Newsletter 3

 

Friends of St Mary's Church, Cricklade, Wiltshire, U.K.

 

Chairman: Hugh Dudley, 4 Pleydells, Cricklade, SWINDON, SN6 6NG

Secretary: Gerry Dudley, 4 Pleydells, Cricklade, SWINDON, SN6 6NG

Treasurer: Tony Barratt, 13 Boundary Close, Stratton, SWINDON, SN2 7TF

 

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Newsletter No. 3

 

January 2000

Dear Friends,

Another Newsletter, another century. Belated New Year greetings to all Friends. This newsletter has been delayed in order to bring you the latest developments in the saga of St Mary's Church maintenance.

When we last went to press we were anticipating an Autumn of fund raising for our cause. Then around September we were thrown into uncertainty by the structural engineer's report requiring major expenditure, and our future tenure of St Mary's was in the balance. It was for this reason that the Auction was cancelled. It would have been morally wrong to accepts gifts, knowing that we might have to surrender the Lease. I am delighted to be able to report that in a letter dated 26 January to Father Richard from Laurence Payne, Diocesan Surveyor, that the Trustees have agreed in principle to continue with the Lease and to invite the Parish to prepare a structured programme of work over the next 5 years. We are not off the hook. Take a look at what needs to be done. It is appended to this Newsletter.

If the maintenance programme appears daunting, please bear in mind that we hope to fund most of it through grants, lottery etc. but of course we have to be able to demonstrate our own commitment. Over the last financial year (year to 31 Dec) we amassed 9252 by fundraising and donations. Thank you to all who responded to our raffle appeal - it raised 500. You will also be pleased to learn that The Waylands Trust has kindly offered 500 towards the restoration of the clock. Its chime will announce the completion of the work!

Due to the uncertainty of our future tenure of St Mary's, we had not arranged a programme of events. Now that we are staying, you may be sure that there will be activities, and you will be notified accordingly. One date for your diaries is Saturday 27 May when we shall be repeating the very successful Open Day held last August. Do please join us for light refreshments and Edmund Lee's very informative guided tour of the church - at 11.00a.m.

On the subject of Open Days, during the summer we hope to be able to keep the church open on Saturday mornings to coincide with the Museum openings. If you can spare 2 hours to help on one of the mornings there is a space for volunteering on the green membership renewal slips enclosed. Thank you for your past support, we hope we can count on you to renew your membership, which is now due. On this note of optimism, I close............

Bernadette Yarnold

HISTORICAL NOTES from Edmund Lee

THE CHURCHYARD CROSS AT ST. MARY'S

The cross in the churchyard at St Mary's is the most elaborate example of medieval sculpture in the town. Certainly it stands in contrast to the interior of St Mary's church which, apart from the Norman chancel arch has very little ornamentation. Its importance in terms of the national heritage is recognised by its status as both a 'scheduled ancient monument' and a 'listed building'. What does the cross tell us about the medieval history of the church?

Well, for a start, it isn't a cross in the conventional sense at all. A small iron cross surmounts the sculpture, but this is certainly a later addition, possibly Victorian. The sculpture is technically a 'lantern', consisting of a square stone column about twice as high as it is wide set on top of a tapering shaft, giving the sculptor four panels to carve, each separated by a stone 'frame' supported on the backs of four angels. The sculpture stands on an octagonal base of three steps.

No documentary references are made to the lantern-cross in early documents. The first representation of the cross is as late as 1810, when it appears in the watercolour of the church by Buckler, now in the Wiltshire County Archives. At that time the churchyard wall did not exist, and the lantern formed the centrepiece of a small public space, open to the street to the East, bounded to the North by the church, to the West by the church porch, and to the South by the buildings of the High Street. The first antiquarian description of the sculpture was made in the late nineteenth century by Ponting who identified the West facing carving as depicting the Crucifixion, and the South being the Assumption of the Virgin. Ponting did not identify the East and North facing panels, describing them only as a 'Queen and Knight' and a 'Bishop with crozier'. Later accounts have for the most part followed Ponting's description.

The fact that the Crucifixion faces away from the street has led some commentators to suggest that the carved lantern has at some date been reset the 'wrong' way round, and that this scene would have originally faced the street. Certainly the cross has been repaired at various dates. The shaft is probably not original, but itself shows signs of patching. In the early part of this century it was blown down in a storm. Parish records include a book recording donations from the local parishioners for its repair.

