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The church treasury of history, custom, folk-lore, etc online

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^be Cburcb . *

•ffDistorp, Custom,
jfolk^Xore, etc.

Milliam HnDrews.





THIS volume of new studies on old subjects
is sent forth with a hope that it will form
an acceptable contribution to the history of the
Church of England.

My thanks are tendered to my contributors
for their valuable co-operation cheerfully given.
Special mention must be made of my friend, the
Rev, Geo. S. Tyack, b.a., who has written largely
for my pages, and has ever been ready to assist
me in solving obscure points in my studies.

Mr. Chas. J. Clark, publisher, London, has
kindly placed at my disposal the charming pictures
which appear on pages t^j and 41 ; the Rev.
Francis Haslewood, f.s.a., the one inserted on
page 203 ; the Rev. J. B. Clare, b.a., the one
which appears on page 217; and to these gentlemen
I am greatly obliged. The illustrations of the
article by Mr. T. Tindall Wildridge are mainly
from his own drawings.

In conclusion I have only to add that if the
work wins a welcome similar to that accorded to
my previous productions, prepared on the same
plan, I shall have every reason to feel grateful.

William Andrews.
The Hull Press.





Stave-Kirks. By the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, h.a. - - - i
Curious Churches in Cornwall. By the Rev. \V. S. Lach-

Szyrma, m.a. - - - - - - - - 21

Holy Wells. By Cuming Walters 29

Hermits and Hermit-Cells. By the Rev. J. Hudson Barker,

b.a. 68

Church Wakes 97

Fortified Church Towers. By William Andrews - - 105
The Knights Templars : their Churches and their Privi-
leges. By J. Rogers Rees 112

English Medi.bval Pilgrimages. By W. H. Thompson - 129

Pilgrims' Signs. By the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, b.a. - - 145
Human Skin on Church Doors. By the Rev. Geo. S.

Tyack, b.a. 158

Animals of the Church, in Wood, Stone, and Bronze.

By T. Tindall Wildridge 168

Queries in Stones. By the Rev. Francis Haslewood, f.s.a. - 201

Pictures in Churches. By the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, b.a. - 205
Flowers and the Rites of the Church. By the Rev.

Hilderic Friend ......... 227

Ghost-Layers and Ghost-Laying. By the Rev. R. Wilkins Rees 241

Church Walks. By the Rev. W. B. Russell Calcy, m.a. - 269

The Westminster Wax-Works. By William Andrews - - 275

Index 297



By Rev. G. S. Tyack, b.a.
N architecture, " wood should be used exter-

nally only on the smallest and least
monumental class of buildings," and that from the
fact that it is "dark in colour, liable to warp and
split, and combustible." So we read in a standard
work on the art, and the propriety of the state-
ment will be generally admitted. Yet in any
primitive society, surrounded by abundant growing
timber, and supplied only with rude tools, wood
must almost invariably be more commonly used
as a building material than stone or brick. Its
readiness to hand, the comparative ease of
working it, and, when wrought into serviceable
lengths, of transporting it, would all be arguments
in its favour ; while its want of durability would
be little felt by a race, which, having no certain
records of a remote past, was correspondingly
unaccustomed to provide for a distant future.


It would be a mistake, however, to conclude
that only people in the rudest state reared wooden
buildings. In every country, and at every time,
the country districts, remote from the wealth and
from the art of the more populous centres, are
compelled by want of means, in cases where the
resources of the peasantry only can be relied
upon, to employ such local materials as are the
cheapest ; and in their simplicity they are content
therewith. Thus it happens that in every land
that was, or is, rich in forests, we find traces of
timber erections in the past, and even in the
present instances of them, more or less numerous
in proportion as the growth of civilization has left
untouched the simple tastes of the people, and the
spread of population has not encroached upon the
primeval woods.

The building of wooden churches is, perhaps,
the most striking illustration of this position, in
that the faithful of all times and climes have been
wont to bestow upon their sanctuaries the highest
efforts of their art. Yet the earliest Christians of
Cyrene, situated as they were amid the deserts of
Libya, far remxoved from quarries, or indeed from
trees of any magnitude, built or wove their
churches, according to the testimony of Sulpicius


Severus, at the bec^inning of the fifth century, of
small rods or withes.

