Thursday, June 16, 2011

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.

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