Tuesday, 13 November 2012

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.

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