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INSIDE THE MEDIEVAL MIND: THE WALL PAINTINGS OF NETHER WALLOP

In the small quaint Hampshire village of Nether Wallop, filming location for the BBC’s MISS MARPLE, stands St Andrew’s church, a medieval establishment built on Saxon foundations. From the exterior it looks rather ordinary (save for the strange funerary pyramid in its grounds!) but inside is a glory of wall-paintings dating from the Saxon era to the 15th century.

The Saxon paintings are of the Winchester School, usually only seen in illuminations, and are exceeding rare, unique in the country as being the only wall paintings of this date in situ. Angels frolic over the chancel arch, the survivors of a grander mural which culminated at the centre with Christ in Majesty. (Jesus has now vanished, unfortunately,  leaving just the angels on the sides of the arch.)

Along the rest of the church walls are further paintings from the early to mid-15th century, an eroded St Nicholas of Myrna and a wonderfully  vivid depicture of St George slaying a dragon to rescue the  Princess Cleodolinda. The dragon and George do battle below a tall tower, watched by a well preserved King and Queen, the King looking pleased at George’s prowess and the Queen slightly concerned!

Just down from them is a slightly patchy though very large  figure which gives an insight into medieval religious thought in the 1400’s. It depicts the legends of the Sabbath Breakers and the woes you will bring upon Christ and yourself if you do not rest on the Sabbath as God decreed! Christ’s leg is showed being wounded by an axe and a knife; there are also depictions of other tools of the trade from the 15thc including scales and a quern, among others less discernable.

All or some of the 15thc  wall paintings may have been comissioned by Mary or Maria Gore, an Abbess of Amesbury in Wiltshire. Her brass lies on the floor in the centre of the nave and is a rarity in itself–the only brass of an Abbess  still existing in England.

 

MISS MARPLE

 

Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge and its Royal Patrons

Giaconda's Blog

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In the very heart of historic Cambridge, stands a tall and elegant late Perpendicular Gothic church, sandwiched between the colleges and market square.

The church of St Mary the Virgin has stood on the site since 1205; the first recorded rector being Thomas de Chiveley who was appointed in the reign of King John.

The church was burnt to the ground in 1290. The local Jewish population were blamed for this unfortunate event and were punished by shutting down their synagogue. After the rebuilding of the church it was re-named Great St Mary’s, to differentiate it from Little St Mary’s in 1351.

King Edward III was a benefactor of the church at this time, along with his re-founding of King’s Hall in Cambridge which was later assimilated into Trinity College during the reign of King Henry VIII.

dscf3096 Arms of King Edward III and his sons over the gateway to Trinity College…

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Well, well – who was the real St Alkelda of Middleham….?

St Alkelda - Middleham

28th March is the Feast of St Alkelda, a lady who has two churches named after her, one in Middleham, the other in Giggleswick. That seems clear enough. BUT there does not appear to be a St Alkelda. “She” may even be a well, there being a theory that the name Alkelda derives from an old word for holy well or spring.

To read much more on this interesting matter, go to the Darlington & Stockton Times’ article, from the 27th March 2015.

Found in Wiltshire …

This piece, “Christ Blessing”, as rediscovered recently in the Holy Trinity Church, Bradford-on-Avon,_92853172_church14 is by the Flemish artist Quentin Metsys the Elder (1466-1530), not his grandson (c.1543-89). How fortunate that it appears to have saved the church.

OLD FAMILIAR FACES: THE HUNKY PUNKS OF LANGPORT

The last few times I’ve gone to visit the other half’s family in Somerset, we’ve driven through the town of  Langport, a small place  now but once an actual port and quite an important site in the Middle Ages. As we rounded the corner in the car, I kind of obliquely wondered why there was a great big portcullis painted on a wall, standing out with stark menace against the whitewash . Or why the local pub was also called ‘The Portcullis’ and had a sign depicting the same emblem.

And then the penny dropped…there  might be an association with Margaret Beaufort,  Henry Tudor’s mother.

I should have guessed already; on an earlier trip to nearby Taunton, I had noticed a stained glass window dedicated to  her wily servant, Reginald Bray, in one of the churches and thought there had to be a local connection.  As it happens, Margaret Beaufort, owned the manors of both Langport and Curry Rivel. Forget the modern portcullis emblems on wall and pub sign–original late 15th carvings of the Beaufort portcullis appear on the towers of both All Saints Church in Langport and  St Andrews in Currey Rivel.

Curious, I decided to take a walk around All Saints, which stands at the top of town, on a very steep hill, near a remaining section of Langport’s ancient town walls. It is a fine church, although now disused, and is covered by carved stone ‘hunky punks’, a local type of Somerset grotesque (they aren’t actually  gargoyles as they are not functional but are merely decorative.) The word ‘hunky punk’ is deemed to be from old English and means something similar to ‘hunkered down on haunches and squat legs.’

Going into the nave of the church, there was a Norman door remaining from an earlier church on the site…and on one wall, a rather flattering framed portrait of Margaret Beaufort ( not the usual one we are used to seeing, one in which she looks much younger). There is also some fine 15th c glass depicting several saints, possibly the finest medieval glass in Somerset.

But it was the hunky punks that intrigued me most, so it was back outside the building to look around the rear of the church…especially since I’d had a ‘tip off’ that two of the carvings were not the usual gurning goblins that danced sinisterly along the Somerset church rooflines.

Tucked out of the way, near a window, I spotted two hunky punks that didn’t quite match the mouth-pullers, wide-grinners,  and tongue-pokers  all over the rest of the church.

Do these two hunky punks look vaguely familiar to you?

