Monday, June 20, 2011

St Andrew, Ufford, Cambridgeshire (SoP)

Following the lunchtime discussion that this church had just been made redundant (source a friend of Andy), and Andy's detour here and discovery it was in fact open, JRS also came here from Barnack to record it, and so I felt I would try too, although approaching 6pm I thought it may be locked. It wasn't, and I discovered that JohnV had also detoured here after Uffington as he had signed the visitors' book. The church is impressively sited on a rise above the village, and reached from the road by a long path leading up to the east end with its odd paired Dec windows. From outside you could hear the noise from the local cricket club. Large spacious if rather bare interior. In the north aisle splendid large painted Commandment boards, Creed Lord's Prayer and above Royal Arms, all 1790. Several C17-C18 wall memorials, plus in the chancel a tomb with semi-reclining effigy of Bridget Lady Carre d1621. The chancel too has a fine series of early C20 windows.
As I photographed the outside the wind got up and I suddenly felt chilly. To my horror I realised I had left my sweat shirt and jacket hanging in the wardrobe at the B&B, so had to return to Aldwincle to collect them. Luckily this was not too much of a detour and the owners were thankfully at home. I celebrated my return to Bristol by buying a kebab and after eating it promptly fell asleep on the settee.
Thanks to everyone who attended the AGM for their company and repartee. And thanks especially to Chris Stafford for the organisation and planning of another successful day in his back garden, despite realising that family commitments in Pembrokeshire meant that he had to drive back from there for our day and return there for a further family event the following day. I am sure he uttered a few choice words when the wedding and christening got planned either side of the trip he had agreed to organise this year. And thanks also to Mrs S for giving him permission.

All Saints, Wittering, Cambridgeshire (SoP)

As we all headed to the church Chris stopped off at the local shop to collect the key. Somehow we had lost JRS so we assumed he had called at St Martin's in Stamford. the church is tall and short with a Decorated west tower and short broach spire. From the NW nothing looks very interesting, a low north aisle looks restored Dec too and there is a modern extension (vestries I assumed) at the north east corner. However from the south east you suspect that what you are seeing is a very early church, a sort of Escomb or Bradford on Avon affair. Stepping inside and there was a treble shock. Immediately in front of you is an ornate two-bayed Norman arcade and a completely empty space cleared of pews, newly paved and all done very recently (indeed it may not yet be quite finished). Turning and looking to the chancel however and you see the jaw-dropping feature which is the principle reason for coming here, a Saxon chancel arch with truly cyclopean capitals and two complete roll mouldings interrupted by these blocks. In the north chapel east window modern glass connected to RAF Wittering. The clearance was so recent that we debated if the church was still in use as the board outside had the vicar obliterated and only the name of the RAF Chaplain recorded.
This was the last group church of the day and Chris returned Ken and Diane to the station for their trains. I returned Marion to her car at Castor but not before returning to Upton in a vain attempt to get inside as Marion had missed it. It was closed but Marion was able to see the main features from the north aisle window. As I headed away, thinking I was leading Marion to her overnight hotel stay in Wansford, I despairingly watched Marion display her self-confessed poor sense of direction in my mirror by continuing around the roundabout! I could do nothing further and imagined her heading back to the same Peterborough industrial estates she had got lost in that morning.

St Michael, Uffington, Lincolnshire

I had no idea we had crossed from The Soke into Lincs, in fact I did not realise until I tried to look up Uffington in the wrong Pevsner when I got home! Maybe the change of county explains the gorgeous Perp west steeple with the spire embellished with crockets. This medieval church had a serious Victorian makeover, or rather embellishment, but there is more medieval work than you may suspect at first glance. However inside there is no mistaking the overlarge roof corbels for the nave roof as Victorian, with various carved scenes. The interior was very dark but it seems I successfully braced my flash-failing camera on the tower screen for a time-lapse interior. Many of the monuments proved more of a challenge though and I have some strangely angled but sharp photos of the big chancel memorials as well as several complete disasters. Alongside the north side of the chancel is a large Perp chapel with a stunningly tall east window of four lights, and filled by glass by Wailes. I found his signature in the window (bottom left) and had a discussion with Andy about it. Interesting he saw the W in foliage whereas I saw the W as the solid block entwined by foliage. Of course I remembered later that two Ws was correct as his first name was William!

Time was getting on and JohnV took his leave of us here for a long drive back to Kent. We stood outside by the tower (to the surprise of the locals above) and debated about the next church, planned as St Martin in Stamford, and decided to omit it to visit our last planned target as Ken had to get back to Peterborough station for a 1715 train. Not sure if JRS made it here though. It turned out to be a good choice as when we drove by St Martin's there was nowhere to park.

