St. Mary’s Parish Church, Saffron Walden, were recently presented with a three-volume NADFAS (now known as The Arts Society) report on the church on Sunday 3rd September 2017.
Over the last 30 months a team of 18 volunteers, led by Rosanne Kirkpatrick, have spent time recording all the fixtures, furnishings, windows and paintings in the church, taking time to describe, measure, photograph and research each of the items. The final report comprises three volumes of text including over 700 photographs of artefacts.
The Rev’d Canon David Tomlinson said, ‘We are deeply grateful to Rosanne and the NADFAS volunteers for all their work. This comprehensive record is a great gift to the parish church of this wonderful town.’
The Arts Society have previously worked on village churches in the Deanery, so to report on St. Mary’s Saffron Walden, which is the largest church in Essex, was a challenge which took them two and a half years to complete.
The record was presented to the Church Wardens at St. Mary’s shortly before the recent Heritage Open Day, allowing all visitors to the church to have an opportunity to view the report.
Below is an account of this work by the Team Leader Rosanne Kirkpatrick.
When I heard that cupboards were to be built at the west end of the church, I thought that the ledger stones – floor slabs – along the west wall would be lost, and I knew that before that happened they should be recorded. So, when the right permissions had been obtained from the Archdeacon and the PCC, my team of some 18 people began to record not only the ledger stones, but the whole church.
We have recorded the furnishings. We have described, measured, photographed and researched everything. The Record is in 3 volumes of some 350 pages of text and 700 photographs. For the most part, we have worked in 2s and 3s and the sections have been:
Memorials – some 35 on the walls and 65 ledger stones
Metalwork – Silverware dating from 1685 to the present; brass candlesticks, ironwork of all sorts etc.
Stonework – particularly the wonderful work in the spandrels in the nave and the aisles, and the canopies in the North aisle. Lots of information available here.
Woodwork – always a huge section. We have identified saints and shields, and we have amazing photographs of the nave roof bosses, and the chancel roof (which came from a dissolved monastery near Sudbury).
Textiles – This section includes vestments, banners, and kneelers – 350 of them – and they have all been listed and photographed.
Pictures etc. – This includes the Royal Coat of Arms on the west wall of the Nave, and the List of Rectors. I was able to do research on early priests in a book on Saffron Walden and St. Mary’s, written by the 3rd Lord Braybrooke in 1836. I also discovered information about The Great Picture in the North Chapel from Vestry Minutes of 1885.
Library – We found in one of the Vestry safes 2 folio-sized Prayer Books given to the church by Lord Howard in the 1790s for use on the altar.
Windows – Again researched and photographed as well as described and measured.
Miscellaneous – Obviously everything not already covered such as the organ (lots of information here): and the tiles in the chancel – Minton, put down in the 1860s. There are 7 different patterns and the photographs of them are good.
This is the 28th record the Saffron Walden Church Recorders have produced in the last 30 years. We had previously worked on village churches in the Deanery. So, to undertake the largest parish church in Essex was quite a challenge, and it has taken two and a half years. I should like to thank my team, some experienced and some new to the task. I should also like to express thanks to those attached to St Mary’s who have provided so much help and co-operation – especially to Steve Hasler and Pam Russell.