Hello from A Medieval Mosaic
This is our fourth trip out geocaching with a Suffolk friend who today joined geocaching and has his own name – Huh4. We are so glad to have introduced someone new to our obsession. We made a bit of a late start and then we had to call into Martlesham to get some lunch and some petrol finally arriving at Little Conard to pick up Charlie at 10.15. We set off straight away and most of our church micros today would be in Essex.
Our first cache of the day was at All Saints church in Middleton. This church has a wonderful gilt reredos depicting the ‘Last Supper’and an unusual painted font. The sanctuary had some exciting tilework. It had Norman arches and a painted organ made by J.W. Walker of London in 1852. The ledger stone was dedicated to Rev. Thomas Robinson. There was also an incised slab of James Samson dressed in his vestments who was the rector in 1349. There were some lovely stained glass windows including Ezekiel and Christ ascending to heaven from 1860 and a lovely Last Supper window from 1848. We found the cache eventually but not where we were initially expecting.
Next, we went to St Mary’s church in Great Henny. It is lovely little pilgrimage church with two steeples, sort of. One is on top of the church and the top of the old steeple is off to one side. Apparently, some bats or birds used to nest in the steeple so when the steeple was replaced the whole top was removed to one side so that their home was not lost. The church had a heavy marble font which is quite unusual and some monumental brasses on the wall. One monumental brass was dedicated to William and Anne Fyscher with their 6 sons and 9 daughters from around 1530. There was a small painted organ with blue and gold painted pipes. The altar had a painting standing on it and the reredos and altar cloth had matching fabric. There were three ledger stones in the chancel floor. The stained glass windows included the chancel window of the Crucifixion by J. Hardman & Co., in 1860. The cache was easily found though I was a bit worried by all the muggles and dogs in the house across the road as the dogs were barking their heads off at us. They make geocaching inconspicuously very difficult.
We were supposed to go to Twinstead next but the road was blocked off so we went to Lamarsh first. After Lamarsh, we tried to get to Twinstead again but the road we took didn’t lead the right way. In the end, we gave up on this village but in the end, we circumnavigated the village with all roads leading to Twinstead.
Holy Innocents church in Lamarsh had a round tower with a shingled spire and inside it had a plain octagonal font and a wooden screen. It had a wonderfully tiled reredos and St Barbara on the left-hand stained glass window by Mary Lowndes in 1895, above the altar. We found the cache and it was an easy find with a good hint.
The flint church of St Barnabas in Alphamstone had a George II royal coat of arms dated 1743. It also had an unusually shaped font with a wide round base, a square font and a bell-shaped wooden lid. There were a triple sedilia and piscina as well as a wooden screen between the nave and the aisle. It had some lovely stained glass windows by Hemming & Co,. London. The cache was easily found and was a fake stone, the first container of its sort that Charlie had seen.
St John the Baptist church at Pebmarsh was a big church with two aisles and a white flint interior. It had a George royal coat of arms and a screen with two shields on it. There were some lovely stained glass windows including some lovely Heaton, Butler and Baynes windows. There were three matching windows by J. Powell & Sons, London with angels playing musical instruments, singing and with incense. We found a wonderful monumental brass of Sir William FitzRalph from 1323 under the carpet in the chancel and the altar had a lovely carved and gilt altar frontal. The rector’s list from 1294. The wall outside the church had a lovely tiny purple flower growing over it. Well, this cache eluded us too, as well as several of the previous geocachers as it hasn’t been found since September 2017. We looked in all the obvious places that match the hint and all the others that didn’t but we couldn’t find anything. However, we did find the cache at the village sign so at least we found one in Pebmarsh.
What a lovely church St John the Baptist at Little Maplestead is, with its round nave and its Tudor rose ceiling. It was originally a chapel of The Knights Hospitallers in 1340. Inside the ceiling over the altar is also rounded which gives the church a strange keyhole shape. It is one of England’s five, round medieval churches. The tapestry kneelers were black and white alternating with red and white which made for a dramatic effect. We had our picnic lunch on the seat outside with a nice view looking out over Essex. It was a pity that we forgot to make a thermos of tea as we could have done with a nice cuppa. The cache was quickly found nearby in a tree stump.
