HOLY TRINITY CHURCH in the Suffolk Town of Long Melford is a grand perpendicular gothic affair built in the 15th century when the town was prospering because of the then thriving wool trade. Fortunately for us today, several of the original stained glass windows have survived in reasonably good condition.
On one of these mediaeval windows, which survived the iconoclastic behaviour instigated by Henry VIII, depicts Elizabeth Talbot, the Duchess of Norfolk, who was born in about 1442. Her daughter was married as a child to Richard, one of the two princes murdered in the Tower of London in about 1483.
It has been suggested that John Tenniel, the Victorian illustrator of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, might possibly have visited Long Melford, seen the portrait of Elizabeth Talbot, and then modelled his illustration of the Queen of Hearts on that image on the window. Whether this was actually the case or just pure coincidence is up to the viewer to decide. I remain undecided.
THE GREAT HALL of Lytes Cary Manor House in Somerset has some stained glass windows decorated with crests relating to the Lyte family, who owned the property between the 15th and 18th centuries. One of the crests caught my eye because the crest contains a double-headed eagle. This is a symbol that began to interest me in my teens when I first became fascinated by the Balkans. The double-headed eagle figures on the flags of Albania and some of its neighbours. The earliest known use of this peculiar creature is on seals used to secure goods in Babylon during the 3rd century BC.
The crest at Lytes Cary Manor is a combination of the Lyte family crest and that of the Worth family, which incorporates the two headed bird.
In 1592, Thomas Lyte (c1568-1638) married Frances Worth (1580-1615) who was born in Charlton Mackrell in Somerset. Thus, the double-headed eagle of the Worth family became joined with the three swans of the Lyte family crest. This marriage which was celebrated so long ago, is recorded in glass on a window of the Great Hall at Lytes Cary.
Why the Worths employed the double-headed eagle on their crest is something I would like to know, and will investigate. The double-headed eagle appears on British crests less frequently than other heraldic creatures. Possibly, andI am only guessing, it relates to the fact that a son of King John, Richard, Duke of Cornwall (1209-1272) was appointed King of The Germans, that was a senior position in the Holy Roman Empire. The symbol of that empire was the double-headed eagle.
CHARLES LUTWIDGE DODGSON (1832-1898), better known as Lewis Carroll, author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, was born in the village of Daresbury in Cheshire. During his first few years of life, Charles’s father was the curate of the local church of All Saints.
When he was 11, the Dodgson family moved away from Daresbury. Eventually, Charles entered Christ Church College in Oxford. It was here that he met the young child Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church. It was this young child who inspired Dodgson to create and later publish his famous story. Unlike many other Victorian tales for children it was free from moral instructions.
Dodgson/Carroll died in Guildford, where he was buried. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, money was raised to create a window in the church in Daresbury to commemorate him. Known as the Lewis Carroll Window, it allows light into a Chapel in the southeast corner of the church. Designed by Geoffrey Webb, it was dedicated in mid 1935.
The stained window incorporates depictions of both Carroll and Alice Liddell, as well as some of the creatures drawn originally by John Tenniel, who illustrated the book about Alice.
A modern addition to the church was built onto its North side. This contains a Lewis Carroll exhibition. One of the exhibits is an old Bell. This used to be attached to a barge that served the religious needs of the people who lived and worked on the canals near Daresbury. This floating chapel was the creation of Lewis Carroll’s father.
We visited Daresbury on a July day when the air temperature was 37 degrees Celsius. Fortunately, it was cooler inside the church. I am grateful to Christine Casson for encouraging us to visit the church with the Wonderland window.
HAYES IN THE London Borough of Hillingdon is not on the itineraries of most tourists, although many of them fly over the area when landing at nearby Heathrow Airport. In addition to the venerable old (late mediaeval) parish church of St Mary, there is a lovely park and another church worth seeing in the area.
St Mary’s church stands at the northeast corner of Barra Hall Park, the grounds of Barra Hall. The park was opened to the public in 1923. Largely on level ground, it has lawns, flower beds, and plenty of old trees. There is a bandstand whose roof is supported by metal pillars with curly decorative features. Nearby, there is an open-air theatre whose stage is under four enormous rectangular metal plates, that act as shades. Each of them has been bent into a slight curve. Its auditorium consists of circular concrete steps, which can accommodate an audience of 180.
The Barra Hall, which stands within the park, was originally a manor house, once known as ‘Grove House’. In the late 18th century, it was home to Alderman Harvey Christian Combe (1752-1818), who became Lord Mayor of London in 1799. In 1871, it passed into the hands of Robert Reid, an auctioneer and surveyor. Reid claimed to be descended from the Reids of Barra. He enlarged and modified the building in various ways and renamed it Barra Hall in 1875. In 1924, the house became the Hayes and Harlington town hall. When Hayes became part of the Borough of Hillingdon, the Hall ceased being used as a town hall. In 2005, after renovation, the large house became used as a children’s centre. The building is Victorian in appearance with a mixture of neo-Jacobean and neo-gothic decorative features.
The Hall and its park are less than a mile north of the Lidl supermarket in the Botwell Green area of Hayes. Opposite the supermarket, stands the Roman Catholic church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This basilica-style church was designed by Burles, Newton, and Partners and completed in 1961. It has a tall brick bell tower. In front of its vast west window, there is a fine statue of the Virgin by Michael Clark. This window, along with those beneath the tall ceiling above the wide nave, fills the spacious church with light. The nave is flanked by north and south aisles beneath lower ceilings. The walls of these aisles contain attractive stained-glass, both abstract compositions and depictions of biblical scenes. These windows were designed by Goddard and Gibbs. High above the altar, hanging on the east wall of the chancel, there is a lovely painting of the Virgin and Child by Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988). At the east end of the north aisle, there is a painting of St Jude by Daniel O’Connell.
Before the church was built, the local congregation of the parish, which was created in 1912. worshipped in a chapel created in Botwell House, an early 19th century building, which still stands in the grounds of the church. Both this church and the much older one near Barra Hall Park provide welcome, peaceful oases, which allow one to temporarily escape from the bustle and stresses of modern life.