Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Alphamstone Church

A return visit to this church reveals yet one more undiscovered stone. There are large stones set against the hedge, tidied away, they are thought to be part of a stone circle. The wooden towered church of St Barnabas set on a knoll overlooking the Stour Valley, lies in the heart of the Essex countryside surrounded by a small group of houses. Perhaps one should describe it as a modest unassuming building, except for the extraordinary facts of the stones in the graveyard, and the two just outside the church. But go inside the church, and against the west wall tucked neatly underneath the pews are two stones protruding through the wall. And here I will quote from the little church leaflet on these two stones;....

'The base of of the West wall is part of the original Norman church. Here, on either side of the original tower arch can be seen two large sarsen stones built into the base of the wall. This suggests that these stones had some religious significance, for the early Norman builders liked to incorporate pieces of early pagan worship into there buildings where possible.





Photos credits; Littlestone



Outside on the south wall, there is an old (16thC) porch, not used, it looks old and inviting but note the bricks that underpin the walling, two small badly worn faces decorate the entrance to the doorway.


Today you enter the church through the north porch (15th century), which is in fact earlier than the south porch. On entering the church you are at first struck by the cold and damp, the little kneeling pads are all embroidered with flowers and birds. The font is Norman plain arcading, and there are three tracied wood roods/screens facing you on the south side replacing the old Norman wall. These were in fact purchased from another church in the early 1960's.

I come to another digression here, and one that has a faintly unsettling effect on my secular rationale. On looking at the open bible on the lectern, I was greeted by a disturbing passage from the old testament, suffice it to say it was from Ezekiel, and the words whores and harlots figured quite frequently. THIS in the 21st century, was it given as a sermon, or is it a morality lesson left for innocent visitors to view - can the church still be seen to go along with the mad ravings of some local prophet who obviously had a hang up about women. As a female this was pure sexist, misogynist male terrorism and left a nasty taste in the mouth.



South Side

Stour Valley



North porch


Filled in doorway



Norman 'plain arcading' font
History of church; Like many churches Alphamstone has a long history, the little leaflet on the church says about 4000 b.c. . Bronze age man settling on a spur overlooking the Stour Valley. In about 2000 b.c they built a burial mound near the site of the existing church, and three incinerary urns were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century.
Of course the sarsen stones may be related to this burial mound, a stone chamber being formed in the centre. But on examining the stones this seems unlikely, they are large and rounded. According to the information in the leaflet, there are several boulders in the gardens surrounding the church, and that the builders would have had to go along way to find these boulders, which gives rise to the fact that they are actually stones from a circle. The village was probably inhabited for the next 2000 years with traces of first century A.D. Belgic Roman pottery, and it is conjectured that the churchyard fence may follow the line of the ancient Roman buildings, there is a sandpit not far from the church with evidence of a tile kiln dating from this period.


Two stones in front of the church


Stone near east buttress

Stones in hedgerow

Interesting marks

Hidden stones


There are fascinating articles by Thorgrim on the Megalithic Portal site about the sacred stones of Essex, follow the links for more information.
http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=2146411030

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=10813

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