19 July 2010

Country walking

The other day we went on a walk around the River Thame, sic, which is one of our little English jokes for confusing foreigners. Waterstock; Waterperry; Worminghall; Ickford. This is one of the pleasures of the English countryside - to walk a couple of miles along Rights of Way, across fields, enjoying rivers, dodging bulls (we dodged two), looking at flowers and butterflies ... until one next gets to a village or hamlet with an ancient church. Co Kerry, for all its wonders, lacks this particular pleasure. So: Waterstock: late fifteenth century glass, of donors. Originally associated with figures of Ss Mary, Ignatius, and Swithun. Here, as so commonly, it was not the Reformation that led to the disappearance of so much glass; it was not even the Puritans; it was weather and the decay of centuries.

A brief look at Pevsner had made me, schoolmaster to my fingertips, classify Waterstock church as Beta Triple Minus. Waterperry I had down as Alpha triple minus; but two of those minuses were undeserved. It goes from Saxon chancel arch to Georgian monument in Francis Chantrey's best style (the Chantrey who worked for Lord Egremont at Petworth). Three-decker pulpit and box pews survive; spectacular brasses (one palimpsest); well preserved medieval glass, including the gorgeous arms of Saunders (per chevron sable and argent, three elephants' heads counterchanged, armed ... or should I blazon tusked? ... or). The palimpsest brass encapsulated the history of the looting of the Church of England by the Tudors: the original brass was early fifteenth century and was in the Austin friary of Christ Church in London - sold, upon the suppression in 1532, as scrap - recut for Sir Walter Curson (who had died in 1527) for his grave in the Austin Friary in Oxford (of which he was a benefactor; Wadham College now stands on the site) - transferred to Waterperry upon its dissolution in 1539.

But most poignant was some Georgian Gothick panelling at the back of the church. Waterperry was one of the great Recusant centres in the Oxfordshire countryside, and this panelling was ejected from the manor house when the Recusant Curson family expired and their domestic chapel in the house was closed down.


1 comment:

Little Black Sambo said...

What mark would the schoolmaster award Pevsner himself? He had some astonishing blind spots. The new editions of his books are more broadminded.