of Christmas....sadly I  think some of the young children today can’t see any connection between the birth of Jesus and Christmas – they have been born into a world which is  so materialistic. For them Christmas is all about how many presents will be waiting at the foot of their bed ready to be opened when they wake on Christmas morning.

I have researched many families from the 18th and 19th centuries –only a few were wealthy enough to indulge in the festive trappings at Christmas, the majority found Christmas Day just another day to have to survive through… Times were extremely harsh for the ordinary working people two hundred years ago, children were very lucky if their parents could give them an apple or an orange as a Christmas treat.

If I had a magic wand I’d have all families reunited for Christmas – it’s a time for love, forgiveness and above all hope – hope that our future will be happy, healthy and peaceful….

          Happy Christmas to everyone


Friday, 28 November 2014

A taste of history.The church of St Nicholas Mavesyn Ridware

Recently I took my daughter on a long planned trip to give her an insight into the history of my childhood church.

The original church was built in 1140 AD by Hugo Mauvoisin a descendant of a knight who fought in William the Conquerer’s army at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. William favoured him by bestowing on him the Lordship of Rhydware, which  previous to the Norman conquest had belonged to the Saxon Earl, Algar.
Hugo added his name Mauvoisin to the manor title.
 After his death Hugo's body was laid to rest under an arch in the North Aisle of his church – his bones still remain there today.The Tower was added to the west of the North Aisle a short time later.

Effigies of Hugo and Sir Henry Mauvoisin

There was a lot of feudal history with neighbouring knights in this area over the next three hundred years…The last of the Mauvoisin knights to die in battle was Sir Robert Mauvoisin in July 1403 at the Battle of Shrewsbury. His tomb and memorials plus ledgerstones of other early family members are also in the North Aisle, along with those of subsequent Lords of this manor..

<< Tomb of Sir Robert Mauvoisin

   Looking down into Crypt >>

<< Medieval floor tiles in Crypt

 Medieval armour of one of the Mauvoisin Knights                                >>>

 In 1782 the old church, apart from the Tower and North Aisle was demolished due to it being so damp. A new church was built in the same year adjoining the remains of the old one-but at a higher level..The North Aisle has always been known locally as the crypt, as one has to go down steps from the new church into it. The old and new church are divided inside by an open stone arcade

During archaeological work it was found that much of the chancel of the old church lies buried beneath the ground East of the new church.

The new church is very light and unpretentious, although it has many hatchments hanging from it’s walls.. It has a large square nave with one central aisle.

The font which had been lost over the centuries was eventually found in the garden of the old hall and  returned to it’s rightful place just through the West door of the church.

The churchyard is kept in a beautiful condition, it has seats for one to sit in contemplation while looking over the meadow to the river Trent meandering by.
 I found headstones here for some of my early C17 ancestors which was a lovely surprise.

My daughter was enthralled by the history, not only of the church itself but also of the families who have lived in this small hamlet over the last 850 hundred years.
… There’s so much of interest here, especially between neighbouring families during the Plantaganet era that I might be tempted to write a novel based on those characters.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

All Saints church Thurlton

This is a grade one listed medieval thatched roof church which overlooks the Broadland marshes. It is basically C12 with some C15 additions
It’s C15 square tower is impressive.
The lovely Norman South door is not the main entrance.
<<South door
 The one used for this purpose is the elaborate pre-reformation C15 door on the North side of the church, which has protection from it’s contemporary porch.

I’ve not seen a similar doorway quite like this anywhere else…there are carved angels swinging censors in the spandrels of the arch, and a small carving at it’s apex, which is possibly of the Trinity. The inner moulding of the arch used to contain carvings of Tudor roses and crowns, but sadly there are now only fragments left to be seen, The top of the door itself has beautiful iron tracery work upon it;

The font is of the usual Tudor style, adorned with carved roses and shields. There are four carved lions standing around it’s base.
On the north wall is an enormous late medieval wall painting of St Christopher…it wasn’t discovered until early C20 while the church was being cleaned

An early C20 oak pulpit was gifted to the church by the Sewell family. There is a C17 hour glass stand on the adjacent wall which was used for timing the length of the sermons

The mid C19 pews have doors, which help to keep out the draught – almost essential I would think in this chilly church.

The C15 rood screen must have looked impressive in it’s early days with vibrant colouring. Sadly most of the dado panels have now gone and what are left are in very poor condition - although the upper screen still has amazing tracery work.
<<dado panels

 Upper rood screen >>

A window containing stretched glass is in the church...probably the precursor to our modern frosted glass

The chancel contains a number of fine wall memorials,. Most impressive of these are on the north wall -  a marble tablet topped with heraldry to Margaret Denny d.1717. and further along on the same wall an epitaph to Ann Denny d.1665 which contains the verse…
   “Reader stay and you shall heare
   with your eye, who ‘tis lyes heare
   For when stones do silence brake
   th’ voice is seene not heard to speake”

<< Margaret Denny

               Ann Denny >>

..…there are also C17 ledgerstones for the Denny family in the chancel floor. This notable family resided at    Thurlton Manor

 The simple alter table is Jacobean…it looks rather forlorn standing bare below the charming East window with it’s angel

An interesting headstone in the churchyard is for Joseph Bexfield who drowned in 1809 . ( I believe there are others buried here who met the same fate)...they serve as a reminder that this area is surrounded by the marshes

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Church of St Edmund King and Martyr, Southwold

No superlatives I use can do justice to this wonderful church which is situated in the middle of the town.
I think I should start with it's grand two-storey South porch, which was the last part of the church to be built.

