The Miser’s Head

Miser's head

The Monday Photo

John Camden Neild was a recluse and a miser, and this less than complimentery carving is of his head. It’s on North Marston church. It’s a recent carving, made when the 15th Century tower was restored in 2004-2005.

John Camden Neild had lived in Chelsea, but when he died in 1852 he was buried in the chancel of the church; he had owned property in the village.

He left most of his fortune  of £500,000 (worth £29 million today) to Queen Victoria, even though he had never met her.

The Queen used the money first to see that Neild’s servants were taken care of, then had the chancel of North Marston church restored and had the new East window installed with its fine stained glass.

Then she bought the Balmoral estate in Scotland and had it remodelled, at a cost of £31,000.

This head is a label stop; it’s on the bottom edge of a label (or dripstone, or hood mould); a carved stone ridge above a church window that directs rainwater away from the glass.

When this Grade 1 listed church was inspected a few years ago, the tower was found to be in very poor condition. Some of the eight inch thick facing stones were down to two inches or less.

Specialist stonemasons Boden and Ward made a fine job of restoring the tower, (there's more about it at the link) and carved this head, and the one of John Schorne that’s on the other end of the label.

Just Stop

All the stops

The Monday Photo

Have you ever had to put all your efforts into something and said you were “Pulling out all the stops”? This phrase comes from church organs, and how they are played.

Those knobs with the curious names you’ll see on an organ are the stops. When you pull out a stop, it allows air through a certain set of organ pipes. The more stops you pull out, the more pipes come into play.

If you pull out all the stops, the organ is making the greatest noise; making the greatest effort. That’s where the phrase comes from.

These stops are on the organ of Adstock church. Some organs have great banks of stops, but at Adstock the organ is in a small church; it doesn’t need to be very big.

The church, dedicated to St. Cecilia, is Grade 1 listed.

All is Bright

Church of All Saints  HillesdenThe South face of All Saints church. The tower is 15th Century with geometric style windows, but the rest of the church was built later in the Perpendicular style. In the middle is the South Transept.

All Saints, Hillesden, is a Perpendicular church. This style is easy to recognise; the windows have strong vertical stone bars, or mullions, that mean the windows can be made very large to let in the maximum amount of light.

Makers of stained glass could use the great areas of glass to their best advantage, and a church like Hillesden, built in this style, is a light and airy place. 

Hillesden’s walls are thin compared to older churches, but buttresses between the windows makes the walls stiff and strong. The thin walls allow in yet more light. Because the windows are not deep set, sunlight can come in from almost any angle.

Much use is made of vertical lines in this style, as you can see from the pillars in the church.

Nave and South aisle  HillesdenAll these large windows make the church airy and bright. This is the nave, the south aisle and South Transept, and the original rood screen. Beyond it is the chancel, and in it but barely visible here, are rows of carved angels at the top of the side walls. I have a clearer shot of the chancel here, in my previous post.

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Warmer Days are Ahead

The days are drawing out, and the warmer days are coming. We still have a couple of months to go, but here’s just a few photos to remind us of what to look forward to.

Cublington church  BucksCublington church was built in around 1400 A.D. and has been little altered or expanded since. The village, once further down the hill, had been abandoned for nearly sixty years after the climate changed. The original site had become too wet and muddy to be practical.

The new village grew around the church, which had been partly built with materials from the old one.

Soulbury  BucksBefore the new road was built, going to Aylesbury from Bletchley meant I cut through Soulbury to avoid Leighton Buzzard. At the bottom of the village I would take the right turn that took me into the back of Wing. I took this photo from the field next to the turn, one August.

Soulbury is well known for its stone, a piece of the Peak District left there 450,000 years ago by a retreating glacier.

Shipton Brook bridge  BucksShipton Brook bridge was built just South of Winslow for the new Aylesbury to Buckingham turnpike that opened in 1722. In 1937 a new bridge was built upstream and the bridge was bypassed. I used to come here to play in the 1960s.

Norman is Well Preserved

Stewkley church is one of the most complete and remarkable Norman churches in the whole of England.

Unlike many other churches, it has retained its original layout and small Norman windows, and  although it was restored in Victorian times, they carried out the work with a light and sympathetic touch, even removing some dubious earlier additions.

The result is a church that looks very much as it did when it was first built, in the late 12th Century.

Stewkley church towerThis is one of eight carved figures at the top of the church tower. I don’t want to call them gargoyles because they contain no water spouts (the word comes from the French “gargouille”, meaning “to gargle”) .

But I hesitate to call them grotesques, the other term, as half of them represent the four evangelists, saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

This carving might be a portrait of a local; it was often the case.

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Pop Goes the Church Gun

Preparing the Fenny PoppersA waxed wooden plug goes into the touch-hole.

It’s Noon on Monday, the 11th of November and half a dozen loud bangs echo across Fenny Stratford. St Martin’s church have fired their ceremonial cannon again.

The six small cannons are the Fenny Poppers. The poppers have have been fired on the 11th of November, St. Martin’s Day, since around 1740. I went to watch. At the far end of the graveyard off Manor Road, four men were preparing the poppers.

Loading the Fenny PopperJust under an ounce of Pyrodex is poured into the cannon by Peter White.

Each one is shaped like a tankard, but they are made of gun metal with thick walls. There’s a touch-hole near the base for the fuse. Each popper is just seven inches long, but weighs 19 lbs.

Peter White of the church loaded them one at a time with just under an ounce of a gunpowder substitute, Pyrodex. It’s more stable than gunpowder, but like gunpowder it produces quite a lot of smoke when it goes off, as we will soon see.

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