Tudeley, Kent – All Saints

After lunch on Wednesday 9 November we went for a drive – to All Saints church, Tudeley, TQ622454, just outside Tonbridge.

dsc05541The church website is here. Tripadvisor has 36 photos here and the wonderful line that the church is one of four things to do in the village (the others are the pubs). I thought the 10% off voucher in the porch was a good idea. There is a decent car park, but no loo.

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If you know what is coming, you are ready for the glories of this church – if not, you assume it is a normal parish church (though readers of this blog will know there is nothing “normal” about any parish church).

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Tudeley is a place with a long history; it is suggested that iron was being worked in the area before the Romans came. There was a Saxon church here, it was mentioned in Doomsday, and the forge accounts show the effect of the Black Death on the price of iron, which doubled owing to the shortage of labour. During the C15 and C16 the Badsells, the Stydolfs and the Fanes were the great families who owned the manors.

In the chancel is this memorial brass to Thomas and Alice Stydolf which dates from 1547. In the guidebook, a very posh one produced by Shire publications, the photo shows a strip of lettering, which seems to have gone.

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The tomb in the Chancel is of George Fane and Joan Waller is wife, who died February 1545.

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The pulpit is early C17 – from it the Reverend Edward Wallis, Vicar from 1638, “doth raile against the Scots in his pulpit and out of his pulpit, calling them dogs and divells; and sais he knows now how to call them bade enough”. Some sensibly ramping in front – nice that Julie could get everywhere in her wheelchair.

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During the C18 there was a restoration – it took 26 years. A record in the library at Rochester Cathedral reads “the parish was so neglected that no alms were given at all from 1756 to 1783: the Registers have been kept most carelessly and some are lost”. In the following century one of the incumbents was the Reverend Richard Boys (1785-1867) who had previously served on St Helena. In the early C20 the Reverend George Lachlan used the service register to regularly record the weather. He also records on 21 May 1916 “Daylight Saving Bill came into force” – I reminded my congregation that the other week we were celebrating the centenary of the clocks changing. His successor was the Reverend Thomas Mason, who was noted in the village for his pig keeping activities – local legend has it that he kept his pigs in the vicarage bedrooms.

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In 1963 Sarah Venetia d’Avigdor-Goldsmid died in a sailing accident off the coast at Rye in Sussex. Her parents subscribed to the restoration of the interior of the church in her memory – although her father was a practising Jew, his wife and other children were Anglicans who worshipped here. In the summer of 1961 Sarah and her mother had visited the Chagall exhibition at The Louvre in Paris, and were enraptured by his work – this led her father to commission a new East Window for this church. It was installed as part of a 1966 restoration of the church. Marc Chagall came to the dedication service and is supposed to have exclaimed “C’est magnifique, ferai les tous” (It is magnificent, I shall do them all). Seven more windows were added by the end of the decade, and then the family commissioned glass for the last four. By his stage some had got tired of worshipping in an art gallery – the guidebook puts it more tactfully. Marc Chagall died in March 1985, and the last windows were installed in December 1985. There is a Chagall website here, and others here and here.

The church has a very well-stocked bookstall, with a stock ranging from a simple A4 sheet telling you what is in each window, through to deep books on Chagall’s theology. They also have a lovely range of postcards – I now have four in my study to inspire me. I hope that the lady who produced the sheet doesn’t mind that I have quoted her work – it was a God-send in putting this blog together.

We start with Creation on the north side of the church. Eve offers Adam the forbidden fruit. Is it the Angel of the Lord descending from top right? At the foot of the window an ass watches the scene – I love David Kossoff’s “Three donkeys”, perhaps this is a fourth.

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A wonderful, intense, spiritual blue with a crescent moon, and some hopeful light appearing on the right.

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The same blue, with more light. A green leaf and the shadow of an ass in the left, an angel in the middle, and a crescent moon at in the right.

dsc05509cA large white bird flies across, carrying a twig. Is this an olive branch, reminding us of the story of Noah. Apparently you can see a happy, one-eyed face at the lower left corner of the right lancet.

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The deep blue has faded and gold, green, purple and pink predominate. The ass can be seen again, a fish and three birds. A water-bird (duck or moorhen) is paddling away. The blue fish in the quatrefoil is a symbol of Christ.

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dsc05536edsc05535eWe’re now in the north wall of the Chancel. Is the angel playing a musical instrument? The bird is facing an ass.

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Here a red tumbling angel takes centre stage, with another large bird behind? Sorry, one photo had to wobble.

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The East Window is wonderful – just enjoy it. Commissioned in memory of Sarah it is full of images of death and resurrection. In the lower half she lies dead in the sea with grieving figures looking on. To the left of Sarah is her mother holding her two daughters; the surviving girl in bright colour and Sarah a pale shadow. The buildings of her home Somerhill appear to the right, and further to the right she is borne to the shore. The red horse (symbolic of joy for Chagall) carries her to the ladder that leads up to a benevolent and loving Christ on the cross, surrounded by angels. I can’t afford a stained glass window in memory of my boys, but the images in this one give me strength too. “Chagall’s picture is not that of a suffering Christ, but Christ, the young man, the one whose presence draws young people, the Christ who stands for the healing power of love; and it is to the outstretched and comforting arms of a radiant Christ that the girl is drawn.”

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Another angelic figure in a lovely glowing window. It suggests a sea-scape with a crescent moon shining down. In the quatrefoil there is a smiling face. Note the artist’s signature.

dsc05502idsc05520idsc05521iA crowned angel. Under her left wing Chagall has written VAVA, his affectionate name for his wife and a tribute to her.

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Moving into the nave, the two final windows are on the south side and radiate a glorious light – as the guide leaflet says “on sunny days they shine out, reminding us of the hope of resurrection.” The first has a “gentle angel apparently floating in a pool of golden light”. Butterflies and birds too.

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dsc05525kdsc05526kdsc05523kThe second has the ass, a man’s head, birds, and (once again) four candles in the top lancets.

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There was a sheet about the altar frontal and the pulpit fall – a good use of the Hebrew, and a lovely link to the faith of Marc Chagall and Sir Henry.

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The Shire book (Mary Neervoort-Moore, The History of All Saints’ Tudeley, Shire Publications, 2014) says that “for each of the windows Chagall made a rough sketch to indicate the colours’ positions, strengths and variations of light and shade. The translation of these rough sketches, works of art in their own right, onto glass was executed by Charles and Brigitte Marq of the Atelier Jacques Simon in Reims. Chagall’s windows have been aptly described as ‘paintings in light’ for it is the light remaining in the stained glass which creates the impression of glowing vitality and movement. To achieve this Charles Marq used acid to bite into the coloured glass in order to exactly match the varying shades and tones of the colours of Chagall’s sketches. … In the final stages the two men would work together to determine the positioning of the leads before Chagall’s textured grisaille was added at the very last”, page 38.

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Her book ends “The transcendent vision of light shining through the windows is a sign of the ever-present healing and hope promised to us through the resurrection of Jesus, and the anticipation of the glory which lies in store” (page 47).

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