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St Clement, Terrington St Clement
Clement, Terrington St Clement
Recently, they've done something horrid to the nave floor, the parquet flooring pasted with dark varnish that makes it look like a school hall. And yet it is still a homely interior, despite the vast size. But this is probably the most architecturally important church in England which is kept locked. The key is at the village shop. I picked it up in the middle of the day, but I was already the third person that day to sign the visitors book - and that's just the people who sign the visitors book. The obvious conclusion is that the congregation see this building mainly as a venue for the Sunday club, and that other visitors are merely tolerated. Mind you, the people in the shop are very nice.
I remembered my
previous visit in 2006. Despite my natural arrogance, I
still have the capacity to be gobsmacked; this is what
happened to me as I stood in the churchyard looking at
the west front of the so-called Cathedral of the Marshes.
Of course, no real cathedral would be kept locked. This
Dec-becoming-Perp church is simply enormous, 168 feet
long and cruciform, with an elegant separate tower
sitting immediately beside it. The tower was originally
intended for the crossing, but despite massive piers
inside the builders lost confidence, and built it beside
the west front instead, probably because of the
experience of the builders at Elm, not far off over the
Cambridgeshire border, where the tower leant out of
kilter within ten years of being finished, and still
leans today. The builders at nearby Wisbech, West Walton
and Tydd St Giles got the same message. And perhaps
because of the offsetting of the tower, this huge
building is not bulky or clumsy; the clerestory continues
into the transepts, to reappear triumphantly in the
chancel, and imparts a delicacy to the vastness. Flying
buttresses, turrets and spires complete an almost wedding
One of the windows, based on James Clark's The Sacrifice and probably by Jones & Willis, remembers John Henry Brown, a volunteer with Kitchener's Army. Terrington St Clement may be a large village, but there seems an obscenely large number of names on the War Memorial. There are also a number of individual war memorials scattered around the church.
The most famous feature is the towering font cover, which seems to have been put together by someone very clever in the early 17th century, cannibalising something 15th century Perpendicular and putting it over an opening stage which is warmly painted with scenes from the Baptism of Christ and the Temptation of Christ.Voce Pater Natus, it says, Corpore Flamen Ave! Mortlock thought these paintings might be Flemish panels, and not actually intended originally for the inside of a font cover.
In common with several churches around here, there is a Georgian screen towards the west end of the nave, leaving a kind of narthex behind. This has been converted into a cafeteria, which I assume is only in use on Sundays. There are massive decalogue boards now reset in the transepts. They are signed and dated 1635, and Mortlock thought them the best in England. All in all, there are some wonderful things here. And yet, there is that awful floor. A brass plaque beside the tower arch tells us that the first block of this floor in commemoration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee was laid by Mrs Marlborough Crosse, treasurer to the Ladies Committee for Reseating the Church on 17th August 1897. So we have Queen Victoria to blame. I suppose it would have been too much to hope that Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee might have been celebrated by removing it.
Simon Knott, September 2016
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