"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

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

St Mary's Church, Chastleton and The Four Shires Stone

After visiting Chastleton House and Garden we had a quick look around the Church of St Mary which is next door to the house. It was quite busy in the church as they were serving afternoon tea and cakes (we didn't have any on this occasion :( ).

There may have been a church on the site since before the Norman Conquest but parts of the present building date back to 1100 AD. The church was extended in the early 14th century (1320) and the tower was erected in 1689. The church was restored and the chancel rebuilt by C E Powell in 1878/80.

The pulpit is Jacobean and may have been made by the same craftsmen who built most of the panelling in Chastleton House. The date 1623 is carved into the wood.

Fragments of 17th/18th century wall paintings which were discovered in the 1930's.

The stained glass mainly dates back to the 19th century restoration but there are fragments of older, possibly Medieval, glass.

The window of faces

There were a couple of floor brasses (not easy to get photos as it was so dark and I didn't like to use the flash). One is of Katherine Throckmorton, grandmother of Robert Catesby. Robert Catesby lived at Chastleton in 1601 and his name was linked to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 - he was the son of Anne Throckmorton from Coughton Court. The second brass is of Edmund Ansley who died in 1613.

Annoyingly (and as usual!) I didn't really read the church guide until I got home so I didn't realise that these floor tiles are medieval (14th century). I would have tried to have got better pictures had I realised at the time. I also failed to take a photo of the font which was next to the table serving teas and not easy to access. I later discovered it was 13th century or possibly earlier.

Beautiful lichens covering gravestones.

There is an interesting story in the church guide about a young man called Collins who climbed up onto the gallery in the chancel (the gallery has now been removed) and sprinkled people with pepper as they listened to the sermon. Afterwards he was prosecuted under an ancient Act of Parliament and sent to prison for a few weeks.

Final view of the house

Four Shires Stone

On the way home we stopped off at the Four Shires Stone near Moreton-in-Marsh. It is Grade II listed, 9 feet high, made of Cotswold stone and marks the location where the four counties of Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire once met. Today only 3 counties meet here. The stone seen today is 18th century with 19th century lettering although a stone has been at the site since the late 16th century.

Each side of the stone has one of the County names on it.

Many tales have evolved over the centuries suggesting that ancient battles took place nearby and it was once a site for prize fighting and other illegal activities as, if the police arrived, it was easy to move from one county to another! It is also believed that it was the inspiration for J R R Tolkien's Three Farthing Stone which marked a point in the Shire where 3 farthings met.

"Our Warwickshire" website reports that the stone was boarded up in World War 2 to protect it and also so that if the Germans invaded and reached this far inland they would not be able to use it for navigation. For their website please click here It is a fascinating website about the County of Warwickshire and is providing me with lots of ideas for days out :)

I hope to revisit this area one day as I would love to go back to the Rollright Stones and the church at Long Compton nearby has a very unusual and picturesque lychgate.


Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Lichen and moss adds no end of atmosphere to anything they grow upon!

Ragged Robin said...

Simon Douglas Thompson - Thanks Simon and I totally agree! Always plenty of both to see in churchyards.

Countryside Tales said...

I love your Church posts, I always get such a strong sense of peace from them. Love the story about the pepper and the Stone too.

Wendy said...

Your photo shows the floor tiles very well, it's amazing that they're so old and still in reasonably good condition. It also seems unusual that the wall paintings are from the 17th and 18th century, as this overlaps with the period when people would have been covering wall paintings up!
The four shires stone is fascinating. I love the story of illegal activities taking place there because it was easy to nip over the border. I imagine there are lots of tales associated with this place. I love the link with Tolkien, too and interesting about the need to cover up this important landmark in WWII.

CherryPie said...

It looks like a very nice church to visit. It is a shame that you missed out on a couple of photos that you would like to take.

Margaret Adamson said...

Another great church visited I love seeing all the wonderful strain gass windows.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks very much CT :) Regardless of one's religious views I always find churches and churchyards have a very special atmosphere.

Wendy - Thanks so much Wendy - the guidebook mentions the number of people walking over the floor tiles over the centuries and the changes in footwear. I think the wall paintings are quite important examples due to age - according to guide book what is written is in English not Latin which confirms they are later than 1535 (date of Reformation). Apparently in 1878 a painting was discovered on the South wall of the Last Judgement and the Victorians found it that frightening they immediately re-covered it!

