The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Harlton.

Within cycling distance from my home is the church at Harlton.  The village is known now as the home of Gwen Raverat from 1925 to 1941, although she is buried with her family in Trumpington.

There are various monuments over the church, in windows and on plaques. Also over the church are bits of scratched graffiti as well as a large monument in alabaster and marble. However at the bottom of this post are a set of small statues that are a local secret and rather beautiful.

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The Fryer Monument

The first John Fryer, father of Thomas Fryer, the elder of the men commemorated on the monument, was born at Balsham and educated at Eton, King’s College Cambridge, and the University of Padua, then the greatest medical school in Europe. Although he was for a time a Lutheran, and was indeed imprisoned for heresy in the 1520s, by 1561 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for Catholicism. He was released in 1563, but died of the plague in October of that year. 

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A scratched Elizabethan gravedigger with spade.

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Said to be a consecration mark this pattern can be found all over the country, in churches, barns, castles and on furniture. Most people call them Daisy Wheels or Hexfoils.

The root screen below is said to be Cambridgeshire’s only one made totally of stone.

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The rector of the church in 1908-1922 was William Ellison, it is guessed in the 1920s, his son Henry Ian Ellison was the carver of the twelve disciples in the reredos – in the style of Eric Gill. William on his plaque is listed as having eight children.

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Cycling to Ely

The sights that can be seen from the riverbank and farm roads.

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Cemetery Chapel, Ickleton, Cambridgeshire

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During last summer I visited Ickleton Cemetery Chapel, between Ickleton and Hinxton. The chapel is Victorian and Grade II listed. Built in 1883, in an Early English style, flint with limestone dressings and knapping to the sides and a slated semi-circular roof end. 

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With double doors to the side is a mortuary chapel and a coffin cart rests inside.

In the graveyard are a set of unusual metal sand cast headstones. Probably made by a company who made fireplaces. An old chap who looks after the graveyard told me that some of them had been stolen, probably for scrap metal as a piece of corrugated iron on top of the compost heap had also been stolen.

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The painted grave is one of his relations, and he had repainted them to look as they did when put in. Others have rusted however.

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Cantab

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 Cantab by Bretherton / Bunbury. Image from the British Museum collection.

Yesterday I bought an etching. Printed in 1772 by James Bretherton after the drawing by Henry William Bunbury. It’s shows a man, likely a priest, travelling by the river. The church in the background is Chesterton church (back then it was surrounded by fields) and the path there left the river toward the town.

His direction confused me for a short while until I remembered there were no bridges on the lower end of the Cam, only ferrymen. The sign to the left shows, he was heading To Cambridge, so not yet there, hence Chesterton. 

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 Detail of Cantab by Bretherton / Bunbury. 

Although many of the prints published by Bunbury were satires, I am unsure of the joke; it may just show the wealth of the clergy in the time of George III and the purpous of the dogs in the bottom left to be the poor. Even without the comedy it’s a beautiful picture in it’s original frame and glass.

Bartlow, Cambridgeshire

Bartlow is one of two churches in Cambridgeshire with a round tower, the village is on the edge of a county border with Essex, so these boundaries have fluctuated over the past hundred years between Cambridgeshire and Essex. It’s listed in the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments book of Essex, 1911 and in the 2014 Pevsner guide as Cambridgeshire.

Churches with round towers are almost exclusive to East Anglia, especially Norfolk and Suffolk. The other church in Cambridgeshire with a round tower is Snailwell and that is on the border of Suffolk and likely was once part of Suffolk too. Why these churches where built with round towers is a mystery; there was once the suggestion it was to be a defence against Viking raiders, but many of the churches where built long after the age of the Vikings.

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Below are two strange pieces of graveyard furniture. One is a Greek omphalos decorated in a Georgian style, and below it a rather beautiful, tall, grave marker cast in metal.

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The In spite of the belief that Bartlow church was built by King Cnut near the site of the battle of Ashingdon (Assandun) in the early 11th century, no documentary references to the church have been found earlier than the 13th century, and the building dates from the late 11th or early 12th. 

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Inside the church, the stained glass windows seam to have a jumbled amount of completion.The tops of the windows however are almost all complete and feature these Lions.

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The Lions faces to me are comic and fun. I am unsure whom they are depicting. They are designed like a burning sun, but the representation is likely to be God even though it could be more abstract than that, it could be Richard I, or the reigning monarch or the country’s spirit. They are usually represented either side of a Saint or Jesus portrait.

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Above is the shadow of George and the Dragon, though only the base paint of the dragon remain with a few details of flowers and crosses. With the wave of puritanical iconoclasm during the sixteenth century, all the beautiful paintings and details of churches where whitewashed over. Today with luck and careful restoration these are being uncovered. Below on the opposite wall of the church is a better preserved wall painting.

