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BURY CHURCH AND BIGGIN HOUSE,
BY J. A. POULTER, ESQ.
(Read at the Peterborough Congress, July 1898).
Manor of Bury-cum-Hepmangrove : this
One of these churches has disappeared, and its site has only been guessed at.
The present church of Bury stands, a striking object, on the rising ground overlooking the fens towards Ramsey.
Its earliest history must go back to the time of William the Conqueror; it was built under the control of, or by, the Abbots of Ramsey; and it is an interesting evidence of the rapid changes and developments that English architecture underwent in early times.
Norman at first, as the chancel arches and their pillars show, as well as the beautiful though small example of the door at the west end of the church, an early addition, or perhaps completion of the Norman builder's work was the aisle on the north side, opening to the church by three pointed arches, this being Early English.
The tower was probably the work of this period, and the open arches on which it is built admitted entrance to the church by the Norman doorway.
The next era in the history of this church was when, in order to find spaces on which to build additional chapels, it became necessary to wall up
open arches of the tower, so that against them these later erections could be built.
Of these structures there were three, one against each open side of the tower, thus making it the centre of a cruciform building:
On the face of the building above can be plainly traced where the roofs of these chapels were inserted; and the marks or furrows in the stone work also indicate that there must have been, so to speak, two generations of chapels, the later ones having been the larger and more important.
These chapels were removed at the dissolution of the monasteries, and nothing now remains of them but two niches of beautifully and delicately carved work, containing pedestals intended for figures, which from exposure to the weather are now fast decaying. The interest in the building ends here; what changes or repairs have since been done are modern.
BIGGIN HOUSE. We now consider the probable site of the other church in the parish of Bury.
There are indications that anciently the manor of Bury-cum-Hepmangrove extended so far as to include the site of what is now locally known as the “ Biggin. The presumption seems strong that this building at its first foundation must have had a religious origin.
The condition of this fen country and its surroundings at this early time was such, that it almost precludes the idea that such a place could be chosen, for an important building, for any object but one in harmony with the life of the neighbouring abbey.
Moreover, it is recorded that somewhere adjacent to this abbey, a nunnery which was early suppressed once existed, but all trace of its locality is quite lost.
· Biggin” is very evidently the local corruption of the original name of the place; if it was, as it may well have been, a Beguine nunnery, these being so numerous in the Middle Ages, then the transition to the present local names is very easy and probable ; and it would only have followed the example of other Beguine establishments in England in this respect.
Another circumstance which greatly strengthens the presumption that this was a religious place of some kind originally, is the finding fragments of carved stone, sufficiently perfect to indicate that they had formed part of
Plan of Biggin House, as shown by remains. the mullion of a traceried window, presumably of a chapel which naturally would form part of such an establishment. These fragments of an earlier structure were incorporated in the walls of the later one, and were subsequently dislodged in the destruction which has gone on in this as in other ancient buildings.
The suppression of this nunnery must have taken place considerably before the dissolution of the monasteries ; as the later building, judging from what remains, must have been secularized, and adapted to domestic purposes early in the Tudor period.
What now remains of this domestic building are but the outer offices and defences of the main structure. This has long since disappeared; it was pulled down and the materials removed 150 years ago ; and no record of what it was like remains, except the remark of a writer of the time, that it was a "handsome pile.”
These outer buildings prove, from the judgment with which they are planned and the care with which all the architectural details were carried out, that they belonged to an important place.
They enclosed a comparatively large courtyard, and proceeding from this enclosed court was the bridge which crossed the moat.
This bridge and the angle of the moat which it crossed were commanded by one wing of these buildings, and the only access to this bridge seems to have been through this courtyard.
We are thus enabled to see what precautions were necessary to be taken in these early days, and in such a remote district, for the protection of what must have been a residence of considerable importance : which is not without interest to us in these more settled times.
The plan, on the preceding page, shows the situation of the house within the moat, the buildings defending the moat and bridge, and the gate of access through the buildings into the court yard.
The Right to Bear Arms. By “X” of the Saturday Review. (London : Elliot Stock, 1899.)—"I have written this book solely for the love I bear for the science and practice of Armory." In such terms the anonymous author-who, however, is well known to be Mr. Fox-Davies, the compiler of that great work Armorial Families--of this interesting and remarkable book speaks, towards its conclusion, of the motive which led him to write it. An accomplished and learned-if amateur-Herald, disclaiming connection with any of the three Colleges in the United Kingdom, he is justly indignant that their rights, and the rights of Armiger individuals, should be swept aside by a public which is either ignorant or unscrupulous in the use of armorial bearings, to which they have as much right as they have to the Royal Arms of England.
The book is interesting, as it contains an admirably concise history of the inception of the three Colleges, their rights and their powers, and the principles which guide them in their control of all heraldic and armorial usages. It is remarkable because it is the first book of its kind that has spoken out so boldly, with no uncertain sound, against the assuniption and usurpation by non-Armiger families and individuals of the rights of their Armiger neighbours. Of the thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of persons who put a crest on their note-paper, or spoons, or signet-rings, or livery-buttons, a very large majorityperhaps three-fourths, possibly more—have no right to do so ; and in doing so they not only proclaim themselves breakers of all Heraldic laws, but, when they assume the coat-of-arms of an existing Armiger family, or "jump" that of an extinct one, are as guilty of theft as if they had stolen the Armiger's wearing coat of everyday life.
The use of coat-armour came in with the First Crusade, Godfrey's coat being among the earliest known to us. This was at the close of the eleventh century, but it was not till about the middle of the twelfth century that the use became general in England : and then the Arms were not strictly hereditary. Even the same family sometimes changed their Arms. For instance, William de Ferrars, 6th Earl of Derby, 1899