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Wiggenhall St Mary The Virgin Church with local Places
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The villages of Wiggenhall sits just on the edge of the Fens and is around 12 miles from my home in Leverington Wisbech. Driving from Wisbech to the church takes in the usual depressing flat, lifeless fields of the Fens. This little church has been on my hit list for about a year. I thought it was time to take a look, also to see those bright, vibrant colours which shine so bright that are so rare in the Fens which is often a monochrome world.
Firstly when you view Google maps, there are a few Wiggenhalls villages, 5 in total. After surviving for gunfire of the Wisbech streets (it does feel that bad that often!). It's pop down the A47, on to Terrington St John and out into the flatlands. Nearing Islington, you will see Kings Lynn in the distance and. Driving down the Avenue road after turning out of Islington, on the left side in the distance there stands the tower of the church in the trees and out in the countryside away from the main village. The tower nestled in amongst trees shouts to be photographed, and with the yellows, fields offer that splash of colour. When churches look like I often wonder why so many people do not care about them anymore.
The lone Tree in a Sea of Yellow
One unusual sight when driving to the church was seeing a lone tree out in the landscape. Shock horror a tree out in a field that hasn't been cut down. The lone tree (pictured) in the yellow fields are almost a symbol of man's greed for food, without a care in the world for the earth he lives on. This lone tree also gives a sign that you are getting close to escaping the horrors of the Fens and soon you will come across woodlands, hedgerows, hills and places to go walking. If now you are wondering what I am on about, ask the lovely lady about the trees and the lack of wildlife where you get the key from to enter the church, she sees that same issues as me. That lone tree has so many meanings to me and not just an arty Fens photograph.
The church sits out from the village and can be found down a small road, parking under and a beautiful large old elm tree. To get to the church you walk through the driveway of, but first, you need the key to the church which is open most days from 10 am onwards. I met the housekeeper where we had a long chat regarding the issues around the loss of nature in the local countryside.
The first view of the church was one that made me feel so welcome, seeing the overgrown churchyard left to nature was so perfect to me, but here is where most people would throw their hands in the air shouting WHAT A DIRTY PLACE!. But I see a place that is perfect for nature. A home where they will be safe from pestaside and the Human obsession with felling every tree in sight. Churchyards like this are now some of the only places in the Fens where you will see wildflowers; I kid you not! so I see a haven for nature.
The ivy-covered tombstones give such a rustic feel and could be from an old creepy movie, with butterflies, bees flying around gave me some hope for our suffering nature, if given even a small patch they will hang on to life.
St Mary's in some parts is 13th century in date with the north and south doorways but mostly 14th century with restoration work undertaken in 1961 by G E Street. The building is Carstone, ashlar and red brick.
Again those rustic red bricks fits in perfectly with the whole churchyard. The west bell tower is a 3 stage type with a stairway up tot he full height of the tower.
Most of the windows are Perpendicular meaning: English Gothic church architecture, from the late 14th to mid 16th centuries, with wide arches, elaborate fan vaulting, and large windows with vertical tracery. I soon noticed the carved window label stops which are often fun to look at that dawn the windows. It's often stated that the carving was the stonemason's marks or business card of the day.
Walking around the churchyard, tiptoeing through the wildflowers as not to break any this church is just so rustic, in both look and feel with the north side looking most weathered yet, I guess its due to the trees and wind direction drying the south walls sooner.
The Interior and Those Carvings
The fun of living a life for adventure is unknowing what's around the next corner and inside this church was one of those moments. When walking inside any church I look for the mood lighting, and this then lets me connect with the atmosphere. I often zone out so much that I lose all track of time. But as soon as I spotted those benches, I felt two different emotions, ohh my word they are stunning, but also, dread due to my health issues where, when bending down my legs stop working which causes so much pain, so I knew this shoot was going to be long and painful. Well, it was painful and had to stop after just a few benches.
The carvings are simply some of the finest I have seen, they date from the 1500th century, but some seems to be 1400th century in date. Pierced backs with various geometric or flowering tracery panels, bench ends with figures standing in a niche, also 2 figures in 2 niches, with crenellated buttresses, either with figurative or animal armrests and poppyheads. Something I found interesting and dam right funny was some of the carvings looked like some of the actors out of the original planet of the Apes' films!
Sir Henry Kervil 1624 of Alabaster Monument
In the south aisle, you will find a magnificent Monument to Sir Henry Kervil 1624 of alabaster. The tomb chest has figures of baby and child. And Straight-legged recumbent effigies of Sir Henry and wife. In most village churches you may not see these kinds of monuments, I have only seen a few, and the craftsmanship is outstanding is second to none.
The Chancel Screen Paintings
The chancel is divided by a fine rood screen and for once seems to be undamaged by the Cromwell madmen in the Reformation. Cromwell for me was scheming and ruthless, He is the man who destroyed the most of the wealth, literature and art of the English medieval church from 1517 - 1648. Maybe out in the Fens this church escaped his onslaught or his sat nave sent him the wrong way haha.
All the painted Saints have stood the test of time and with the ogee arches with cusped heads looks splendid.
Well, I never really expected to see such exquisite architecture and craftsmanship in a church tucked away in the middle of no man's land. For us, in the Fens, it is reasonable to see isolated places but to see something like this is rare and is only matched by the few larger churches not too far away but even those pale comparison to this churches wooden benches.
This small part of the Norfolk Fens not too far from Kings Lynn has the most churches I have seen in a small area, with Wiggenhall St Germans just down the road, and you have St Peter's ruins about a mile away and St Mary Magdalene. Three of the churches have the best views of any church in Fenland; they either stand near to the ouse river or can be seen from the landscape. Most of the churches are either crammed in village centres or surrounded by the only trees in the area and not seen at all. I do plan to go back next week to finish off the benches if my legs let me.
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