11 February 2021

The Re-opening of St Mary the Virgin, Wivenhoe, after restoration, in 1860

St Mary the Virgin, Wivenhoe, before the earthquake of 1884

From the Essex Standard - Wednesday 13 June 1860

Wivenhoe Church had long needed restoration, and to those who see it in its renovated and re-modelled state it may not be uninteresting to glance back at what it was little more than a year ago—a source of anxious care to the Rector—of a feeling akin to sorrow to all who had a local interest in it.

The flat roofs of the chancel and aisles were in danger of falling in from decay; the nave roof not much safer, though it had undergone a recent repair, and had a stained deal ceiling, showing fair below; the parapets of tower and south aisle dangerous; the buttresses falling from the tower they should support; the damp earth of the churchyard accumulated several feet above the level of the floor; the flooring rotten, the paving damp, the pews unsightly and inconvenient; one south porch the ruin of an old oak structure, which, while the architect was talking of repairing, was blown away by the wind, leaving nothing that could be made serviceable again.

Such was the constructive condition of the church, and the old arrangement of the interior was so bad for all church purposes as to warrant a re-building, even had the state of repair not then been what it really was.

A low chancel arch, with massive piers, placed nearer the west end by 13 feet than the present, reduced the nave to 30 feet instead of 43 feet, as it now is; and the excessive chancel, void of all architectural effect or of church-like propriety, received the bulk of the congregation in high square pews, and contained also the pulpit, reading-desk, and clerk's desk, leaving to the nave a dwarfed and inferior aspect; while to open the view from a gallery, which extended all over the north chancel aisle, the old arcade had been ruthlessly removed, and the roofs were supported by the wooden posts that carried at the same time the gallery.

When we have added to this description another gallery at the west end, and a broken font, a wooden east window, and cement windows on the south side, we present some picture of the work undertaken by the Committee. Looking at the present appearance of the sacred edifice it is not too much to say that their labours have been crowned with entire success, and have produced a church which, for singular beauty of proportion and richness of design, with the chaste elegance of all its accessories, may be long without a rival and we heartily congratulate them on the termination of their efforts.

Stone porches protect both the north and south doors; the north, which forms the principal entrance, is very handsome: above the deeply-moulded entrance arch is a carved panel representing the "miraculous draft of fishes," appropriate as symbolizing the ingathering of the Church, and locally reminding us of Wivenhoe being a maritime and fishing village. Both porches are surmounted by ornamental crosses, and have oak roofs.

Massive oak doors, covered with iron-work, open into the north and south aisles of the nave, the two first arches of which are original, and, with some dilapidated windows of the north aisle, which have been replaced with new, have given the key to the architectural period of the whole work, viz., the Decorated of the 14th century. A third corresponding arch complete the length of the nave, which is terminated by a lofty chancel arch, carried on bracketed columns, with angle corbels, exquisitely carved.

The chancel has two arches in length, except that on the south side a third smaller arch is introduced, which, while its object is manifest in giving an open cheerful aspect to the seats at this end of the south aisle, gives a pleasing effect of irregularity the corresponding space on the other side being occupied by the vestry.

With the exception of the south aisle, which has been added, all the walls are on the old foundation.

As there are now no galleries, the tower arch is open, and shows the west window above the organ—the old organ in a renovated case. A little in advance of the tower arch is a new font square in shape, on polished-marble pillars, with carved capitals, at the angles of which, rounded off till they blend into the circular form of the columns, are carved lilies, to signify the dedication of the Church to St. Mary the Virgin.

The pulpit and reading-desk are of stone, combined in one composition, and placed on the north-west side of the chancel arch. A pierced parapet encloses the reading-desk, from which, on the west side, a marble column rises to support the Bible, and brass scrolls carry the prayer-desk on the south side. The front of the pulpit has a carved panel representing "the Sermon on the Mount," and round the top, under a carved cornice, are Scripture sentences. This is a memorial donation in memory of one who died before the work she had longed to see completed was yet begun.

The altar rail is also of stone: a parapet of open pierced trefoils leaving a vacant space in the centre in front of the table, the effect of which is exceedingly good.

The whole of the pewing is of oak, very massive and solid; all the parcels in the square ends of the nave seats are filled with carved tracery of varying design.

In the chancel the stall ends have carved finials of beautiful workmanship, and on the elbows are carved animals, the dove or eagle, the griffin, and dog.

