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All Saints, Feering

Feering

Feering porch Untitled

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Kelvedon & Feering is a joint village, a large one, larger than some towns, but undoubtedly a village in character. The continuous High Street of both is the old A12, which bypassed it as a dual carriageway to the east in the 1960s, but it still seemed pretty busy to me. The two parts are historically separated by the infant River Blackwater, although more practically separated by the Norwich to London railway line which runs alongside it. This makes it sound hellish, but actually it is very pleasant, with some good late Medieval and Georgian domestic buildings.

The two parish churches are at the westerly and easterly extremities of the village, the station about halfway in between. I'd heard Feering church was kept locked, but by ringing around I had found a contact number for the Feering keyholder. I'd arranged to meet her at ten, but a delay in getting into Kelvedon church made time tight, so I was glad I had found little to detain me there. I hurtled along the high street, over the river and under the railway line to a pretty village-like enclave where stands All Saints. Open. I noticed that the church now displays a large and welcoming keyholder notice in the porch.

This is a handsome church with a wide nave and castellated walls, but with a beautifully mannered red brick south side which reminded me of Kenton in East Suffolk. It has the air of being an aisle, but in fact it is the wall of the nave, rebuilt at the same time as the porch.

As recently as 20 years ago Feering was a star in the Anglo-catholic firmament, largely thanks to the long incumbency of Father John Bundock who died in 1986. The keyholder was magnificent. She was elderly, but her frailty was mixed with a great intelligence. I ended up staying here almost an hour, mostly chatting with her. She had lived the Anglo-catholic movement since her childhood in the 1930s. She knew she was in its last days, and told me that she had no wish greater than to become an anchorite.

The church was by no means as interesting as she was, but it was still perhaps the more interesting of the two churches in the joint village. The interior is a little gloomy, a not unsuitable setting for Thomas Wilmhurst's east window of 1847, still in a pre-ecclesiological style. But the great treasure of Feering church is the range of English and continental glass from the 15th to the 18th Century, collected and placed here during Bundock's incumbency.

garlanded angel (English, 15th Century) St Philip with the Ethiopian treasurer (Continental, 17th Century) St Luke (Continental, 18th Century) Resurrection
St Nicholas and the three bags of gold fragments E R Tudor Rose
Bacchus Feering Flight into Egypt (Flemish, 17th Century) Young Christ teaching in the Temple (Flemish, 17th Century)

Subjects include St Luke with his evangelistic symbol of a calf done in a naturalistic style as if they were together in a barn, St Philip and the Ethiopian treasurer, St Nicholas with three bags of gold and the Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family.

Thanks to Bundock's antiquarian enthusiasms there are other treasures to see, including half a 15th Century statue of St Anne, a rare survival. Near to it is a photographic copy of John Constable's 'Raising of Lazarus' altar piece. It was painted by Constable for the parish church at Manningtree - Constable also painted altar pieces for nearby Nayland and Brantham churches. When Manningtree church closed in the 1960s Bundock offered to buy the painting, and was surprised to be offered it for the princely sum of 150. For thirty years it was displayed in Feering parish church. Bundock bequeathed it to the parish in his will, and then in the late 1990s it was sold to raise money for the restoration of the church. It is now on permanent display in Dedham church.

I was glad to see Feering church inside, because I am sure it will be declared redundant in the next ten years. I left the village to the north, and soon gained open if somewhat hilly countryside.

Simon Knott, May 2020

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Feering scenes from the life of Christ by Thomas Wilmshurst, 1847
Untitled Day of Judgement (Flemish, 17th Century) Three Marys at the empty tomb  (Thomas Wilmshurst, 1847)
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