I only found out about the Four Shire Stone recently on the Our Warks website so I was pleased to find it :)

CherryPie - Thanks very much - if we return I will know what to look for next time and hopefully get more photos :)

Margaret Adamson - Thanks Margaret - always wonderful to see the variety of stained glass you find in churches :)

Rosie said...

Looks like an interesting church and I like the connections with other places in the people depicted in the brasses. The tiles are wonderful and the wall paintings too. I always seem to find something I've missed when I get back from visiting somewhere new. I have a photo somehwre of me standing with an umbrella on a very wet day visting the Rollright Stones, I remember how atmospheric they were in the damp mist. The four shires stone is fascinating and I will follow your links. There is a place up in the moorlands not far from here called Three shires head and from there you can see Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks so much. I always find I could do with a second visit to NT properties and churches/cathedrals/abbeys. One to go and have a preliminary look and buy the guide book and then a return visit after I've read the guide! The rest of the family are not keen on church visiting so I always have so little time :( Even if I'm on my own and read the guide there and then I always miss something important!!

I really want to go back to Rollright - those stones were so steeped in history and atmosphere and so many legends and stories! I think they are redoing the Warks website this week so bear with it if it plays up. The Four Shire stone was on the A44 out of Moreton-in-Marsh - after about 2 miles there is a turn on the left to Great Wolford and the stone is on the junction. Three Shires Head sounds very interesting - just love hearing about all these unusual places you can visit :) We are so lucky to leave in a country that has so many interesting locations :)

amanda peters said...

A lovely post on this church, very interesting to read, you have taken some lovely photos.
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much Amanda :) It was an interesting church.

John Scurr said...

I always wonder how much was lost when a church was "restored" by the Victorians. Here all the windows (both the frames and the glass) appear to have been replaced but some of the fixtures and fittings have been retained which is great. I loved the plain column with the beautiful leaf decoration around the top - looks quite early - but the leaves are so restrained and well done.
The Four Shires Stone intrigued me and I thought of the history that was lost when the 1973 local government re-organisation took place and boundaries were moved. I then looked at an older (1960's) map and realised the county boundaries hadn't changed in 1973. Wikipedia came to my aid with a map showing the boundaries pre 1930 when Worcestershire was regularised.
When you look at the pieces of Worcestershire that were not joined on you can understand the need to "sort it out".
Wikipedia also has excellent pages on "Three Shires Stone" and probably of more interest in the Midlands "No Man's Heath" with a Four Shire Stone (allegedly).
Another fascinating post with lots to think about. Thanks. John.

Ragged Robin said...

John Scurr - Thanks so much John for your exceedingly interesting comment. It does make you wonder re: Victorian "restorations" - presumably some were more sympathetic than others! I only spotted that lovely stone column with leaf decoration as I left. If I go back I will try and see if any others have decorations.

Fascinating information - thank you re: County Boundaries. I sill mourn the old Vice Counties! although it gets confusing at times as many natural history organisations still use the old VC's rather than present boundaries but there again not all do this! Wikipedia is very useful at times and I will be checking out your links. Three Shires Stone and No Man's Heath sound very intriguing!!!

Not connected to the Shire Stone but I do have a couple of cassini maps one for Birmingham and one for Solihull which are very interesting. The Solihull one includes 4 OS maps from 1831/4, 1901/02, 1921 and Present Day. I found them very useful when I was trying to work out some of the locations Edith Holden wrote about in Country Diary and Nature Notes. Have to say though that the amount of development in recent decades is totally horrifying :( Especially when you compare Solihull when she wrote early 20th century to today :(

Off to check out the links now - thanks so much again. Caroline

Ragged Robin said...

John Scurr - continued... Thanks so much again for the links - so very interesting. I can definitely see what you mean about Worcs on the map! Fascinating re: the Three Shires stone in Lake District. All the times I have been over Wrynose Pass (I was probably too terrified!!) I don't think I have spotted that stone. No Man's Heath sounds intriguing too - what a great name. Have never been there but it looks worth a visit :) Thank you again. I do wonder at times what we did without the internet - it is such a wonderful place to research things :)

Chris Rohrer said...

I love the literary connections to the history...especially to LOTR:)

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris - I always think of you when I visit somewhere that may have a Tolkien connection :)