The History Anorak

The History Anorak

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Greensted

If you want a proper description of Greensted Church you could do no better than to visit fellow blogger Mike's A Bit About Britain because he'll include a lot of facts and his own brand of interpretation.  He's the reason we stopped off at Greensted en route south recently.

The Anorak read the blurb and looked around like a proper tourist but very little of the reality set in. It was the atmosphere that took hold, once the brash quasi-local with his loud, Estuary English voice, and equally annoying son, completed their brief inspection and moved on. "A mayt o mine wuz krissened ere. Are dere enny leeflits?" Well yes, there is an informative guidebook, but the Essex visitor didn't care enough to invest £2.

Wooden grave marker
The church is Saxon, although it stands on a site with evidence of earlier structures, and is rumoured to be the oldest stave built building in Europe. It's in a quiet corner of a quiet village and little disturbs the peace except an occasional bird call (and Towie tourist).

As you enter through the gate among the first things you spot is a wooden grave marker. I found no clue as to who is buried below it, though the Admirable Mike says it's a local landlord who lost a fight with a scythe. The rapidly deteriorating wooden cross looks shaped in sympathy.

There's a large tomb by the porch that tells you helpfully that it's a grave of a Crusader, dating from the 12th century.
Tomb of the unknown bowman
Looking at the outside of the church it's clear it's not your average place of worship. The walls are constructed from what look like bisected tree trunks, stood upright, side-by-side, more like a fortress than a church. But they are topped off with a beautiful tiled roof with pretty dormer windows that wouldn't look out of place on a country pub.  Then there's the wooden tower, clad in weatherboarding like some kind of seaside hut and topped by a witch's hat spire.

Inside is even more atmospheric. Entering through the cute 'dolls house' porch you find yourself in a dark space with heavily-carved beams, lit by a few, dark, stained-glass windows.

There's a wooden (appropriately) model of the church perched on the pulpit; an impressive eagle lectern; colourful tapestry kneelers; and those beams. The light (and my dusty camera lens) makes it almost impossible to get a good photo inside. And the angles prevent any decent shots of what's called the St Edmund beam.  Greensted is supposed to be one of the resting places of the body of St Edmund, first patron saint of England, on its journey from London to its final resting place. (Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. Big clue in the name there!) Edmund was tortured by the Danes, in numerous ways, for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. Eventually they beheaded him, and the beam shows his crowned head - minus body - and a fox. I don't know where the fox comes into the story.


So there you have it. Clearly it's a popular spot because there's a large designated parking area. Incidentally, I defy you to understand the signs if you are first to arrive.  They tell you to park at an angle, then unhelpfully include an arrow that points parallel to the hedge.

7 comments:

  1. We seek out Saxon churches whenever we're in England. Always enjoy your blog and Mike's.

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  2. That's a great write-up, HA, and I appreciate the lovely mention. You spotted details I missed and obviously had better weather. Shame about the fellow-visitor, but I'm sure God loves us all equally :-) Hard to fathom, though...

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  3. Gosh, you brought back memories of a visit we made there in the 1980s with a group of local historians. We had a guide and someone tagged on to our little group and asked quite a few questions as we went around. When we moved on to our next venue someone said they recognised him as George Thomas a former Speaker of the House of Commons. He did seem familiar. I've enjoyed your account of your visit, it's somewhere I'd like to return to one day:)

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  4. Interesting points - Happy Easter!

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  5. There are so many churches in England in each and every town, so after 10 years I gave up to visit them all. But they look often very cute outside especially in little villages !

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  6. Just catching up, looks like a great place to visit. Such a shame about the other visitor and the car park hopefully it didn't spoil your visit too much.

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  7. Don't you just love loud, annoying people? At least they didn't hang around too long. I enjoy visiting historic places such as this one. Thanks for sharing.

    Cindy

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Why not add your two pennyworth?