"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Visit to an Interesting Church with Saxon Carved Font and Medieval Wall Paintings

Thanks to someone posting photos on a Social Media site recently I discovered a church fairly close to home with some very interesting features. I'd never thought of visiting this church before - another illustration that we often miss what is "on our doorstep".

The village of Curdworth was the first recorded Anglo-Saxon settlement in the Midlands of the first King of the Mercians, Creoda, in 583 AD.

Curdworth or Credeworde means "Creoda's Clearing" and is believed to be the located at the centre of England. Although I think the village of Meriden not far away makes a similar claim! (One of these days when I am visiting the excellent farm shop in Meriden I'll take my camera and get some photos and perhaps visit their church if its open).

A church has probably existed on this site since Saxon times but the present Norman Building dates back to 1165 and celebrates its 850th birthday this year.

In the 15th century the church was lengthened and a Tower was added in 1460 by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. At the time it was intended to add a spire but this never happened. The church which is a Grade II Listed Building is made of Red Sandstone.

The 16th century porch was rebuilt in 1800.

The unusual square font with carvings dates back to Saxon times and is one of the original features of the church. It was buried under the Nave floor, perhaps during the Reformation and was re-discovered in 1895 when the church was refurbished. The top of the font has been cut down and some of the figures have heads missing.

Edit Have recently discovered that the font is actually Romanesque - 12th century and not Saxon.

These could be Evangelists holding books.

This aircraft propeller-shaped memorial commemorates a young Australian airman who died at nearby Castle Bromwich Aerodrome (now a housing estate) in the First World War.

The churchyard contains around a dozen military graves (mainly airmen)from both World Wars.

St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, who lived in the 4th Century and to whom the church was dedicated when it was built in the 12th century.

Parishioners raised money for this beautiful Millennium Window - one of the loveliest stained glass windows I have seen. It was dull and cloudy outside so it must look even more stunning on a sunny day.

At this point a couple of parishioners came into the church and very helpfully pointed out quite a few interesting features. Apparently someone has done some research into the window in the photo below and the spider's web motif in the bottom right hand corner in the second picture. (You may have to click on the photo to enlarge it to see the web!)>

Doing some research when I got home the only stained glass artist I can find who used a spider's web motif was Geoffrey Webb. I might return to the church in a few weeks when they have a Flower Festival and see if I can find out some more information.

The stone in the photo below came to light when some repairs were carried out on an old bridge at Water Orton - it is apparently part of the figure of an Angel which had been badly damaged (the head is missing) and was brought back to the Church by the Reverend Lancelot Mitchell who was Rector at Curdworth between 1905 -1937.

The wall paintings which surround the 12th century windows date from Medieval times and were restored in 1972.

This early 13th century dug-out chest is 10 feet in length and supposedly the longest known. It was carved out of a single tree trunk.

Norman Chancel Arch with the classic Chevron design.

This trefoil "window" opening is 15th century.

You probably won't be able to make out the words in this flagstone floor but the stone commemorates Sarah, daughter of Cornelius and Anne Ford who lived nearby at Dunton Hall in the 17th century, who was the mother of the famous Samuel Johnson. (Some of you may recall previous posts I wrote on Lichfield and St Giles, Packwood with Johnson connections - a small world!!).

There is another 12th century font in the church porch.

Outside the church - lichens making pretty patterns on the brickwork.

An unknown species of Fungi.

I'm currently reading a fascinating book by Matthew Champion called "Medieval Graffiti - The Lost Voices of England's Churches" which gives details of the many types of marks, graffiti and carvings (Mason's and Merchant's marks, compasses, ships, crosses, witch marks, knights and dragons etc) left in Medieval churches which tell a story of the many people who used the church at that time. So I couldn't resist looking for some graffiti of my own!

There was plenty round this door with examples from

the 19th century and the


Sadly, I managed to miss the best of all - Mason's marks of an arrowhead by two of the small round-headed windows in the chancel although I suspect I may have needed a torch and binoculars to spot them!

The playing fields next to the church were the scene of the first skirmish of the English Civil War at the Battle of Curdworth Bridge. When I did some research into the church on the internet I discovered that there is allegedly royalist treasure buried in the churchyard which is protected by a headless ghost! - apparently there are also unmarked graves of Royalist and Parliamentarian soldiers buried here too.

Edit - Thanks to David (see comment below) for pointing out that in actual fact the Siege of Hull and Royalist attempt at capturing the City took place a few weeks before the skirmish of Curdworth Bridge.


Margaret Adamson said...

Yes you are right, we often miss seeing the things on our doorstep. Now this was a very interesting and history place and you have well documented it with great photos and information for us. Thanks for sharing. Hope you have a lovely weekend.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks so much Margaret - I am so glad you enjoyed the post. Have a lovely weekend too :)

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

I'd say the figures on that font look very typical of the dark ages, I'd hazard a guess.

Ragged Robin said...

Simon Douglas Thompson - Thanks for the comment Simon. The font was exceedingly interesting:)

Deb said...

Great post Caroline. That book sounds just what I've been looking for, thanks for sharing. ;-)

Countryside Tales said...

Really fascinating post and what a beautiful and interesting place. I love the early stone carving on the font. I can't see stained glass now without thinking of you! Given the longevity of the Church I wonder whether it isn't on a much older site? Romsey Abbey is said to have been built over Celtic Springs and I suspect many places of worship have their roots in the pre-Christian church/ far older faiths. Fascinating stuff.

Ragged Robin said...

