I’ve just published a new book:
This unique book showcases eighty-one recumbent effigies in over forty-five English parish churches scattered around the country. The images are all taken from above the effigies, a view that has in most cases never been seen before.
“Recumbent effigies are a common form of memorial in English parish churches. Using special photographic recording techniques this unique book features eighty one recumbent tomb effigies as seen from overhead. The effigies range in date from the 13th through to the 20th century and are located in churches over a large geographical area. This book is indespensible for those interested in armour, costumes, art history, or simply gaining a general overview of our sculptural heritage.”
AVAILABLE FROM BLURB: http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/4162266-book-of-effigies
It’s been a while since my last post. Recently I’ve written some Android apps that may be of interest. The first is a mapping application showing the open and locked churches in England (there are both free and paid versions of the app): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cbnewham.keyholderdemo Then there is a small demo arcade game (nothing to do with churches): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cbnewham.spacemazedemo and finally my swipe-like keyboard (also nothing to do with churches): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cbnewham.ascribblefree.android
I am now on Twitter.
In celebration of 15 years of my Project in which I am photographing the rural parish churches of England, I recently put together a short video:
The four corners of the original churchyard of St Andrew, Dacre (Cumberland) are guarded by unusual stone figures, most often referred to as bears. The date and purpose of the figures is unknown, although it seems likely that they were originally four corner pinnacles on a tower (possibly the tower of the church, although they may date from before the construction of the church).
The figures are first mentioned in 1704 by Bishop Nicolson who visited Dacre on February the 26th of that year. He writes:
At each corner of the churchyard (which is indifferently well fenced) there stands a Bear and a Ragged Staff, cut in Stone : which looks like some of the Achievements of the Honourable Family which so long resided at the Neighbouring Castle.
The figures are next mentioned in 1776 by William Hutchinson in his Excursion to the Lakes:
In the churchyard at Dacre are four remarkable monuments, being the effigies of bears in stone, about five feet high, sitting on their haunches, and clasping a rude pillar, or ragged staff, on which two of the figures have their heads rested; the other two carry on their backs the figures of a lynx, the one of which is in an attitude as if endeavouring to rid himself of the animal on his shoulders, with head twisted, and paws cast behind. Their position is such, as to form a square, two to the east of the church, and two to the west. There is no traditional account of the occasion on which they were placed there ; and it seems probable they are the remains of the decorations of the monastery to which the the Warwick family were benefactors.
A very comprehensive review of the figures and all published information about them was carried out by the president of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, Richard Saul Ferguson, in Volume XI (1891) of the Transactions of the society. Ferguson, having dismissed the theory that they are representations of the Bear and Ragged Staff, puts forward his own theory that they tell a story about a bear:
North-west corner: The bear is asleep with his head on the top of a pillar, snugged in between his paws so as to be almost concealed : in fact this figure is often supposed to be headless, but it is not so : the head is turned to the bear’s right and doubled down on or between his paws. The long tail is not visible : the bear sits upon
South-west corner: An animal, about the size of a small cat, has sprung upon the bear’s back and is clinging on his left shoulder. The astonished bear has has awoke and lifted up his head, which is turned to one side in attitude of surprise. His long tail comes out between his thigh and body and curls up the pillar.
South-east corner: a most vigorous composition. The bear now fully aroused, takes active measures : his right forepaw is reflexed over his right shoulder, and clutches the little beast, which is painfully elongated, just above where its tail joins on to the small of its back. The bear’s head is turned to his left, and masses of dishevelled mane hang to that side. The tail is invisible, underneath the bear.
North-east corner: The little beast has disappeared down the throat of the bear, who rests his chin on the top of his pillar, while his face presents every sign of intense gratification : his mane has been carefully combed, and his tail curls up between his thigh and belly round his back.
The animal, in each case is a bear, sitting upright on its hind quarters and grasping a short pillar between its four paws. Bear undoubtedly the beast is, though the artist has given him a long tail with a tuft at the end like a lion, and also a good deal of mane.
However, he does not state why he is so convinced it is a bear even though he concedes that the artist has made the creature look more like a lion.
