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CHAPTER XVII

A decayed fane— Birds in church-An old manorial hall— Curious

creations of the carver's brain—The grotesque in excelsis—The old formal garden-Sketching from memory—The beauty of the Wolds—Lovely Lincolnshire !-Advice heeded !-A great character-A headless horseman-Extremes meet—“All's well that ends well.”

FROM Somersby we drove to Bag Enderby. What is the meaning of the curious and distinguishing prefix “ bag” it is difficult to divine; it cannot be from “bog," for the hamlet is in the hills and there are no bogs about, nor are there likely to have been any even in the prehistoric times. It might perhaps, but doubtfully, be derived from the Anglo-Saxon “boc,” a beech, but this is merely unprofitable guessing. The old church here is very picturesque, externally at any rate, but somewhat dilapidated when we were there, and in want of repair. Like that of Somersby its tower is scarred and weather-worn and picturesque with the picturesqueness of strong decay ; by this I mean that though the face of the soft sandstone of which it is built has crumbled away in places so as to give it a pathetic look of untold age, still the decay is merely on the surface, and the softer portions of the stone-work having suffered, the strongest and most enduring remain. The weathering is such as to cause a look rather than a reality of weakness, the walls are massive enough to stand for ages yet, the old builders were fortunately lavish of material ; they built for time, if not eternity!

Within, the church shows such unmistakable signs of a regular restoration during the Churchwarden era and of having been untouched since, that it is very interesting as an object lesson of that period of ecclesiastical art,-so few churches being now left to us in this state. Here we noticed the long outof-date high-backed pews, with a large square family one in the midst, presumably the squire's. The woodwork of some of these pews was worm-eaten, and the cushions thereof mostly moth-holed. The pulpit is a two-decker affair of plain panelled deal, such as in a few more years one may expect to find only in a museum—if there.

We noticed on looking up that where the roof joined the tower, or rather failed to join it, we could clearly see the sky, and so on wet days the rain must have free entry to the nave; fortunately there are no pews immediately below! Still in spite of all, or shall I say because of all this, the poor old church appealed to us. It was so charmingly innocent of any attempt at "art" decoration, it happily boasted no pavement of garish tiles suggestive of the modern villa, no Birmingham bright brass-work, no crudely coloured stained-glass windows to offend the eye. Take the pews and pulpit away and it would at once have been delightfully picturesque, and even pews and pulpit sinned artistically and architecturally solely in form, for Time had carefully toned them down to a

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perfectly harmless if not an actually pleasing tint. At any rate there was no irritating pretence at misunderstood art; no imitation—a long way off-of medievalism; no false note. The church warden was no artist ; but then he did not pretend to be one, so far I respect him; and he has wrought infinitely less harm in our churches than the professional restorer, so far I positively bless him! for he did not, of set purpose, destroy old work to show how much better he could do it another way! Truly he was over-fond of whitewashing walls, but this did not destroy them, nor the ancient chiselling thereon. He was not enthusiastic about stained glass, perhaps because it was expensive, and so he preferred plain leaded lights through which one can see the blue sky, green trees, and sunlit country; and certainly, though for other reasons, I prefer, infinitely prefer, plain leaded lights to stained glass-unless the stained glass be very good indeed, much better than ever was obtainable in the churchwarden period. In fine, I consider that the old art-ignorant, much-abused church'warden has done, comparatively, but small lasting harm to our old churches ; his whitewash, that has often preserved interesting frescoes, can be easily removed without hurt, his pews and pulpits can almost as readily be removed. But the havoc a “clever” and proudly opinionated restorer is oftentimes allowed to do with impunity is beyond recall. However it may be I would much rather have the interior of Bag Enderby church, primitive as it is, with its ancient stone pavement in which the ancient brasses were set, than that of Somersby church with

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its prim and proper seats, and modern tiled floor, both of which remind me painfully of a recently erected suburban church raised by contract and at the lowest tender “To the glory of God!”

We found a lady in the church ; who she was, or why she was there, I cannot tell. We judged that possibly she was the rector's wife or his daughter ; but this was pure conjecture, for we did not even know if the rector were married. Moreover, who she was, or why there, concerned us not. I am glad we met her, for she was most courteous in giving us all the information it was in her power to impart. Truly, we had become quite accustomed to such courtesies from utter strangers, but custom did not diminish their pleasantness. By way of introduction she remarked that “the church sadly needed some repairing.” We agreed, whether uttered purposely or by accident, we were delighted to hear the expression “repairing” employed instead of “ restoring.” “We're afraid,” continued she, “that some day the roof may fall down upon us during service.” We ventured to hope that it would fall down some other time. We tried to be sympathetic, and endeavoured to look properly concerned when we learnt that there were “bats in the belfry," and that “birds make themselves quite at home in the nave, Sundays as well as week-days.” We were shocked to hear such bad behaviour of the Lincolnshire birds; but, as we remarked, “birds will be birds all the world over.”

Observing an ancient brass let into the pavement in the centre of the church, with an inscription

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thereon that looked interesting, we began to examine it ; but the lettering was somewhat indistinct from wear, besides being in those puzzling straight upand-down lines so much favoured in the fifteenth century, and we found considerable difficulty in deciphering it in its entirety, a difficulty enhanced by the dim light at the moment. The strange lady was unable to help us here, but promised, if we would give her our name and address, that she would send us a rubbing of the brass. The kindness of strangers never seemed to fail us, for on our return home we duly found a letter awaiting us with a careful rubbing of the brass enclosed therein. Provided with this, all at our leisure, we read the inscription thus :-Orate paña Albini d'Enderby qui fecit fieri istam ecclesiam cum campanile qui obiit in Vigilia słi Mathie apo A Dñi MCCCCVII., which we roughly did into English : “Pray for the soul of Albinus of Enderby, who caused to be made this church, with bell-tower, who died in the vigil of St. Mathius the apostle, 1407."

The ancient font here is decorated with some curious devices carved in shields; the chief of these we made out-rightly or wrongly, for I should not like to be considered authoritative on the point-to be the Virgin holding the dead Christ; a man, possibly David, playing on a harp; a hart with a tree (query “the tree of life") growing out of his back, which tree the hart is licking with his tongue; a cross surrounded by a crown of thorns, and others. This font was raised above the pavement by a stone slab, a slab that, I regret to add, as is all too plainly

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