Saturday, June 11, 2011

St.Botolph's Church puddingstone

A trip out to the Rodings today to checkout a stone in Beauchamp Roding. The church sits all alone in the centre of some fields, we passed barley on one side and broad beans on the other. Following a small, almost dried out brook, but the meadowsweet was just about to come out into flower. The church setting is very tranquil it sits at the highest point of the ridge, and that is not very high in Essex!. Its Norman, details below, and in dire need of repair, the ivy growing on the outside wall is also growing inside through a great crack that is separating the nave from the chancel.
Great yew trees round the edge, with at least two badger setts at opposite ends of the graveyard, plus the ground is riddled with rabbit holes. A ditch runs all round the church, giving it the appearance of a moated grange, I don't know. There are plenty of moats round this area of Chipping Ongar, an early medieval form of defence maybe, or to keep animals at bay from straying from the common land.
We had gone to see if the stone that resides in the grave yard was prehistoric, it is again difficult to tell, it is indeed partly puddlestone, and the theory has been put forward that it is part of the Puddlestone Trail which would have carried Neolithic axes from Grimes Grave in Norfolk to Stonehenge and that area.
Could well be that there is a Saxon origin here, Greensted church is a few miles away, the stone standing on a trackway, but there is no archaeological record at SEAX.

Perfectly simple and beautiful

Meadowsweet in a rather dry brook up to the church

The Puddingstone in the grave yard

Badger hole under old yew tree

St.Botolph's Church and its bank

Clearer view

The ancient parish church of ST. BOTOLPH stands on rising ground, the churchyard being completely surrounded by fields. The dedication suggests that there was a church at Beauchamp Roding before the Norman Conquest. The building consists of nave, chancel, west tower, and south porch. The walls are of flint rubble mixed with freestone. The nave is built on an 11th- or 12th-century plan but the present structure probably dates from the 14th century. In the 15th century the tower was added and the chancel rebuilt. The porch dates from 1870.

Botwulf of Thorney (also called Botolph, Botulph or Botulf; d. c. 680) was an 
English saint  of travellers and the various aspects of farming...

Reflecting on the fate of these out of the way churches, decline in church attendance and you know that St.Botolph's will eventually fall into decay and ruin, there is really not enough money out there to repair all the churches that are slowly dying of neglect.  What is the answer, sell them on as family dwelling places, its a bit spooky having a garden full of grave stones, there is no answer for isolated churches.  Mundon church is being repaired by Friends of Friendless churches but their grants are a small drop in the ocean.  Fairfield church which we visited recently has the same air of closure, St.Peter on the Wall has been restored for its link with the Roman forts, and Great Canfield will also be looked after for its pagan depictions on its doorway and painted surfaces inside.
The book I'm reading at the moment is about John Piper the painter, he lived through the last century and lived a busy and fruitful life.  One of his interests were churches, some of his stained glasswork is beautiful see Coventry Cathedral, but he went round with his friends such as John Betjman and Geoffrey Grigson studying and sketching the churches and belonged strangely enough to the Friends of Friendless churches, a bit like an earlier favourite painter of mine, William Morris who was against Victorian restoration of churches.
So is the stone prehistoric in the church yard? I think yes, given that we have seen stones at Alphamstone Church and Ingatestone Church, there is often a direct association of pagan 'rememberance' at some churches, not all of course.  Bartlow Church with its 'v' shaped paths, one leading up to the church, the other leading round the church to the great Romano-British barrows behind with their native Iron Age chiefs buried in state.  There are fragments of the past, some strongly Saxon, Broomfield church with its rich warrior Saxon grave has pudding stone in its fabric, and so many churches we have seen have roman tile as well.  These Roman villas would still have been extant when the Saxons invaded. They chose to ignore such building material and built in wood such as Greensted church, so there is very little remaining of Saxon churches, but it is still there in the later wonderful timber, lathe and plaster storied cottages to be found round Essex.

Ivy growing inside the church

view of the Essex countryside from the church
Badger sett under the yew tree



  1. I especially liked this post and the pictures. They spoke to me of other times. Thank you.

  2. What a lovely church, but already you can see the signs of neglect, with the ivy and the damp patches of plaster. I was fascinated by the puddingstone too. The re-use or shall I say, re-dedication of prehistoric sacred sites as later Christian sites is interesting. I know of a couple of definite sites in our locale or near it and many more could be proven if someone had the time and inclination. The little churchyard at Abergwili has the remains of a small standing stone in it (this in apparent alignment with Merlin's Stone at Whitemill and a Neolithic henge monument just off Station Road in Nantgaredig (and there is a Holy Well on the roadside of the A40 just past Nant. x-roads too).

    A "fallen" standing stone appears to be part of the fabric of the church by the mart in Llanybydder, and Llandewi Brefi is built atop a Bronze Age burial mound, if I remember correctly . . .

    I've come across Geoffrey Grigson recently too, in his appraisal of poet Edward Thomas . . .

  3. Thanks Dorothy, I love churches and stones, especially when they are together.

    Hi Jennie, Will be going to Solva in July, so will do some research on the places you mention, and maybe pop in if you're around.

  4. That would be lovely Thelma. I'll bake a cake! Keith will be delighted too - he enjoys intelligent conversation!

  5. I often feel humble and uninformed when reading your posts--but very much as though I would like to trail around with you to these spots rich in history. One could, I suppose,appreciate "antiquities" without having much knowledge, but a background of some history makes such places come alive.

  6. Meant to add that where I grew up there was/is a family called Buttolph--wonder if that is another variation of Botolph [?]