The east window of the chancel and the east window of the north chancel aisle are filled with the richest stained glass, and are both memorial windows, as are also the tower window and the west window of the south aisle of the nave.

Open timber roofs of high pitch cover the building. The chancel and its aisles are in three gables. The nave is gabled, with lean-to roofs for its aisles.

The chancel roof has arched ribs of peculiar form, placed both transverse and longitudinally.

The nave roof has transverse arched ribs, with bosses carved as heads representing the twelve Apostles and the Saviour.

The effect of these unstained roofs is very satisfactory, while exteriorly their height is a great improvement, bringing the church into view from many distant points from whence it could not formerly be seen.

Considering that the Committee have ventured £500 beyond the funds at present placed at their disposal, we cannot blame them (since no actual necessity to do more existed) for stopping somewhat short of what the attainment of exterior perfection would have suggested; but we hope at some future and not distant day to see the anomalous turret removed from the top of the tower, and another effort made to replace it with a spire, which will render the outline of the edifice as complete and harmonious as the interior. As it is, however. Wivenhoe may well be proud of its church; and, judging from the holiday appearance of the village on Wednesday, the flags and flowers and decorations of various kinds which were displayed from the houses surrounding the sacred edifice, such undoubtedly is the feeling of the inhabitants, together with the pleasing anticipation of once more being able to worship in their own church, after a suspension of that privilege for fully 12 months, the first stone of the new works having been laid by Lady Georgiana Rebow on the l0th of June, 1859.

The total cost of the restoration is about £3,000. The design was furnished by, and the works carried out under the superintendence of, E. C. Hakewill, Esq., Architect, of 8, South Molton Street, London; the builders being Messrs. White, of Vauxhall Road, London, and Mr. Eade, of Wivenhoe.

The weather was exceedingly stormy; but, although necessarily a considerable drawback to the comfort of the visitors, it fortunately seemed to have no effect in diminishing their numbers; and by half-past 11 o'clock the church was filled, the congregation including a large number of the local gentry and the clergy of the eastern part of the county. The Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Rochester, who had consented to preach on the occasion, sat at the communion table with the Rev. G. Fisk, the preacher for the afternoon. The morning service including the Litany, was read by the Rector, the Rev. E. T. Waters.

The Bishop selected as his text 1 Peter II. 4, 5—"To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

[Sermon omitted here]

At the close of his Lordship's discourse the Rev. G. Fisk read the Offertory sentences, during which the parish officers—J. G. Rebow, Esq., and Mr. William Browne, Churchwardens; and Messrs. Blyth and Mr. N. Harvey, Overseers, made the collection, which, including four donations of £5 each, amounted to £87 17s. 7d.

By invitation of the Rector, the Bishop, accompanied by J. G. Rebow, Esq., and a large number of clergy, repaired to the Rectory, where an elegant luncheon had been provided.

The dining-room, though large, was not of sufficient dimensions to hold a fifth part of the assembled guests. On those who had first sat down to the luncheon rising from the table to make room for others, the Rector requested them to remain for a few moments whilst he proposed to them (which he did in a few graceful and feeling words) to drink the health of the Lord Bishop of the Diocese, who had kindly come amongst them that day, with many thanks for the valuable and excellent discourse which he had delivered in the church.

The Bishop, in rising to return thanks to Mr. Waters and the company assembled for the compliment they had paid him, assured them that he felt that so far from any thanks being due to him for appearing amongst them on so highly interesting an occasion, the pleasure—he might almost term it the selfish pleasure—of seeing such a vast assembly of the clergy and laity of the neighbourhood was one which he would not easily forget. He sincerely thanked them for the compliment they had paid him.

Mr. Rebow then rose to thank his Lordship, on behalf of the laity, for the kind manner in which he had spoken of them, and assured him that if he should find himself as well supported by the clergy as he was convinced he would be by the laity he would have no reason to complain of a want of sympathy in carrying on his work in the arduous post which he had been called upon and which he trusted he would long live to fill.

At the afternoon service, which took place at four o'clock, there was again a very full congregation. The prayers and lessons were read by the Rector; and an eloquent extempore sermon was preached by the Rev. George Fisk, LL.B., Prebendary of Lichfield, and Incumbent of the Abbey Church, Great Malvern. The second collection was nearly £19, making the total proceeds of the day £106.

