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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.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

A second look....

 As those of you who are kind enough to read this blog know,  one of my passions is for researching country churches and churchyards.

A few years ago I visited the charming church of St Bartholemew at Corton – a real delight.  This has persuaded me to show again some of the churches I’ve visited over recent years (before I embark on my list of churches for this year)

                                The church of St Bartholemew, Corton.
When I drew up in the car park my first impression was that it was in need of repair, then realised it was only it's C15 tower which was in a ruinous condition.
 Originally when built St Bartholemew’s was a large church which was left to deteriorate, but much has been restored and nowadays the working church is only about half of it’s original size.

I entered the church through a low door into what used to be the nave and is now…due to the new roof and restoration of this part of the building… used as  a parish room. To the West of this room is a glass screen which divides  the church from the ruinous tower, and to the East a stone wall separates this area from the chancel…Pieces of a stone sculptured frieze lie against the wall – this belonged in the original church.

 Just through a doorway into the chancel the first thing I saw was the  fine late C14 Font.

... and in one of the window recesses sits a wonderfully carved C14 Gable Cross depicting virgin and child – the last remaining one of it’s kind in Suffolk...Most of these crosses were destroyed in the 1644 puritan church destruction.

Behind the Altar is a wonderful wide stone carved reredos from the early C20 with parish war memorial plaques on either side

 ….and lying at the foot of the Altar are two black stone slabs with the inscriptions of the persons buried beneath them – evidently people of importance in the parish at that particular time.

 As I walked round the churchyard I found many interesting tombstones. A few in particular caught my eye… was of a young man aged twenty one who was lost overboard and drowned while sailing down the coast in 1868

        ...and another of two headstones            

 standing side by side on the same grave, these were for a father d. 1834 and his son  d.1847.. This struck me as most unusual as I could find no mention of their wife/mother anywhere in the churchyard
These other two I found very poignant,  the one with the cross broken off it’s top must belong to a seaman, as I could still see the anchor and chain depicted on it, but I was unable to decipher the lettering.

Most sad of all was this lump of what looked like stone from the original church, placed on top of someone's grave – no inscription... but evidently someone cared enough to put some kind of marker  to find where their loved one lay.

I was so pleased I'd found this delightful parish church on a day it was unlocked. 
I suspect with severe coastal erosion it won't be with us forever.

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