"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

Friday, 18 March 2016

St John the Baptist (14th century wall paintings and interesting carvings) and Books

I've made a return visit (on my own this time!!) to St John the Baptist in Middleton, North Warwickshire.

There has probably been a church on the site since Anglo Saxon times although no evidence of an earlier church remains. The present church was built in the Norman style probably at the end of the 12th century. The walls of the chancel and parts of the lower south wall of the nave date back to Norman times.

At the end of the 13th century the North Aisle was added and the tower was built in the 15th century.

According to the guide book the grooves in the sandstone were made when implements were sharpened. Presumably this includes arrows and these marks are far more obvious than the ones I photographed recently at St Giles, Packwood.

The church porch was built in the 18th century but above the church door can be seen Norman dog-tooth stonework over the original 800 year old church entrance.

It appears swallows like nesting in the porch :)

The font is believed to be late 19th century and the wooden carved top is made of oak.

Amusing message for the bell ringers :)

The chancel screen seen in this photo is made of oak and is 15th century - more of this later! The pulpit is believed to be late 17th century.

The Nave windows were restored and fitted with stained glass in the 1890's and may be by Kempe

I think the Canon bridge camera I used last time may take better photos of stained glass than my Olympus. It was certainly better for zooming in on detail.

The 15th century oak chancel screen was the highlight of the visit with so many beautiful carvings.

This was my favourite a Green Man or Man in the Oak Tree?

The 17th century Ridgeway Memorial - in memory of Lord Edward Ridgeway.

19th century East Window celebrating the resurrection.

The Fitzherbert Recess is the oldest monument in the church and the small brass plant has an inscription in Latin to Dorothy Fitzherbert (nee Willoughby) who died in 1507.

The 17th century Willoughby Monument is very important architecturally and is 17 feet high. It was erected in memory of Francis Willoughby (a naturalist who died in 1665) and his wife Cassandra (died 1675). This and other Willoughby gravestones show the link with nearby Middleton Hall.

When Victorian plasterwork was removed from the Nave in 1994 the remains of 14th century wall paintings were revealed.

The White Memorial in memory of Samuel and Benjamin White whose charity constructed 6 almshouses in the village.

An attractive bench outside the churchyard - the wall which surrounds the church is 17th century and made of sandstone. It was repaired extensively in the 19th century.

The churchyard contains the base of a 13th century churchyard cross which I had trouble finding. Decided in the end that it may be the stone from which a shrub appears to be growing!

I will return to St Cuthberts mentioned in my last post when I have found out some more about the Saxon (or not) mound.

Current reading material.

I've recently started re-reading the Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy by Flora Thompson. How I wish the series was still on tv. I do have a lovely illustrated version but sadly its abridged so

I've resorted to a paperback.

I wanted to re-read the books before starting on Richard Mabey's book on Flora and

I'm also hoping later in the year to persuade B or D to visit the villages and towns in North Oxfordshire where she lived and where the books are based.

I've just finished this book on The Green Man hence my knowledge of The Man in the Oak mentioned above!

Whilst waiting for some of my favourite authors to bring out some new books I've been continuing the re-reading of the Starbridge novels by Susan Howatch

together with some of my favourites by Daphne du Maurier.

Unless I can find some new authors pretty quickly I shall start on my Mary Wesley collection!

Reference: "A Brief Guide to St John the Baptist, Middleton, Warwickshire"


Anonymous said...

Great stuff about the church. I love the old marks. I watched frenchmans creek yesterday :-)

Rosie said...

What a wonderful post, so full of interest. The church is fascinating and the 15th century oak screen with its carvings and the fragments of wall paintings are wonderful. I have the same copy of the illustrated Lark Rise to Candleford given to me as a present a few years ago:)

Bovey Belle said...

I expect you have read novels by Geraldine Brookes and Tracy Chevalier, if not you could do worse than look some out. I have a fresh to me Daphne du Maurier in my pile to read (I'll Never Be Young Again, her 2nd novel), and foolishly went into the Free Books place in town today, just to check it out, and came out with 3 books for a donation (a pound). One is an historical trilogy by Ellis Peters, then Dr Thorne by Anthony Trollope and finally a novel set in India, whose title and author elude me. I started that this afternoon.

I know you will enjoy rereading the Lark Rise series. Do you have the tv series on DVD? I nearly bought myself the Richard Mabey book about her but stilled my hand. I shall have to add it to my birthday list!

What a beautiful church St John's is, and with much to interest the visitor. I loved those carvings. My husband and I always look out for Green Men when we visit old churches and cathedrals. I always think what a shame it was when Victorians covered over (often whitewashing them) the Medieval wall paintings. That and reconfiguring ancient churches to modernize them!

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks very much CT :) Not sure if I've ever watched a film or tv version of Frenchman's Creek although I have seen several versions of Jamaica Inn :)

Rosie - Thanks so much :) I am so glad you enjoyed the church :) I did once read the Illustrated Version - I don't think I realised at the time it was abridged! The illustrations are a delight. For some reason I keep thinking I also have a similar version of "Still Glides the Stream" but can't find it - may be in a storage box somewhere!

Bovey Belle - thanks very much so pleased you enjoyed the church. Tewkesbury Abbey has a Green Man trail although I missed most of them when we went - you need binoculars and I'd left them in the car :( Yes, it is a shame about many of the Victorian Restorations - they apparently plastered the walls at St John's :( (now removed!!). Would so love to have seen some of these churches in their medieval glory before the Reformation and later plundering by the Parliamentarians etc. plus Victorian alterations!