Similarly we are not surprised to find in
countries like Norway and Russia, countries no
less noted for the abundance of their forests than
for the primitive simplicity of their peasantry,
that wooden churches are far from being
uncommon even to this day, although they are
now rapidly giving place to more durable

In the former country there are several
examples dating from the eleventh and twelfth
centuries, and of a quaintly barbaric style of
architecture. One at Urnes is remarkable for
having on its external timbers much characteristic
runic carving, such as is frequently found on
monumental stones in northern Europe, but has
survived in wood only in this, and a few other
Norwegian churches. Urnes Church measures
only sixty-five feet by twenty-four, and in this
respect is not greatly different from the other
village churches of the same class, all being but
small. The largest, and one of the most curious
of them, is at Hitterdal, and measures eighty-
seven feet by fifty-seven. Its extraordinary
conglomeration of roofs, pinnacles, and gables, is


utterly unlike anything civil or ecclesiastical with
which the rest of the western world is familiar,
and suggests a Chinese pagoda rather than a
Christian church. A still more fantastic example
is at Burgund.

The wooden churches of Russia, of which
there are many in the villages, are constructed,
like Canadian log-huts, of round logs laid one on
another horizontally, the only dignified feature of
their exterior being the bulb-shaped dome, found
everywhere in the country, from the cathedrals of
the Kremlin, to the humblest hamlet church.
There is a good mediaeval example near Kostroma,
in Eastern Russia, where the aisles are separated
from the nave by wooden pillars with square
capitals, the nave itself being covered with a
" waggon " roof.

Turning now to our own country, and recalling
the fact that it, too, was once clothed with wide-
spreading forests, and inhabited even in Christian
times by a simple-minded people, whose inter-
course with the more cultured continent was but
slight, we rather expect than otherwise to find
evidence of an equally primitive style of architec-
ture. And the evidence forthcoming is abundant.

In Roman Britain, as we know, there were


some few stone churches, for we have probable
remains of them in Canterbury and at Dover ;
but it is noteworthy that such remains are confined
to the south-east corner of the country, where

;„r" - "'


continental influence would be most felt. The
Venerable Bede speaks of a time " when there
was not a stone church in all the land, but the


custom was to build them all of wood." It may
be that his statement is too sweeping, but doubt-
less it was literally true of Northern England and
Southern Scotland, the districts with which the
saintly monk of J arrow was most intimately

Legend has it that the first Christian church
built in the island was a wattle shed, erected by
S. Joseph of Arimathaea at Glastonbury ; and
another legend tells of a church made of boughs
only, wherein lay the body of S. Cuthbert, until
so much of the stately Cathedral of Durham was
completed as to allow of his relics being translated
thither. The site of the earlier shrine, immediately
beneath the east-front of the cathedral, is still
occupied by a little church, S. Mary-le-bow, that
is, according to this rather doubtful derivation,
S. Mary of the boughs.

More definite evidence is borne by our early
ecclesiastical historians. Bede tells us that
Edwin, King of Northumbria, having been
converted by the preaching of S. Paulinus, " was
baptized at York, on the holy day of Easter
(A.D. 627), being the 12th day of April, in the
Church of S. Peter the Apostle, which he himself
had built of timber, whilst he was being catechised


and Instructed for baptism. In that city also he
appointed the seat of the bishopric of his teacher
and bishop, Paulinus. But as soon as he was
baptized, he took care, by the advice of the said
Paulinus, to build in the same place a larger and
nobler church of stone, in the midst whereof that
same oratory which he had first erected should be

The same writer records that when Finan
succeeded S. Aidan in 652 as Bishop of Lindis-
farne, he built a church in the island ; " Yet, after
the manner of the Scots, he made it, not of stone,
but of hewn oak, and covered it with reeds."
Subsequently Eadbert, who became bishop in
688, " took off the thatch, and covered it, both
roof and walls, with plates of lead."