It has chequerboard work on it's East and West walls, and over the porch door is a niche which holds a statuette of St Edmund.

The North doorway is just as impressive, without a porch.

The interior of this large church is breathtaking.

The medieval font at the West end of the nave is of the seven sacrament design , and has a magnificent C20 cover.

At the back of the nave is the statue of "Southwold Jack" which originally used to have a clock mechanism, and Jack would strike a bell every quarter of the hour...Although the clock workings have long disappeared, the statue still comes to life at the beginning of services by bringing his sword down to strike a bell. There is a similar statue in nearby Blithburgh church.

The interior of the church is magnificent. I love all the clerestory windows.

The C15 rood screen is truly splendid, it stretches right across the full width of the church. On close inspection I wondered if  it's panels had been painted by more than one person, as the quality of the gessowork differs on  them.

Much of the later restoration to this church happened in the early C20 which included making the pulpit and lectern rather too extravagant for my particular taste, but no doubt there are many people who enjoy this lavish style.

The chancel has a gloriously painted blue spangled ceiling with surrounding angels

The stained glass East window and reredos, are a joy to behold

...and there's a medieval sedilia and piscina set into the chancel South wall.

A very fine ceremonial cross which was a gift from Emporer Haile Selassie stands by the steps up to the altar.

I noticed a lot of C16 graffiti on the ancient benches in the chancel.
The old misericorde stalls are superb with lovely head carvings on each of the armrests...and I really liked the priests chair and desk

The organ standing up high is very ornate, it has angels, some blowing trumpets and others holding shields on it's facade - this was installed in the chancel in 1889

There's a calm serene atmosphere in the Lady Chapel, where it has been suggested the bosses overhead may represent Mary Tudor and her 2nd husband Charles Brandon, Earl of Suffolk. but no-one has found proof of this.

There is so much to see in this glorious welcoming house of God, that a repeat visit will be necessary. ...The churchyard alone is worth a second visit.

Friday, 3 October 2014

St James's church Dunwich

There’s nothing to distinguish this country church from many others, it’s just the fact that it’s connected to so much history that makes it more interesting than most.
Dunwich was a thriving early medieval port and used to cover about a square mile to the East of the present cliff edge.
All that remains of Dunwich today is a very small village set back  from the coast
It was the sea which made Dunwich, and it was the sea that ultimately destroyed Dunwich - by encroaching inland and gradually taking the town prisoner beneath it’s waves. By the C18 five out of the six remaining churches had been washed away, with only All Saints church holding out to become the last surviving church to succumb to the sea’s destructive surges ..but the sea could not be constrained, and this church had to be abandoned in the late C18. Some of it's furnishings were salvaged and saved.

The last remaining buttress on the cliff edge was taken down in 1920 before it could fall into the sea, it was rebuilt in the churchyard of the new church, along with a few other pieces of it's masonry.             

 The Dunwich Estate owners  were a family by the name of Barne.They had a new church built away from the village near the ruins of the old Leper Hospital of St James.

... Originally this new church was a simple brick building with a short round tower, but Frederick Barne the benefactor, had the church altered, because he didn’t like it’s design, so paid to have it covered in cladding, and replaced the round tower with a square one, he also added a chancel to the church in 1881.

I like the chancel in St James's C19 church, it's very unpretentious with a lovely serene atmosphere

   A lot of wood has been used in this church, from the richly carved support corbels for the arch-braced roof, to the pews with their poppy-head ends
    Just through the entrance door stands a plain sturdy font – no extravagant carving here!  >>

  A brass dated 1576 for a ship owner and his family now resides in this church, having been rescued from the ill fated All Saints church where it had previously lodged.

         The West window holds a modern depiction of St Felix.

 There are many memorials around the church for the Barne family

….The chancel screen was erected in 1920 to the memory Lady Constance Barne…On the North chancel wall is a monument to Michael Barne who died 1837...

....and one on the North wall of the Sanctuary for Frederick Barne 1886. ..He was the last M.P. for Dunwich.


 I liked the lancet windows in the chancel, and the bright East window which dates from 1858

                  The piscina and sedilia are in the early English style.

The ruins of The Leper Hospital of St James are in the SE corner of the churchyard…it fell into decay and left to deteriorate before being abandoned in 1685. It is now the mausoleum for the Barne family. 

  Old leper hospital of St James.

This a beautiful area to visit. I'll certainly be making a return visit as soon as possible.