Monday, 23 January 2012


St Barnabas has been so over restored as to be rendered antiseptic which is a shame as the exterior sort of points to a once interesting building - I think, but it's hard to be sure so I'm going to sit on the fence here.

CHURCH. Nave, lower chancel and belfry. All much restored by Sir Arthur Blomfield. Norman one blocked N window, C13 the completely plain N doorway. The rest mostly C14, windows especially and SEDILIA. The latter of three seats, framed in one, with the PISCINA, cusped pointed arches on detached shafts. S arcade (also C14) of three bays with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches.  FONT. Of the familiar Purbeck type, square, with five shallow blank arches on each side, C12. - FONT COVER. Handsome, if modest, C17 piece. Semi-globe with ribs crowned by a finial of openwork scrolls carrying a ball.

St Barnabas (2)


ALPHAMSTONE. In narrow winding lanes its houses are strung out, several of them 17th century and one a 16th century farm. The churchyard has a fine outlook over the Stour valley, and marks the site of a far more ancient burial-place in the Bronze Age. Urns dug up hereabouts are in Colchester Museum. From the wooden bell-turret three Tudor bells ring out, but the nave walls may be as old as the 12th century, and the south aisle and the chancel with its splendid sedilia are 14th. One of the porches has timbers 500 years old, and the other is about a century younger, but both the doors have been here since the time of Agincourt. There are two chests and a communion table, all about 300 years old, and a 12th century font bowl with a 17th century cover. The chancel has two of the low medieval windows which have long puzzled our antiquarians. They have kept their ancient iron grilles, and are believed to have been used at mass, when a bell was rung from them for the people outside to hear. In several windows is 14th and 15th century glass, including blue and gold roundels, fragments of suns and tabernacles, fleur-de-lys and cups. A sad tale is told of the old glass of the church being sold for what it would fetch in Sudbury market at the beginning of last century.


Simon K.

Buoyed up by Holy Innocents, Lamarsh, I headed on in sunshine up, up, into those oh-so hilly hills which ran like rivers towards Alphamstone. 

According to my map the two churches are less than a mile apart. Well, perhaps it was the hill, or the way the clouds were gathering and threatening, but it seemed a lot further than that. But still I headed on, out the other side of the village, until I reached the top road for Pebmarsh, and I knew that I had missed it.

And now the rain began to fall, big, icy drops. I turned back and headed into the village again, this time sure of where I was on the map, and there it was, exactly where it should be. How had I missed it? I had cycled right past it.

By now it was raining heavily, so I tugged my bike up the steep churchyard under an avenue of limes and put it in the porch of the church.

Open. The moment I stepped inside I knew this was somewhere special. It was almost completely dark, thanks to the storm outside, but I could see candles flickering and the gleam of statues. Here, the Anglo-catholic twilight sleeps on.

The pews are replaced with cane chairs as at Kettlebaston, but there is none of that Ernest Geldart razzmatazz here - this is a simple village church, but with such a prayerful atmosphere.

In the aisle there is a rood group which came from the chapel of the House of Mercy at nearby Great Maplestead, a 'home for fallen women' which was closed and demolished in the 1950s.

There is a well-cared for and yet rough and ready atmosphere. A curiosity is that there are shuttered low side windows on both the north and south sides of the chancel, but I do not think they can be original - can they?

The rain lessened without stopping, and so I stepped outside to try and take the exteriors before the storm worsened again. This is a long aisled church with a wooden bell turret, which was very attractive. But the rain stopped, and the sun came out. I went back into the church and it was full of light, and I knew that in fact this was my favourite church of the day.

By now the lanes were awash, and so I decided to call it a day and take the shortest route back to Bures station, but the sun seemed insistent, and so instead I headed on to Pebmarsh for just one more church, I told myself.

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