I mentioned last time that as I walked into the Essex village of Arkesden the rain began falling and I made my way towards the parish church.
I pushed the door and it creaked open. Once my eyes had adjusted to the gloom I found myself in a pleasant enough village church so I slipped off my muddy boots and padded around in my socks to see what treasures the building might contain. A few months ago I let slip that I'm not a great fan of some of the memorials to the good and great that you find in some churches. Maybe somebody up there heard this and directed me to St Mary The Virgin at Arkesden which has a wide variety of monuments.
The oldest, but by no means the most obvious, is this brass of a military man, commemorating the life of one Richard Fox and is dated 1439. It's around 3 feet (1m) long and is placed on the floor in the SE corner of the nave. It was probably once on the top of an altar tomb.
Also dating from the Fifteenth Century is this effigy of a rather pious-looking individual who turns out to be John Croxby, the vicar here from 1453 to 1456. He went on to other parishes and it's been suggested that the memorial might have been brought here from elsewhere.
But the memorial that you really can't miss because it's a) enormous and b) partly painted bright red, is the tomb of Richard and Mary Cutte, both of whom departed this life in the 1590s.
The painting of the figures is charmingly naive and the representation of their faces is somewhat crude, but it is the sheer bulk of the figures, particularly that of Richard lying there in his full armour that impresses. The details of their lives and ancestry is written on the canopy above.....
You'll notice that punctuation and spelling was rather erratic back in those days - "thoyden boys" is in fact the village of Theydon Bois (pronounced like the name "Boyce").
Richard and Mary look understandably horrified to find out that they're dead!
Around the base of the tomb are figures representing their children. Some are missing their heads and, predictably, this has been blamed on Cromwell's men. However, whatever else you might say about Cromwell's troops, they were usually pretty thorough; it seems unlikely that they would have left two figures untouched. I think it's more likely to be just accidental damage; the two undamaged figures being saved by the ruffs around their necks.
In the tower, rather more hidden than it ought to be, is this elegant memorial to John Withers and his wife (1692). It was once attributed to Roubilliac, though it's since been found to be the work of Edward Pierce, who was an assistant to Sir Christopher Wren for many years.
Underneath there are some finely-carved skulls which were often a feature of such work at this time, but now look distinctly ghoulish.
Coming to more modern times, the lovely stained glass above, depicting The Sower and The Reaper, is dedicated to the memory of Charles Beadle who died in 1925 at the age of 90.
But it'd stopped raining so I pulled my boots on in order to explore the rest of the village and then continue my walk.