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St Andrew, Fingringhoe


Fingringhoe Fingringhoe Fingringhoe

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  Not far from Colchester, in a quiet little village beside the Colne sits one of the county's most attractive and interesting churches. Although we are in the 1884 earthquake zone here, Fingringhoe church did not sustain as much damage as its neighbours and in fact the repairs that were required revealed much of interest. The fortress-like chequer-boarded 15th Century porch and 14th Century aisle hide a Norman nave and later chancel under the rather forbidding sentinel of the flint-banded 14th Century tower. It is a memorable assemblage of shapes and styles.

You step into a church which is at once harmonious and full of interest. The 19th century restoration was late, light and in response to the earthquake. It revealed the fragments of wall paintings, but it was during a major repair and restoration campaign of the 1960s that the real treasures of Fingringhoe church were revealed. First, in 1965, an alabaster Trinity crucifix of about 1390 was found when a piscina was unblocked. This is exquisite, featuring God the Father holding the crucified Christ, and is remarkably complete. Only the top of the cross is lost, which may have had the dove of the Holy Spirit descending attached to it.

God the Father Holy Trinity crucified

And then in 1968 the beautiful late medieval image of St Margaret was rediscovered, having been used as building rubble in a window splay repair. It is a haunting piece, the head swiped in half by the blade of some reforming Anglican at the behest of the mid-16th Century Injunctions against Images. I was very proud that my photograph of it was used as the cover of Carlos Eire's majestic book Reformations. Incidentally, a common mistake is to think that these objects were 'hidden' in an attempt to 'save' them. They were discarded willingly, and it is only because both were used for structural alterations within the church that we still have them today.

St Margaret iconoclasm: St Margaret dragon

Even without these wonders, Fingringhoe church is an aesthetic pleasure. Patterned brick floors spread east from the font with its towering 15th Century font cover. As often happened it was altered in the 16th or 17th Century so that doors could be opened without a need to raise the cover. This may well have been a device to discourage total immersion of infants which was seen as idolatrous. Brasses, the pretty reredos beneath a 1901 Arts and Crafts east window, a mid-17th Century memorial with sailing ship, the Laurence Whistler engraved glass memorial to the artist Lincoln Taber and quite the grandest Stuart royal arms in the county complete the picture. As I say, attractive and full of interest.

Simon Knott, May 2020

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font Fingringhoe Fingringhoe
queen Fingringhoe Fingringhoe Royal Arms
tower door Fingringhoe Fingringhoe
Lincoln Taber, artist Suffer the Children
brother, this church doth open stand for thee

Reformations (my cover photograph)

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