Monday, 8 July 2013

St Margaret's Church Hales

Only the top of the round tower of this small Norman church can be seen from the main road as it’s situated in splendid isolation down a narrow country lane, surrounded by trees and fields.
 St Margaret's was made redundant in 1973, although one service a year is still held here. It is now under the care of the Church Conservation Trust.

Due to the unearthing of some medieval pottery it’s evident that there used to be a settlement close by .. there’s even evidence of a moat to the West of the churchyard which indicates the probability of a manor house once being built on the site.

 North door                
                           South door

  The thatched roof church stands proud, overseeing all who enters into it’s overgrown churchyard… The main entrance to the church is through the nave’s North door, it’s magnificent sculptured archway suggesting the nave and apsidal chancel were built c1140, as this style of decorative work was known in Normandy prior to the Conquest. The nave’s South door, although not quite so elaborately carved comes from the same period and has scratch dials either side of the door
                          The Chancel with medieval wall paintings

On entering the church I was struck by it’s simplistic beauty, it has no aisle but is welcoming and full of light. Immediately facing the door is the 15th century octagonal font, carved with angels, shields and roses

Although this church is abandoned some thoughtful person had recently visited the church and placed a vase of freshly cut flowers on the base of the font.

The chancel was replaced in the 14th century – probably at the same time the typical East Anglian round tower was added to the church.

Below the chancel is the faded remains of what once must have been a gloriously painted wooden rood screen

Some of the medieval pew benches are still here

The original chancel piscina used for washing the holy vessels is still intact.

Due to lack of money the East window was replaced with a simple Y tracery window and the other chancel windows with 13th century lancet windows which are a little larger than the original Norman ones. The only surviving Norman window is situated on the South side of the nave, with the other nave windows being later medieval insertions.

Picture taken from the 18th century West gallery

One of the things which I found most pleasing was the surviving medieval wall paintings – especially this one which is thought to be of St James the Great.

The old graveyard is a delight to walk round with tombs similar to the one here which belongs to the Preston family.

This is one of my favourite medieval churches to visit, which I have done on numerous occasions. It contains an air of tranquillity hard to match in any other old church.

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