St John the Baptist, Barnack, Cambridgeshire (SoP)

We drove past Barnack church on the way to our pub lunch at The Millstone in the village. Thankfully after the diverse churches we had all gone off to see, the plan came together for us to enjoy a lunch together. Suitably refreshed we returned to visit the church. Here is another of the area's great Saxon towers which repays close examination, and the church attached to it is large and impressive looking too from outside in the sunshine. The Decorated chancel is ornate and has an exceptionally finely detailed five stepped-light east window, and the south chapel Perp a very ornate embattled parapet.  I had been here before but had forgotten about the impressive early C13 south porch which shelters a very fine late Transitional doorway with a round arch, has a fine pointed full EE outer arch and an absurdly tall cross vault.
Inside the mighty Saxon tower arch dominates the west end and the interior looking east from here is tall and spacious, yet disappointing somehow. I felt much the same when I came here in 1986 and I cannot pinpoint why I feel like that. Maybe it is the Victorian roofs, the benches, the C19 screens and the overall tidying up which they undoubtedly did at the same time. And that is a shame, as there are also some fine treasures too, a Saxon figure of Christ in Majesty, an intricate carving of the Annunciation in the south chapel and an excellent EE font around which we all stood for the 2011 group photo.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

St Botolph, Helpston, Cambridgeshire (SoP)

Now followers of our little gathering may get confused at this point. The original plan was to go to Deeping St James but Chris was concerned of the proximity of a planned wedding ceremony there so decided to go to Helpston instead en route to lunch at Barnack. The problem was that JRS and Seajay had set off before this was decided, and Andy had gone off to Ufford after receiving news of its imminent closure. St Botolph's is rather a pleasant church with an octagonal west tower embraced by the aisles, and a clerestoried nave and aisles, with south porch and chancel. The most dominant feature of the interior is the astonishing east window of Christ in Majesty by Francis Skeat, a bold insertion into this medieval setting. I really liked it but others in our party were not as keen. There were also two odd stone mouldings with carved beasts or figures low down in the chancel, which we all duly examined.

Friday, June 17, 2011

St Andrew, Northborough, Cambridgeshire (SoP)

Along with Upton, this was the other church I had suggested to Chris for our tour today. And I don't think anyone was disappointed with this architectural oddity. The Norman and EE church largely survives intact, the west front is probably the earliest part with a windowless wall to the nave four strip buttresses and a bellcote of the same period. To this a huge south transept has been added, probably the first part of a scheme to rebuild the whole church on a grand scale. A blocked arch above the aisle would have opened into a new aisle but alas for some reason this never came about. From the SE the difference of scale is marked between the early Decorated chancel and the later Decorated transept. Inside too the junction of the old and new is uncomfortable, but it cannot be denied that what we have is impressive enough. Under the south window are two recesses, presumably to house monuments to the benefactors from the Delamere family; indeed in the porch at Glinton are two effigies which local lore suggests were once in these recesses. The east wall has two rich canopies and brackets, and a rather crudely detailed but large canopied tomb without figures to James Claypole d1594. In the south aisle are unusually sedilia and a piscina, and the north aisle has another odd (blocked doorway?) round arch with later Decorated blank tracery. The lady who had kindly opened the church ahead of our visit was proud of her church. Her husband had arrived with his toolkit to open the donations box for the first time in many years. She thought it would need to be replaced as the opening would not accept £1 coins but the collections of coins I saw had a liberal helping of £1 and £2 coins, as well as the more expected copper shrapnel.

St Pega, Peakirk, Cambridgeshire (SoP)

We hurtled around the Peterborough ring road, at one stage I overtook Chris by mistake. We passed the weird spired church at Glinton (although we found out JRS had in fact stopped here - too good to miss!) which is over-tall for its tower and looks pregnant! Chris turned off and I followed, only to discover that he had disappeared. Neither could we see the church, although we were outside the Rectory. The road petered out in a farmyard track with a church way across the fields. As we debated what to do Chris appeared (in my rear mirror) waving like a windmill directing us down a side road, where the church thankfully was. No tower again, but atop the west front a Norman triple bellcote. We entered via a Norman doorway with tympanum into a small but perfectly formed church of nave and aisles and chancel. The walls above the late Norman north arcade and that of the aisle behind are covered in wall paintings, scenes from the Passion above and dire warnings in the aisle. Fine glass in the large Perp east window by W E Tower c1914. In a south window glass (by whom?) of c1915 (date of death in WW1), with brownish hues but powerful figures of three soldiers. Another rare treasure is the shaft of the lectern, C14 of wood. My failing camera could not take a picture of this so I would be grateful for anyone who did get a decent one to send it to me!

St Kyneburga, Castor, Cambridgeshire (SoP)

Diane and I followed the others to Castor where we found out that the others (JRS, Marion and Andy) had made their way here for a variety of reasons. Here too unexpectedly was Ken, who having arrived late, had taken a taxi from Peterborough station. Meanwhile of course Chris had returned there to pick him up. Never mind a quick phone call had Chris returning whilst many people were still enjoying this superb church, and catching up with people who they had not seen for a year. I had been to St Kyneburga's before but not with a digital camera. However in my keenness to be social of forgot to photograph very much here at all, and completely forgot to photograph the outside with its impressive Norman tower. This rests inside on hefty crossing arches with good carved capitals. Parts of the west front and the rest south doorway are also Norman. The aisleless chancel has an unusually traceried Perp east window. Here we also sorted out travelling arrangements and I drove Diane and Marion for the rest of the tour.

