Friday, 4 July 2014

St Mary Magdalene, Cobham

St Mary the Virgin, Fryerning

Fryerning's pretty parish church is notable for its late mediaeval brick tower and the memorial to the politician, Airey Neave MP.

The nave and chancel date from the 11th century, although heavy 19th restoration means the signs are limited; five round-headed windows in the nave, and a scattering of Roman bricks, used as quoins on the corners of the chancel and nave walls, and as voussoirs over the windows. The main event is really the tower, 15th century Tudor, and an early example of the use of brick in a parish church. That said, the bricklayers were already confident enough with their rediscovered building material to incorporate diamond patterns in the English bond.

The fittings include a robust, square font from c.1200, decorated with quatrefoils, crosses, stars and a crescent, embellished with foliage designs. Opposite the door in the north wall is a memorial window to Airey Neave MP, killed by the IRA in 1979, designed by his cousin.

St Mary the Virgin, Blackmore Road, Fryerning, Essex, CM4 0NW

St Mary's, Buttsbury

Buttsbury is a quiet spot, isolated from modern settlement and situated on a junction of two minor roads. It's amazing that it is still there.

The exterior presents an attractive jumble of roofs, a white weather-boarded porch and a grey wooden belfry, with expanse of roofs, flint walls and plain render. Dating mostly from the 14th century, the interior is whitewashed with a brick floor, with Perpendicular nave arcades. The chancel dates from the 18th century, and has a Gothick East window of interlacing 'Y' tracery.

The north door of the nave has mediaeval ironwork and has been dated to the 12th century. It's a lovely thought that in the late mediaeval period, they modernised and enlarged their church but kept the old door. The main fitting of interest is a painted wooden board, a fragment of a mediaeval Doom painting, now on the south wall.

The church has a regular Sunday service, though times vary each week - check the website for details.
Ingatestone Road, Buttsbury, Essex, CM4 9PA

St Margaret's, Margaretting

St Margaret's is picture-postcard pretty, surrounded by trees and alongside a lovely Georgian Rectory. Both are reached across a level crossing on the busy London to Norwich railway line, and its visibility from passing trains makes the church a popular choice for weddings.

The church dates from around the 12th century, but reached its current form in the 15th century, when the south aisle, porch and (later in the century) the wonderful wooden bell tower were added. The nave roof also dates from this period. The interior is spacious, and includes charming details such as the nave corbels, which represent the symbols of the four Gospel Evangelists, angels and demons. The principal architectural feature of interest is the bell tower: this rests on 10 posts with complex cross-bracing, and contains an original peals of bells dated from between 1392 and 1538.

The other great treasure is the east window. Surrounded by somewhat distracting decorative plasterwork (installed, according to the guidebook, in 1918), the window takes the form of a Tree of Jesse, depicting the familial line from David to Christ. The window dates from around 1460 and is an exceptionally complete example of stained glass from the period.

Other items of interest include the chancel screen, which includes elements of the mediaeval original, and the 17th century Tanfield Memorial, commemorating John Tanfield (1547-1625), his wife, three sons and four daughters.

St Margaret's Church, Church Road, Margaretting, Ingatestone CM4 0ED

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral needs no introduction: the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury has overseen the history of Christianity in England since St Augustine arrived here in 597AD and baptised the Ethelbert, King of Kent, and remains the "mother church" of the Anglican Communion.

Since then, it has seen the martydom of Thomas a Becket in 1107, the canonisation of whom (and subsequent development of his shrine) led to the cathedral becoming a major centre of pilgrimage - gloriously captured in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The pilgrims' offerings also helped to finance major rebuilding, resulting in the glorious building we see today - now part of the Canterbury UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A Saxon cathedral was established here after the enthronement of August as first Archbishop of Canterbury, but of this nothing remains: a fire in 1067 resulted in the Normans rebuilding the cathedral in the Romanesque style under Bishop Lanfranc, 1070-77. The choir was soon enlarged by Prior Ernulf and, of this, the crypt (1096) survives. The choir itself was destroyed by fire in 1174. This was rebuilt 1174-1200, and demonstrates the transition from the Romansque to the newer Gothic style. Most of the remainder of the cathedral was rebuilt in the Perpendicular Gothic style, starting with the nave and transepts (1379-1405), cloisters (1397-1414), and the central tower (1493-1497).