The mystery of the ancient bears is unlikely to ever be resolved and perhaps that is for the best. They are what they are and we can enjoy them as they sit silently guarding Dacre church.
Mounted on the north aisle wall of the church of St Mary, Therfield, Hertfordshire, is one of the most unusual and elaborate wooden monuments in England. It is to Ann Turner and was placed in the church soon after her death in 1678 by her husband, the Reverend Dr. Francis Turner, who later became the Bishop of Ely and was one of the Seven Bishops imprisoned by James II in the Tower of London.
The monument is made from cedar wood and is constructed in a four by three configuration. The largest panel is a black central plate with an inscription in black lettering on an oval gold background. The oval is surrounded by a sparse wreath tied with a ribbon at the bottom. Originally the oval was bordered by a coloured surround but much of this has now faded. Flanking the central panel are figures of Time and Death in round-headed niches. The figures are meant to stand on corbels but, in the current form of the monument, they have been pushed back inside their niches. The niches are surrounded by garlands of fruit and flowers and each has a cherub’s head at the apex.
Above the central section is an unadorned open pediment flanked by flaming urns decorated with swags. The central section of the pediment has a shield in a cartouche. The shield is gold and may have always been like this. Flanking the shield and reclining on the pediment are two female figures, both with one arm raised and the other resting on a skull. The heads of the figures are replacements and now look outward to the viewer, but originally they looked upwards. The sub-section below the pediment is adorned only with a strip of acanthus and is curiously bald. It may once have carried further decoration, although there do not appear to be any fixing points on the original woodwork and, in any case, any such decoration had disappeared before the first picture of the monument was made in about 1874.
The three sections immediately below the central band consist of an inscription plate flanked by stylised flowers in raised decorative surrounds. The inscription consists of black lettering on a gold background. The original inscription plate had disappeared by 1874 and the current inscription is a modern replacement quoting the inscription given in Cussans’ History of Hertfordshire.
The bottom of the monument is composed of a central shield in a cartouche flanked by swags. The central shield is gold but may once have displayed the arms of Turner. The shield once had leaves extending from it on each side but these disappeared at some time between 1874 and 1908 when the Royal Commission visited and photographed the church.
Until 1874 the monument was located on the north wall of the chancel. In December 1872 the ceiling of the chancel began to collapse and the chancel was blocked off. Most of the building was subsequently demolished to be replaced by a new church designed by G. E. Pritchett which was completed in 1878.
The monument ended up, as so many monuments did after Victorian “restorations”, under the tower. The Royal Commission’s 1908 picture strongly suggests that the monument suffered most of its damage by being removed from the wall where it had been mounted for 200 years. This is understandable; no doubt the back of the monument had rotted due to damp through the wall. The ribs of the skeleton may have disappeared long before because of their fragility. An oddity is the clean diagonal cuts – as if made by a long bladed cutting device – through the female figures at the top. Both lost their heads and the tips of their upraised hands.
The monument stayed mounted on the north wall of the tower from 1878 until 1965 when funds were found to have the monument restored. This was carried out by H & K Mabbitt of Colchester under the direction of David Atwell of Donald Insall & Associates. Nearly all of the missing parts were replaced, copies being made either from surviving parts or by replicating what appears in the 1874 pictures. The monument was placed in a new position on the north wall of the north aisle so that it may be seen and appreciated by all who enter the church.
Why is the monument made of wood and who made it? Unfortunately there is no documentary evidence to answer these questions. The author is unknown. It seems reasonable to suggest that he was very good but not great; the figure of Father Time with his wind-swept beard is notable and very finely carved. The surrounding garlands are not in the Grinling Gibbons league but are excellent nevertheless. Further light might be shed if other examples of this carver’s work can be found. Perhaps examples exist in country houses in Cambridgeshire or Hertfordshire.
