Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Newark Area Churches, Part Two

All Saints, Elston
Back to our A46 trip on a lovely summer’s day in August.  The next church we visited was at Elston, a village with, surprisingly, two medieval churches.  The parish church, another one dedicated to All Saints, has rather strange proportions with a slender tower which looks rather too high for the church below it, quite the reverse of the church at East Stoke.  But it is another church packed with interest, particularly the many monuments to the Darwin family from Elston Hall including Erasmus Darwin, physician, scientist and poet, and grandfather of Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin's Grandfather

Elston Chapel: Georgian Interior
In fields east of the village lies Elston Chapel, a simple almost domestic looking medieval building from the outside (see photo in the October blog, "Getting there and getting in"). Inside though it has the original Georgian pews, pulpit and wall paintings and you get something of the sense of what many small churches must have been like before Victorian restorers did their work.  Now redundant and like nearby Cotham the Chapel is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  Both churches are kept open and both, interestingly, have old graffiti around the entrance doorway

 Syerston is the next village down the A46.  It has a rather plain long church, without either aisles or clerestory.  However when we visited the porch was surmounted by a very attractive garland of flowers left over from a recent wedding.  It is normally locked but the keyholder is nearby; unfortunately though not at home when we visited.

Wedding Garland at Syerston

St Augustine, Flintham, has a rather unusual layout with a central tower, a rather plain early C19 nave and much earlier chancel.  Evidence of early herringbone masonry in the lower part of the tower and on its south side a filled in arch where a transept or south aisle may have been attached.  Inside an early monument to a crusader, possibly Sir John Hose.

Flintham Crusader
 Sibthorpe was next, formerly a collegiate church now much reduced with both north and south aisles removed.  Now, following repairs and restoration in the C17, C19, and more recently, it now appears plain and neat on the outside with simple C19 windows on the south side and original windows reset on the north side.  Inside, however, there are more riches, with yet another Easter sepulchre, not as grand as at Hawton and an elaborate alabaster tomb of 1590 to Edward Burnell.  In an adjacent field is a Gr 1 listed C13 or C14 dovecote, the only building related to the former collegiate foundation that survives.  
Sibthorpe Easter Sepulchre

Sibthorpe: Monument to Edward Burnell

Sibthorpe Dovecote
Krys from Krakow

It was at Sibthorpe that we first met up with a Polish church crawler, Krys from Krakow, who was cycling round that day like us visiting local village churches.  He followed us round for the rest of our trip proving that touring churches by bike was really the way we should have been travelling.  Next summer maybe. Incidentally, Krys was one of several church crawlers from Europe that we came across this summer.

The next church was at Hawksworth, unfortunately locked.  Hawksworth is again a small village with quite a large church, unusually with a brick tower from the C17, with much of the exterior fabric of the nave and chancel dating from various C19 restorations.  The distinguishing feature of the church, however, is the C11 tympanum now set in the south wall of the tower depicting the Adoration of the Cross with an inscription in Latin that translates roughly as “Gauterus and his wife Cecilina have caused this church to be made to honour our Lord, the Virgin Mary and all saints of God as well”.  It’s a long time since I did O Level Latin and I really must try to swot up over the winter as we often find Latin inscriptions, even in the smallest of rural churches.

Hawksworth Tympanum
Screveton in the afternoon sun
The last church of the day was Screveton.  As we arrived the grass in the churchyard was being cut and the late afternoon sun was very pleasant.  And it was nice to see a village church with red tiles for a change.  Inside there are several points of interest particularly a lovely C12 font and tucked away in the lower tower chamber a massive alabaster monument dated 1583 to Sir Richard Whalley, his three wives and 25 children.  The monument must have stood in a more prominent place in the church at one time but maybe it was moved temporarily while restoration took place but once moved the cost of moving it back may have been considered too much?  Or perhaps it was just in the way?  Just a thought.

Screveton C12 Font

Monument to Sir Richard Whalley and his many children
So many wonderful churches, so little time.  We visited 90 this year.  Looking forward to next year’s 90!

Newark Area Churches, Part One

Newark's spire is a landmark for miles

The area around Newark has several churches of real quality, including the magnificent Newark parish church, “among the two or three dozen grandest parish churches of England” (Pevsner). To do it justice we’ll have to cover that in a separate article later.  Two more wonderful churches are also close to Newark, firstly just a few miles north of the town there is the fascinating St Giles church at Holme, which we covered in an earlier article.  The other one is just south of the town, All Saints at Hawton, equally fascinating, with its chancel described by Pevsner as “one of the most exciting pieces of architecture in the country.”  Fortunately the keyholders at both Holme and Hawton live near their churches so access should not be a problem.  Anyway I’ll come back to Hawton later, as in this piece I also want to cover the churches we’ve been to in villages along the old Fosse Way south of Newark.

East Bridgford

We visited twelve of these village churches in August starting at East Bridgford, a large well kept church set on a raised churchyard high above the village street.  The church has Saxon origins though there is nothing obvious that points to its early origins on the surface.  Inside the church is neat with some interesting features including a wall memorial to John Hacker and his wife (1620), wooden angels supporting the nave roof and a number of fragments of medieval tiles set in the floor next to the altar.  Outside there are several Swithland slate gravestones in the churchyard.