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 Saint Christopher Carrying the Christ Child

Saint Christopher was a man of great size and strength who devoted himself to Jesus by helping travellers cross a dangerous river. One day a child asked to ride on Christopher’s shoulders across the river, but the infant seemed to grow heavier and heavier with every step. When they arrived on the opposite shore, the child identified himself as Christ, telling the holy man that he had just carried the weight of the world. Saint Christopher became one of the most popular patron saints for travellers in the Middle Ages.

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I would guess the organ is a restoration project as it is highly decorated all over, from the ornamental pipes at the front to the boxing holding the mechanism.

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An angel blows the wind at the base of a wall plaque.

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To the rear of the church is the rest of the graveyard and the way to the roman hill burials. Below is a picture of the wall sundial and the carving and wall painting from it.

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† A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 6.

Some Photographs

Here are some photos from walks and rides across Cambridgeshire.

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A Cross on the Road

On the corner of the road into Cambridge, in Trumpington, is a very simple looking war memorial. Up close, you notice the detail and the figures. With no information or makers mark near-by you have to google the sculptor. In this case and rather unexpectedly it is by Eric Gill. Gill is remembered today as a typographic designer and sculptor, this most famous in Britain being Prospero and Ariel on Broadcasting House, London.

The four pictograph designs (an individual design for each side) for the Trumpington Cross are subtlety arranged at the base of the cross. Below that on the pedestal are Norman looking arches with the names of the fallen from WWII between.

For Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, he created a plain ‘cross of vaguely medieval form’ adorned with four small reliefs. One of the reliefs was based on a design by the author David Jones (like Gill a convert to Roman Catholicism), who had joined Gill’s radical ‘guild […] of craftsmen’ which sought to revive the communal spirit of medieval society.

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This was memorial was commissioned by the village itself, although the Pemberton family who owned Trumpington Hall has lost their son, Francis, in October 1914 and where the main donors to the village’s war memorial fun. The memorial cross that Gill designed was unveiled in 1921 and stands outside the gates of the hall. This spot was the most prominent corner of the village, on the junction of the village street and the main road to Cambridge.

It is the four images carved in relief on panels at the base of the cross which are so striking. Two of these represent religious subjects – St Michael triumphant in defeating the Devil, and the Madonna and Child (the parish church is dedicated to SS. Mary and Michael) – while the third depicts St George slaying the dragon. So far, so conventional. However, the fourth panel shows an exhausted soldier returning from the war, and this is one of the most profound, though least known, images of the experience of war to appear on any war memorial in Britain or Germany.

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The Madonna and Child side below, seams to need some restoration as it’s weathering away.

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The four sides of the shaft are inscribed with the names of 36 men from WWI and on the base a later addition of 8 men from WWII and what I believe is one from a subsequent war.

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† The Great War and Medieval Memory: War, Remembrance and Medievalism in Britain and Germany, 1914-1940
by Dr Stefan Goebel,   2007. 9780521854153 p.60.
The silent morning (Cultural History of Modern War) by Trudi Tate, Kate Kennedy, 2015, 9781784991166 p.326.

Pew Ends of Swavesey.

The Churches in Cambridgeshire are some of the least documented in Britain. Cambridgeshire really gets thrown into a void and all the books about the region focus upon the City and the university or Ely; Sometimes the National Trust’s properties like Wicken Fen and Wimpole Hall will also get a mention but there is little else documented on them, outside of pamphlets or the impenetrable Pevsner. 

These are the wooden hand carved and probably medieval pew ends of Swavesey Church in Cambridgeshire. Below is a photograph of fourteen of them in a line but there are around fifty carvings in the church itself.

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Listed as ‘Suauesye’ in the Domesday Book, the name Swavesey means “landing place (or island) of a man named Swaef”, it was on the edge of the un-drained fens and so it would have been a marsh landscape of islands. 

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A castle was built here in the late 11th or early 12th century, though is believed to have been derelict by 1200. Swavesey served as a port and subsequent market town and was fortified at the end of the 12th century.It had a port area dug into the centre of the village too. With the draining of the fens the only evidence of this a network of ditches. The draining of the fens bought fields and arable wealth to the town.

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The present parish church in Swavesey, dedicated to St Andrew since the 11th century, has a double aisle aspect to its nave. The east window in the Lady Chapel contains a 1967 Tree of Jesse by Francis Skeat. 

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A walk in the woods

Here are some pictures from a muddy walk into the local woods. I was lucky enough to see the bluebells in the wood in full bloom.

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Dead Greenhouses

In Cambridgeshire there is a ghost town of glasshouses in a field, they have been replaced with a vast new set of tall metal glasshouses some miles down the road, what is left decaying are there shells from the 1930’s and 40’s — home grown boom.

In the later days of their life with cheap imports, from the plastic covered hills of the Almería region in Spain. The greenhouses in Cambridgeshire where used mostly for garden centre boarder plants until left to die, glass falling into itself like flesh and the skeleton remaining.