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A CHANGELESS COUNTRY.
steam whistle frets the stilly country air, no telegraph wires stretch across the land, the roads are possibly no worse and no better than they were three centuries ago. Yes, Lord Marney might wake from his long sleep, and, from all he could tell from the surroundings of his former stately mansion, find the world apparently but little changed; he might think how well his building had lasted and wish to complete it, and perhaps he might wish that his tomb had been better cared for.
Layer Marney Church-Old Altar-tombs-An Ancient Will-An English Earthquake-Rooms once occupied by Famous PeopleAn Historic Farmhouse-A Primitive Letter Box-A Ford on the Road--A Ruined Church-An Ancient Coaching Hostelrie-The Old-fashioned Inn-Inn Signs-Relics of the Past-A Country Church with Tenth-Century Frescoes-Walls six yards thick!— St. Botolph's Priory-A Curious Church Tower.
THE grey old time-hallowed church which stands under the shadow of the grand Layer Marney tower, and which is in truth dwarfed by the majesty and greatness of the latter, is of considerable interest on account of the Marney chapel and the elaborate altar-tombs it contains to that once famous family. It was our good fortune by happy chance to be conducted over this ancient church by the rector of the parish, who kindly gave us every information in his power as to the past history of the building and particulars as to the fine monuments it contains. Our general fate when inspecting such edifices is to be shown round by the clerk, whom, whatever his other desirable qualifications, we have found seldom to take much interest in the office of guide, and who gives you what little information he may in a parrotlike fashion wearisome to listen to, or else does not seem to know anything at all, and hurries you along past objects of interest, careless whether you observe
them or no, and apparently chiefly intent upon backsheesh. But for all there are clerks and clerks.
The tower of Layer Marney church is a massive one of brick, and the vestry is built out in imitation of the porch, a curious and unusual arrangement. The first altar-tomb that we inspected was the earliest in date, being to Sir William Marney, who died in 1414. This, the rector told us, formerly stood in the middle of the chancel, but had been removed some time ago to where it now is. The effigy is carefully carved in alabaster and represents the knight clad in full armour with jewelled belt; the helmet is smooth with chain mail beneath, and on the breastplate is a lion rampant.
O mortall folk! you may behold and se
How I lye here, sometyme a myghty knyght ;
Is dethe at last through his course and myght;
At last the bells ringeth to evensong.
Next we came to the beautiful canopied tomb of Henry, Lord Marney, he who built the grand gateway and planned the stately home which was never completed. My Lord Marney is represented in partial armour, rings are shown on his hands, and spurs on his sollerets or steel shoes; the effigy is instrong contrast to the one of alabaster, being of black marble. The panels and terra-cotta work of the canopy are similar in colour and design to the enrichments of the Marney gate-tower, proving beyond reasonable doubt that the same craftsman had been employed to do both.
But by far the most interesting tomb of the three is the one to the memory of John Lord Marney, the last of the Marneys of the male line. This was erected in strict accordance with the instructions that he made in his will, of which prolix document I quote a portion here with its curious old-time spelling. After ordering that his tomb 'should be wrought in every condition' as his father's, he goes on to direct that 'Round about my said Tumbe I will there be made a grate of waynscott, and at every corner of the same grate a principall pyller w' a white leopard upon the top thereof, and upon which Tumbe I woll have an Image for myself of the same stone that my said Tumbe like unto my said father's tumbe shalbe made, yf it may be gotten, or ells of freestone, my said Image lying upon the mids thereof porteryd w my cote armor, with my helme and creste at the hede and a white leopard at the feet, and on either side of my said Image I will myn executors ley oon Image of brasse for every of my two wyves. . . bothe the said Images to be pykturyd with their cote armors, and at the west ende of the said Tumbe I will there be made an awter where I woll have a preest synging for me perpetually after such orden'ces and devices as here in this my present will hereafter I have shewed and declared.' Alas! the pyllers w the white leopards upon the tops' that once surrounded this unique tomb have (and it seemed to us without purpose or good reason) been removed and placed by the sides of some common-place pews in the chancel, where, of course,
AN ENGLISH EARTHQUAKE.
they are meaningless. Indeed, before we were acquainted with the history of the removal of these ornamental fluted pillars, each surmounted with its heraldic leopard (which leopards, by the way, look exceedingly like lions), we asked ourselves whatever they could be intended for, so purposeless did they seem in their present wrongful position. Why this change? What a pity it is that we cannot leave even the memorials of our ancestors to our descendants in their integrity without wilfully destroying their original harmony and intention!
The altar still fortunately remains at the west end of this ancient monumental tomb where the priest was to pray for the soul of Lord [John] Marney continually. But where is the priest? Well, perhaps the soul of the worthy warrior and statesman rests none the less peacefully though the altar is desecrated and forsaken, and there is no priest there praying perpetually.
The Marney chapel has been much injured in times past by having the lead covering of its roof stripped off by the churchwardens in the stormy days of the struggle between the King and the Commonwealth, the churchwardens in question being of the opinion that the lead would be doing better service employed as bullets to oppose the King's forces than by performing its original intention of keeping the rain out of the chapel. The notable (for England, that is) earthquake that visited these parts on the 22nd of April, 1884, seems to have had its centre here, and to have damaged not only the massive walls of the church of Layer Marney but