Saturday, 26 May 2012

Halford, Warwickshire

St Mary’s Church
The Fosse Way, the Roman road which runs from Exeter to Lincoln passes through the village of Halford at a crossing point of the River Stour so it is possible Christianity first came to the area with the Romans. The church dates back to the 12th century of which the north doorway and the chancel arch still remain.

The picture below show the south elevation of the church, however the main entrance is through the old north doorway.

A caption inside the church notes that the Tympanum (the carved stone above the door) is inn Romanesque style and is unlike any other in England, depicting the Archangel Gabriel holding his message at the Annunciation. It is reminiscent of manuscript paintings from the 12th century

The head stones on the columns either side of the north doorway show St Peter’s Head above a cockerel on the right and St David’s Head with his sling beside a lion and griffin (see below). Both these carvings and the Tympanum would have been highly coloured in Medieval times.

The chancel arch is also of Romanesque style and dates from the 12th century although to my uneducated eye it appears to have undergone substantial restoration.

The carving (shown below) is in the wall to the right of the chancel arch and shows the angel bringing the message of the Annunciation to Mary. On the opposite side there would have been a statue of the Virgin facing the angel. However all that remains is a pillar – the statue was most likely destroyed during the Civil War in he 1640’s.

To the south side of the chancel there is a circular hagioscope through which the congregation in the chapel side of the church could view the High Altar. In 185-6 it was filled in with a stone pierced with a cross

The Cotswold stone font in the Decorated style and is believed to date from the 14th century . The carved wooden hood is 15th century in the Perpendicular style and shows six Bishops heads wearing mitres.

Sunday, 18 March 2012


All Saints'

Ockham Church is mentioned in the Doomsday survey. The list of rectors goes back to 1160 but the present building dates mainly from around 1220. It is famous for its stepped seven lancet windows in the east wall of the chancel (one of only two in the country). These replaced an original set of three windows, the lower parts which can be seen on the outer face of the wall below the sill of the new windows. These new windows were transferred from unknown church – possibly Newark Priory.

The lights are graduated, the middle one being the tallest, having its springing line a few inches higher in the wall than the heads of the lancets on either side, and the same proportion is observed between the other lights. Viewed from the outside, they are simply chamfered, and have no inclosing arch over the group.

Unfortunatly the church was locked so we could not see the windows from inside.

Walking back to the car park we came across this rather strange gravestone - I am puzzelled as to what it means.

All Saints' at Ockham is probably most known for its association with the medieval philosopher William of Occam and for its brasses. The fourteenth century brass of Walter Frilende, Rector of Ockham, is the earliest brass of a priest in Surrey - but we were unable to see it! (source

Friday, 24 February 2012

Great Witley, Worcestershire

St Michael and All Angels Church
The church website says ‘The church, now almost fully restored, displays a splendour which is unique amongst country churches in Britain’. This is not an understatement – the church is magnificent.

Thomas Foley of Stourbridge in Worcestershire bought the Witley estate in 1655. At that time a sandstone medieval church stood to the west of the current site. His grandson Thomas III decided to build a new church but died in 1732 before work started. It was left to his widow Mary and son Thomas IV, the second Baron Foley, to pay for the new church, which was built closer to the court, was of similar size and had access to the court through a door in the east transept. The church was completed in 2 years probably to designs of James Gibbs. It was plain with a brick exterior and stone dressings matching the facade of the court at that time. The outside of the court and church were later covered in Bath stone.

The Georgian church was transformed in 1747 when the second baron Foley acquired at auction the windows, ceiling paintings and organ from the chapel of the great house of Canons, Little Stanmore, near Edgeware, Middlesex. The owner James Brydges 1st Duke of Chandos, had lost most of his money in the South Sea Bubble in 1720.

The mosaic panels of the reredos were brought from Venice by Rachel 2nd Countess of Dudley in 1913 to replace the original panels. The wooden tresses between the panels are original and are in the style of Grinling Gibbons the 17th C wood carver.

The font is of white marble set on a black base. The marble was carved by James Forsyth (1826-1910) who, with his brother, carved the fountains in Witly Court.

The feature most people remember is the ceiling paintings by the Italian artist Antonio Bellucci (1654 -1726). They are oil on canvas and depict the Descent from the Cross, The Ascension and The Nativity.

The Foley Monument dates from 1735, and is one of the tallest funerary monuments in the country. The Monument was designed and carved by Michael Rysbrack, who was born in Antwerp in 1694. It depicts the first Lord Foley and his wife with five of their children.

There are ten painted glass windows depicting scenes from the New Testament. Nine of these follow the life of Christ in a chronological sequence. All were executed by Joshua Price in 1719 and 1721 from designs by an Italian artist. These windows are considered to be the finest example in Britain of combined stained glass and enamel painting.

The view back down the Nave towards the west entrance and the organ.