Memorial to John Hacker 
East Bridgford: Wooden Angel

East Bridgford: Medieval Tiles

 Next was Kneeton church located in a tiny village now made even more remote following the recent dualling of the A46.  The church is plain but has a lovely setting high above the Trent valley with extensive views across the valley to the north.  More slate gravestones in the churchyard some with very poignant carvings and messages; of particular note a very sad one to Elizabeth Gilbert who died in 1815 aged 35, presumably in childbirth, with a beautifully executed if somewhat macabre carving of Death hovering over the cradle and birthing bed.

Kneeton: Sad Memorial
 North of Kneeton is East Stoke, located towards the river away from the village close to the site of the Battle of Stoke Field, where in 1487 Yorkist forces supporting the pretender Lambert Simnel were utterly routed by forces loyal to Henry VII.  The church is solid looking with a rather squat tower but light and airy inside due to the complete rebuilding of the south aisle in 1738.  Of special note are the nicely carved capitals to the chancel arch depicting foliage and fruits.  In the churchyard is a grand monument to Baron Pauncefoote, first UK ambassador to America.

East Stoke
Memorial to Baron Pauncefoote

East Stoke: Foliage and Fruit
From Stoke we crossed the newly opened dualled A46 to the tiny village of Thorpe with its church tucked away behind the former rectory.  Indeed you have to go through the front garden and driveway of the rectory to get to the church.  Quite plain and extensively restored and unfortunately locked.

Thorpe: Plain, Restored and Locked
 Then on to what was the star of the trip, All Saints at Hawton, grand outside with a glorious Decorated period east window and plenty of detail on its tower.  It is a much grander church than you would normally expect in a small village and Inside there are several unique treasures, especially the celebrated Easter Sepulchre and matching tripartite sedilia and remains of a C14 wooden rood screen.  The Sepulchre and sedilia are incredible works of complicated ornate C14 stone carving, possibly executed by the same masons who created the wonderful pulpitum screen in Southwell Minster. 

Hawton: Grand Church in a Small Village
Hawton's Glorious Easter Sepulchre

Hawton: Richly Carved Sedilia

Hawton: East Window
Easter Sepulchre: Sleeping Soldier

Sedilia: Detail

Sedilia: By the Masons of Southwell?
That’s Part One of this note on the Newark area.  Part Two will follow shortly.

Monday, 5 November 2012

"The Church is Wondrous Small"

When I started out on this Churchpics project I assumed we would be visiting parish churches shown on OS maps with a circle or a square under the cross symbol. We would be looking out for spires (preferably) or towers. How wrong I was. Some of the most interesting churches we have visited have posessed neither of these. The smallest and some of the oldest churches in the East Midlands possess only a bellcote.

Bellcote of Little Casterton
Typanum - relocated to wall

Lifelike face carving
Of course, not all of these are the same: some have one bell, some two, like Little Casterton in the picture,  or even three. Many have architectural features out of all proportion in interest to the size of the church.

Miniature but charming angel
Cheeky chappie
Inside Little Casterton, for example,
there is fine medieval carving. The tympanum that once stood above the main entrance door has been re-positioned on an interior wall. On the nave roof is a tiny, charming angel, looking down benignly. On the wall are carved faces, oddly life-like.

Apart from Norman treasures in many bellcote churches, what is attractive as much as anything is their homely, domestic scale. Another example in Rutland is Essendine, with its Norman carved tympanum in situ. It could be just another stone-built house or village school, admittedly from the 12th Century. Its origin seems to have been as a chapel to the long-demolished Essendine castle but it exudes a deceptive ordinariness. 

Close-up of in-situ tympanum
 We have so far visited some 14 of these tiny churches. One that is particularly distinctive is St Pega's, Peakirk, once in Northamptonshire but now in the unitary district of Peterborough. It is the only church in the country dedicated to this Mercian princess, sister of Saint Guthlac of Crowland Abbey, and the village is named after her. She died in the year 719 in Rome. The belltower (known as a bell-gabled carillion) is unusual in having 3 bells.
The church possesses a number of rare features, including 11 medieval wall paintings and a highly ornate carved tympanum over the entrance door. Discoveries like these make such churches a joy to visit.

Medieval wall paintings over Norman arcades

Ornate carved tympanum
More photos of this church can be found on another church-crawler web site we like, at www.robschurches.moonfruit.com/peakirk/4520983099.

We have mentioned in a previous blog the unique (in Lincolnshire) survival of a rood loft and its stairs in St Edith's, Coates by Stowe. This is another belltower church, located in a small farming hamlet. It has the remains of a former doorway in the belltower gable and a fine Commonwealth - period memorial.
Coates by Stowe

1653 memorial to Brian Cooke of Doncaster
We have had 3 and 2 bells so now, for completeness, here are a few with a single bell, from Holwell, in the Leicestershire ironstone belt, Halloughton and and Cotham (both Notts).



Window at Halloughton
Halloughton is a tiny village near Southwell and its church was closely associated with the Minster, as the commemorative window shows.

The title at the top of this blog is taken from a poetic tribute by the Rev. Albert I Trelour B.A., to St Peter's, Tickencote, which appears in the church guide. Although Tickencote has a tower rather than a bellcote, it sums up our own feelings about many of the small churches we have visited.