Thursday, 22 February 2018

St Wendreda, March, Cambridgeshire


After the disappointment of Victorian March, St Wendreda was a breath of fresh air - externally stunning, although the largely cleared churchyard is a tragedy - but the triumph here is the hammerbeam roof with its multitude of angels. Ignore that as obvious [difficult] and there's lots more of interest here; the interior repays as much as the exterior.

ST WENDREDA. At the S end of the town, in Church Street. A church almost entirely of the Dec and Perp styles, except for the N arcade which may be as early as 1300 and the chancel which is by W. Smith, 1872. The date of the Dec parts is indicated by a Papal indulgence of 1343 for those giving money to the new building. The Perp parts are of c. 1500 etc. (Date 1528 in the porch.) - Of the earlier period chiefly the lower parts of the W tower, the chancel arch, and the S arcade. The latter differs only in details from the N arcade. Both sides have five bays with octagonal piers. But the N capitals are more broadly moulded and the arches are triple-chamfered. The S arches are double-chamfered. On the N side the W bay was cut into, when the tower was built, on the S side there is a narrower full bay instead. The W tower has a gorgeous three-light W window with flowing tracery and a tall arch towards the nave. Below the W window a narrow N-S passage runs through the tower which reduces the depth of the space inside considerably. The Perp additions are sumptuous throughout. The aisles were renewed, with quatrefoil bases and battlements, and the N aisle received quatrefoil decoration in the battlements as well. A S  porch was added with three-light openings, and a clerestory of flint with some flushwork decoration and brick window voussoirs. Inside, in connexion with this, a new roof  was made, the most splendid timber roof of Cambridgeshire. It is a double hammerbeam roof and has figures of angels with spread-out wings in three tiers, at the corbels supporting the hammerbeam shafts, and at the ends of both hammerbeams (cf. Earl Stonham and Woolpit, Suffolk, and Knapton, Norfolk). - COMMUNION RAIL. Remains at W end of S aisle; C18. - PLATE. Chalice of 1752; Paten of 1703. - MONUMENTS. Brass to Andrew Dredeman d 1501 and his wife; 16 in. figures; in the nave floor. -  Brass to Anthony Hansard d 1507 and his wife 5 kneeling figures with scrolls leading up to an Annunciation; coat of arms below; S aisle.

Anthony Hansard 1507 (2)

Grotesque (2)

Headstone (2)

MARCH. Among the disappearing fens, the high ground crowned by Ely Cathedral is part of an archipelago of islands, on one of which stands this capital of the Isle. Till late last century it was a hamlet of Doddington; now it is a busy little market town and a railway junction, with a long straggling street and buildings befitting its grown-up importance. Three of the four parishes into which it has been divided have each a modern church, St Mary’s, St John's, and St Peter’s; but Old March, away from the stir of the oflicial capital, treasures the beautiful medieval church. A few dwellings gather round it, anda thatched farmhouse near by has 1658 on its chimney stack. A long avenue of venerable elms runs along the road which brings us to it, and at the foot of one of the trees is the square base of an old cross, carved with roses and shields of arms and set on a flight of steps.

The old church was built about the middle of the 14th century as a chapelry of Doddington, and given the rare dedication of St Wendreda, an obscure Saxon saint of whom little is known, but whose relics are said to have been taken in a golden shrine, at the request of King Ethelred, from here to Ely. Fine battlements adorn the walls of this church, except for the new gabled chancel. The parapets of the 15th century aisles have quatrefoil tracery, and a band of quatrefoils runs round the plinth of the aisles and the old south porch, which has big windows, stone seats, a gable cross, and a stoup. There are grotesque gargoyles, and by some of the windows are human and animal heads, one of a woman in horned headdress. The sanctus bell still rings in the bellcot on the eastern gable of the nave, which has a striking 15th century clerestory of nine windows on each side, richly patterned in flint and stone. Crowning it all is a fine tower of about 1400, from which soars a graceful spire with canopied lights. The tower stands on two open arches with a vaulted passage between them, preserving a right-of-way existing here before the tower was built.

The medieval windows which light the fine interior are set in walls carved with arches at the top of which are human figures and angels. Lofty arcades divide the nave and aisles, the north aisle 600 years old and the south side 500. Exceedingly lofty, dwarfing the arcades, are the arches of the tower and chancel, the tower arch having a good Jacobean ringer’s gallery halfway up.