What a surprise in St Giles church in Great Maplestead with two huge alabaster wall monuments to John Deane and his wife. One side of the Deane chapel there is an alabaster effigy of Sir John Denae who died in 1625. The effigy has a muzzled bear at his feet and above are the kneeling figures of his widow, two sons and four daughters. On the opposite wall is an effigy of Anne Drury, the wife of Sir John Deane who died in 1633. At her feet is an effigy on Anne’s son Sir Dru Deane who died in 1634. His head rests on matting and his feet rest on a muzzled bear. There were also wall paintings around some of the windows and circles with pictures painted over the nave arch. These didn’t look too old. The church is made of two parts, the Norman building was built first, followed by the Deane Chapel which was built in the year 1626. In 1612 the church had to be partially rebuilt with red bricks due to the fact it was struck by lightning. There was a wooden, half-domed ceiling over the sanctuary and more wall paintings. There was a lovely wooden reredos with three paintings and some nice tile work in the chancel. There were some lovely stained glass window in memory of Eliza Mary Sperling from 1900 and Charles Robert Sperling in 1864. The geocache was easily found.
St Andrew’s church in Halstead wasn’t open when we got there but Charlie went off to see if he could get it opened. Mike and I went to find the cache in an obvious but busy place. It took us ages to get across the road as traffic was coming from all directions. The log was full so I signed down one edge. Builders are working in the church so when they opened the church after their lunch break we were able to look around. The impressive Bourchier chapel had two double tombs in it. One tomb chest had effigies of John de Bourchier, Justice of the Kings Bench who died in 1328 and his wife Helen of Colchester, daughter of Walter de Colchester. The lower part of the tomb belonged to Robert, Lord Bourchier, first Chancellor of England in 1340 and who fought Prince Edward at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. Robert died of the Black Death in 1349. His wife Margaret was the daughter of Sir Thomas Prayers of Sible Hedingham. The canopied 15th-century chalk tomb belonged to John, 2nd Lord Bourchier who died in 1400 and his second wife, Elizabeth Coggeshall. There was also a triple monumental brass on a Purbeck marble slab of Bartholomew, 3rd Lord Bourchier who died in 1409. On his left is his first wife, Margaret Sutton and on the right is his second wife, Idonea Lovey. The chancel was covered in a wonderful Victorian wall painting in paint and gilt representing Moses, Miriam, Asaph, Hannah, Matthew and Mark on the left-hand side. Ambrose, Gregory, Jerome and Augustine beside the altar and Luke, John, Simeon, Mary and David on the right-hand side. The chancel decoration was completed in 1899 by Sir Arther Blomfield. They were so beautiful and in a brilliant condition!! The reredos was beautiful too with seven paintings with gold backgrounds, three saints each side and Jesus in the middle. The fabric altar frontal was beautifully embroidered. One particular stained glass window stood out for me as it was in red, yellows and white only.
St Francis of Assisi in Halstead was a modern church so we didn’t go in but we did look for the cache. Mike found it quickly but that was the easy part. Getting the cache out of its hiding place was more difficult but Mike soon found a tool to extract the cache which was quickly signed and replaced.
St James the Great church at Greenstead Green had an octagonal font with a crenellated and crocketed wooden cover and the stone pulpit decorated with statuettes of Christ and the Evangelists. The pulpit could only be reached by a stairway from the nave. St James had a lovely reredos with St Andrew, St Matthew, St Mark, Christ in Majesty, St Luke, St John and St James in gold and paint. There was a lovely window of “The Ascension” by Powell & Sons behind the altar with a lot of white glass which made the characters stand out. It was a bit of a walk to the cache along the walkway which was a bit muddy in places but we soon found the obvious hint item. The cache was in the open in the ditch but we replaced it as per the hint. We were hugely surprised that no one had found this cache since April 2017 as it was not hard to find.