No, I haven't got the Lark Rise series on dvd - I must put it on my birthday/Christmas list - will let you know what I think of the Richard Mabey book. I bought it on my Kindle when I first had it - have to be careful now and resist temptations by adding books to a wish list and not buying them all!!

Thanks for the author suggestions - much appreciated. I haven't read either Brookes of Chevalier so am off to Amazon to check now (have a £15 kindle voucher to spend left over from Christmas!). The Free Books place sounds a tempting place! I've not read Ellis Peters or Anthony Trollope either so will check those out! I couldn't believe it when I went into Waterstones last week and actually came out without a purchase - must be a first!!! :)

Peter said...

Very intereing post beautiful carvings love the idea of these guys sharpening arrows etc on the wall of the church it's also nice to see the 14th century paintwork still in place looking at this whilst imagining what it would have been like back in the day if only we could hire a tardis.

Amanda Peters said...

Hi RR, what a wonderful church, I love how you know so much and your passion shines through in your post. Lots of interesting things in this church to see and discover, great set of photos. (So glad Rosie has found her way onto your blog)
Like the books as well, will take a closer look at these.
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Peter - Thanks so much Peter and so pleased you enjoyed and were able to see the rest of the photos. If only we could get our hands on a tardis Peter from what I've read the walls of the medieval churches were just covered in brightly coloured paintings etc. They must have looked so beautiful.

Amanda Peters - Thanks very much Amanda. Can't really take too much credit for the information on the church as most of it was gleaned from the guide book!! :) An old interest in churches has been re-awakened in recent years and I am pleased I've found some "gems" fairly close to home :)

You would definitely enjoy the Lark Rise books if you haven't read them. Flora Thompson also wrote some other books which are excellent as well. Thanks so much for recommending Rosie's blog to me - so much of interest there :)

Wendy said...

There's so much of interest in this church. I love the carvings on that beautiful oak, they're wonderful and thank goodness the Victorian plasterwork has been removed to reveal the 14th century wall paintings. That is so interesting about the Francis Willoughby connection, too.
I love the books. I really enjoyed Lark Rise when I read it years ago and Frenchman's Creek is a favourite of mine. I'll look out for the Green Man book as well and may add it to my collection of similar books!

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - Thanks so much Wendy. I thought of you when I saw the Willoughby connection. I've been reading up on the Hall and will definitely visit when its open (soon) to the public. They have a website www.middleton-hall.co.uk which you might find of interest as there is some info on Ray and Willoughby. The walled garden there looks delightful as does the nature trail (there are otters!). I haven't visited (apart from the other day when in search of GWE) since they used to hold a West Midland Birdwatching Fair there years ago.

Glad you liked the books - would love to hear your recommendations for Green Man and similar type books!

Deb said...

Beautiful church and lovely to see the paintings now the plaster's gone.I'm off over to Amazon to check out the Green Man book. :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Deb - Thanks so much. Although I'd read up on the church before I went it was even more interesting than I thought it would be :) Hope you find the Green Man book! :)

Caroline Gill said...

As ever, a detailed and diverse post! I love 'Frenchman's Creek': I think it is my favourite du Maurier novel. We have just finished re-watching Howatch's Penmarric on dvd ... as a kind of preparation for the next series of Poldark! I have the same lovely (but abridged) 'Lark Rise ...': it came from a secondhand bookshop in Brecon. I'm reading a novel set on Iona at present, and am looking forward to 'The Lagoon: how Aristotle invented Science'. We bloggers are quite eclectic in our reading tastes!

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thanks so much Caroline. Apart from Jamaica Inn and Rebecca (already read too many times!) think I will carry on reading the du Maurier novels! I loved Penmarric - and am now trying to remember if I've seen a film/tv version will have to check it out!

Do so enjoy seeing what other people are reading - that is how I discovered the Phil Rickman "Merrily" books so will check out The Lagoon and books on Iona :)

The Wessex Reiver said...

Those marks left by sharpening equipment are the sort of thing which really brings history to life as we stand in the shadow of the person who made the mark. Great church.

Ragged Robin said...

The Wessex Reiver - Thanks very much Andrew. I've seen sharpening marks before but never so pronounced. I love the sense of history you get from visiting ancient churches and churchyards - there is always so much of interest to see and a feeling of peacefulness regardless of whether you are religious or not.

Rohrerbot said...

More books!!! When you find time to read??? I can barely get through one book in a season. But I'm also a teacher so that's all we do is read. The "fun" reading usually happens during my summers:)

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks Chris :) Making a supreme effort this year to read more! I don't watch much tv so evenings are the time I tend to read. This year I think I have read about 3x as many books as I would normally!

Grosmontine said...

A beautiful church, the sandstone giving the building a lovely warm tone, though the grooves do perhaps suggest that using sandstone has its limitations due to its inherent softness!

The old Norman doorway is rather impressive and as ever I enjoyed the colourful stained glass and the fantastic wood carvings in the chancel screen. The bellringers message was also rather amusing :-)

Fascinating to see the old medieval wall paintings and one wonders just how many other churches still hold secrets yet to be rediscovered from times long past.

Kindest regards and best wishes to all :-)

Ragged Robin said...

David - Thanks so much for your very lovely comment David. Interesting point about using sandstone!! Its used a lot round parts of Warwickshire - Kenilworth springs to mind :)

I was pleasantly surprised at how much there was to see in the church when I went back. I suspect I missed more carvings on the chancel screen so one day will return.

Amazing the treasures you can find fairly close to home. It is such a pity so many churches in North Warwickshire, in particular, are locked up although I understand the reasons why. I keep meaning to look for medieval graffiti when I visit churches but usually get sidetracked and then run out of time. Just realised I forgot to check St Mary's today at Temple Balsall! :(

Best wishes to you all too David