The great glory of the church is the magnificent double hammerbeam roof, whose equal it would be hard to find. It is all richly carved by 15th century craftsmen, with an amazing array of angels hovering over the nave from the arches and the hammerbeams, as well as from the corbels, which support saints standing in niches between the clerestory windows. There are nearly 200 angels in this heavenly host, all with outstretched wings, some with musical instruments, some with shields, and others with emblems of the Passion.

It is thought that William Dredenian, who died in 1503, gave this lovely roof, and two small brass portraits in the floor of the nave, now very worn, are believed to be of him and his wife. Under the tower is another brass with 16th century kneeling figures of Antony Hansart in armour and tabard, his feet gone, his wife in kennel headdress and girdled gown, their small daughter without a head. Below them is their shield, and above them is a striking and unusual Annunciation showing the Madonna kneeling at a desk, the Archangel Gabriel kneeling before her, and a vase of lilies between them.

There is an ancient font, and a modern pulpit with a vine border and figures of the Good Shepherd and the Four Evangelists. A richly coloured window of the south aisle has St Michael, St Etheldreda with her abbey at her feet, and St Wendreda holding her church. The most striking of the windows has a setting of seas and mountains, and a child with a bunch of flowers looking into the sky, where Our Lord is receiving two men at the gate of Heaven. A stone by the chancel door marks the grave of John Wyldboar, who lived through the hundred years from the middle of the reign of Charles Stuart.

Flickr.

Victorian March, Cambridgeshire

A quick entry for the dross of St Mary Magdalene, LNK, St John the Baptist, LNK, and St Peter, surprisingly open. All Victorian and all dull, run of the mill buildings of their time but credit to St Peter for being open and the cemetery is fine but insipid.

ST JOHN. N of the Cemetery. 1872 by T. H. Wyatt. Rock-faced with transverse roofs to the bays of the aisle and a diagonally set bell-cote with timber spirelet.

ST MARY MAGDALENE, on the way to Westry. 1891 by Spiers (GR) Rock-faced, with apse and polygonal bell-cote.

ST PETER, High Street. 1880 by T. H. Wyatt. Rock-faced with NW spire of Cambridgeshire type. Straight E end, plate tracery, arcades on short circular piers with crocket-type capitals.

CEMETERY. The chapels and the spire between them, with a passage through are by  W. Stephenson, 1867-8.

St Mary Magdalene (2)
St Mary Magdalene

St John the Baptist (3)
St John the Baptist

St Peter (2)
St Peter

Chapels (1)
Cemetery chapels

MARCH. Among the disappearing fens, the high ground crowned by Ely Cathedral is part of an archipelago of islands, on one of which stands this capital of the Isle. Till late last century it was a hamlet of Doddington; now it is a busy little market town and a railway junction, with a long straggling street and buildings befitting its grown-up importance. Three of the four parishes into which it has been divided have each a modern church, St Mary’s, St John's, and St Peter’s; but Old March, away from the stir of the oflicial capital, treasures the beautiful medieval church. A few dwellings gather round it, and a thatched farmhouse near by has 1658 on its chimney stack. A long avenue of venerable elms runs along the road which brings us to it, and at the foot of one of the trees is the square base of an old cross, carved with roses and shields of arms and set on a flight of steps.

The old church was built about the middle of the 14th century as a chapelry of Doddington, and given the rare dedication of St Wendreda, an obscure Saxon saint of whom little is known, but whose relics are said to have been taken in a golden shrine, at the request of King Ethelred, from here to Ely. Fine battlements adorn the walls of this church, except for the new gabled chancel. The parapets of the 15th century aisles have quatrefoil tracery, and a band of quatrefoils runs round the plinth of the aisles and the old south porch, which has big windows, stone seats, a gable cross, and a stoup. There are grotesque gargoyles, and by some of the windows are human and animal heads, one of a woman in horned headdress. The sanctus bell still rings in the bellcot on the eastern gable of the nave, which has a striking 15th century clerestory of nine windows on each side, richly patterned in flint and stone. Crowning it all is a fine tower of about 1400, from which soars a graceful spire with canopied lights. The tower stands on two open arches with a vaulted passage between them, preserving a right-of-way existing here before the tower was built.

The medieval windows which light the fine interior are set in walls carved with arches at the top of which are human figures and angels. Lofty arcades divide the nave and aisles, the north aisle 600 years old and the south side 500. Exceedingly lofty, dwarfing the arcades, are the arches of the tower and chancel, the tower arch having a good Jacobean ringer’s gallery halfway up.

