Touching Place


As the Middle Ages drew to an end, even the humblest villages throughout England strove to extend and beautify their churches. Little Burlingham began its campaign around 1460 with a new tower in the latest Perpendicular style; small, but elegantly proportioned. By 1469, they were planning to glaze the west window and to make the battlements to top it off (not finished until about 1485).

Fetch the key and go inside. Look up and admire the exquisite hammer beam roof to the nave (1487-91). The last big job was to be the finishing touch, a carved and painted roodscreen. Painted and gilded figures of local saints Withburga, Etheldreda and Walstan appear, as do Cecilia, John the Baptist, Edward the Confessor, Thomas of Canterbury and Benedict (or Benet, as they say in these parts).

In their wills of 1525-37, several donors left money for the screen, including Edward Lacy and Robert Frenys; an inscription names John and Cecilia Blake, Thomas and Margaret Benet and Robert Frenys as donors. Compare the donors with the saints and you see that, uniquely, donors chose that their patron saints would appear on the screen, finished in 1536. Just two years later, Henry VIII ordered that Becket's images were to be 'put down and avoided out of all churches'. Iconoclasts removed over half the figure of Becket (compare, just the face of St Edward is scratched away). Here is the Reformation in microcosm.

Give thanks and pray for those who stand up for the faith in the face of persecution, whether in first-century Rome, sixteenth-century England, or twenty-first-century Zimbabwe. Consider Matthew 5.11: 'Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.' Reflect: Do you connect with the saints, as the people of Burlingham did?

Gridref. TG 365101

Simon Cotton

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