Suffolk churches 105: Wenhaston and Holton (December 2018)

St Peter’s, Wenhaston
Indoor temperature: 11.9˚C, humidity: 72%

WenhastonI arranged to meet my friend Mandy at Wenhaston church the following morning after a walk on Westleton Common. I had heard a lot about the church and its famous doom painting, though it took me a while to match up the name I was hearing with a name on my church map, due to its pronunciation: Wena-ston, rather than Wen-haston.

As I arrived at the church, I met a lady who told me there was a funeral today, but she didn’t know what time. Judging by the fact no one was there apart from her – and she soon went away – I guessed that we would be safe for half an hour at the very least. Going indoors was a pleasure: I felt warm, my hands were warm, and I was immediately able to take off my coat to play. The heating must have been on for the funeral.

Wenhaston door Wenhaston door handle Wenhaston window
Wenhaston interior Wenhaston interior 2

Wenhaston fontI practised until Mandy arrived, and then played her my planned pieces for the Hitcham carol services: three movements from the Bach D minor suite. In fact I ended up changing my mind at the last minute, feeling this choice was too serious for a carol service, but luckily I had several suites ‘under my fingers’, so the change was made easily. Mandy nevertheless enjoyed what I played, telling me it was her favourite suite. It was certainly my favourite Prelude, along with the C minor: they are the only truly melodic ones, that one doesn’t have to struggle with – physically, intellectually and emotionally – in order to make them sound like music rather than studies.

Taking the temperature afterwards made me realise how ridiculous it was that just under 12˚C could now feel warm to me: I asked Mandy if she could tell the heating was on, and she said no, rather incredulous at the suggestion. ‘You’d be able to tell if you’d been with me at Rendham yesterday!’ I replied.

We spent some time admiring the doom painting, which was hanging on the nave north wall rather than in its original position above the chancel arch. It was astonishingly vibrant, and it seemed unusual that it was painted on wood: apparently this was common when the chancel arch was too high to allow painting directly onto the plaster above it.

Wenhaston doomWe left once a few people turned up for the funeral – although they informed us it wasn’t till 1pm, and therefore they were an hour early. We went to Halesworth for coffee and an early lunch, and we enjoyed a short stroll along the pedestrianised centre of this pretty town that I’d only passed through in a car before.

St Peter’s, Holton
Outdoor temperature: 9.7˚C; indoor temperature: 9.2˚C, humidity: 75%

HoltonHolton fontHolton doorwayI was hopeful, though not confident, of fitting in three church visits in the afternoon, assuming I didn’t find too many locked. Luckily there were so many churches in the vicinity of Halesworth that driving between them would take no time at all.

Holton was the closest, driving out of Halesworth in the direction of Westleton. Its narrow, tall, round tower reminded me of a chimney. Inside the porch was a narrow, tall Norman doorway to match. The interior was pleasant and neat, though otherwise unremarkable. Unremarkable, however, is hardly ever a disappointment where Suffolk churches are concerned: they are still truly pleasing surroundings in which to practise the cello.

Holton interior Holton interior 2

Holton church signAs I was leaving the church, I saw a sign on the noticeboard. With a sigh, I thought how I needed such a sign in my house for any creatures coming to live with me. Sadly, they don’t understand the concept of taking care. But it helped, in some way: it made me smile, and made me realise that, whatever my mistakes or shortcomings, I do my best for my animals, both to make them safe, and to give them a good life. Love and care are not lacking, and mistakes happen. Increased freedom – which is a condition of their living with me – does entail increased risk. It is always a balancing act between keeping them safe and giving them happiness.

I walked back to the car and put my cello in the front seat. A dog walker approaching the churchyard gate said, ‘shouldn’t you strap it in?’ My first thought was, ‘that’s a new comment, at least’. Then I considered what he’d actually said, and realised he was probably right. It hadn’t even occurred to me to do so.

He carried on to the church, and I sat for a few minutes with my map, figuring out where to go next. I had reason to be glad of the delay, because a minute or two later, he came back carrying my thermometer. ‘You left this on a gravestone’, he said. How he could be certain it was me, I wasn’t sure, but I suppose that was by far the most likely explanation. I thanked him, laughing, wondering what he thought I was doing with it, while despairing of my memory: I had placed it directly in my line of sight outside the porch, in order not to give myself any opportunity to forget it, and still I forgot it. I would either have to find a thermometer that took accurate temperatures instantly – this one was particularly slow – or I would have to give up. Perhaps after a year of temperature taking, the latter was the better option. I had satisfied my curiosity about the temperature of churches, and my perception of it, so the only reason to carry on was habit, or wanting to compare one year to another, which I could estimate well enough now.

Header photo: Wenhaston doom painting detail

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