William of Malmsbury makes mention of a
wooden church, or stave-kirk, as the old English
name was, at Dutlinge, in Somersetshire; and of
the same material were reared the earliest monastic
establishments of the country with their churches.
Ingulphus tells us that Croyland Abbey was
originally built of logs and planks, joined and
worked with great skill and accuracy, and roofed
with lead. King Alfred's abbey - church at
Aethelingey was of timber ; and King Edgar in


a charter granted to Malmsbury Abbey, expresses
his intention, as a thank-offering for the prosperity
given him by God, of restoring " the sacred
monasteries in which, they being composed of
rotten shingles and worm-eaten boards, divine
service was nesflected." Canute oranted a charter
in 1032 to the Abbey of Glastonbury, which was
given " in the wooden church in the King's

The nomenclature of a few places seems to point
to the existence of stave-kirks. The venerable
Bede explains the name of Whitherne, or White
House (Candida Casa), in Galloway, by the fact
that S. Ninian built there a stone church, the
whiteness of the newly-cut stone being in marked
contrast to the darker timber structures with which
the folk were familiar. S. Ninian, who built this
church in 397, had been educated in Rome, and
was the friend of S. Martin of Tours ; hence his
knowledge of the use of stone was gained abroad,
and he is even said to have obtained masons from
Tours to undertake the work. In Cheshire and
in Kent we have villages named Woodchurch,
and in Yorkshire a Woodkirk, both of which
terms, although they may possibly mean the
" Church in the wood," seem more probably to


point to the existence of wooden churches, perhaps
at a time sufficiently late to make them somewhat

Another illustration of the prevalence in primi-
tive times of wooden architecture is provided by

early stone work,
which is formed on
obviously wooden
designs. There are
tombs in Egpyt
whose walls are
simply a reproduc-
tion of square
beams placed side
by side perpen-
dicularly, and others
in Lycia in which
the very mortices
and pins of a timber
structure are im-
itated in the more


durable material. But examples more cognate to
our subject are supplied by some of the church
towers of Saxon times. The fine tower of Earl's
Barton Church, in Northamptonshire, is a case in
point. The long pilaster-like slips and the


transverse bars distinctly suggest the bracing of
a timber building, and the balusters of the windows
look far more like the work of the turner than of
the mason. Somewhat similar "turned" work
may be seen in the doorway of Monkwearmouth
Church, erected in the seventh century by Benedict
Biscop, and the "timber-bracing" decoration occurs
again in the tower of S. Peter's, at Barton-on-
Humber, Lincolnshire. It thus appears evident
that our forefathers were so far familiar with
stave-kirks of some pretentions to size and dignity,
that even when intercourse with the continent had
taught them to rise a step higher in architectural
art and to build in stone, it was still some time
before they could throw aside the models to which
custom had wedded them, and before they learnt
the capabilities of the new material.

Records are found of the existence of stave-kirks
in various places, besides those very early ones to
which reference has been made. Domesday Book
tells of one at Bigland, in Yorkshire, and there
were others at North Elmham and at Shernbourn,
in Norfolk. A wooden chapel survived at Bury
S. Edmund's until 1303; S. Aldhelm's, Durham,
standing in 998, the Ladye Chapel at Tykford,
and that at Spalding so late as 1059, were all of


wood ; as also, to name a continental instance,
was S. Stephen's at Mayence in loi i.

So far no allusion has been made to existino-
examples of the stave-kirk in England, yet there
are several such, among which the right of priority


" Vetusta Moiiuntcnta."

on the grounds both of antiquity and interest must
be given to the little Church of Greenstead, in
Essex. This curious survival of a distant age is
said to have been constructed in the first place as
a temporary shrine for the relics of S. Edmund,


the king and martyr. The story of the various
translations of these relics brings to our notice
more than one wooden church. The saintly king
was done to death by the heathen Danes on the
20th day of November, 870, and his body was
first laid to rest in a wooden chapel at Hoxne in
Suffolk, where it lay " in terra defossus " until 903,
when it was taken, as yet untainted by decay, to a
splendid shrine in a larger wooden church at
Bedrichesworth, thenceforth known as Bury S.
Edmunds. Another incursion of the Danes under
Turkill, in loio, drove the monks of Bury from
their house, and they took with them in their
flight to London, as the most precious of their
possessions the relics of Edmund the " kyng,
martyr, and virgyne." Three years later they
were able to make their way back to their monas-
tery along the ancient road which ran from London
to Bury through Oldford, Abridge, Stapleford,
Greenstead, Dunmow, and Clare ; and it was
during this journey that, according to an apparently
well-grounded tradition, the wooden shrine at
Greenstead was erected. The manuscript Life
and Passion of Saint Edinnnd (now in Lambeth
Palace Library) asserts that " a certain resting-
place near Stapleford received his body on


