On a forgotten lane between Thundridge and Cold Christmas stands this rather spooky ruined church. It used to be much vandalised and was reputedly a meeting place of witches. It's often erroneously called Cold Christmas church but it actually belonged to Thundridge, the village having gradually migrated down towards the main road. The church continued to be used for a time before a new one was built down where the congregation lived.
There are lots of gravestones of children, many of whom died around the same time. People have put that together with the name of the nearby hamlet of Cold Christmas and have come up with the story that the children all died at Christmas and the rest of the population then moved away. Probably not true - or could it just be?
Lets move on to Standon, with its tower beckoning from over the roofs of an old barn.
Once you've worked out which of the three doors is open and got inside the first thing you notice is that the chancel stands high above the nave. In fact the whole building is built on a steep slope with steps leading up inside. Such churches are known as "Processional Churches" and are usually associated with the Knights of St John.
One feature of our English churches that I'm sometimes uncomfortable with are the pompous and arrogant memorials to the wealthiest Lords of the Manor. Some of them seem to have done little to warrant such a memorial, while others are undoubted scoundrels. The one seen here to Sir Ralph Sadler (also spelt Sadlier or Sadleir) and his wife at least commemorates a full and interesting life.
Sadler served in the courts of four English monarchs and made several trips to Scotland on royal business. This included such important matters as arranging a marriage between the future King Edward VI and the infant Mary, Queen of Scots. Although his negotiations were successful the marriage did not eventually take place. He served as the local MP and became one of the richest commoners in England. He is one of the main characters in Hilary Mantel's book "Wolf Hall" and its sequel "Bring Up The Bodies". (I haven't read either).
There's also a fine memorial brass to one John Field who died in 1477. I include it here mainly because I don't think I've ever shown a picture of a brass before. The figure on the right is thought to be his son, also a John.
A little way away stands this curious thing. It's called a "puddingstone" and is a conglomerate rock dumped here by an ice sheet during the last Ice Age. As you can see in the photo below it consists of rounded pebbles set in a sandy matrix and looks a bit like a plum-pudding. A good deal of New Age nonsense has been written about these rocks which are sometimes found in the foundations of churches in the area. This has led to speculation about their religious significance. More likely they are just good hard rocks that were handy for the task.
The next church at Braughing is also a very fine building with many interesting features....
.....including an attractive painted ceiling.
But out in the churchyard is the small, simple grave of one Matthew Wall. Although he died long ago he is remembered every year in the village....
The day must have been much like the day I was there, wet Autumn leaves were covering the little track. One of the pall-bearers slipped on the wet leaves which caused the coffin to fall to the floor. The jolt seems to have wakened young Matthew from some sort of coma and he began banging on the lid of the coffin. A year later he was married to his beautiful fiancee and enjoyed a long,happy marriage.
When Matthew died, many years later, he left instructions in his will that the day of his "non-funeral" should be commemorated each year. Children from the local school, accompanied by the vicar, sweep the leaves from the lane and a short service is held by the graveside. Yes, I know it's illogical to sweep the leaves since it was the wet leaves that saved his life. It also doesn't make much sense that the day is known as Old Man's Day when it actually commemorates a young man's lucky escape.