Friday, 20 December 2013
Norfolk churches annunciation
£1600: that's the amout we brought in between the four of us for the Norfolk Churches Trust after our September circular walk from Beechamwell, with the last major church on the route the rich and well-tended St George's Gooderstone (upper medieval panels of its south transept window pictured above). Warmest thanks to all who contributed: your cheques will at last have been cashed, I hope, by trusty Mary Heather of Burnham Thorpe, Nelson's church, to which the lion's share (I forgot what percentage) will go.Below: window from East Runcton, a conservation special, seen on an earlier walk.
We handed the money over to our leader and organiser Jill at the National Churches Trust's 60th birthday celebrations in Westminster Cathedral two Thursdays ago. The music was splendid, though sung by the -very fine - Westminster Abbey Special Services Choir rather than the usual one with the boys (in school, I guess). Readings were given by dubious TV celebrities Bettany Hughes and Bear Grylls, whom I've never set eyes on before; he seemed rather pleased with himself and chattered to his partner through the first half of Purcell's I Was Glad. That lovely actress Geraldine James, though, I adore, and she delivered a rather fine poem by Rowan Williams (picture below from the National Churches Trust's picture stream).
I was less impressed by Williams' successor as Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who doesn't have the most beguiling of voices and made the grandiose and wishful assertion that even the deconsecrated churches would eventually be filled by the 'growing numbers' of Christians ('not "if" but "when" '). One look around the packed abbey told one that this was an ageing community, though I suppose you could argue that new generations will grow into the religion. I doubt it. Certainly not for me any Christmas sermon by this man. On the other hand, in the present Archbishop of South Africa Thabo Cecil Makgoba, we have a highly articulate successor to the great Desmond Tutu. Please stay with him once you've clicked on this YouTube link (no embedding as yet available) - not that you wouldn't be compelled after the first few seconds - as he puts it so well about respecting the gift of difference.
We need leading Africans of dignity and eloquence even more now that Uganda has today passed its obscene law enacting life-long imprisonment for its gay citizens.
Anyway our cash would barely make a dent in the sums needed to repair the recent flood damage, which I'm guessing has spared most of the churches - the ones along the coast tend to be sensibly built on eminences. I'm almost tempted to re-read two fine novels featuring more terrible floods in the past, Jeremy Page's Salt and Dorothy L Sayers' The Nine Tailors (which of course also has a composite Norfolk fenland church at its centre). Jill sent this photo from the Eastern Daily Press (credit: Matthew Usher) of Kings Lynn's Customs House looking like a Venetian palazzo.
I last saw it in late summer light looking like this.
Too many churches sighted since our September walk: Layer Marney, East Mersey, Great Wigborough and Aldbury all need chronicling. But before I lose sight of it altogether, here's a church with a real gem of a south chapel, that of St Mary Bromham, Wiltshire. We visited it more or less spontaneously on the way to a sweeping downs walk on the last day of our late summer stay in Lacock (where we're heading again soon).
The Tocotes amd Beauchamp Chapel, licenced in 1492 and later called the Baynton Chapel after later incumbents, is richly decorated both within and without. Pevsner on the exterior: 'it is three bays long and extremely ornate. Buttresses decorated with thin buttress shafts and pinnacles. Five light window with angel busts at the apex.' Indeed, angels are everywhere, without
'Battlements with quatrefoils, pinnacles with their own decoration'.
The chapel boasts a fine painted ceiling
and several handsome tombs. There's one of Purbeck marble to Elizabeth Beauchamp, circa 1492. Pevsner again: 'tomb-chest with cusped quatrefoils containing shields. Canopy arcading merging into the heavy top. Against the back wall kneeling image of brass.'
Sir Edward Baynton's tomb-chest dates from a century later, with an abundance of family brasses.
There's also an alabaster effigy of Sir Richard Tocotes, d.1457, in the south transept, much graffitied - the inscriptions in themselves of interest - but very fine for all that
and plenty of original stained-glass canopies, with fragmentary glass around them.
We did the usual post-interior thing of walking round the outside, for the whole of the chapel needed seeing
but had quite a surprise on the north side: the giant celtic cross looked familiar.
It was, of course, the famous monument to Thomas Moore, whose Irish melodies - mostly in Britten's arrangements - J had sung at nearby Bowood the previous June. The inscription, which it was hard to see in the shadows, quotes ' O harp of my country'.
Shame we didn't realise Moore's home, Sloperton Cottage, was so close. J needs to learn more rep, and only the other day I was listening to Berlioz's Moore settings. They're not all inspired, but 'Adieu, Bessy' is a winner. Happy memories, anyway - a last shot, of singing around the piano beneath Tom's portrait at Derreen House, Country Kerry one idyllic summer.
Our dear friend Julie's mum Nora Morrice (right) is no longer with us, so we remember her with the greatest fondness. 'Lovely lady, lovely lady', our English master at my grammar school, the great 'Tibby' Bircher, used to sigh when we read scenes between Desdemona and Othello. Nora was truly that.