Monday, 16 September 2013

Newnham church, Hertfordshire.

St. Vincent's church, Newnham

Although the church wasn't on the lists of those open for Heritage Open Days, I saw it through churchyard trees on the way to busy Caldecote. Like that nearby church, the tower was raised on arches within the end of the nave, though here it was expanded when a clerestory and a stair turret were added, with battlements all round, in the fifteenth century. There's a south aisle here too, as well as a porch, pretty much all covered in roman cement, a sure sign that the nineteenth century restoration was of an early date. The nave and aisles all look perpendicular, but the chancel windows have decorated tracery to south and east, and two early english lancets to the north. Inexplicably, most books claim that the east window is fifteenth century, when it's obviously work of the early fourteenth.

Inside the porch , much graffiti of all ages, and two nice shield-carrying angels remain from the original roof. The south door is fourteenth century, as is the south arcade inside, and a pretty early nineteenth century gothick chamber organ stands in the aisle.   The floor throughout  is made up of bricks, a nicely rustic practical touch.

A rather dull fifteenth century font stands at the west end of the nave; close by are the wall paintings only re-discovered in 1963.

The whole wide expanse of the north wall  is covered in the remains of murals below the clerestory lights.As usual, St. Christopher has pride of place opposite the door, with fish frolicking about his feet. The ragged staff he carries is equally clear, and you can just about make out a kneeling donor on the left above the cliffs at the side of the stream. This saint was always placed in such a prominent position, as a sight of this image was said to ensure a good death. In mediaeval terms, that didn't mean safety from harm, but rather guaranteed that you wouldn't die unshriven. To the right can be seen a large roundel, with enough of a dragon's wing and clawed feet to judge this to be a mural of George and the dragon. If you look carefully you can just make out the lance piercing the beast's body. Next to the window besides the pulpit are faint remains of a hooded figure, and bits of an earlier scheme remain below the St. Christopher, fourteenth century saints in an arcade.

A couple of small brasses remain in the chancel; the Jacobean one names and portrays each of the children of the deceased. The only memorial of any pretension is a baroque tablet of 1697 to Lady Dame Thomazine Dyer, an heiress in her own right who married a baronet. All of her descendants have carried her maiden name of Swinnerton ever since.

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