(This entry is an abridged version of the study published in The Digital Atlas of England Annual Report 2011)
Lincolnshire contains many fine churches packed with interest but occasionally one comes across an unremarkable church that contains something unusual or fascinating. St German’s, Scothern is just such a church. Located just north-east of Lincoln, the church itself is not particularly remarkable; a combination of mediaeval builds, a remodeling in 1776, and a restoration in 1876. The chancel was rebuilt in 1904 and the reredos was placed in it at that time. Pevsner’s Buildings of England has this to say about the reredos: “1904 and respectable. Is the Italian-style Adoration of the Magi genuine 17th century?”. In the middle of the reredos is a small panel which, until recently, was dark and dirty but recognisable as an Adoration scene. Was it a late 19th century copy, or maybe even an 18th century replica? Pevsner (and his reviser, Nicholas Antram nearly 30 years later) left the question open.
In the mid-1990s the church PCC decided to have the painting conserved. By this time the boards on which the picture was painted had begun to crack and the paint had begun to flake off. Opinion suggested that the painting was indeed 17th or even 16th century Flemish work and the PCC asked the Hamilton Kerr Institute (HKI) in Cambridge to carry out the work. HKI confirmed the age of the painting and began work on conserving it in 1999. In addition they also designed a special environmental and security chamber to house it in the reredos. The work took four years to complete and the painting and reredos (which had also be cleaned by HKI) was returned to the church in the middle of 2003.
Little is known about the history of the painting or who painted it. The panel was not in the church prior to 1904 and only appears as part of the reredos when that was introduced at the rebuilding of the chancel by C. C. Sibthorpe in 1904. As the Sibthorpes were collectors of paintings it is possible that the panel was obtained from their collection.
An exact date cannot be obtained for the painting because it does not appear in any catalogues. However, it is almost identical to an engraving by Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) made in 1594. Which came first is uncertain because Goltzius copied from the works of other artists and his drawing has many elements that appear in a painting of 1513 by Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533).
Not quite ten kilometres to the west-north-west of Bicester in Oxfordshire lies the sleepy village of Steeple Aston. In the church of St Peter & St Paul can be found an imposing monument of marble to one of the early Eighteenth century’s notorious “hanging judges”.
Francis Page, the son of a country parson, was born in either late 1660 or early 1661 in the parish of Bloxham in Oxfordshire. He married first Isabella White in 1685 and, after her death, Frances Wheate (c.1689-1730) in 1705.
He entered the legal profession and was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1685 and was subsequently called to the bar in 1690. His career developed slowly but he became well known in 1705 when he was involved in the famous case of Ashby vs White, engaged as one of the four lawyers of Thomas Wharton, fifth Baron Wharton.
Page was elected to parliament for Huntingdon in 1708. In November 1714 he was made Serjeant-at-Law and by January of 1715 he had been knighted. A week later he was made King’s-Serjeant.
In 1718 he was raised to the judicial bench. It was from this time on that he began to gain a reputation as a brutal judge. Through his treatment of the poet Richard Savage, arrested for the murder of James Sinclair in a drunken quarrel in 1727, he gained the ire of, among others, Alexander Pope and Samuel Johnson. Pope and Johnson, and later Savage himself, denounced Page in their works. Pope wrote in his Imitations of Horace:
Slander or poison dread from Delia’s rage
Hard words or hanging if your judge be Page
There is, however, evidence that Page was no worse than other judges of his time. His bad reputation seems to have been mainly acquired through making an enemy of the literati of his day.
Richard Duckworth, the late 17th century rector of Steeple Aston church partly rebuilt the chancel in 1686, apparently using stone from the mediaeval chapel on the chancel’s north side. In doing this the chapel was left open to the elements and was blocked off from the chancel by a partition. In 1723 Sir Francis took over the ruined chapel and created a family mausoleum. He installed a monument to himself and his second wife after she died in 1730.
The monument to Sir Francis Page and Frances his wife stands against the north wall of the north chapel. It was commissioned from the sculptor Henry Scheemakers in 1730 and is of outstanding quality. The composition is of light and dark grey and white marble. The judge lies semi-reclining above and behind his wife. He is dressed in full legal robes and wears a wig. She lies propped up on a pillow and holds an open book. The effigies lie on a gadrooned tomb chest. Behind them is a dark grey obelisk. The whole is set in an architectural framework with Corinthian columns surmounted by a broken pediment with urns and top achievement.
Sir Francis Page died at his home in Middle Aston on the 19th of December 1741 and was buried in the family vault at Steeple Aston on the 29th of December.