Thursday, 14 August 2014

Hillmorton & Astley

We have been hanging about the Foxton area for a while: waiting for a cousin from S. Africa to arrive and for other members of the family to join us.  A good opportunity to update the blog but I lost track of the photos I wanted to use so nothing got done.
All family and friends have departed and I have found the pictures, safely archived.
Last year The Landmark Trust won the RIBA Stirling  Prize for its bold and imaginative restoration of Astley Castle
I was reminded of this as we passed through Nuneaton recently because a few years ago, before the Trust had started work on it, we walked up from the canal to take a look at Astley.  I remember it was a very hot day and the walk seemed to be all uphill.  I recall also seeing a rag and bone man for the first time in decades. If you are in the area a visit to the church which is next to Astley Castle is very rewarding.
We recently spent a few nights at Hillmorton, taking the bus into Rugby a couple of times. The Church of St John the Baptist is not far from the canal on a knoll in what was once a boggy moor - hence the derivation - Hill-moor-town . There has been a church here since the 12th century. Although nothing of the original structure exists some of the stones were used in the rebuilding of 1240.  It was first endowed by the Astley family. (of Astley Castle).

There are two stone effigies in the south aisle: one is thought to be Sir Thomas de Astley who died along with Simon de Montford in 1265 at the battle of Evesham .

It  was severely cut when the box pews were installed in ther 1770s and probably suffered some damage during the civil war. Roundheads did not care for 'graven images' and sometimes sharpened their swords on such things.

The other forms the lid to the tomb set into the floor of Edith, Sir Thomas's second wife.   Her maiden name was Constable and her family came from Norfolk.
There are traces of colour in the folds of the gown, although my photograph does not show it, which indicates that this effigy was highly decorated. This may have been the case also with her husband's effigy.

There is still one complete box pew, number 17. In an unheated church these must have provided some protection from the winter draught.

This was made from Norwegian oak with a narrow deal seat.

Many of them lost their doors over the years, possibly when the seats were enlarged to make them  more comfortable.
There are many charity boards around the church.

Just inside the door are these shelves upon which were placed twelve tuppenny loaves each week. At the end of divine worship these were distributed to those poor parishioners who had attended church or were prevented by sickness from attending as deemed appropriate by the vicar and churchwardens.

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