St Augustine, Birdbrook, Essex
Birdbrook is an attractive, surprisingly large and surprisingly remote village not far from the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire borders. St Augustine sits beside the pub, and is a bright, welcoming building entirely in the Essex style. The church was extensively restored by the dull local architect Chancellor in the 19th Century, but in the 20th Century it benefited from considerable patronage and an artistic flowering which has more or less completely renewed the interior. The most striking aspects are a grand scheme of glass by Powell & Sons from the 1940s to the 1960s, rather thrilling in such a small church, and the complete refurnishing of the church in the 1960s by H & K Mabbitt in elegant though serious bleached wood. Theirs are the nave and chancel seating, the choir stalls, the chancel panelling and the altar. The overall effect is similar to that of one of the restored City of London churches, but on a gentle, intimate scale.
Nothing ancient survives, but there are a number of curiosities. The font is a slender, gothicky work of the 1760s, not dissimilar in style to that at nearby Debden. Set into it behind glass is a coloured miniature of the Baptism of Christ, said to be by the 17th Century artist Samuel Cooper. On the west wall, behind the excellent local museum, a plaque remembers Martha Blewit of the Swan Inn who was the wife of nine husbands successively, but the ninth outlived her, and Robert Hogan, who was the husband of seven wives successively. Outside on the south doorway, one of the headstops has been carved in a likeness to Winston Churchill.