Sunday, 29 January 2012

Great Totham

For the first time in a week or so last Friday was cloud free and sunny but bitterly cold and, on a whim, I decided to do a church run. Setting off late mid morning I had an unrealistic list of 9 churches south of Colchester planned but on the way passed, and visited, Great and Little Totham.

St Peter was clad in scaffolding being erected and did not look promising but it was open and held some interest including the Champion de Crespigny chapel and a hidden brass to Elizabeth Coke of 1606. It's very plain inside with a north aisle and has been heavily restored but for all that I rather liked it.

ST PETER. Nave and chancel probably C14. N aisle by J. Clarke, 1878. C15 roofs. - PAINTINGS. Remains of figures in the NE corner of the nave and the splay of a S window; C15 to early C16. - PLATE. Cup and Paten of 1630. - BRASS to Elizabeth Coke d. 1606 and daughter (chancel).

St Peter (2)

All Seats Free

Elizabeth Coke nee Pilborough 1606 (7)

GREAT TOTHAM. Very ragged looks our Essex coast on our maps; would you see it spread out as it is, come to Beacon Hill at Great Totham, and gaze seaward.

The cottages of this small place, great no more, range along a group of roads at the foot of this fine viewpoint, while the island of Osea, which belongs to it, lies away out in the Blackwater estuary. The churchyard is a place of charm, with trim lawns and roses surrounded by limes and pines, while a creeper climbs the porch of the red-tiled church. Here are one or two windows of the 14th century, and among the timbers of the roof are many that were hewn 500 years ago. A modern shingle spire rises from a wooden turret. In the chancel are portraits in brass of two Elizabethan Elizabeths, wearing ruffs. There are fragments of 16th century glass, and near the pulpit is a huge clock quaint enough to raise a smile however dull the sermon may be.

Simon K -

The villages of Wickham Bishops, Great Totham, Little Totham and Little Braxted all straggle in to each other in true Essex fashion, and it is hard to see where one village ends and the next begins.

There are actually two Great Tothams, more than a mile apart, disambiguated on signs as North Great Totham and South Great Totham. I fantasised that the villages might spawn smaller siblings, so you could choose between Great North Great Totham and Little North Great Totham, but this hasn't happened yet.

In any case, all three churches are away from their villages in tiny lanes in the middle of nowhere, so first it was to St Peter.

Open. The sign says You are welcome at any of our services, but in any case this church is always open in daylight hours. An idyllic spot, a gingerbread church with fine Victorian transepts, a stream running through the churchyard and herbaceous borders around the church. The extensions were the work of the great Ernest Geldart.

You step into a largely 19th Century interior, but one of great charm, an intelligent restoration. Despite the little tower, there is a ring of six bells and this is considered one of the best rings in Essex. It was lovely to think of such an idyllic spot ringing out with a peal of bells. I liked this church a lot, and it is probably going to make my Essex top 40, at least for now.


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