St James

Welcome to the website of the church of St. James the Great, in the village of High Wych, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire. This is the principal church in the Benefice, which also includes St. Mary the Virgin, Gilston and St.Botolph, Eastwick – details of life at these churches is also included in these pages

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St Mary


The original building was a small aisle-less church built around 1135.  It was entirely rebuilt and enlarged in the second half of the 13th century.  The upper part of the tower seen to have been reconstructed in the late 16th century, when the south brick stair-turret was added.  The north aisle is old.  The arcades are low and have quatrefoil piers with later arches. 
REBUILDING Since 1850 some rebuilding of the south aisle tool place when the wooden porch outside was added, and also the spire.  The vestry was added at the north-east around this time too.  The timber ceiling also dates from this period, as do the pews and the pulpit.  The pulpit contains wooden panels removed from ‘New Place’ the demolished Tudor manor house of Gilston, which stood near where Gilston Park is now.  The eagle lectern dates back to 1900 and was a gift, as was the wooden alter table of a similar date.  The original marble altar slab now provides a sill to the east window. 
WINDOWS The lancet windows in the chancel are of the 13th century. The east window is 19th century, but also contains fragments of ancient glass.  The north aisle has a two-light 13th century window with elementary tracery.  Other nearby windows are restored. The west window has old double-chambered shafts but a modern head.  There is one piece of 15th-century glass in it depicting the arms of Sir William Estfield, who was Sheriff of London in 1422 and went on to become Mayor of London in 1429 and in 1437.  Round the edge are the fragmentary words Ora Pro Anima Willi  Estfield Militis (Pray for the soul of William Estfield, Knight) in blackletter. Generally the stained glass is of the 19th century: a nice set depicting religious themes.   Some are commemorative windows. 
SCREEN This is a survival of first-rate importance: evidently late 13th century, and well enough preserved to have made reconstruction possible. There are thing shafts only two feet high, with trefoiled pointed arches and stylised flowers in the spandrels.  The top goes straight across the chancel.  The screen led a wandering existence over the years, and may not now be in its original position. 
FONT This is hexagonal, and of the later 12th century, the only survivor from the earlier church.  It is made of Purbeck marble with shallow blank arches on a 14th 
century base.  The lid is Victorian.  
MONUMENTS There are two good mid-17th century epitaphs: on the south wall of the sanctuary Bridget Gore + 1659, a white standing figure in a shroud in front of an oval black niche, drapes flanking left and right.  This type had been made popular by John Donne’s tomb in St Paul’s Cathedral.  Opposite, on he north wall, an inscription to Sir John Gore + 1659, black and white and flanked by black columns, with a curly broken pediment with a small figure on it, signed by Joshua Marshall.  There is also a good collection of 17th century marble ledger stones to the Gore family in the sanctuary and chancel, showing the sad extent of child mortality at the time. 
ORGAN The organ was built by Bedwell & Sons in the early years of the 20th century.  It was never intended to be a church organ, as it was built originally for the drawing room at Gilston Park, and was given by the squire.  It was rebuilt in 1939 by Arnold of Thaxted, but at the present time it is unusable. 
DOORWAYS, PISCINA, CREDENCE AND BELLS The west doorway is late 13th century.  The blocked doorway in the north aisle belong to the former church. The combined piscine and credence are late 13th century, and low down because the chancel floor was raised in the 19th century. There are two bells in use, dating back to the 17th century; both possess inscriptions. There is an almost unbroken line of incumbents since the first recorded Rector of Gilston in 1336. 
CHURCHYARD The small churchyard contains three monuments of note.  East of the church building are two table tombs, the earlier one dating to the late 17th century.  In the south-west corner of the churchyard are the Johnston family tombstones sculpted by the famous Eric Gill.                                                                                                 
John Clarke July 2016  

St Botolph

GENERAL HISTORY Originally St Botolph’s was a magnificent medieval church.  Early antiquarian records state that it was a large building with a tower, transepts and a tiled floor at the east end.  By the 19th century, however, the church was suffering the ravages of time, and in 1872 the reforming squire of Eastwick, John Hodgson, determined that it was beyond salvation and must be demolished.  And so it was swept away and between the years 1872 and 1875 the present building was erected in its place.  It was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield and it must be said that the result is a disappointingly nondescript example of Victorian architecture of the period. There is evidence that Blomfield’s design was not fully adhered to, and there were resultant financial concerns which shook John Hodgson and this brother William.  Fortunately, however, the family wealth did finally allow the work to be concluded.  The medieval west tower was saved from destruction and its stonework was renewed.  Some old materials were able to be reused. The new church consists of a chancel with north organ chamber, nave with a north porch and the old west tower.  The walls are faced with flints and have stone dressings.  The roof is tiled. FURNISHINGS The church may have little to commend it, but the furnishings, mostly salvaged from the old church, are of remarkable interest. 
 THE CHANCEL ARCH The 13th century chancel arch is predominant.  It consists of three orders of tall Purbeck marble shafts with moulded capitals and bases.  Dr Nikolaus Pevsner, in his famous ‘Buildings of England’ series describes it thus: “An astonishingly ambitious piece of 13th century design as if for a cathedral”. 
 MONUMENTS The marble figure of the knight is described in the same series as “the very best in the county” (Hertfordshire).  The effigy is in chain mail with a long surcoat and large shield.  The legs are crossed. There has been much controversy about the identity of this knight as there is no inscription, but is now generally believed to commemorate Sir Richard de Tany who died in 1270. The epitaphs on the walls of the tower are of good quality and commemorate the Plumer family.  Tw of the best are f Mary (1700) which has three flanking columns, and of Water (1746) which is of such a standard that Pevsner opines that it could be the work of the master sculptor Rysbrack: it has delightful cherubs’ heads. On the west wall is he brass of Joan Lee which dates from the late 16th century.  The figure of her husband, who died in 1564, has long disappeared.  Joan, who survived her husband by many years, is depicted n Elizabethan dress. There is a heraldic shield and part of an inscription.  The brass is palimpsest, that is, an earlier brass that has been re-used. A simple wooden cross commemorates Lionel Bowlby who lost his life in 1916 during the First World War.  It originally marked his grave in Flanders. 
 BELLS There are three bels: ne, an ancient one, bears an English inscription but is it illegible; the second is inscribed ‘Vox Augustini sonnet in aure Dei’ (the voice of Augustine rings in the ear of God).  There is no date.  The third bell is dated 1601. The list of incumbents is reasonably intact from circa 1390. 
 CHURCHYARD The large churchyard contains a fine collection of Georgian tombstones.  A Georgian tomb chest, once possessing iron railings, commemorated William Frampton which died in 1789.  He was a rich merchant who built a splendid house in the village. Two damaged slabs headed by a standing cross marks the burial place of the Hodgsons.