Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sunshine And Stones

Who, on a beautiful day like this, would take time out from a leisurely bicycle ride through the English countryside to poke about in village churches? Well, I did. And I'm glad I did too. I had no intention of doing this as I set out and I had no prior knowledge of what I was about to encounter, but a theme emerged nonetheless. First of all there's Fowlmere Church...

....a pleasant enough building but nothing to really grab the attention. But hey, what's this?

The monument to Sir William Mitchell by Thomas Adey. Sir William died in 1745 at the age of 43. That's  him depicted in the centre of the group. The figure on the right is thought to represent his wife though she appears to be rather informal and relaxed for a mourner, with her legs dangling in mid-air! The cherub on the left just looks bored with the whole affair. However there's no doubting the quality of the work. 

There is an inscription in Latin (and a handy translation) which tells you that he was "..sprung from the noble family of Bennets of Babraham, which he himself rendered more illustrious by his excellent gifts of mind and fortune". Furthermore his wife, Elizabeth, "..was a woman endowed with virtues rare in one of her sex, in that she had a man's sharpness of intellect and a mind well-suited to scholarship"

And on that teasing note I shall go out once more into the sunshine to pedal on to Haslingfield and a church I've passed countless times but never investigated. I even had friends who lived in the cottage by the church gate.

There were many interesting features including a painted ceiling (just visible in the picture below) and another elaborate memorial.

In fact there are several memorials and tombs to various members of the Wendy family. The most famous of them was Dr Thomas Wendy (d. 1560) who was Royal Physician to Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I and, although he was buried here, his tomb was removed when the church was restored. His nephew, Sir Thomas, entertained Elizabeth I when she stayed in Haslingfield in 1564. He kneels opposite his wife on his elaborate memorial with his son, Sir William and his wife. 

In a niche stands another Sir Thomas Wendy (d. 1673) looking sadly down. Dressed in contemporary clothes, it is a very early example of this type of monument. Incidentally you shouldn't take too much notice of those who say that the forename "Wendy" was invented by J M Barrie. Firstly it may be from the Welsh "Gwyn". But there's also a village called Wendy near here (from which presumably the Wendy family took its name) and Wendy was used as a forename, albeit for males, by another prominent family in the area.

Now on to the neighbouring parish of Harlton and on entering the church there was immediately something unusual to be seen - the rood screen was made of stone; something I've never seen elsewhere.

And (you've spotted the theme by now, I'm sure) there's a magnificent monument to Henry          Fryer, who died in 1631. That's him below; he doesn't look well, does he.

He is depicted wearing armour, kneeling between his parents, with his father dressed in robes to indicate that he was a physician. Henry's wife reclines below. They are flanked by mourning figures, the one on the left drying his eye with the hem of his garment.  

"Encloister'd in these piles of stone
The reliques of this Fryer rest,
Whose better part to heaven's gone
The poore man's bowels were his chest
And 'mongst these three, grave, heaven, poore,
He shar'd his corpse, his soul, his store." 

But the sun is shining in through the east window, beckoning me out once more into the glorious sunshine of this September day.

Take care.


  1. "...bowels were in his chest?" Is that a necropsy report? Another fascinating tour courtesy of John. Thank you.

  2. I think it means that his remains were in his coffin, as opposed to his soul which had gone to heaven and his alms which were given to the poor. But I may be wrong!

  3. Is this what they call photo journalism or merely good blogging. Some interesting stuff. I particularly like the spread, A Good Thrashing. In my youth I have operated an old thrasher and a wire baler. Story telling comes natural to some.

  4. Well we were in the same zone today John..interesting to see a definite theme whether a church be small or grand is that there are always arches. I enjoyed your journey tremendously, England has an abundance of charming little churches.
    p.s. the headless priest wasn't feeling very chatty yesterday for some strange reason haha!

  5. Amazing to me the extraordinary monuments that seem so common in the little churches... your country and countryside is so steeped in history. I like your last image especially, with the wondrous sense of light.

  6. Ah, looks like you enjoyed a glorious September Sunday too. One thing I've always appreciated about rural England was the ability to poke into churches like these. The last picture is especially lovely. Thank you for these glimpses - and I'm glad you got off the bike!

  7. Even the small local churches in your area have remarkable artistic and historic treasures.

  8. What a fabulous place, the statues are superb!

  9. Some interesting tombs. I like painted statues - I wonder how often it's had a lick of paint since it was made (it looks in awfully good nick to have been painted almost 400 years ago). I notice also that Henry Fryer is wearing his moustache upside down - that's a new style to me.

  10. Hi John! That was an interesting September ride!
    Lovely pictures, the last one is amazing. I like how light shines and reflects on the wall.
    Fryer does not look so well, but the sculptures all in all look beautiful.

  11. I absolutely love those three kneeling figures John - such interesting rides and walks you seem to have - and you never seem to go into a church which has any other folk in it.

  12. To me the statues are interesting because it shows how much fabric was needed to clothe someone in a time when thread was handspun and handwoven. What a lot of work!

  13. I'm always surprised by the amazing things in the churches you find. Here, the churches are usually plain--certainly no statues. Sometimes the windows are nice, but mostly they are plain.

  14. I like the lady sitting with her legs dangling - quite unusual I think but certainly beautifully crafted, as you say.


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