its return from London," and another ancient
account says that it "rested near Aungre (Chipping
Ongar), where a wooden chapel remains to this
day in memory of S. Edmund."

The original chapel was only twenty-nine feet
nine inches long by fourteen feet wide. A few
courses of brick form the groundwork, and on
these are placed rough-hewn timbers, consisting
of half-logs placed perpendicularly. At the top
these logs are cut away to thin edges which
fit into a groove in upper transverse beams which
bear the roof The wood is still sound though so
time-worn that authorities differ as to its being
oak or chestnut. The tower, built of horizontal
timbers is of a later date, and the brick chancel
dates only from Tudor times. There is no sign
of any window having been allowed for in the
oriofinal buildino- the former windows in the roof,
with the present roof, being no part of the pre-
Norman structure. There may have been an
east window, which was removed when the
chancel was added ; or, if the little chapel was at
first intended only as a temporary shelter for the
body of S. Edmund, it may have been actually
windowless at the first. The porch and two stout
buttresses are also modern additions to this


simplest of churches, which evidently had in its
first state no attempt at decoration of any kind.

In Cheshire are several important and interest-
ing examples of stave-kirks, although none
can compete with Greenstead in antiquity.
Lower Peover has one dating from the days of
Henry II., formed of crossed timbers and plaster-


I .

jfH|r i^yf j^ .


work. It has a nave and aisles, and a chancel
with aisles, the tower alone not being of timber.
Marton Church, built in the fourteenth century,
does not admit even of this exception, being
wholly of wood ; oak columns separate the nave
from the aisles, and oak arches bear up the
timbers of the roof. The belfry, within which



hang three bells dating respectively from 1598,
1663, and 1758, is a most skilful application of
the material employed to the necessary purposes
of stability and strength.

Chadkirk, also in Cheshire, was probably
originally a building of similar construction, but
in successive alterations and repairs stone has
pushed out the earlier wood, though the porch,



the bell-cote, and most of the east wall are still of
wood, and the east window retains its wooden

We open a wide field, however, when we touch
on churches partially of wood. In former times
the English carpenters, — artists in wood they
might more strictly be called — were pre-eminent,



as witness some of the splendid wooden roofs,
and other architectural details that have come
down to our own days. The roofs of Peter-
borough and Ely cathedrals, the stalls at Salisbury,
the dean's cloisters at Windsor, the screens in the
Palace Chapel at Chichester, and in S. John's
Hospital, Winchester, all amply attest the skill of
the English craftsman in bygone days. It was


natural, therefore, that such skill should frequently
have been called into play in those, and other
ways, in the building of churches.

In Essex we find some strikino- instances of
wooden spires. At Blackmore is one built in
three diminishing stages, the two upper ones of
timber, laid horizontally in the topmost, and



perpendicularly in the middle stage. Each storey
has a projecting roof, and the whole is crowned
with a spire. Antiquaries have suggested that
the tower of the neighbouring church of Mar-
garetting may have been designed by the same
architect, the external form beingf to some extent
similar, and the internal arrangement of timbers
so as to secure the
utmost strength beins:
equally ingenious. Stock /f ^
Church, also in Essex,
has another instance of
a cleverly constructed \
wooden tower.

Ribbesford, in Wor-
cestershire, has wooden
arcades in the nave ;
and the churches of
Newland, in the same
county, and of Newtown
in Montgomeryshire, are both largely of wood.
The number of wooden porches and lychgates of
the country, many of them excellent in design, is


Many of our stave-kirks were doubtless taken
down to make way for noble structures of stone,


but naturally the action of the weather on timbers
not always perfectly seasoned has destroyed many,
and fire has accounted for the destruction of not
a few. The knowledge that most of the churches
of the time were but wooden buildings will explain
the wholesale burning of them, which the Danish
marauders accomplished apparently so easily,
when they descended on the eastern counties.
And the wonder is that so many traces of the
simple stave-kirks of our forefathers should have
weathered so succesfully the storms of time.