However, a little further research into the two unidentified panels suggests that we are in fact seeing the lantern as originally intended. The 'Queen and Knight' facing the street was suggested to be a depiction of the Annunciation in the 1940's, and an inspection of the Bishop with crozier shows there is a second figure or group of figures to the West of the bishop, though much damaged. If this is also a Biblical scene, it may in fact be the presentation of Christ at the Temple, with the 'Bishop' being St Simeon. If this is the case, then what we have here are not scenes from the life of Christ but from the life of the Virgin Mary, starting at the Annunciation facing the street, and proceeding anti-clockwise around the sculpture in chronological sequence, ending with the Assumption.

Though damaged now, the style of what remains of the carvings suggests a date for the lantern in the 14th century. The presence of the lantern here at that date supports the assumption that the church itself was dedicated to St Mary during the medieval period, further strengthening the possible connection of the church with Abingdon Abbey (also dedicated to St Mary) mentioned in an earlier article. Abingdon Abbey was in fact a major centre of medieval ecclesiastical sculpture. The famous 'Eleanor crosses' erected to commemorate the death of Queen Eleanor, wife to Edward I, in the early 14th century (most famously at King's Cross in London) are attributed to a monk from this abbey. It is tempting to think that our lantern is perhaps also the gift of a major benefactor, perhaps commissioned from the abbey that had such a strong connection with the town.

THE CROSS IN THE 20TH CENTURY from Bernadette Yarnold

Following on from Edmund's article, and reproduced below, is the leaflet distributed by the Rector seeking donations for the repair of the Cross. The small cash book recording donations is in Wiltshire Record Office. Names of subscribers who can be identified (some are recorded by initials only) are given below. With the help of Mr Bert Nash, I have attempted to expand the detail with residence, occupation and occasional comment. Perhaps some of our members could fill in the gaps?

Cricklade St. Mary's

CHURCHYARD CROSS

Early this year the top portion of this Cross was blown down. The cost of repairing the damage done to this singularly beautiful cross amounts to 20. Mrs. Cyril Giles and Mrs. A. Robinson, members of the Church Council, have kindly consented to call round for donations. Donations of one shilling and upwards will be gratefully accepted by The Rector, and the Churchwardens. The work of refixing the Lantern and the broken pieces has been carried out by a skilled mason under the directions of Mr. W.A.H.Masters, Architect and Diocesan Surveyor, and of Mr. Weir the Architect to the Protection of Ancient Buildings Society.