St John the Baptist, Upton, Cambridgeshire (ex SoP)

After breakfast I set off to meet all members of the ChurchCrawling Yahoo Group for our annual tour around churches, the selected area being The Soke of Peterborough, now part of Cambridgeshire. I left Aldwincle a little later than I had planned, and so ignored a few temptations on the way including Elton. I was first to arrive, to find our target church across the fields reached by a rough track and footpath. The external appearance is all of the C17, quite domestic looking, and without a tower. Nave, north aisle and chancel, yet there are three west gables because a small bellcote has been created between the two sections of the church. The door opened and the stage was set, because the interior is dominated by the changes made by the Dove family. The chancel arch however has Norman responds and the pillars of the arcade are a little later but not much. The aisle contains a large freestanding canopied monument with three recumbent effigies to the Doves, Sir William and his two wives. It is raised on a platform which has a bulky stone balustrade to the nave and a matching stone stair leading up into it. Pevsner notes that one of the female effigies is of wood, but I never thought to question this so effectively matched it is to the other two. I sat quietly waiting for others to arrive. Diane was first with Chris who returned smartly to the station to pick up Ken as his train was running late. John and Seajay arrived next but no-one else made it here. We waited just in case, and I even accosted a couple I did not know as they pulled up outside just in case they were joining us - they weren't!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

St Mary, Titchmarsh, Northamptonshire

I had intended to leave the Warkton memories lingering in my mind and not visit another church that evening, but signs approaching Titchmarsh informed me that my intended early morning target could be problematic the next day as the village was having a festival. Sure enough around the church people were busy erecting stalls and bringing in various stuff in readiness for the next day. Normally open, the keyholder had locked up 10 minutes before I knocked on her door but was happy to open it up again. I had wanted to come here since standing on the hill top at Wadenhoe in August last year and seeing the crown of sixteen pinnacles in the distance. The tower is a splendid example of a Perp tower, but the church itself is large wide and spacious. Much is Perp but in the chancel is a reused piece of Norman zig-zag and the arcades are earlier too (N, and N chapel, C13, S C14). The parish has recently removed most of the Victorian pews and paved the nave. There is not a great deal else to see, but there are two unusual painted memorials by Elizabeth Creed, one to her brother Rev Theophilus Pickering with bust on a long inscription plinth flanked by three putti, the other with a long inscription but a real bust to her cousin John Dryden the poet. Storm clouds gathered and by the time I got to the B&B at Aldwincle the heavens opened and a hailstorm ensured for about 15 minutes. A pub meal and an early night followed in readiness for the CC AGM the next day

St Edmund, Warkton, Northamptonshire

When I repositioned myself it was with the intention of visiting this church. Unfortunately I found it locked but there was a notice with a mobile phone number for a visit. Unfortunately the chap in question was not in the village but would be back at around 5pm. I had to call my B&B who were expecting me late afternoon to check a later arrival would be OK. I then rang this chap (the CW) back and arranged to meet at 5pm. Whilst I waited I admired the extensions to the church which now embrace the fine Perp tower. The chancel too is the other major external feature with an east window which beggars belief. However if it were not for this chancel, built to house four monuments to the owners of Boughton House, the church would feature among the less-interesting churches of the county, but it is the chancel which propels it into the "must see" category. For completeness the short two-bayed clerestoried nave has late C12 two-bayed arcades but the aisles are Victorian, as is the chancel arch. The chancel was rebuilt c1749 as the mausoleum of the Duke of Montagu's family, and apparently was almost walled off from the nave until the vicar at his expense built the current chancel arch. It has two recesses each side, for four major monuments.

The first pair north and south are to John Duke of Montagu d 1752 (N side) and Mary the Duchess d1753 (S side). They are both by Roubiliac, his with a portrait medallion being hung up by a large putto assisted by Charity who has two children. Below the grieving Duchess watches. Her memorial has an urn being garlanded by two putti, whilst the three Fates as young women look on. At the foot a naked chubby boy looks outwards. These are the monuments most people come to see the CW told me, but for me it was the next monument to the next Duchess of Montagu d1775 that I most wanted to see. 

The architectural surround (a beautifully detailed coffered and panelled apse) is by Robert Adam whilst the tableau is by Peter Matthias van Gelder. The latter shows a central urn with an angel bent and pointing skyward on the left and the seated Duchess and two children (perhaps her daughters who died young) and a hooded old lady to the right. Pevsner does not seem to care for it much, in his opinion the two styles here clash. I disagree, it is among the best monuments in the country of this period. And opposite Elizabeth Montague d1827, sat on a high plinth looking rather grim, whilst a young woman (left) and a youthful angel extinguishing a torch stand below (right). This monument, although the least interesting and of less merit than the others, is causing the CW the most concern, as the marble seems to be turning into salt. The youth's hand has largely crumbled away, and there are other bright white spots developing elsewhere on the figures showing the same failure of the stone. The parish is hopeful to clean the monuments in the near future (last done in 1947 apparently) and is taking advice from experts beforehand about the cleaning as well as the preservation of Elizabeth's memorial. It was hard to tear myself away but I had to, as the CW had a theatre appointment in Northampton that same evening and I had to get to my B&B.