The cathedral contains suitably opulent furnishings, most notably its stained glass: over 1,200 square metres of stained glass includes one of the largest collections of mediaeval glass in Europe. It is also the burial place of a long list of notable people, besides Becket: these include St Alphege and St Anselm, both former Archbishops; Edward, the Black Prince (1330-1376); Henry IV (1367-1413) and his wife Joan of Navarre (1370-1437); Archbishop Stephen Langton (1151-1228), one of the key figures in the development of the Magna Carta; Orlando Gibbons, organist and musician (1583-1625); and the author Somerset Maugham (1874-1965). Sadly, the magnificent shrine of Becket was destroyed at the reformation, but those of Henry IV and Edwards the Black Prince survive.

Today, the cathedral and its precinct remain a place of pilgrimage and continue to play host to a constant programme of services, musical and other events. There is a charge for entering for a tourist visit.

Canterbury Cathedral, Christ Church Gate, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2EH

All Saints, Blackheath

Blackheath is perhaps best known for its broad, flat expanse of common land, of which All Saints church is a prominent landmark.

There has been a hamlet here since Saxon times, but there was no church, the area being served by neighbouring parishes. Nevertheless, it occupied a strategic location on Watling Street, the former Roman road which formed the main route from Kent to London. As such, the heath was a famous rallying point for all sorts of causes, most notably for the Peasant's Revolt of Wat Tyler in 1381 and later of Jack Cade's kentish Rebellion in 1450. In the era of the stagecoach, the area became notorious for its highwaymen.

Growth of the little hamlet began in earnest in the 18th century, with the development beginning with the Blackheath Park estate. Although churches were established on the estates in 1830 (St Michael's) and 1853 (St John the Evangelist), they were inadequate for the growing population. A petition by the local populace led to the founding of All Saints in 1857. The architect was Benjamin Ferrey, who chose a mixture of the Early English and Decorated Gothic styles, executed in Kentish ragstone with freestone dressings. The church was consecrated in 1858.

The church has a five-bay nave with chamfered columns and square, stiff leaf capitals, and generous aisles, but it is most notable externally for its prominent spire. The interior is bright and fiercely whitewashed, enlivened by a painted and gilded chancel screen, decorated ceilings and late 19th century Murano mosaics in the chancel. There is also some stained glass by Martin Travers (1886-1948).

Morning and Evening Prayer are said daily through the week and there are normally three services on Sunday in the church, which has a strong choral tradition.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Worcester Cathedral

Worcester is one of England's most ancient cathedral sites, having been founded as a Priory in 680AD. It occupies an attractive position on the banks of the River Severn and embodies the full range of mediaeval architectural styles, and retains its crypt and cloisters.

The oldest part of the cathedral is the crypt, built in 1084 by the Saxon Bishop St Wulstan. This has 'cushion' capitals in the Norman style, and is now used as a chapel. Also from the Norman period is the fine chapter house (1120) and the west bays of the nave (1170). The cathedral was rebuilt into its present form from the early 13th century onwards, with the fine Early English Gothic Lady Chapel (1224) followed by the Choir (1269). The Nave, along with the eastern range of the cloister and tower were rebuilt 1317-1395; the Perpendicular tower is often regarded as one of the most finely proportioned in England. The remaining ranges of the cloister were completed in 1404-1438.

The floor of the cathedral is tiled throughout, although the plaster has been stripped from much of the vaulting in the nave and aisles. In contrast, the Choir and Lady Chapel both have exquisitely decorated ceiling vaults. The cathedral contains some notable tombs, including that of King John (d. 1216), who is buried in the choir in front of the altar, and Prince Arthur, Prince of Wales and eldest son of Henry VII (the first husband of Katherine of Aragon, who later married Arthur's brother, Henry VIII). Arthur's tomb is contained in a magnificent chantry chapel on the south side of the choir, erected 1502-04. Other tombs include that of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin (d. 1947) and a memorial to Sir Edward Elgar (d. 1934 and buried in nearby Great Malvern). The choir stalls also contain a notable set of 14th century misericords.

The Cathedral provides daily services and is noted for its choirs. Along with Hereford and Gloucester, Worcester Cathedral hosts the notable Three Choirs Festival. Dating from the 18th century, it is one of the world's oldest music festivals, and closely associated with the works of both Elgar and Ralph Vaughan-Williams.

Worcester Cathedral, College Yard, Worcester, WR1 2LA