Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Pewless in South Nottinghamshire

After last year's enjoyable outing during the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham Open Weekends (see the "Open Sesame" post of 17 August 2012) I went again with Jeanne on 21 July 2013  to see 2 fine churches in South Nottinghamshire. Bunny and East Leake are similar in some ways, both being dedicated to St. Mary, possessing imposing spires and having dispensed with their old pews in favour of simple seats, giving them light, open interiors. But, as always in these trips, the pleasure lies in appreciating the differences.

St Mary, Bunny
Bunny is the largest church in South Nottinghamshire, with a chancel almost as long as the nave. Its clerestory and castellated chancel roof add to its air of grandeur. Inside, features like the piscina and sedilia are of  high architectural quality. An explanatory board states that, sadly, after the Black Death in 1349 skilled workmen were scarce and the same quality is not repeated throughout the church.

Piscina on the left and 3-seat sedilia
There was a long association with the Parkyns family originating in the 16th century and the evidence for that shows up in the numerous and striking monuments. The most arresting is that of the Wrestling Baronet, Sir Thomas Parkyns (1662-1741), who left a life-size monument of himself in a wrestling pose.

Monument to the Wrestling Baronet, Sir Thomas Parkyns, 1741
The inscription, in Latin, Greek and English, indulges in clever wordplay (Sir Thomas was, after all, a lawyer): "that TIME at length did throw him it is plain, who lived in hopes that he should RISE again."

Thomas's ancestor, Sir Richard, left a more traditional kind of monument to himself and his wife and 8 children, which the church has explained imaginatively for the benefit of visitors, bringing history to life.

Monument to Sir Richard and  Elizabeth Parkyns, 1603

Explanatory board for the monument
In fact, the church made great efforts to welcome visitors, with excellent refreshments and friendly guides dressed in the costume of Sir Thomas's period.

Open Day guide, Graham Norbury

St Mary, East Leake
Equally attentive guides were present at East Leake, where a helpful history trail leaflet explained the architectural detail. It was a surprise to me, for example, to see Anglo-Saxon  herringbone masonry containing Roman terracotta tiles in a church so near to Nottingham, an area not noted for its Roman remains. The Roman building was 800 years old when the church was constructed and was evidently a source of building materials. A small section of herringbone masonry has been left uncovered on the otherwise plastered wall inside the church.

Herringbone masonry in the north wall and exterior of the Norman window

East window of the south aisle
East window of the chancel

The interior is uncluttered with an Early English (1150-1250) arcade in the nave and a single aisle, on the south side. There are very splendid 14th Century windows with bold, Decorated tracery in the east wall of both the chancel and the aisle.

A small Norman window in the north aisle has a splayed recess, gaining maximum light and showing off delicate stained glass depicting The Annunciation. St John the Baptist is portrayed in the adjacent window.

Norman window in north wall

Stained glass depicting St John the Baptist

The vamping horn

Perhaps the most unexpected feature in the church is its vamping horn, found in only 8 other churches in the country. Otherwise known as a shawm, it was nearly 8 ft. long at its full length and was  used to "vamp up" the sound of the choir. Both instrument and choir would have occupied the gallery that was at one time accessed through a high doorway in the tower. The blocked up door above the tower arch can still be seen.

Early English arcade with tower arch and blocked up doorway above

Finally, a simple, unadorned Early English font dating from the 12th Century provides a reminder of 900 years of day to day history in East Leake. It once had an elaborate lid that was raised and lowered with a winch, such as can still be seen in the rich churches of East Anglia.

In summary, Bunny and East Leake are two splendid churches with interesting features which provided a fine welcome to visitors on their open weekends.

No comments:

Post a Comment