Saturday, 18 December 2010

Witham, Essex

St Nicolas Church, Witham

I had to visit a site in deepest Essex this week so had a chance to look at the large parish church in Witham, near Chelmsford.

The description below is taken from

The church dates almost entirely from the 14th Century. The nave with the north and south aisles, chancel to the east and the tower at the western end were probably completed in the 1330’s. The vestry and north and south chapels were completed later. The north chapel of 1397 is now a priest’s vestry and the south chapel of 1444 is now the Lady Chapel. The walls of the church are finished in random flint with Barnack stone quoins. The vestry however is constructed of Kentish ragstone.

A late 14th century porch protects a doorway which is thought to have been attached to a previous church due to its 12th Century style. Unfortunately as the porch was locked when I visited I couldn’t see the door nor go inside the church. The battlemarked parapets are later embellishments. There are gargoyles on each side.

There is a peal of eight bells hung in a cast iron frame on steel girders in the sixty five foot high tower. The walls of the tower are four feet thick of flint, stone and Roman brick with huge buttresses at the corners and gargoyles below the battlemented roof parapet.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Ifield, West Sussex

St Margaret's Church

The sun was shining in the wrong direction to get a good photograph of the church from the Lych Gate at the east end of the church yard.

St Margaret's Church has a chancel, wide nave with a narrow clerestory above and narrow three-bay aisles on the north and south sides, a tall tower (topped with a spire) at the west end and a porch on the north side. The nave, chancel and chancel arch all date from the 13th century.

The chancel arch dates from around 1300.

Above the altar is an ancient dove which it is thought may come from the earlier wooden church.

Under the eastern arches of the nave there are two worn recumbent effigies on tombchests, traditionally said to be Sir John de Ifield and his wife, Margaret. The knight, his feet on a lion, dates from about 1340 and the woman is about ten years later.

A piscena near the entrance at the north porch. It contains three Holy Oils.

There are three kinds of sacred oils, all of which signify the work of the Holy Spirit and symbolize it in that oil "serves to sweeten, to strengthen, to render supple" (Catholic Encyclopedia). The three holy oils are:

The Oil of Catechumens ("Oleum Catechumenorum" or "Oleum Sanctum") used in Baptism along with water, in the consecration of churches, in the blessing of Altars, in the ordination of priests, and, sometimes, in the crowning of Catholic kings and queens.

The Holy Chrism ("Sanctum Chrisma") or "Oil of Gladness," which is olive oil mixed with a small amount of balm or balsam. It is used in Confirmation, Baptism, in the consecration of a Bishop, the consecration of a various things such as churches, chalices, patens, and bells.

The Oil of the Sick ("Oleum Infirmorum"), which is used in Unction

The font is by far the oldest feature of the church, dating from the late 12th (1180) century. Made of local marble (known as Sussex clunch), it has an intricately carved stem flanked by four columns topped with delicate leaf-like capitals and roll mouldings, ornamentation uncommon on a Norman-era font. Its form is otherwise typical: a deep square bowl supported by a wide central column and four narrower shafts.

This early nineteenth century water colour shows the church with an earlier timber bell turret.

The painting above shows a small timbered west turret. In 1847 a new tower was built but this was replaced again in 1883 by a tower with a pyramid spire at the west end. The tower has plain lancets and is rendered like the rest of the church.

The three tall lancet windows on the lower portion of the tower depict the Resurrection, Crucifixion and Ascension of Jesus Christ respectively.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Preston on Stour, Warwickshire

St Mary’s Church

Preston on Stour is actually off the main road but well worth the visit. It has a collection of old houses including this black and white one on the green. It still retains a village shop and post office-

The church has medieval origins but the oldest part now is the late 15th century buttressed tower. The remainder of the church from that period was subject to major restoration. In 1756 a new entrance to the chuch was created at the foot of the tower beneath the perpendicular west window.

The rest of the church was almost entirely rebuilt between 1753-57 the work being carried out by Edward and Thomas Woodward of Chipping Camden under the supervision of James West (1702-1772) an antiquary and barrister of the Inner Temple who bought the nearby Alscot Estate in 1747.

The panelled timber of the 15th century nave roof with its carved bosses was preserved but restored. The plastered segmented vaulted ceiling of the chancel is, however, typical of the mid-18th century. The whole of the chancel was completely rebuilt as part of the restoration. The chancel is almost the full width of the nave.

Simon Jenkins likens the interior to a 18th century family chapel and indeed there are many memorials to the West family.

The painted glass in the chancel windows includes some, in the east window dated 1605 and 1632 from the Netherlands.

The glass in the north and south windows of the chancel is 17th century.

The south window shows St George in Renaissance armour - his face is said to be that of King Charles.

The nave is lit by new side windows with clear class which allows sunlight shine in. At the west end is a Georgian gallery in front of the tower arch.

The south face of the church.

The 18th century limestone gateposts on the east side of the churchyard. The wrought iron gates open onto an avenue of yew trees. Similar gates can be seen at the west entrance in front of the tower.

The church is an excelent example of the early 18th century Gothic revival style albeit to the design of a mason rather than an architect.

