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Kirkdale (Yorkshire) - revised

Wootton Wawen (Warwickshire)

Beckford (Worcestershire)

Wareham (Dorset)

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Bere Regis (Dorset)

Winterborne Tomson (Dorset)

Swaffham Prior (Cambridgeshire)

Little Snoring (Norfolk)

Billesley (Warwickshire)

Old Shoreham (Sussex)

Ludlow

Dedication : St Laurence                               Simon Jenkins: *****                        Principal Features : Peerless Misericords. Magnificent perpendicular church.

The first two Shropshire churches I have covered for this website are Heath and Ludlow. Without setting out to do so, it has occurred to me that in these two churches - the one humble, tiny and deconsecrated, the other mighty, proud and steeped in history - I am portraying the English parish church at its extremes.

Ludlow is one of England’s foremost churches. Simon Jenkins gives it 5 stars, and although my tastes are more Heath than Ludlow, I can’t disagree with him. I don’t have space here for anything but the merest outline of its architecture. For more you must see it yourself and buy the excellent Guide Book.

For me, the wonder of Ludlow lies in its carvings in the choir, and I struggle to decide how much to reproduce here. This is, however, a splendid church in every way and I don’t have the wherewithal or access to do justice to its magnificence.

Ludlow is very much a c15 perpendicular church. The font dates back to the first bulding of the c12, and that’s about all. It was rebuilt in Transitional style in around 1199 and all that is left of that church is part of the south aisle wall. In c13 an Early English door was added along with a two-bay chancel to house a High Altar. The Decorated period of c14 produced the south porch and a

a rebuilt north aisle. Later that century a north transept was added. The rebuilding between 1433 and 1471 was a huge undertaking. The Black Death had not spared master masons any more than it had the rest of the population and so the more straightforward Perpendicular supplanted Decorated and gave us most of the Ludlow church that we see today.

It is to Ludlow’s wealthy Palmer’s Guild that Ludlow owes much of its magnificence, A palmer was someone who had made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The pilgrims would bring back a palm frond, recalling the strewing of palms at the feet of Christ on his entry to Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday. Ludlow’s Palmer’s Guild, founded in 1284, was not unique by any means, but by acquiring mercantile interests throughout the Midlands it was a particularly rich one. The guild is commemorated in the magnificent east window. Indeed, Simon Jenkins believes Ludlow’s glass to be amongst the best in the land.

Ludlow has an association with the Prince Arthur, older brother of Henry. VIII. In 1501 he married Catherine of Aragon. The following January he came to Ludlow Castle as Head of the Council of the Marches. On 2 April 1502 he died of the much-feared (and still mysterious) “sweating sickness” and his heart was buried in St Laurence’s. The marriage was believed to be unconsummated which paved the way for Henry to marry Catherine. Later, of course, he was to claim that the marriage with Arthur had been consummated, paving the way for his divorce, his marriage to Ann Boleyn and the establishment of the Church of England, How different might our history have been but for the death of the unfortunate Arthur at Ludlow?

Looking towards the crossing, with the choir beyond, The soaring perpendicular arches of crossing and aisles can clearly be seen.

The south arcade with the aisle beyond. The walls date from the 1199 church although they have been since raised in height.

Looking west from the chancel into the choir with the crossing beyond.

The high altar and east window. The chancel was rebuilt between 1443 and 1447. The window tells the story of the martyrdom of St Laurence.

Looking towards the west end and window. The stone tracery is from the perpendicular period but the glass, depicting the various lords of Ludlow was inserted as recently as 1860.

The magnificent tomb of Justice Edmund Walter (d.1592) and his wife. Like many public figures interred in Ludlow they were associated with the Council of the Marches.

In this picture of the south west of the church it is easy to see the comparative age of the south wall.

The “Palmers’ Window” which is in the Chapel of St John the Evangelist to the north of the Choir. This glass is sufficiently impressive to adorn the cover of Simon Jenkins’s “Thousand Best Churches” book. It follows two palmers from their departure to the Holy and to their return to Ludlow, There are cameo appearances by Edward the Confessor who certainly was long dead before the guild was formed!

The “Jesse Window” of 1330 in the Lady Chapel, showing Christ’s “lineage”.

This fragment of mediaeval fresco is in the Chapel of St John the Evangelist.

The wonderful ceiling of the “lantern” of the church tower.

A highly painted angel on one of the roof trusses.

A 1640 monument to Susan, wife of “John Ricard, gent”.

The font from the original c12 church. If you have read other pages on this site you will hardly be astounded that this was used as a water butt in the churchyard for several centuries...

Misericords and Poppy Heads

The majority of the misericords date from 1447, but eight seem to date from the late c14. They have a crude “twig” device - perhaps the symbol of the carver? Many of the misericords record the Yorkist dynasty, but perhaps the most fascinating are those depicting mediaeval life.

The falcon and supporting fetterlocks - symbol of the House of York,

Said to be an authentic image of Richard II

Angel with trumpet - also possibly an emblem of Richard II whose arms were sometimes supported with angels.

A bishop believed to be Bishop Mascal of Hereford 1401-16, a native of Ludlow. Twigged,

A mermaid with comb and mirror. Believed to be the arms of John Merbury.

The two now-headless figures are crouching round a wine barrel. Twigged.

Perhaps the most famous of Ludlow’s misericords. On the left of the main design a dishonest ale-wife is draped, still clutching a flagon, over the shoulder of a demon who is dragging her off to hell. Another demon plays bagpipes. On the left, a third demon lists her sins. Twigged.

Another strange one - suggested to be a “kitchen romp”. The “twig” is very clear on this one.

A hart at rest - the symbol of Richard II

A fox in bishop’s clothes preaches to geese to lure them to his teeth! It is a popular image of the time.

An antelope gorged and chained. In heraldry “gorged” means with a chain or crown around the neck. The emblem of Henry VI.

A fashionable horned headdress being worn by a bat.

Believed to be a satire on the prevailing mode of women’s head dress!

Prince of Wales’s Feathers.

This one is a puzzle, although the central figure is believed to possibly be a sexton, with his wife on the right. Some suggest the Master of the Palmer’s Guild. Twigged.

A c14 scholar with a long scroll. Twigged.

An owl, sometimes associated with the powerful Mortimer family, important Yorkists.

Believed to be a “hag” in a horned headdress being tormented by two boys. Charming!

A swan. Interestingly this is a Lancastrian symbol.

Sometimes known as “Simon the Cellarer”.

A winter scene with the figure warming herself by the fire. There is a kettle on a fire and two pigs hung up, presumably as winter stores.

A griffin, flanked by two others. Used by Edward III.

Some simple leaves,

The Lord of Misrule was elected annually to preside over the 12 days of Christmas.

St Catherine (right with wheel) and St Margaret (left with dragon)

A personal favourite - a pedlar with his bundle seemingly pulling on his boots. Look at that cheeky grin!

Mary nursing the body the dead Christ - a Pieta.

Figure with crown - possibly St Edmund.

Possibly a “Good Shepherd” or John the Baptist holding the “Lamb of God”