The great glory of the church is the magnificent double hammerbeam roof, whose equal it would be hard to find. It is all richly carved by 15th century craftsmen, with an amazing array of angels hovering over the nave from the arches and the hammerbeams, as well as from the corbels, which support saints standing in niches between the clerestory windows. There are nearly 200 angels in this heavenly host, all with outstretched wings, some with musical instruments, some with shields, and others with emblems of the Passion.

It is thought that William Dredenian, who died in 1503, gave this lovely roof, and two small brass portraits in the floor of the nave, now very worn, are believed to be of him and his wife. Under the tower is another brass with 16th century kneeling figures of Antony Hansart in armour and tabard, his feet gone, his wife in kennel headdress and girdled gown, their small daughter without a head. Below them is their shield, and above them is a striking and unusual Annunciation showing the Madonna kneeling at a desk, the Archangel Gabriel kneeling before her, and a vase of lilies between them.

There is an ancient font, and a modern pulpit with a vine border and figures of the Good Shepherd and the Four Evangelists. A richly coloured window of the south aisle has St Michael, St Etheldreda with her abbey at her feet, and St Wendreda holding her church. The most striking of the windows has a setting of seas and mountains, and a child with a bunch of flowers looking into the sky, where Our Lord is receiving two men at the gate of Heaven. A stone by the chancel door marks the grave of John Wyldboar, who lived through the hundred years from the middle of the reign of Charles Stuart.

Flickr.

Coldham, Cambridgeshire

St Etheldreda, redundant, has been abandoned having been converted to residential occupancy and then marketed in 2007 with the following details: St Etheldreda's Church at Coldham, near Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, dates from the 19th century and is Grade II-listed. It comes with font, pulpit, stained-glass windows and stone pews in the porch, but also contains four bedrooms. Abbotts (01328 738111) is asking £399,950. It didn't sell - I assume subsidence was an issue.

ST ETHELDREDA. 1875. Rock-faced, with W bell-cote. The style chosen is E.E.

British Listed Buildings is more informative:

Church, built 1876 in early English style. Coursed rubblestone with tiled roof. West wall with repaired bell-cote above west window of two trefoil lights with foiled head in two-centred arch. nave of three bays, one with a two light window with a foiled head in a two-centred arch and one with three trefoil lights with a foiled head in a two-centred arch. South porch, gabled, with two-centred outer arch, moulded and with attached shafts. Chancel, tiled. Two windows of one trefoil light in two-centred head and an east window of three trefoil lights with a foiled head. North vestry with a stone stack. Interior. Chancel arch of two moulded orders. Outer roll moulded on attached shafts with foliate capitals and moulded bases, inner chamfered on three grouped, attached colonettes with half octagonal capitals and carried on corbels. In south wall of chancel, piscina and double sedilia. Cinquefoil cusping to two-centred arches to each. Retable of stone. Two-centred arches to five bays divided by shafts of marble.

VCH (Cambs) Vol.IV, p.185.

St Etheldreda (2)

Another church Mee missed.

Guyhirn, Cambridgeshire

Like Parson Drove Guyhirn has two churches - the CCT Guyhirn Chapel, open, and the redundant St Mary Magdalene, obviously locked.

I thought St Mary was in a dire state until I saw the Cambridgeshire Churches entry and Simon Knott's 2015 visit and realised that someone, or some people, are trying to take - or perhaps that should read are taking - this church in hand. This, it seems to me, is a good thing. To kill off, by willful neglect, a perfectly fine Scott building seems mindless.

Meanwhile down the road is the delectable Chapel in the care of the CCT -  it is a simple delight.

In brick and stone and glass and wood
Three centuries has this beacon stood
“Puritan relic of the past”
Built to shine and built to last
Long on its one East Anglian level
It praises God and shames the devil.

Without doubt THE church of the day - until St Wendreda in March.

ST MARY MAGDALENE, by Sir George Gilbert Scott, consecrated in 1878. Yellow brick, with lancet windows, and not at all typically Scottian.

MORTUARY CHAPEL, 1/2 M. NE. The former church, or perhaps a nonconformist church of the Commonwealth. The money for the building was left in 1651. The date above the door is 1660. The church is a plain parallelogram, ashlar-faced, with four-light mullioned windows which have arched lights. The E end has a window in no way different from the others. The W window is higher up. The N and W sides are of brick, or repaired in brick. Thin Gothic bell-cote.