Deb - Many thanks - glad you managed to retain internet connection for a while :) The book is very interesting - I bought it from Amazon (not too expensive). Mainly about East Anglian churches but information in there can be applied elsewhere!

Countryside Tales - Thanks so much CT. I think many many churches have been built on sites of pre-Christian worship. Have quite a few books on churches but its finding the time to read them! Too many interests and too little spare time especially at the minute with constant re-decorating, refurbishing and decluttering :(

Toffeeapple said...

I have saved your posts since August 23rd and have just finished reading, you do tell some lovely tales and I thank you for it.

The spider web in this post is rather fascinating and I should be pleased to learn if you find out more.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thank you so very much for your very kind comment.

Will certainly let you know if I find out any more about the spider web and stained glass. I think the lady who did the research is thinking of doing a booklet on the church which would be rather useful :)

Caroline Gill said...

Yes, we'd love to know more about the spider's web (and Webb). What a gem of a church. Before I forget, I was going to add that my white buddleia has still only had two Red Admirals spotted on it to date. There have now been a few bees high up on the top spikes (sure these have a name!) where it's hard to see what they are.

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thanks so much. I must investigate more on local churches as there may be more open than I thought. Will let you know if I find out more about web and Webb! :)

At least your White Buddleia attracted some butterflies saw none on mine this year at all although like yourself there were bees.

I didn't publish second comment as the sentence was complete :) I've often accidentally pushed publish button accidentally and then couldn't recall if I had finished!!

David said...

A great little church with some interesting and fascinating features, especially the unusual Saxon font and the lovely stained glass. The spider web motif is unusual and it will be interesting to find out whether you discover more about it. I also imagine that the 13th century chest would be somewhat on the heavy side!

However as regards Curdworth Bridge's claim as to be the first skirmish in the Civil War I do feel it should be pointed out that the siege of Hull and the Royalist attempt at capturing the city took place a few weeks prior to the Curdworth incident! Still it makes a good story I suppose what with the involvement of treasure and headless ghosts ;-)

Kindest regards and best wishes to all :-)

Ragged Robin said...

David - Thanks so much. Must admit I was rather chuffed to find such an interesting church that was so local. I doubt if they move the chest around much!! I nearly missed it as it was behind the altar and I wouldn't normally have gone to that bit of the church so it was thanks to the lady who came in that I saw it.

Oops re: the Curdworth Bridge claim - I'll edit the blog! I found that snippet of info on a website somewhere but can't remember which one! Hopefully, will soon have all my books in one place downstairs so it will be easier to check facts like that!

Very best wishes to you all too :)

David said...

No need to apologise, indeed I should really apologise for being a little pedantic to be honest, though as with so many historical events there are often misleading claims and myths which can develop over time. The Curdworth parish council website (and wikipedia) also make the same claim about the battle!

Ragged Robin said...

David - No need to apologise either David - I had a look last night and I think it was the Curdworth Parish Council website where I got the information. As you say myths build up over the years!

I meant to have a look at the site of the battlefield (now playing fields I think) but the grass was soaking wet and I only had a pair of pumps on! For the same reason I wasn't able to look round the outside of the church for more graffiti and I think there's a mark somewhere where a canon ball from the skirmish hit!

The Graffiti book is worth buying btw especially if you visit churches on your East Anglian trips.

Jeremy said...

Fascinating post, and what a beautiful church. I really do love these old stone churches; so much so that I've just set a website with a view to documenting as many local ones as I can: http://www.welshchurches.co.uk/index.html (Hope you'll forgive me for blowing my own trumpet, so to speak!).

Ragged Robin said...

Jeremy - Thanks so much. Ooh goody re: your website (I will check that out, in fact can't wait to read it!!). Am very grateful that you've told me about it. Yes, old churches are so interesting - wish I had more spare time to visit them and go further afield.

Millymollymandy said...

It's incredible how much history there is in just one church! A really interesting post which I enjoyed very much. xx

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - Thanks so much - so pleased you enjoyed. I only found out about the church by chance as I noticed someone on Twitter had visited which set me thinking as its only 20 minutes drive from home. Amazing what is on your doorstep that you've never visited!!

John Scurr said...

What an interesting church.
The dedication appears to be to St Nicholas and St Peter ad Vincula, which probaly explains St Peter in the right hand light of the window.
Not sure why the church name board only shows St Nicholas when the parish web-site shows the joint dedication.
The spider's web is indeed the mark of Geoffrey Webb. His brother Christopher and his son Martin used other emblems. The illustration I have seen also has the spider sat on the web.
There was a booklet published by NADFAS in 1993 called "Stained Glass Maker's Marks". Unfortunately I believe this is now only available second hand and appears to command a price of over £20.

Ragged Robin said...

John Scurr- Thanks so very much for leaving a comment and visiting my blog.

Yes, you are right the full dedication is as you quote - I was a bit lazy and just used the St Nicholas part as it appeared on the church name board.

Thanks so very much for the further information on Geoffrey Webb and his brother and son. Unfortunately I couldn't get a better photo of the web as I am not that tall!

The book you mention sounds very interesting although as you say a trifle pricey - I will look out for it in second hand bookshops.

Chris Rohrer said...

I always get excited when someone points out a new place in town to visit. For me specifically, it's usually a new birding patch that I was totally unaware of. I love that everything around you is soooooo old! In Tucson, we have buildings that go back to the 1500's but not much more than that. So interesting to have places that are just hundreds of years past the year 0.

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks very much Chris. We are lucky over here to have so many old buildings but the 1500's is still a long way back! I still get excited over new birding patches but can't get out on my own so much now that OH has retired!