We navigated our way to Holy Trinity church in Penn. Their grid reference is SU916933, and they have a website.
John Betjeman apparently observed that “within and without, the church has the charm of an old water-colour”. The Nave is C12, the south aisle and tower early C14, and the Lady Chapel was built in brick in the 1730s. The Clerestory and roof date circa 1400. The rough-cast was removed in 1952 to show the flint and the stone. The clock has one hand, like Whalton in Northumberland, and the church door is lovely.
The most stunning thing in the church is the Penn Doom – and how nice that you are given directions to the light switch so you can illuminate it, and an excellent leaflet (the basis of the next couple of paragraphs). Dendrochronology tells us that the oak panels on which the Doom is painted come from a single oak tree cut down sometime between 1414 and 1448; the style of the painting suggests the earlier date. The medieval chancel was only 10 feet wide and the first Doom painting must have been fixed immediately before the tie beam, and the Rood group (which stood on top of the Rood loft) would have been below the painting. It was probably in circa 1480 that a higher and grander Rood loft was built, the Doom had to be raised, and it seems as if they did general repainting at this time. After the Reformation, the Rood, Rood loft and staircase to it were all removed. The Doom was whitewashed and, at some stage, was decorated with stars. While unrecognised and covered in whitewash it was moved again during rebuilding (and roof raising) in the 1730s.
In 1938 some badly decayed hoarding, whitewashed and covered with lath and plaster, was forcibly removed from the roof of the church above the chancel arch, broken up and left in the churchyard for a week, en route to the tip. A workman, Tom Randall, happened to notice a painted face on a piece of wood he took home for his fire. He told the Vicar, who contacted Clive Rouse, a leading national authority on medieval church paintings (I like the use of the word “a” … how many authorities are there?!?). He scoured the churchyard and rubbish tip for two days and assembled the painting in the Church Hall. It is 12 feet wide, 6½ feet tall, and is on 16 boards. Conservation was carried out, more work was done at the Millennium, and the Doom has been exhibited twice at the V&A.
Christ in Majesty is seated on a rainbow with his feet on a sphere and hands raised to display the wounds. Around his head is a wreath representing the crown of thorns, and you can see the drops of blood. He is flanked by angels holding symbols of the Passion. Below are the Virgin and St John leading a group of Apostles. The flying angels blow the last Trump. “Resurgite, mortu venite ad judicuum” (rise ye dead and come to judgement). It is stunning – and reminds us, once again, how colourful our churches must have been.
The colour can be seen in these two figures.
The font is C12.
There is a lovely selection of glass – the bottom right is The Octocentenary Window which was commissioned by The Penn Trust. It celebrates the unbroken line of Christian service over 800 years by the clergy. The design, by artist Sophie d’Souza in 2013, symbolises the gift of the Fire of the Holy Spirit to our Church reaching upwards to the Millennium and beyond. The three entwined flames signify the Trinity. The etchings represent the Consecration Crosses, a medieval Penn tile, grapes and vine leaves.
There are some wonderful memorials too. I didn’t work out who they were for – various Penns, Curzons and Howes. Six of William Penn’s grandchildren are buried in a large family vault under the centre of the Nave (William is the founder of Pennsylvania).
This is quite a church – I am glad we had called in.