Aynho in Northamptonshire

St Michael’s Church – I had read somewhere that it was unusual and so it was. I was greeted by a man coming out of the church with a mouse in a mouse trap. He said the church was normally shut but he let me have a quick look inside.


The church is Grade 1 listed and is unusual because it comes from two completely different periods. The tower is all that remains of the original church from Edward III’s time. The tower is in the Decorated style with an embattled top. During the civil war the church was severly damaged and all but the tower was demolished in 1723.

The Nave was then rebuilt in the Classical style with pediments and high arched windows to match the architecture of the adjacent Aynho House. The name Aynho comes from a Saxon name meaning Spring on the Hill. Inside you are transported into a typical city church comprising a large nave with no separate chancel. There are box pews set in four blocks and a small gallery at the west end.

A feature of the church is the east window and a pair on the south wall. Originally the windows would have been clear glass but in 1857 the window above the altar was installed. It is the work of Thomas Willement who was at the forefront of promoting a Gothic revival in stained glass. He was heraldic artist to George IV. The roundels depict ‘The Last Supper’, ‘The Crucifixion’, and ‘The Resurrection’. In the bottom right side of the picture you can also see the Mouse Catcher.

On the south side of the nave are two windows (circa 1900) by Charles Kemp whose most famous work can be found in Winchester Cathedral. He was inspired by 15th century stained glass. The two windows are ‘St Michael spearing a red dragon’............. 
......and ‘The Annunciation’.
Kemp included small sheaves of corn as a symbol of his work in windows after 1895 – can you see them?

Bolney, Sussex

St Mary Magdalene Church in Bolney.

The nave and chancel are built in the Early English style and date from about the middle of the 12th century. View down the nave towards the chancel. The north aisle was added in 1853\54.
The chancel has been altered many times but some 13th century features can be seen. The high round window in the east wall is one of the oldest features.
The tower was added in 1536 by John Bolney. It contains a peel of eight bells- until 1720 they were the only peel of eight in Sussex.

The round headed window in both side walls of the chancel are late 13th century and the piscine in the south wall is also 13th century.

On the south east exterior wall of the nave is a ‘scratch dial or ‘mass dial’ The purpose of the dials is unclear according to the guide book. They may have been used to time the ringing of the church bells to mark the canonical hours.
In the graveyard are some unusual ‘barrel graves’ from the early 1600’s and are unique to Bolney churchyard.

The lychgate is quite impressive and dates from 1905.

Wood carvers also seem to have been at work in the churchyard.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

North Surrey

Sunday 11 September was one of the Heritage Open Days when buildings which are not always open to the public are open (that doesn't read very well does it?). Anyway I dropped Sue off at rehersal in Merstham and then headed onto the North Downs to visit one of Simon Jenkins' 1000 - St Peter and St Paul Church, Chaldon. Unfortunatly I chose to visit when it was closed as they are building an extension. The present church was started in the late 10th or early 11th century, and consisted originally of a rectangular nave, 27 feet long and just over 17 feet wide with high walls. The west wall is of traditional flint construction and is almost certainly original. The south aisle extends into St. Kateryn's Chapel, built in the 14th century, and is now the Lady Chapel .The shingled broach spire was added in 1842, and the vestry was built at the same time. On the wall at the back of the church is the main 'tourist attraction' - a large and unusual medieval mural depicting Judgement and the Ladder of Salvation, uncovered in Victorian times when the church was being redecorated.I didn't get to see it!

I then travelled the short distance to Chipstead and parked outside St Mary the Virgin Church. The church was built in 1866 as part of the Victorian expansion of the town. The spire added in 1883 and further extensions in 1916. It too was closed.

St Mary the Virgin was sited opposite the old Norman church of St Lawrence. This was open but there was a function going on inside - It was not my day!. The is generally believed to date from AD 1095 - although this is partly guesswork based on the Norman window.

Stocks in the graveyard.

The east end of the church.

Finally having turned back to Merstham I came across a church that was open with a helpful guide: St Margaret's Church, Chipstead. The present church probably dates from 1185. From the reign of King John to the 15th century, the church was significantly enlarged.

Early English vaulting above the crossing.

Stone benches which can be found on both north and south sides of the chancel. They extend from the screen to the steps up to the alter rails and have carved arm rests.

One of the main features of the church are the series of lancet windows with triangular heads consisting of two slabs of stone. The openings are narrow - less than four inches.

The font is one of the few (according to the guide) fonts of the Decorated Period - 1307-1377 - in Surrey. It is a shallow octagon with panels of carved tracery. The base and steps are more modern - 1827.

The west end of the church was re-built during restoration work in 1883.

The north wall was alos replaced in this restoration but the old north doorway was preserved and built into the new wall. This shows early use of 'Dog tooth ' moulding and a pear shaped moulding percular to this period circa 1175.