All Saints, Turvey, Bedfordshire

Looking into faces from the past.

We were having a churchy day out yesterday, and amongst others, visited All Saints, Turvey.

The wonderful thing about visiting churches is that although they are all there to serve the same purpose, once you step inside, you realise that they are all different. I like to wander around, soaking up the atmosphere, trying to decide what I like or dislike about them, trying to sense their personality.

All Saints Turvey would be a fairly typical wealthy village church, where it not for its collection of tombs – and it was these that fascinated me during my visit.

The first was the husband and wife tomb of Sir John Mordaunt (died 1506) and Edith Latimer.

The tomb sits on a plinth which makes taking photos quite a challenge. Whether to deter this, or just out of expediency, a load of plastic chairs had been placed around the tomb – but I carefully rearranged a few to try to get a closer look.

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It seemed to me that more attention had been paid to carving Edith than John – look at the detail in her headdress.

But what I loved, were the little characters surrounding them, especially the little dogs tugging at Edith’s skirt.

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I’d be surprised if she’d have been happy to have them doing that if she were alive.

The one thing that was rather alarming, was the face on Sir John’s helm (under his head)

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Enough to make you run away screaming. Sir John fought at and survived Bosworth and Stoke – so perhaps his helm was effective.

It looked very much as if the tomb had originally been painted – I’d love to have seen it as it was intended to be seen.

Strolling further along, I found the grander tomb of John, the second Lord Mordaunt (died 1571) and his two wives, Ellen Fitz Lewis and Joan Farmer.

This was interestingly arranged with him oddly elevated above both ladies – all looking unpleasantly cramped.

I must say, if I was going to spend eternity lying next to my husband’s other wife, I wouldn’t really want him practically on top at the same time – a menage a trois Tudor style perhaps…

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I couldn’t make out who was Ellen and who was Joan – obviously whoever carved this tomb didn’t much like doing the hands…

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John was so inaccessible I couldn’t see his expression, but I have a nasty feeling it was smug.

This type of tomb brings home the transitory nature of life – here were three people, evidently famous in their own time – well-known in the region and wider, and yet all we have now is a little card with details of the man and nothing about either of his wives. It makes me want to know who they really were – their personalities, likes, dislikes, history, hopes, disappointments – everything!

And then of course you can’t help wondering about the thousands of other people, just like us who have no memorial.

But I digress…

Across the aisle from that tomb is another, this time of John first Lord Mordaunt (died 1562) and his wife Elizabeth Vere.

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I’d call those expressions inscrutable.

All Saints has other faces

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Brass memorials hidden under chairs. And medieval paintings on the wall.

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These I adore – I’m sure the artist wanted us to contemplate the image, but I want to contemplate the artist – who was he, what was his? life like, how did he live, when, where…

So after wandering round, the overriding impression I took, was of real people, with real faces, albeit rendered with varying skill. I have images in my mind of them all getting up when we left, comparing notes on us. I hope the ladies will forgive me leaning over them – I just wanted to see their faces better. And then it occurred that as many of them are closely related, they might in fact not get on together – imagine the potential for arguments! Not to mention having little dogs ruining your dress or working out which of the numerous Johns is being addressed.

I left them to it and went back out into the sunshine for a walk around the church – and look what I found tucked away behind it.

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The most peculiar mausoleum I’ve ever seen – the Higgins Mausoleum – Why oh why, would a fireplace be built into it?

There’s more about it here.

All Saints Turvey – not at all what I’d expected.

For more information

I’m going to admit to not yet having read everything on this link – but it’s exactly the sort of thing guaranteed to draw you in and result in you spending too much time asking even more questions! Brilliant.

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4 thoughts on “All Saints, Turvey, Bedfordshire

  1. blosslyn says:

    I know that church well, we lived in Harrold which is only a couple of villages away, but I had never visited it, so its lovely to see the tombs, will have to visit, it looks really interesting 🙂

    • Anny says:

      It was the first time I’d been inside – although I’ve sunk many pints in The Three Cranes over the years (closed at the moment – that was a shame), it’s different to what I’d expected.

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