Field trip: 12/04/21. A day of finishing up the county (of sorts – I still have one or two outstanding things). Two churches to the south of me and one church to the north.
I rang the incumbent for Bitterley and Middleton but no-one answered the phone, so I then tried Cound. The wife of the incumbent gave me the numbers of the two CWs (looking in my Pevsner I found I’d written the same names and numbers down 9 years ago!) I rang Mr Cuffley and arranged to meet him at the church in 3/4 of an hour. I set off to:
I arrived to find a car parked outside the porch door. I was ten minutes early and this was not the car of the CW. Inside the church were three people cleaning. I decided to get started anyway. As all the lights were on I went straight into photographing details rather than general interior shots. After a while Mr Cuffley turned up. He told me the church had recently had under-pew heating installed and had been locked while the work took place (a notice on the south porch door had said the same). I was somewhat puzzled as 9 years ago the church was locked anyway. When I quizzed the CW he told me that they had only decided to have the church open in the last 6 months. I assumed from the notice, and his presence, that it was still locked for further work. The cleaners left and I still had much to do but Mr Cuffley was very patient. Having finished the interior we both went into the porch where I shot the south door and then expected him to lock it. Instead, he removed the notice from the porch and bid me farewell, leaving the church unlocked! And here I had been, hurrying to get it finished because he was waiting. I suspect he was just interested in what I was doing and waited around in case he could help me. A first time for everything – I’ve never had this happen before.
The church has a number of wall tablets, two of good quality (one with a standing putto). Old chest in the south aisle, long and low like the one at Bitterley (q.v.). One mediaeval stained glass figure in a window. E window with Kempe glass. Norman font. Good Jacobean pulpit. Above the chancel arch part of a painted Doom – not in Roger’s wall paintings book and thus a new “discovery”.
I then telephoned for Bitterley again. The incumbent answered and gave me the details of the two CWs, one for Bitterley and the other Middleton. I rang Bitterley and organised to see the church at about 15:30. The other I had to leave a message on the answer-phone.
As I had over 3 hours I decided on a circitous route south by first heading NW to re-visit:
A pretty timber-framed church right next to a river. The only spoilation of the view from the south is the caravan park north of the church.
Open, as it was when I came here last back in 2002. I re-took the interior now that I have the equipment to do it justice.
As I was leaving a man and woman arrived to do something in the church. Apparently Simon Jenkins (in Best 1000 Churches) wonders about the little sign on the gate outside. I asked her, as she’d brought the subject up, what it did mean. She told me it refers to the raising of 250,000 pounds needed to secure the church after a flood had swept a lot of the river bank away and brought the edge right next to the building.
Then another re-visit, S to:
Built in 1689. Open (as on my last visit). I re-took the interior. At the west end maidens’ garlands hang from the wall.
Then through a maze of twisty little roads to:
I went to the house next to the church and there, hanging from the letterbox of the kitchen door, was an envelope with the church key.
A notice on the S door of the church now gives this house as the KH; a welcome change from 9 years ago when there was no information at all. This is down to the new incumbent who arrived a few years ago and who I met when he arrived at the church just as I was finishing up.
Inside the building the main item of interest is the chest, with ironwork scrolls (probably of the C13). There is a large screen, but it dates from 1925. In the tower, and almost completely obscured by the organ, is a nice late C17 tablet. Norman font with blank arches. In the chancel, Thomas Lucye (d.1616) kneels between columns. On the chancel north wall a tomb recess and on the south wall the electricity board (I mention this because I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so prominently positioned in a chancel before).
I told the priest that I had not had a call back from the Middleton CW and so he told me where the key was hidden at the church, although warned me that the last time he went to get it it wasn’t there.
I looked for the key but it was not there. I then decided to go to the house of the CW (again, a notice on the door directed visitors to get the key from there). No-one was home but just then a car came down the driveway – the CW and family had returned home from a day out.
Armed with the small rusty key (which went with the small rusty lock) I was soon inside. Very very dark thanks to the small Norman windows. Large screen, made up from bits. Rather forceful pulpit of c.1600 made up from bits. E & W windows mentioned in Pevsner.
I was here for a very long time – not because there was a lot to do but because the lighting conditions were very challenging.
After returning the key I called it a day.