St Mary, Kelvedon, Essex

A bright day with a northerly wind might not have been an ideal scenario in which to work my way south to north, but it avoided waiting for connections. So at 0920 I was disembarking at Kelvedon station. Kelvedon & Feering is a joint village, a large one, larger than some towns, but undoubtedly a village in character. The continuous High Street of both is the old A12, which bypassed it as a dual carriageway to the east in the 1960s, but it still seemed pretty busy to me. The two parts are historically separated by the infant River Blackwater, and the old part of Feering is separated from the rest by the Norwich to London railway line. This makes the village sound hellish, but actually it is very pleasant, with some good late Medieval and Georgian domestic buildings.

The two parish churches are at the westerly and easterly extremities of the village, the station about halfway in between. I had already made plans in advance by ringing Kelvedon rectory the day before, where a very nice lady told me that "yes, Kelvedon church is open every day", and she also gave me the contact for Feering, which I had heard was a fortress. So, first to Kelvedon church.

Locked. I'd say I couldn't quite believe it, but I always expect this kind of thing to happen. There was no keyholder notice, so if I hadn't rung the rectory the day before, I would just have assumed that Kelvedon was a fortress too. It isn't: I rang the rectory, but there was no answer. I rang the churchwarden whose number I fortunately still had on the same piece of paper, and he was really apologetic. "The Rector usually opens up on a Tuesday, and he's away on retreat. I'll be there in five minutes." And he was, still apologetic, and he unlocked the church and hurriedly left me to it. This is a big urban church, handsome in its setting of a mature, sloping churchyard, but indistinguishable from any other church of its type from Cromer to Calcutta once you get inside. Excellent 1898 window by Louis Davis for Powell & Co, outstanding of its kind. Execrable adjacent window by the same workshop in 1938. I'd arranged to meet the Feering churchwarden at 10, but the delay in getting into Kelvedon made time tight, so I was glad it had little to detain me!
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