On entering the church of St John the Baptist the first impressions are light and colour. The light was sunlight streaming in (well it was a glorious spring day!) through the six 15th century windows and highlighting the red and yellow floor tiles of that same century. Oddly there was a freshness to the atmosphere of this retired place, unlike many dusty churches still in use up and down the land.
Historical delights are found throughout the building, but first mention must be made of the narrow chancel and tiny sanctuary. The eye is drawn to the delightful 17th century communion table (a sign of those liturgical times) but in order to reach that sacramental piece one has to walk a memorial stone gauntlet of huge dimensions – all the while treading on the brasses commemorating Robert Russell (d 1390) and John Russell (d 1405.) Both of these brasses are solidly mounted on Purbeck stone (I later discovered) and watched over by eleven other Russells whose names are enshrined on the walls of the chancel. Yep, this is a Russell church.
Turning around as memorial claustrophobia began to set in, and looking down the full length of the nave – past the rows of 16th century pews and the large Russell family pew (there they are again) – the font becomes the centre-piece. (Norman design, but age? And it has been relocated at least twice.) But it is above this stone basin that the real jewel in the crown is found, and one which demands a post of its own.
(To be continued)