1872 St John’s Church (Luke, Woods)
Elmswell, Church of St John the Evangelist
Bury and Norwich Post12/11/1872:
Reopening of Elmswell Church
A visit to Elmswell Church, reopened this day after extensive restoration and enlargement, awakens an interesting train of thought, apart from the honour and credit due to the Rector, the Rev. Wm. H. Colbeck Luke, M.A., and his family connections, who have since the commencement of his tenure of the living been most earnest and liberal in their efforts to make the condition of the parish church altogether worthy of its architectural pretensions.
The parish church of Elmswell, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, stands on a commanding eminence, and is a picturesque object for miles around. Previous to the recent alterations it consisted of nave, chancel, south aisle, and tower, the chancel being of the Decorated period, and the rest of the church Perpendicular in style. The tower contains five bells (two of them cracked), bearing the following inscription :
1. John Draper made me 1616.
2. John Darbie made me 1677.
3. Sancte Edmunde ora pro nobis.
4. Stephanus Tonni me fecit 1582, de Bury S. Edmundii.
5. Robert Gurney made me 1670.
About ten years ago, during the incumbency of the Rev. J. T. Lawton, the south aisle wasrebuilt, under the directions of Mr. Hakewill, architect. In 1863 the present Rector was presented to the living, and in the following year the chancel was restored and a vestry was built on its north side, from the designs of Mr. R. J. Withers. At the same time the east window was filled with painted glass, by Messrs Lavers and Barraud, at the cost of Mrs. Connell, a near relative of the Rector, whose gift is commemorated by the following inscription on a brass tablet affixed to the north wall :
“To the glory of God and in memory of STEPHEN and HARRIET WALTER LUKE, her parents, and JOHN MAUGHAM CONNELL, her husband, the east window of this church was dedicated by HARRIET W. VYVYAN CONNELL, October A.D. 1864.”
The subjects which fill the four lights of the window are, respectively, the Baptism of Christ, the Agony in the Garden, the Crucifixion, and the Entombment. On the south of the chancel the series is continued in a two light window, representing the Ascension, the work of Messrs. Gibbs, and beneath it is the following dedication:
“To the glory of God and in memory of WILLIAM HOLDSWORTH, D.D., late Rector of Clifton, Notts, who died 27th September 1865[?], aged 65, this window is dedicated by his
widow, the Honble. Augusta Matilda Holdsworth. Easter, 1868.”
At this period, also, a new organ by Mr. Prosser, of New street, Vincent square, London, was put up on the south side of the chancel, the gift of W. Luke, Esq., the Rector’s father, the then patron of the living, which is now, however, in the gift of his son. About three years later the customary obstruction of the tower arch, a singing gallery, was removed, the arch was opened, the floor tiled, and the east [sic] window filled with stained glass, at the cost of Mrs.
Blakeley, another of Mr Luke’s relatives, in memory of her first husband, Capt. Tonge, late of the 14th Light Dragoons. But, as a natural consequence, the work effected up to this time made the remaining deformities still more incongruous than before, the greatest eyesore being the flat plastered ceiling of the nave, which unfortunately did not, as in some cases, conceal and protect the ancient timber roof, for that has disappeared altogether. With so much already done, it was impossible to stay the work of restoration, and Mr. J. Drayton Wyatt, architect, h aving been consulted, designs were prepared for the complete restoration of the nave and for the addition of a north aisle to correspond with that on the south.
The contract, amounting to 1150l., was 2 taken by Mr. W. Woods, of Elmswell, and the parish is fortunate in having a resident builder able to carry out important work so satisfactorily. This cost of the structural alterations does not include the charges of the architect and the clerk of the works (Mr. Jackaman, of Bury), nor the cost of Porrett’s underground warming apparatus, and these expenses may be put at about 150l. additional, making altogether 1300l. Towards this 1050l. has been raised,including 250l. (as we have said) from Sir Robert Gardener’s church fund, 90l. from Church Building Societies, and 20l. from Lord Wm. Seymour, in addition to the sand required.
Considering that there are no resident landowners in the parish, and that the aid of the parishioners has been of a purely voluntary character, the Rector and his friends deserve to be congratulated on the energy which has resulted in cancelling so large a proportion of the newly incurred obligations. When the restoration of the chancel was undertaken by the Present Rector, the church was filled with the old fashioned pews now becoming so scarce in this neighbourhood that it would not be very surprising to find specimens in the local museums. These were condemned as a matter of course, and since that time rush bottomed chairs and a few of the old benches, of unusual excellence which we are glad to hear are to be thoroughly restored and replaced in the church have afforded sitting accommodation for the congregation. Not to do things by halves, however, very comfortable oaken benches, with carved ends, similar in their general construction to those in St. James’s Church, Bury, have been provided in time for the opening services.
The roof of the nave, a very important feature of the new work, is unusually handsome, and the only regret is that, owing to pecuniary considerations, which are always of paramount importance, it could not have been executed in oak instead of stained pine. It is not of very high pitch, forming an angle of about 90 degrees, and it is stated that its lines are almost parallel to the traces of an old roof discovered on the wall above the tower arch, at so low an altitude that there could not have been at that time any clerestory windows. The marks of the Perpendicular roof, of much lower pitch, were also laid bare during the recent alterations, and it is surmised that this is the roof which suffered in the middle of the 17th century from the axes and hammers of Downing and his brother iconoclasts. The collar beams and hammer beams of the new roof are enriched with battlemented mouldings, and at the terminations of the hammer beams are a series of shields on which the arms of the diocese, the sacred monogram, the keys of St Peter, the interlaced triangles, and other ecclesiastical devices, have been painted by the Rev. W. F. Francis, Curate of Great Saxham, to whose skill the parish is also indebted for the elaborate ornamentation of the panels of the reredos.