St Mary Magdalene (2)

Guyhirn Chapel (5)

Inexplicably Mee missed Guyhirn in my edition.

Friday Bridge, Cambridgeshire

St Mark, locked no keyholder. Oh dear, I can't imagine what the good people of Friday Bridge were thinking of when, in 1864, they commissioned this monstrosity.

Pevsner is succinct: ST MARK. 1864 by J. B. Owen. Yellow brick, with W tower and spire.

St Mark (2)

Mee didn't bother but did mention a dubious Cromwell story in his Elm coverage viz:

The traveller who finds himself a mile or so away at Friday Bridge may be fortunate enough to see a storied relic of Oliver Cromwell  preserved at Needham Hall. It is an oak table from the old house of that name which stood here, and it is said that Cromwell slept on the table, so that he should be no better lodged than his soldiers.

For what it's worth Flickr.

Elm, Cambridgeshire

All Saints, locked, keyholder listed - well technically yes but... A badly drawn map by the south porch indicates the key being held in the village shop which, despite spending some time doing so, I was unable to locate. It would be churlish of me to note it as LNK but that, to my mind, is what it is. Anyhow I am reliably informed it contains little of interest and I liked the exterior.

ALL SAINTS. The W tower is the earliest and finest part of the church, clearly E.E. and similar to West Walton and Walsoken in Norfolk. The buttresses are of the type called clasping, big and polygonal, as at Leverington. The W door is still round-arched. The W windows are three lancets on a nailhead frieze. They are not shafted but have plain chamfered surrounds. On the N and S sides there is a blank arcading instead, and above tall slim lancets set in tall blank arcades with shafts and shaftrings.* The bell-stage has twin openings, also E.E. The top is later, with battlements, turret pinnacles and a small recessed lead spire. The E side of the tower towards the nave has an arch which goes with the rest. The former roof-line of the nave is visible above it, which proves that the clerestory, in spite of its ten typically C13 lancet windows, must be a little later than the arcade below.* This is of six bays - i.e. does not match the clerestory - with alternating round and octagonal piers (alternating also between N and S). The arches are double-chamfered. The E.E. nave had aisles and they also survive materially, in spite of alterations to the windows. Both doorways are E.E. too, that on the N side with seven orders of colonnettes and very fine arch mouldings. E.E. also the odd sturdy demi-piers against the outer walls of both aisles just E of the doorways. What can their purpose have been? Were they to carry transverse arches? The present arcade does not allow for any and is indeed not in line with them. The rere-arches of windows in the N and S aisles are shafted in the same C13 style. Finally the chancel belongs to the same century, see the chancel arch with the remarkable blank tracery above, the window shapes, the round-headed N doorways and the odd blocked S recess. The windows were filled with simple Dec tracery, probably at the time when most aisle windows were similarly remodelled (E window C19). Perp only a few windows and the double-hammerbeam roof - a modest variation on the more sumptuous theme of March (and many Norfolk and Suffolk churches), also with angels, but again much less splendid ones than at March. - PLATE. Chalice of 1753; Flagon of 1639.

* The three lower stages were refaced in the C19.
* This clerestory seems genuine, though Cole in his drawing at the British Museum shows windows of two lights.

All Saints (3)

ELM. Its glory is not in its elms, for we found not one in this trim village of trees and orchards; we remember it for the stately tower which has stood like a fortress for 700 years, except that its top is new, crowned by a small spire. The tower is 70 feet high with beautiful arcading, a west doorway with rich mouldings and three shafts on each side, and turrets climbing with every stage. Its architecture is characteristic of the best type in the county, and may be compared with some of the gateway towers of Cambridge Colleges. We found red snapdragons growing in its crannies.

And not less impressive is the tower inside, for the beauty of its wide arch and the lovely lancets round the walls. In front of the west lancets tall clustered columns form a triforium from the turret stairway to a tiny cell in another turret, below which is another little chamber on the ground floor. High above the tower arch is a primitive little window with a gable top through which the light may have fallen in Saxon days. It is now blocked up.

It is from this fine tower that we see the beauty of these medieval arcades, the 20 medieval clerestory windows, and the impressive roof of double hammerbeams. The clerestory windows have shafts and rich hoods; the roof is adorned with angels, and in the spandrels are dragons and flowers, a pelican with its young, and two rowing ships on the sea.

We come into this impressive place, so little changed since the 13th century, by its original doorways, both richly moulded, one of them with seven shafts on each side, making a beautiful arch.

