November 6 – A trip to Chelmsford Cathedral

Some Church Micros on the way home through Danbury, Purleigh and Woodham Ferrers

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We have been to a great many cathedrals in our time in the UK and now have a much shorter list of those we still have to do. Chelmsford Cathedral is not far from our current housesit so today we visited it.

Chelmsford Cathedral is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, St Peter and St Cedd and became a cathedral in 1914. While the original church was probably built in the 12th century, it was rebuilt in the 15th and early 16th centuries with walls of flint, stone and brick. On the 6th May 2014, HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, attended a service in the Cathedral to commemorate its Centenary year. It is the second smallest Cathedral in the country, yet it serves the second largest diocese in the country! But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in warmth, light space and colour, and it has a modern look, which makes it hard to believe that much of the building dates back to the early fifteenth century.

The cathedral is full of wonderful and varied works of art. There are several sculptures by Peter Eugene Ball including “Christ in Glory” and “Christus Mother and Child”. There is also a painting in the North Transept by Mark Cazelet – The Tree of Life and Philip Sanderson’s altar frontal in the Mildmay Chapel. A fascinating 23,5000 piece mosaic was a community project guided by artist Peter Harrington. There were also wonderful banners including a processional banner designed by Beryl Dean in 1960 as well as her modern patchwork backdrop of 2400 silk squares behind the Cathedra. In the chancel clerestory are four gilded paintings of Mary, Jesus, St Peter and St Cedd which are outstanding icons. The tapestry kneelers were also lovely and we found some dedicated to King Harold, King Osyth and one to Bishop Ken who I learned about at Wells Cathedral. (See 22 May 2018)

The cathedral also celebrates its links with Thomas Hooker, who was Chelmsford Town Lecturer between 1626 and 1629. He fled to the New World because of his Puritan views and founded the town of Hartford, Connecticut and was one of the founders of American democracy.

One of the things that most impressed me were the ceilings. The Tudor Gothic nave ceiling by Johnson was painted and gilded in 1961 by Stephen Dykes Bower in a huge repeating flower pattern and the sanctuary ceiling is in a darker blue with gilded symbols on it. The stained glass windows are also lovely especially the ones telling the stories of the Good Samaritan, the wedding at Cana and the Last Supper.

There are many wall monuments, carved wooden corbels and outside carved stone corbels including St Peter on one corner which recently received new keys.

After visiting the cathedral we went to collect the numbers for the geocache and found the footpath but search as we might we could not find the cache. When I came to log a DNF I found that it had been archived yesterday.

On the way back to our housesit we decided to do a few church micros. St Johns in Danbury is a lovely church with the most amazing poppy-heads and bench ends on both ends of all the pews. The East window was a lovely window from 1955 in small pieces of glass made by Carl Edwards. There were also three oak effigies of crusader knights. Early parts of the church date back to the 12th century but the hill has an even earlier military history as the site dates back to the Iron Age. The earlier part of the church is made of stone flint but the tower came later in 1330. During the Reformation, ornaments were sold off and the money used for repairs. The cathedral also had a lovely array of stained glass windows

We collected the numbers quickly from the footpath, did our sums and headed the short distance to the cache site. But after ages of looking, we just could not find the container. So frustrating as we also missed out on the bonus cache whose coordinates we would have found in the box. This cache has not been found since June so maybe it needs checking and a hint would be appreciated too.

All Saints church in Purleigh was open when we got there, just, as the two ladies have been putting together a festival for Remembrance Day, including a model of a “Sopwith Camel”. The church is notable as having had Lawrence Washington as rector from 1632 to 1643. He was the great-great-grandfather of George Washington and is said to have been ejected from Purleigh rectory on the grounds that he was “a common frequenter of alehouses, not only himself sitting daily tippling there, but also encouraging others in the beastly vice.”We looked in the church quickly before heading off to find Sargent Eves grave. Now we were told in a geocaching write-up two years ago that there are only two graves in the UK that have the words “murdered” on it. But this one brings our total to three. LOL. We collected the numbers and soon found the cache which hasn’t been found since June 2018. The story of Sergeant Eves was a sad one and unusual for a small village. He was on his way home from his round in Hazeleigh when he encountered a gang of men stealing grain in Purleigh. Without warning they attacked him mercilessly, clubbing him to death, slitting his throat and leaving him dead in the ditch at the roadside. The body was not discovered until the following day when a huge murder enquiry was immediately launched. Clues from the case soon led to a number of local men and six arrests were made. Richard and John Davis were found guilty of murder and sentenced to be hanged.

We also found the Village Sign cache since it was close by. The name Purleigh means “Bittern wood”, from the Old English “pūr” and “lēah” – the bird that is featured on the village sign.

We walked along a footpath and found the Bicknacre church micro but we never saw the church. There were lots of possibilities for hiding this cache so it makes you wonder why they would put it by some barbed wire? Someone is going to have a nasty accident.

Our last cache of the day was at Woodham Ferrers. We read the hint and immediately found the cache. We were just in time as we had parked at the school/chapel carpark and as we got back, the teacher was about to leave and to lock the carpark. We didn’t visit the church.

A lovely day visiting the second smallest cathedral in the UK and a few other caches on the way home.