It may here be mentioned that the reredos, which formed part of the earlier restorations, is of stone, which material is also employed in the construction of the chancel screen, and both these works, though it cannot be said that they are not tastefully designed, are certainly too heavy to be well in keeping with their surroundings. The iron gates of the chancel screen are recent, and have been made by Mr. W. H. Syer, of Great Saxham, who deserves high praise for the excellence of workmanship which would do credit to more pretentious forges than that of a village smithy. The nave roof has quatrefoil ornamentation beneath a battlemented cornice, and pendent from the hammer beams, between the large and handsome clerestory windows, are canopies, beneath which it is, we believe, intended to place carved figures of saints and angels, which will stand upon the caps of the pilasters beneath. These canopies are elaboratelycarved in oak, too elaborately, indeed, for the work to be appreciated from the floor of the church, and their colour does not harmonize well with the stained pine of which the rest of the roof is composed.
Beneath the clerestory windows runs an elaborate string course of stone, with pateræ in the lower moulding ; this stands in need of repair. On either side of the nave now that a north aisle has been added to the church are five pointed arches, supported by octagonal pillars; the faces of these pillars are slightly concave, by which means the welcome relief of shadow is secured. At the east end of the old south aisle is a chapel enclosed by a carved oaken screen of the Perpendicular period. This chapel, from which a view of the sacrarium is gained by means of a hagioscope, or squint, contains a very fine canopied monument of marble, bearing the effigy, in a recumbent posture, of Sir Richard Gardener 3[sic], to whom allusion has already been made, and also the kneeling figure of his son. The
monument bears the following inscription:
“In hope and expectation of a blessed Resvrrection here is interred the body of Sr Robert Gardener, an honorable Kt, who was in the reigne of Qveene Elizabeth Cheif Ivstice of
Ireland 18 years, and for two years a Viceroy there. In all wch time svch was his Integritie in Ivstice, his wisedome and valor in personail services in ye warrs against revelliovs Tyron, and ye Spanish army besieging Kinsale, as gained him ever living honor and love in yt kingdome: and after his retvrne into England he was sent by King Iames into ye Isles of Iernsey and Gernsey, where having setled their estate in peace and good government, retired into his native home, and affecting a more private life wholy devoted himself to ye good acts of pietie, Ivstice, and charitie : he fovnded this adioyning Almshovse and gave liberail svmms of money to purchase lands for ye relief of ye poore in diverse townes for ever.”
He married three wives, Anne Cordail, Thomasin Barker, and Anne ye widow of Iohn Spring, Esq., sonne and heire of Sr William Spring, Kt. He had issve by his first wife William, a sonne of good hope, who died vnmarried at the age of 24 years : his effigies isplaced hereby. “This noble Kt departed this life Feby. 12, 1619, aged 80 years.”
The north aisle is entirely new, and its roof is in keeping with the new roof of the nave, whilst the windows are copied from those in the south aisle. The outer wall is an excellent piece of rubble, and in it is set the ancient door which has hitherto given access to the church on that side. At the east end of this aisle an organ chamber has been erected, abutting upon the vestry. A new general swell has been added to the organ, and some alteration in the front pipes has been made, in order to fit the arch opened for their reception. A new oaken pulpit, the gift of W. Luke, Esq., of open carved work, placed upon a stone base, and supported by shafts of Cornish serpentine marble, has been placed against the north pier of the chancel arch. The pulpit was constructed by Mr. Jackaman, of Bury, and the base, together with the rest of the stonework, was executed by Mrs Farrow, of Bury. The font, anoctagonal one, bears on its faces a series of shields, one of which is blank, the next has threeescallops, and the remainder bear the letters
A search in the British Museumhas shown that on the original south porch (now no longer existing) was a prayer for the soulsof John Hedge and his wife, and there can therefore be no reasonable doubt that the erection of the font was due to his pious bounty. The font has been restored by Messrs. Rattee and Kett, of Cambridge, at the expense of the Rector’s mother, Mrs. Luke, sen., and stands at the west end of the south aisle, which it is proposed to form into a baptistery. The floor of the church (which is reduced from its former level) is to be laid with Godwin’s tiles, but this important portion of the work is not yet completed, the reopening services taking place at too early a date to admit of the completion of the workmen’s labours in this and other respects. It should be added that around the moulding of the chancel arch is the inscription:
“Blessing and honour and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb;” and above the tower arch are the words, “The Lord is in his holy temple : let all the earth keep silence before Him.” The chancel is also decorated with texts, perhaps too profusely to suit some tastes. A pair of elegant brass standards, each with seven lights, have been placed one on either side the communion table, and other standards of graceful design , but of lesscostly workmanship, have been provided for the lighting of the nave : these are supplied by Messrs. Jones and Willis, of Great Russell street, London. The church has been dressed with evergreens…. The tout ensemble, as seen from the tower end, is very satisfactory, and the perspective of the vista is artificially increased by the unusual circumstance that the nave is two feet narrower at the chancel arch than at the west end, an irregularity which enforced additional carefulness on the contractor in the construction of the roof, benches, &c.
The reopening services commenced yesterday.