The traveller who finds himself a mile or so away at Friday Bridge may be fortunate enough to see a storied relic of Oliver Cromwell  preserved at Needham Hall. It is an oak table from the old house of that name which stood here, and it is said that Cromwell slept on the table, so that he should be no better lodged than his soldiers.

Parson Drove, Cambridgeshire

Parson Drove has two churches Emmanuel, locked no keyholder, and St John the Baptist, CCT, keyholder listed. The first was built in 1872 and is not unpleasant but is nothing to write home about either. The latter is, like many CCT churches, agreeably shabby and unkempt both inside and out and wonderfully light and airy - I liked it a lot.

EMMANUEL CHURCH (Southea). Red brick, with some blue bricks. Nave and N aisle on short circular piers. Bell-cote between nave and wide semicircular apse. The brickwork is exposed inside. The window tracery is in imitation of the late C13 or early C14. The date of the church is 1872.

ST JOHN (Church End). Fine Perp W tower with tall panelled arch towards the nave, large three-light windows, tierceron vault with wide circular opening for the bell ropes, and battlements. The N aisle is older. It has a C13 doorway and walls and windows of the earlier C14. The S aisle was largely rebuilt in the C19. Fine interior, even if deprived of its chancel, which was, it is said, destroyed by a flood in 1613. The nave is seven bays long and has Perp arcades with slim piers the main shafts of which are semi-polygonal. The arches are nearly round. The W bays are cut into by E reinforcements of the tower. The clerestory windows are of three lights. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, big with elaborate quatrefoil panels on the bowl, and tracery on the stem. - PULPIT. Dated 1677. - PLATE. Late C15 Paten, the only unaltered piece of medieval plate in a Cambridgeshire church, says the VCH. In its centre the Vernicle. - Chalice of 1599.

Emmanuel Church (3)

Pulpit (1)

Sanctuary

PARSON DROVE. A few years after the war we came here in search of the last woad mill in Cambridgeshire, believed to be the last in England, but, alas, we came to find only a plant of bright yellow flowers and blue-green leaves growing in the corner of a garden. It was all that was left of acres of woadplants which grew here almost to the beginning of our century. The woad mill was no more. It had fallen to pieces and been removed, together with the balls of woad pulp the mill crushed, to Wisbech Museum, where we may see it as a rather melancholy relic.

It was Julius Caesar who first instilled into the minds of civilised people the fact that some of our ancestors dyed their skins with the blue dye obtained from the woad plant. In his Gallic War we read that “ without exception all the Britons stain themselves with woad, which produces a blue tint; and this gives them a wild appearance in a fight.” There is little doubt that Caesar libelled the brave race which so vigorously resisted his legions; if woad was used for staining the bare skin of the warriors it was used quite as much in giving a brilliant colour (rather like a natural indigo) to their clothes. It was the beginning of brighter fashions in dress.

Woad dye was obtained from the crushed leaves of a plant which grows still in many gardens, the botanical name being Isatis tinctoria. Growing from one to six feet high, it has branching flower-stalks with yellow blossoms and small pods. It was from the blue-green leaves that the dye was obtained.

Many people still in Cambridgeshire remember the woad crops of their fertile soil. For over 2000 years the industry thrived until modern discoveries and modern machinery killed it. The young woad plants were delicate and needed much care, and men and women crawled along the field removing the weeds with a tiny spade fitting into the palm of their hands. When the plant was picked the leaves, having been crushed to pulp in a primitive horse-worked mill, were moulded by hand into balls, which were laid out in sheds to dry, and after three months the balls were mixed with water and put in a dark chamber to ferment for about six weeks, when they were ripe for despatch to the cloth manufacturers.

The woad-mill village lies on one of the roads which are so straight hereabouts that we only lose them in the distance, and the church tower, rising in the trees, is like a beacon in the flat countryside. It is a 15th century tower with bosses of roses and men’s heads in the vaulted roof, and a great panelled arch reaching the full height of the nave.

We may come into this light church by a 13th century or a 15th century doorway, both sheltered by massive porches. The nave has striking 15th century arcades of seven bays, with an east window where an arch opened to a chancel till it was swept away in a flood 300 years ago. There is a little old glass set in the clear windows. The font is 15th century and the pulpit Jacobean, and a silver paten with an engraving of the head of Our Lord is the only piece of Communion plate in the county left untouched by the Reformation.