At Colne Engaine we parked in the wrong place initially much to the disgust of a neighbour mowing his lawns but then moved the car when we saw the car park. The St Andrew’s church had stone reredos and an octagonal font with a marble column stand. It had a wonderful stained glass window of St Michael in memory of Louisa Amelia Botterill in 1919 over the altar. It is quite a modern window and the colours were fantastic. There was a real variety of modern stained glass windows which were very beautiful. The cache was found very quickly after a short walk up the road while Mike got the car to pick us up.
St Andrew’s church at Earl Colne was closed so we went to find the cache. The lid wasn’t on the container so the log was damp. The lid was there so we signed the log and replaced the cache. The church had an unusual tower with an extra piece added to the side.
St Andrew’s church at White Colne was also closed and although we collected all the numbers and the final took us to a sensible and logical place we were unable to find the cache. We were also muggled and had to explain about geocaching. When the muggle and his dog left we had another look but had to finally admit defeat.
All Saints at Wakes Colne was our third church in a row that was closed. It makes geocaching faster but it is disappointing to find so many churches closed. Usually, it is the town churches that are closed. We made a quick find of the cache and moved on.
The road through to St Barnabas in Chappel was closed but we were able to get to the church. It was open and had a George II royal coat of arms and an upstairs gallery, for the royalty? The cache was easily found but it was a mushy mess so unsignable and desperately needed some maintenance. From Chappel we had a wonderful view of Chappel Viaduct which carries the Gainsborough Line, a short branch linking Marks Tey in Essex and Sudbury in Suffolk. The viaduct crosses the River Colne and was completed in 1849. It is the longest bridge in East Anglia at 1060 feet (320 m) and one of the largest brick-built structures in the country. It was Grade II listed in 1967 and has 32 semi-circular spans.
Next, we made quick visits to the church at Rose Green and St Margaret and St Catherine’s in Aldham but neither church was open so we just got two quick caches.
As we were heading for St Barnabas church in Great Tey we had to turn right onto the A120 right at 5 pm, which was not a great idea. Eventually, we managed to cross two lanes of traffic and got to the church. The church had a great stained glass window of the ‘Good Shepherd’ by Powell & Sons of London in 1902 and a wooden reredos with a 17th-century communion table. It had a cool stepped tower, an 1830 clock and a 16th-century ‘Armada’ chest. We collected the numbers for the geocache from the Lychgate and drove the short distance to find the cache easily under a tree in the centre of the road. A muggle was walking his dogs down the road but he didn’t see what I was doing.
At St James the Less in Little Tey there were numerous 13th and 14th-century wall paintings, including one of St Christopher. The cache was not where we imagined but then Huh4 looked elsewhere and there it was. The “Conard’s Strutt” ensued. I would have left a travel bug but the cache was wet and in need of maintenance. It was a lovely place beside a pond.
St Andrew’s church at Marks Tey had some really nice stained glass windows including a modern one dedicated to Arthur Erridge who died in 1968 and was himself a stained glass artist. There was a particularly lovely Millennium window by Susan McCarthy in 2000. It is nice to enjoy the modern and the older windows as much as each other. There was a wooden font which is quite unusual. Mike found the cache even before Charlie and I arrived on foot. We left a travel bug.
All Saints at Fordham was closed but I had gone on ahead to find the cache. The hint was very specific but it was still a clever hide and I was very careful not to drop it as it would have fallen into a stream and been impossible to retrieve. A gave this cache a favourite as it was very nice.
Our last church of the day was St Andrew’s at Wormingford and it was the highlight of the day. It had an awesome wooden eagle with wings outstretched lectern to hold the Bible. There was a lovely marble reredos and a great main window of the ‘Last Supper’ by M & A O’Connor, London 1869. I really like the use of colour in the O’Connor windows and they are my favourite Victorian stained glass artists while Mike prefers C.E.Kempes. There was a lovely altar frontal, poppyheads on the choir benches and tiny royal coat of arms. It had some excellent memorial brasses, one of a man identified as either Thomas Bowden or Radus Rydale from around 1460. There was also a brass of a civilian and his two wives from 1590 with a reserve engraving of the same brass. Also, there was a matchstick model of the church. A really good church for the last of the day and Charlie found the last cache after Mike and I had been unable to find it.
We did 23 caches for the day with 20 church micros, 1 Village sign and only 2 did not finds.