16 April 1925

Signed: Charles Wray

Rector

Reproduced from a leaflet in Wiltshire Record Office 1632/64

Donations

Rev C Wray 1.0.0
Miss A Wray 10.0
Miss M Wray 10.0
Mrs J Gantlett 5.0
H I V Cuss 5.0 Lived at Calcutt Farm
R C Mann 2.6
Mrs L M Bucknill 5.0 Lived at Bryn Cottage, dressed fashionably, drove a trap.
Mrs Giles 1.6
C A Harvey 2.6
Mr C Blackwell 1.0 Charlie Blackwell Senior
Mrs W Nash 2.0 Lived in Calcutt Street, Mr Bert Nash's aunt
Mrs A Smith 5.0 Lived where C & R Grocers now trade.
Miss Johnston 5.0 Schoolteacher at the Girls School.
L Lansdowne 5.0 Builder, lived where Lloyds TSB Bank stands.
Mrs & Miss A Horwill 5.0 Schoolteachers at the Girls School.
S Whistler 5.0 Lived near War Memorial, sister of Mrs Kirwen of Brook House.
Miss Lucas 2.6 Lived opposite Abingdon Court Lane.
Wm Cuss 5.0
Mrs H Pinnock 2.0
Mrs Cole 2.0 Lived where Mr James the butcher now trades.
Taylor 1.0
Mrs J Cuss 1.0 Mother of Mrs Phyllis Hammond
M J Robinson 1.0 Lived at The Priory.
W T Yeates 1.0 Lived at the sweet shop.
S Martin 1.0
Mrs Dean 1.0
Mrs Hobbs 2.6
V Webb 1.0
Eldridge 2.0
L Carter 2.0 Butchers, now Hart's
Mrs Hammond 3.0 Hammonds had the garage next to Carters.
HE Goodson 1.0 Lived where Tye's TV shop trades.
Ivor Bowen 1.0 Cricketer and Schoolteacher at the Boys School.
Mrs Cullerne 1.0 Lived next to Mrs Goodson.
A Williams 1.0 Lived opposite the Bank.
Mrs Trenneth  1.0
A Peare 1.0 Lived in Purton Road
Blackwell  2.0
S Newer 1.0 Sydney. lived in Church Lane.
L T Teitelbaum 2.6
A Robinson 2.6 Lived at The Priory.
A Baker 2.6 Had a Clothes Shop where the Hairdressers and Pet Shop trade.
Miss Scott 2.6 Of The White Hart.
G Morley 5.0 The Chemist.
D New 1.0 Dan. Draper next to the Post Office.
A Gunning 1.0 Had a shop making harnesses for horses next to Mr New's, now the bakers.
W Johnston 1.0 Son of the ladies at the grocers shop.
C Hall 1.0
Mrs Stratford 1.0 Lived in Calcutt Street opposite the turning to Horsefair Lane.
F R Freeth 2.6 Lived where the VWH Club is now.
Mrs J Pinnock 1.0
F Kilminster 1.0 Frank. Hairdresser, where Fish & Chip shop is now.
E G Woolford 3.0 Teddy. The Postman who lived in Abingdon Court Lane.
A T Giles 2.6 Tommy. The Man on the Council, he ran Cricklade!
Dr Richards 5.0 Vicar of St Sampson's.
E Pidden 1.0 Kennelworker.
C New 1.0
C J Carter 1.0 Butchers
Mrs Cyril Giles 2.0 Carpenters & Wheelwrights, lived at Riverside, involvement with funerals.
Major Methuen 1.0.0 Lived at Common Hill House. Marvellous chap, financed Scouts and uniforms
M Dean 1.0
Mr R Sandle 1.0 Dick. A man of private means.
W C Woodward 2.0 Repaired boots and shoes, opposite the Town Hall.
Mrs Archer 2.0
Dr Lewarn 10.0
Mrs W Giles  2.0
Miss Hore 2.6 Schoolteacher at the Girls School.
Miss Welsh 10.0 Lady of private means.

One thing is obvious, the concern for the maintenance of the Churchyard Cross was not restricted to the parish of St Mary's, it was a matter for Cricklade as a whole. Similarly, today the parish of St Mary's is gratified to number amongst the Friends so many of the broader community of Cricklade.

Summary of Essential Maintenance to St Mary's Church, Cricklade - extracts from the report of Craddy Pitchers, Consultant Structural Engineers, Bristol.

North aisle

Repairs to the masonry and stone work around the windows to the North wall, removing lower tiles and carrying out repairs to the rafters and their bearings; removing damaged wall plaster and reinstating; stripping ceiling to the North aisle roof and replacing; associated works to rain water goods and drainage; repairs/renewal of flashings and pointing to top of North aisle roof.

(Some of the costs are covered by the subsidence claim and the Trustees have agreed to cover the Policy excess of 20,000 on behalf of the parish).

Front boundary wall

The remedial works to this area are largely the work of a stone mason. This work needs to be undertaken in the near future as the wall is becoming dangerous and the footpath needs to be protected. Grants could be available from North Wiltshire Council - up to 50% for repair works, and 75% for enhancement work. The Conservation Officer indicates that English Heritage and the Historical Churches Committee will be involved, and the further complication is that an archaeological investigation may also be necessary during the course of the work in view of the location of an historic wall that crosses the boundary and extends up the North side of the church.

(The Conservation Officer for North Wiltshire Council has advised that Grants have already been expended for this financial year and that an application is needed to enable consideration in next financial year.)

Repointing to West wall and tower

The urgency of this work is not necessarily in the same category as the previous item although English Heritage is aware of the work that has been undertaken (pointing done a few years ago using incorrect mortar) and has said that it wants reinstatement. The nature of the damaging work is time consuming - the mortar has to be taken out and replaced, and would suit an experienced retired mason, doing this work over a number of months.

Tower roof repair

Initial inspection indicates that the lead covering to the tower roof needs repair - which from an economical point of view could probably best be done when scaffolding is erected for repointing repairs. Temporary measures could possibly be undertaken but would only delay works for a comparatively short time.

Roof over North chapel

It was noticed that deterioration is taking place to the timbers above this area, along with increasing damp penetration etc. The likelihood is that the roof requires taking off and reinstating, but could involve expensive repair to historical timber forming the decking (general decay and Death Watch Beetle attack).