 

magsb

 

hen

 

 

Tales of a Ricardian Traveler – Conisbrough

RICARDIAN LOONS

Lady on Horseback Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum

For me, being a “Ricardian traveler” doesn’t necessarily mean that you only visit places where Richard III — as a child, the Duke of Gloucester or the King — lived.  It means exploring towns, castles, battlefields, and churches which have some association to his family or to the Wars of the Roses.  I would call Conisbrough in South Yorkshire a “Ricardian” site because it does have connections to Richard’s ancestors, including a rather infamous one!  And, to my surprise, I discovered that Richard did give its castle some attention during his life, consistent with his reputation as being a Duke who made extensive investments in architecture and his estates’ infrastructure.

Conisbrough Castle

From the 11th to the 14th century, Conisbrough Castle was in the possession of the de Warenne Earls of Surrey.  Construction began in the late 11th century, with the unique great…

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THE GREEN MAN–SPIRIT OF MEDIEVAL REBELLION?

You see them everywhere, leering down with seemingly pagan glee from the height of church naves, or looking down  from the broken walls of  monasteries such as Fountains.

Often quite fierce of aspect,  sometimes more calm and wise, leaves surround them and tendrils of foliage spurt from nose and mouth in riotous abundance.

Green Men–origins unknown, and many a theory on their origins, from prehistoric deities of the forest carved by secret worshippers or by those who wanted to placate the ‘old gods’ as well as the new, to purely Christian figures that represented resurrection with their symbols of  returning life from wintry death–Jesus, according to some, was also Lord of the Vine.

A new theory has recently been put forward that has a slightly different slant. Could they  really be the spirit of England? A symbol of rebellion as the Saxons fell under the ‘Norman Yoke’ after 1066?

With Robin Hood perhaps being another aspect of the infamous Green Man, there may be something in it….

 

https://aeon.co/essays/why-1066-wasn-t-all-that-england-s-endless-resistance

The Round Church in Cambridge

I am always interested to find out about buildings which were extant in Richard III’s times. This one looks really interesting and I hadn’t heard of it before.

Original article click here: Cambridge Round Church 

Round Church, Cambridge

 

Image credit: Richard Banks Harraden [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Building plans near a church at Sheriff Hutton, which is much associated with Richard III….

Sheriff Hutton protest

Is it right or wrong to build modern homes adjoining Sheriff Hutton’s ancient church? I can’t help thinking that more suitable land could be found elsewhere. Our places of beauty and heritage are disappearing fast. We should value and protect them.

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/13600276.Protest_about_village_home_plans/

Remembrance of a Wedding

Remembrance of a Wedding

In the sleepy village of Stanford in the Vale, now in Oxfordshire, but formerly within the boundaries of Berkshire, stands one of the lesser known Ricardian sites.
Stanford, like most English villages, is an ancient place. A corpse-path runs over the village green, and part of a cell once owned by Abington Abbey still exists, built into a later farm building still known as Abbey Farm. A Roman villa once stood close by, lost somewhere in now-grassy fields. However other secrets lie half-hidden in this rural setting, memories of a marriage long lost in time…
Looming over the quiet streets with their clusters of attractive cottages, is the tall grey spire of the parish church, which has a rather unusual dedication to St Denys. The church itself, although suffering some Victorian restoration, has a 12th century Nave, a 14th c south porch, and a 15th century spire and other additions. It also has an unusual reliquary that may have once held the finger bone of a Saint, lent to the church by the monks of nearby Abington Abbey.
However, it is the south porch, often missed by visitors, being on the far side of the church and not generally open for entry (the interior was used for storage when I visited!) , that is of greatest interest, for it is unique in the country.
Little exists to commemorate King Richard in the way of period architecture or decoration, barring the boar carvings and chancel arch head at Barnard Castle, several boars in Carlisle castle, and a boar pendant on the effigy of a supporter who was buried in Norbury Church. Even less commemorates Anne, who was Queen for such a short time before her death in 1485.
Here, in this unassuming Oxfordshire village, seemingly far from the doings of the great and good during the Wars of the Roses, there is a structure that commemorates both Richard and Anne. The south porch of St Denys was built in the 1470’s in honour of their marriage.
Stanford had been part of the Beauchamp inheritance, through Anne’s mother the Countess of Warwick. In 1484 Anne, as Queen, granted it in free alms to ‘Andrew Doket the president, and the fellows of the royal college of St. Margaret and St. Bernard within the University of Cambridge, which was of her foundation’.
Why this special attachment to this particular village and why the commemorative porch? Of course, the locals will tell you that Anne was very fond of her manor at Stanford, and that she and Richard were actually married in St Denys’church, hence the porch being added in their honour.
As with so many things about Richard’s life, the place where he married Anne is uncertain, although many say it was probably in Stephen’s Chapel at Westminster.
Could the marriage have been at Stanford instead? Less likely, but could the young couple possibly have visited the manor and church on their way north, and the building work undertaken to celebrate the brief, happy stay of the newlywed Duke and Duchess of Gloucester?
The south porch itself is sadly, today, in poor repair. It has an embattled roof, lined with shield plaques; the inner vault was apparently never completed. Above the door, the arms of York, the fetterlock and rose, impale the Ragged Staff of Warwick. Over the years the stonework has grown very soft and crumbly, flaking to an alarming powder even to a casual touch. As time goes by, the insignias grow fainter and fainter, less distinguishable. English Heritage has been notified and has spoken about restoration and conservation work being done in the future.
We can only hope that the uniqueness of this structure will be recognised and proper preservation given to these rare carvings commemorating the marriage of a highborn couple who, at that time in their lives, never would have imagined they would one day be crowned King and Queen of England.

stanford

Postscript: After Richard’s death at Bosworth, the lands of Anne Neville’s mother, Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick were briefly returned to her by Henry Tudor, including Stanford in the Vale. She immediately ‘granted’ all of them to him and his heirs male….

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