In the evening the Bishop was entertained at dinner by Mr. and Lady Georgiana Rebow at Wivenhoe Park; and amongst those present to meet his Lordship were Lord Braybrooke, Lord Norbury, the High Sheriff and Mrs. Errington, Sir Claude de Crespigny, J. Bawtree, Esq., A. Stewart, Esq., Rev. Dr. Seaman, Rev. G. Fisk. LL.B., Rev. E. T. Waters, Rev. L. W. Owen (Rural Dean), Rev. C. Burney, Rev. O. Fisher, &c. The Bishop remained the night at Wivenhoe Park, and left early on Thursday morning to fulfil an engagement in another part of his Diocese.

We append a list of the clergy and the principal laity whom we observed present at the opening services, viz.,

Lord Norbury, J. Gurdon Rebow, Esq., A. Stewart, Esq., Sir Claude de Crespigny, General Waters, J. Bawtree, Esq., G. H. Errington, Esq. (High Sheriff), J. T. Ambrose, Esq., J. F. Bishop, Esq., J. Cardinall, Esq., W. R. Havens, Esq., J. G. Chamberlain, Esq., C. Smythies, Esq., E. C. Hakewill, Esq. (architect), F. Francis, Esq., P. Francis, Esq., J. H. Church, Esq. (vestry clerk), &c., &c.;

Revds. Dr. Taylor, Dr. Wright, Dr. Seaman, W. Harrison, C. A. L'Oste, L. W. Owen. C. Burney, J. H. Dewhurst, J. Papillon, P. Honywood, H. B. Newman, J. H. Pollexfen, R. Duffield, P. Fenn, W. Y. Smythies, F. Curtis, J. Todd, B. Lodge, C. S. Lock, H. A. Olivier, G. E. Carter, H. R. S. Smith, C. F. Hayter, J. M. Chapman, J. H. Swainson, G. T. Lermit, W. Thorp, H. Calthrop, V. M. Torriano, W. R. Browell, R. S. Cummins, B. Smith, P. Bennett, J. G. Jenkins, W. P. Babington, O. Fisher, J. Atkinson, T. C Brettingham, W. Walsh, W. Laing, E. F. Ventris, J. Gregory, G. R. Medley, W. Latten, H. Evans, J. Bates, S. C. Prickard (Dimsdale), — Carwithers, Chaplain to H.M.S. Pembroke, &c. &c.

Besides contributions in money, some of the principal decorations of the church are the result of private munificence.

The very handsome memorial window in the chancel was the gift of the Corsellis family, to the memory of their parents and ancestors, whose remains are deposited in the family vault beneath. The subjects comprise the annunciation, baptism, crucifixion, and entombment. In the east of the north chancel aisle is a stained glass memorial window, presented by the Rev. E. T. Waters, to the memory of his deceased wife. The two side lights represent our Saviour bearing the cross, and His appearance to Mary Magdalene in the garden; and the central light depicts Christ's Ascension. The upper tracery contains symbolical representations of the Trinity and the Four Evangelists. These windows were executed by Warrington, of London.

Another memorial window, at the west-end of the church, representing "Christ walking upon the sea and stilling the tempest," was presented by Mrs. Martin, in memory of her deceased husband, Captain Edward Martin, of the Marquis of Anglesea's yacht, Pearl.

The memorial window in the church tower, behind the organ, depicting two full-sized figures of angels, expressive of praise, was given by Mr. Isaac Blyth, to the memory of his late father, at the time of the restoration of the sacred edifice. The two latter windows were executed by Cassell, of London.

The stone pulpit is a memorial donation to the church in memory of the deceased wife of the Rev. E. T. Waters, Rector,

All the communion furniture, comprising two beautifully-carved oak altar chairs, stools, Brussels floor carpet and rich crimson velvet altar cloth, with gilt monogram “I H S” were the gift of Lady Georgiana Gurdon Rebow; and Lady Claude de Crespigny presented a handsome book cushion.

The large Bible and Prayer-book, elegantly bound in morocco on the reading desk, contained the following inscription “Presented by the ladies and female parishioners to the parish church of St. Mary, Wivenhoe, on its restoration, June 6th 1860. Rev. E. T. Waters, M.A., Rector; Rev. J. J. Bennetts, Curate; J. G. Rebow, Esq. and Mr. W. Browne, churchwardens”

Two beautifully-carved wood alms plates, with the inscriptions “Freely ye have received, freely give”, “God loveth a cheerful giver” were presented by the Rector.