CHRISHALL, Holy Trinity (TL 482 446),
(Bedrock: Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk.)
An attractive church, beautifully situated in the Essex countryside.
The church stands on rising ground, and on a sunny afternoon in August, the open aspect to the south shows the Essex countryside at its very best. Constructed of flint and pebble rubble, the building consists of a chancel with a N. vestry, an aisled nave with N. and S. porches, and a modest W. tower. The chancel, nave, S. aisle and tower are battlemented.
The tower rises in two stages, supported by diagonal buttresses to the first stage only, and displays bell-openings with straightened reticulation units to the second, very often indicative of the late fourteenth century. Many of the other windows in the building suggest a date half a century earlier: the two-light S. aisle south windows with quatrefoils above two-centred cinquefoiled lights have, admittedly, been renewed, but the three-light S. aisle east window with curvilinear tracery (illustrated above right) is partly original, the N. aisle windows have reticulated tracery beneath square heads to the west and north and cusped intersecting tracery to the east, and the chancel has an attractive, two-light window in the S. wall towards the west, with double-arched lights entrapping quatrefoils and a dagger in the apex. Even if many of these were falsified in nineteenth century restorations, that seems unlikely to be the case with the unmatching aisle E. windows, and if they retain their mediaeval form, it is unlikely they postdate c. 1350-60. This will be an important consideration when the church interior is examined. The other chancel windows, including the renewed five-light E. window, are Perpendicular in style. The N. porch has been heavily restored while the ugly S. porch with a doorway too large for its silly low-pitched roof, is an addition of F.C. Penrose (1817 - 1903), a pupil of Edward Blore, who was responsible for a restoration in 1878 (notes in the church) and might have been expected to have done better. The vestry is contemporary.
Inside the church, the four-bay nave arcades are supported on compound piers composed of semi-octagonal shafts with capitals towards the openings, attached to chamfered wall pieces; the chamfers continue uninterrupted around the outer order of the arches and an inner order rises from the shafts. (See the photograph above left, showing the easternmost N. pier in close-up, and the photograph above right, giving a general interior view of the church from the west.) This is a form unlikely to be as the aisle windows, so the likelihood is that the arcades were rebuilt and the clerestory added, perhaps in the fifteenth century, within retained, early fourteenth century aisle walls. The chancel arch was reconstructed in the same style as the nave arcades in 1867-9 (notes in the church) . The idiosyncratic tower arch carries three flat chamfers, the outer continuous down the jambs and the inner two rising from huge semicircular responds.
The rood stair opens out from within the S. aisle, about 7 feet (2 m.) above the ground and was obviously once accessed by a set of wooden steps. It emerges in the nave a mere four steps higher. A crocketed, segmental arch in a square surround, set in the south wall of the S. aisle, contains the recumbent effigy of a woman with her hands clasped in prayer. The font (illustrated right), in the west end of this same aisle, has a square bowl with bevelled corners, supported on four little shafts, alternatively round and octagonal, with square bases and abaci.
Finally, two other items to notice, including one it is scarcely possible to miss, are the Royal Arms of George II hanging above the N. door and, in particular, the huge painting on the S. aisle W. wall, identified by the notes in the church as a copy of Rubens's Adoration of the Magi, the original of which was painted in 1624 and now hangs in the Koninklijk Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (Belgium). According Nikolaus Pevsner and James Bettley (The Buildings of England: Essex, New Haven 7 London, Yale University Press, 2007, pp. 235-236), this copy is by Philip Reinagle (1749 - 1833), who specialised as a painter of animals and scenes of the English landscape.