Alderminster, Warwickshire

The Church of St Mary and The Holy Cross

The church had just been opened as I arrived one Saturday morning.
The earliest part of the church dates back to the 12th century, with the chancel and tower dating from the 13th century. Work was also carried out in the 14th century.

The church is actually two churches in one with the Church of the Holy Cross with an alter in the nave under the tower and the Conventual Church of Our Lady in the chancel.

Conventual Church is a church attached or belonging to a convent or monastery. In this case having startd life as the parish church in the early 12 century, the church became a daughter house to Pershore Abbey in 1193.

The picture shows the chancel with the nave alter in the foreground.

In the 15 century a small chapel was added to the north of the chancel. This was the Chapel of The Holy Cross. However this was destroyed along with other monastic buildings in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monastries.

In 1873 and 1884 a major restoration was carried out with significant re-building although old materials and features were re-used.

The picture below shows a 13th century piscina (stone basin) which was incorporated into the south wall of the chancel during the restoration work.

An aumbry (built in cupboard) also 13th century in the north wall of the chancel. This no longer has the wooden frame or doors. It is used for Communion Vessels.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Arts and Crafts at Holy Trinity off Sloane Square

I had time to pop into Holy Trinity a few mornings ago having walked past it a couple of weeks ago and then read up about it in '1000 Best Churches'.

The former Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman called Holy Trinity Church the ‘Cathedral of the Arts & Crafts Movement'. It was built 1888-90 to an Arts & Crafts design by the architect John Dando Sedding.

The Holy Trinity web site,

describes the movement thus:

The Arts & Crafts Movement was formed in the late 19th century to combat the inhumanity resulting from Victorian industrialisation. Machines dominated manual skills and imposed harsh working conditions on men, women and children. There was pervading ugliness and little respect for beauty and nature.

The Arts & Crafts Movement stood for the restoration of the prestige of craftsmen, the appreciation of nature, improving the education of the poor, and ‘sweetness and light’ in architecture. The founding members were artists, poets, craftsmen, writers and architects - GE Street, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, John Ruskin, JD Sedding and others who were passionate in their belief and compassionate to those degraded by machines.

“You cannot educate, you cannot civilise man, unless you give him a share in art.” William Morris

My camara did not do justice to the inside of the church (which has a nave wider than St Paul's cathedral!.

The East window below is the largest stained glass window that William Morris & Co ever made.

The Lady Chapel has an altar on a raised marble floor. The baldachino (a canopy over an altar or throne) is supported by four Ionic columns of red porphyry (an igneous volcanic rock from Egypt). In the front to the right is the Eagle Lectern, designed by John Williams of Hornsey from hand wrought iron, steel and brass.

One of the Electroliers - this was a term for hanging electric light bulbs from the late 19th century. (Unfortunatly these are copies, the originals were destroyed in the Blitz in 1942.)

I found the following extract from The Electrical Engineer, 16 May 1890:

The bowl of the font is made from one piece of Mexican Onyx and is plumbed in to provide running water. The relief panel on the wst wall behind the font is by Henry Wilson who succeeded Sedding as Architect of Holy Trinity upon Sedding's early death.

The Memorial Chapel (or Chapel of Resurrection) was designed by the third architect of Holy Trinity, F C Eden and was dedicated in 1922.

The church was badly damaged by incendiary bombs in World War II but was restored more or less to its previous appearance by the early 1960s. There was then a concerted attempt by the church authorities to close and demolish the building, replacing it with something smaller but this was thwarted by a campaign led by John Betjeman and the Victorian Society.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Why Dobbin's Churches

My main blog is starting to look a little too much church orientated so I have decided to star a seperate blog to record the churches I visit (and re-visit). That is not to say churches will not feature on Dobbinland but perhaps not in the detail I will try to give here.

Visiting churches was something I grew up with. As a child on a day out with my parents they would often stop off to look around churches - not from any deep religious reason but because they liked them. Mum went to church from an early age but freely admitted her main enjoyment was singing. As a farmer’s daughter in Worcestershire before the war, the choir outing was one of the highlights of her year. I think Dad had any religious leanings removed by his experiences in Burma during the war. Whilst I was christened and married in church, I no longer consider myself a Christian believer. However I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong with anyone having religious convictions providing they do not try to force them on others.

So churches : To quote Mark Collins from his excellent Roughwood website ( ‘exploring parish churches gives me a tremendous sense of our heritage and history - each one of these buildings has something different to offer, whether it be the beauty, permanence and solidity of our ancient parish churches, the extraordinary energy and wealth associated with the Victorian buildings or simply the opportunity to spend a few minutes in a quiet and peaceful setting to be still and take a break from the hubbub of modern life.’. I could not put it any better than this.

I am trying to educate myself about church architecture – one of the aims of this blog is to organise my knowledge of how churches have evolved and the way their construction has changed. It is also a way of recording some of the churches I have visited in the hope that others will follow. We are incredibly lucky in this country to have such a rich history on our doorstep; one which we must preserve for future generations to visit and enjoy.

For starters:

St Ethelreda’s Church Horley Oxfordshire.

The central tower and chancel survive from the Late Norman church of 1180. For a small, out of the way village, it is an imposing monument. The nave and North aisle were built and subsequently renovated in the 13th and 15th century respectively.