Curious (Iburcbce of Coruwall.

By Rev. \V. S. Lach-Szyrma, m.a.

nr^'HERE are few counties in England where
-*- we can better study the past in the present
than in Cornwall, Side by side we see the last
improvements in machinery in the mines, and the
monuments of the most remote antiquity, perhaps,
the new school of antiquaries say, as old as the
Father of History, or indeed a great deal older,
for they belong to the Bronze or later Stone age
— before the Aryan Celts had come to this part of
Western Europe, and when a sort of broad-headed
Lappish savages inhabited the Cornish moorlands
and the English forests. In fact, in Cornwall you
find remains which elsewhere in EnQfland are
curious and very rare indeed. Why ?

I. The granite of Cornwall is one of the most
enduring of stones. What is made of it may last,
with decent treatment, two or three thousand
years in excellent condition. So the cromlechs,
the hut circles, the menhirs of the aboriginal
Euskarians of Britain remain in admirable con-
dition, though perhaps older than Rome itself, or


the dawn of ancient Greek civilization ; and still
more, Christian antiquities made in granite may
be expected to survive.

2. The people, until recent times, had a strong
prejudice against injuring antiquities or ancient
remains. Of course this was most intense with
regard to Christian antiquities, but certainly the
peasants have often preserved the secular remains
of the "old men" for fear of being "ill-wished."
Hundreds of useful evidences of the past have
therefore been handed down to us from this
reason ; and in church matters not only stone
carving, but wood work and stained glass have
been well preserved for our age. One chief
advantage Cornwall has, is that Puritanism and
iconoclasm was never very strong there. In the
seventeenth century, there was not much harm
done to ancient monuments or churches. Causes
at work in other counties did not avail here.

First among the curious churches in Cornwall,
we will consider St. Neot — five miles from
Liskeard. It is a wonderful old-world place,
where one can dream of the Middle Ao-es, and
see the thoughts and feelings of the Merrie
England of the Middle Ages, not in mere repre-
sentation like the unreal Old London, or Old


Manchester of exhibitions, but in mediccval work,
partly done by fifteenth century artists. The
windows of St. Neot have few rivals of their
kind in England, and were very fairly restored
some time ago. They are fifteen in number, and
represent : —

1. The Life of St. George — the patron of


2. The Life of St. Neot, the local saint.

3. A group of Cornish saints in the Young

Women's window.

4. The Creation.

5. Some Old Testament scenes.

The work is rough, and South Kensington
might not quite approve of some of the drawing,
but it is archaic, quaint, in parts devotional, and
thoroughly mediaeval in spirit. Each window has
a name and a title, probably from its origin, and
each window is a study in itself. In the St.
George's windows we have the wonderful
adventures of the saint, e.g., his fighting, his
killing the dragon, his being taken prisoner by the
Gauls, his torments and martyrdom.

St. George held an important position in the
popular life of English patrin in the past, and the
war cry "St. George and Merrie England," and


the cross of St. George, still inscribed in our
Union Jack, and carried to every colony and over
every sea, waving in every battlefield of English
soldiers, and on every British ship, attests the
power of the St. George legend (possibly a myth
of the victory of Christianity over evil) in the
England of the past. Here it stands, storied in
quaint form, in rich colouring on the painted
glass. The St. George legend was a living thing
in popular life in Cornwall, as in other English
counties. There, as well as in Dorset and York-
shire, the drama of " St. George and the Turkish
Knight " was performed even to our own times.
I have seen it myself acted, not many miles from
St. Neot at Christmastide, by the Cornish miners,
but believe it has now (like many other harmless
and picturesque customs) died out before Board
Schools and Methodism (which looked on it as
"carnal and popish.")

The St. Noet legend is of less general, but
more local interest. It contains some quaint
animal legends, and brings us into contact with
some of the strange ideas of our mediaeval

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