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St Wandregesilius, Bixley
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The dedication is rather striking. St Wandregesilius, a Latinised form of the French St Wandrille, is unique in England. You expect such dedications to be the result of enthusiastic 19th century Anglo-catholic Rectors, but there really was a shrine to this Saint here at Bixley in the middle ages, and so the dedication is not wholly spurious.
When Mee and Cautley came this way, they were closer in time to the rebuilding of the church than they are to today. In 1868, all except the 14th century tower was completely replaced - Pevsner thought he saw the hand of Teulon in the cruciform design. Only the famous Ward monuments survived the restoration, collected together in the north transept, along with a single medieval brass and a rare dedication stone of 1272.
Many people I have spoken to would rather see it allowed to become a ruin - as Tom Muckley observed, such things are a traditional aspect of the English landscape. For myself, I wonder if something similar to what has been done at the similarly remote church of Iken in Suffolk might be possible: there, the building was reroofed, but left as an empty shell for the visits of pilgrims and travellers. Daily prayers are said, and even in winter these are regularly attended by visitors. Iken is too remote for the building there to be used for exhibitions or concerts, but that is part of its simple charm, and it remains a primitive (and cheap) form of witness. I think the same would work here as well.
If nothing is done, then no doubt the elements will do their work anyway. Already, the charred beams sway dangerously in the wind, the remaining ridge and roof tiles teetering and occasionally falling to smash below. The entire church is full of thousands of little fragments, and when you stand in the nave or under the crossing looking up, it is like being inside the fossil of an enormous mammal.
The font suffered intense heat from the burning of the wooden floors of the belfry, which which fell when the tower became a chimney in the inferno, and has completely calcified; it is now breaking up in the frosty air. Someone has thrown a singed bible into the bowl. Nearby, the parish chest is still intact, but completely incinerated. The board on the wall above is the former war memorial. At the east end, melted glass sags in the bottom of the windows like cheese oozing off of toast.
I was amazed by how efficient the wooden doors had been at holding in the blaze. The vestry, in the north-west corner, is still full of undamaged books and cleaning equipment. The notice boards in the south porch are similarly undamaged.
I walked through the debris towards the chancel, being careful not to step on the metal grill which appeared to have a nasty drop beneath it. I picked my way through the remains of benches, the lectern, the candelabras, and stood under the crossing.
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