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English Church Architecture -

Essex.

 

LITTLE BRAXTED, St. Nicholas (TL 836 147)            (1984, revised May 2005)

(Bedrock:  Eocene, London Clay)

 

This little church has a chancel that ends in a Norman apse (see the photograph, left) - now, alas, with just one of its original windows remaining (on the N. side).  All other windows have tracery in the style of c. 1300 and are entirely renewed, save for two genuine thirteenth century lancets in the nave W. wall and a re-set Perpendicular window in the Victorian N. aisle.  The building consists of a nave with N. aisle and belfry, and a chancel with an apse and a N. vestry.

 

It is not, however, for its building work that this church is most worth a visit, but for the rich, late Victorian decoration that seems to cover every available internal surface, from the walls and window splays to the arcade soffits and sides of the font.  Consisting chiefly of floral patterning and texts and pious sayings, it also includes three large wall paintings, two on the S. wall of the nave, showing the shepherds visiting the Infant Christ and the Risen Lord giving the disciples their commission, and one on the N. wall of the N. aisle, depicting the Tree of Knowledge on the left, the Tree of Life on the right, and Christ Crucified on the Tree in the centre.  This is all good quality work in the Arts & Crafts style, but it is a pity that the heavy glass - which was part of the original conception and which is altogether less pleasing - does not permit more light to enter the building so that it may be seen to better effect.  It was planned and largely executed in 1881-6 by the then rector, the Rev. Ernest Geldhart, who was a craftsman of wide abilities, responsible for, among other things, the chancel stalls and rood screen in Bodley’s church of All Saints', Clumber, in Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, and for the reredos at Hugh Roumieu Gough’s church of St. Cuthbert, Kensington.  He also designed the coved nave ceiling at St. Nicholas’s, Tolleshunt d’Arcy.  Thus Geldhart was much more than a vicar with some amateur talent and his skill was recognized in his life-time.  (Illustrated here are the painted N. arcade, left, the Nativity scene on the nave S. wall, above right, and the "three Trees" scene  on the N. wall of the N. aisle, below.)