Saturday, 30 March 2013

Wickham Bishops - St Peter

St Peter is redundant and now in use as a stained glass studio which seems rather appropriate; much better than conversion into domestic use.

Pevsner incorrectly names St Peter:

ST BARTHOLOMEW. 1850 by Ewan Christian. Quite ambitious, of freestone with a tall steeple with spire. With the erection of this church the old church became superfluous.

ST BARTHOLOMEW. The old church stands 1 m. SW of the new. It consists of nave and chancel with a small belfry. The only remaining feature of special interest is the SE quoin of Roman bricks, evidence of the Early Norman origin of the church.

St Peter (4)

WICKHAM BISHOPS. In the fields, a few yards from the 15th century doorway of a cottage, we came upon an ill-used and deserted church with a shingle spire on a wooden turret. The Normans built it, using Roman bricks for the corners of the chancel and Roman tiles for a doorway. The doorway has been replaced with a medieval brick porch, and there is still hanging in it a door 500 years old. We found the tie-beams of the 15th century roof still strong, but the rest was a picture of desolation, with the pavement broken round the font, which had a lid 500 years ago to prevent the holy water from being stolen for black magic. On the altar is a gravestone with the word Resurgam, and we may hope it will be prophetic for the old church. Only its 600-year-old chest has been moved to the new church with the lofty spire.

Simon K -

Closed, now a stained glass workshop. This is a very oddly situated church, along a track across a ploughed field and then over a Victorian railway bridge over the now vanished Witham to Maldon line. The church fell into disuse in the late 19th Century after a replacement was built in the village centre, and amazingly was not declared officially redundant until 1970, the first church in England to be so under the new legislation. By then it was pretty much ruined, as you may imagine.

The Friends of Friendless Churches took it on in 1974 and restored it. Recently, a friend of mine was involved in it being let to Benjamin Finn, the stained glass artist, as a workshop, and I was looking forward to using their name as an entrée for a nose around, but the church was all locked up.

St Peter has one very odd claim to fame. During the Commonwealth, when the Church of England was suppressed and all manner of weird and wonderful biblical fundamentalist sects were let off the leash by their fascist champion Oliver Cromwell, the intruder minister here was the puritan preacher Joseph Billio, whose sermons were delivered with such speed and gusto that they gave rise to the expression 'to go like Billio'. It must be said that he actually achieved fame at the nearby Maldon Congregational chapel.

Rather a sad little place, despite the restoration. FoFC don't have the resources that the CCT have, and there was still a slight air of desolation about the churchyard, surrounded as it is by as yet unsprung fields. The building looks sound, though. I climbed up the long, steep road into the village itself to this church's replacement, St Bartholomew.

Still ringed round with its moat is Wickham Hall, a timbered Stuart house with 15th century glass painted with lively little birds.

No comments:

Post a Comment