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The History Of Saint Nicholas' Church Denston


When Davy visited the church in 1814, there was still some of the original glass in the clerestory windows and in the north aisle. Earlier it is recorded that among the fragments were a woman kneeling and praying, wearing the coat armour of Clopton; and a man and woman wearing the coat armour of Cavendish; the inscription "Johannes Denston" and his coat armour. In 1831 Davy noted that in the east window, "besides figures, flowers, etc.," have been placed the arms of Clare, Cross of the Union. Le Hunte, D'Abernon, Wanton. The east window does not appear to have been re!eaded since Davy's visit. The glass, as regards that of the mediaeval period, is from the Norwich glaziers. as shown by the characteristic foliage in yellow. This was used as a background to the figures and is of the same period as the glass in Long Melford church, where John Denston appears in the east window and his daughter, Ann Broughton, in the west window in the south aisle. The lights nearest to the north and south are filled with these Norwich fragments. Above the transoms are examples - three to the north, one and perhaps a second to the south - of "foliate heads". These heads, with foliage growing out of their mouths, and sometimes also out of ears and eyes, appear constantly in churches, carved on corbels, spandrels, bosses and misericords. They are probably connected with the old tree-worship of which the "Jack-in-the-Green" parading on May Day must have been the last manifestation and which must have looked much like some of these heads. The Denston foliate heads have foliage only from their mouths. One other grotesque figure can be seen in the window, in the second light from the south, above the transom, where a demon is stretching out clawed hands. In the second light from the north, above the transom, is the figure of a man kneeling: a great deal of the glass in this window needs rearranging and it is difficult to be certain that this figure has been given the correct coat armour, for not all of it appears the same, and the position of the hand suggests there is some inaccuracy. It bears a remarkable similarity to the figure of John Denston in Long Melford church. In the centre light is a woman, who may be one of those seen by Davy. Other figures and fragments of figures can be seen, including the edge of a mantle, where the separate leading of the jewels is another characteristic of the Norwich glaziers.

In the east window of the south aisle is a fine modern window to the memory of Algernon Dunn-Gardner, Lord of the manor, and a connection of the Robinsons. It shows St. Nicholas with Denston church, and also as patron of sailors and children, the latter illustrating a misconception now firmly established. The early Christian convention in art of showing less important figures on a smaller scale added to the story of St. Nicholas of Bari, the picturesque episode of the three children miraculously resurrected from the tub in which their bodies have been cut up and salted. Originally St. Nicholas had been honoured for the large numbers of converts he had baptised and three small figures standing in a tub-shaped font at his feet became his attribute, which was so strangely interpreted. Another modern window in the south aisle, behind the Denston Hall pew, is in memory of Harriet, the wife of Algernon Dunn-Gardner, and depicts the three Maries at the tomb.

Last Modified Thursday 05 May 2011