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Waltham Abbey (abbey)

Waltham Abbey (abbey)

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The Abbey
Abbey
An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent, under the authority of an Abbot or an Abbess, who serves as the spiritual father or mother of the community.The term can also refer to an establishment which has long ceased to function as an abbey,...

 Church of Waltham Abbey
has been a place of worship since at least 1030, and is in the town of Waltham Abbey, Essex
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Waltham Abbey is a market town of about 20,400 people in the south west of the county of Essex, in the East of England region. It is about 24 km north of London on the Greenwich Meridian and lies between the River Lea in the west and Epping Forest in the east. It takes its name from The Abbey...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. The Prime Meridian
Prime Meridian
The Prime Meridian is the meridian at which the longitude is defined to be 0°.The Prime Meridian and its opposite the 180th meridian , which the International Date Line generally follows, form a great circle that divides the Earth into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.An international...

 passes through its grounds. Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.It could be argued that Edgar the Atheling, who was proclaimed as king by the witan but never crowned, was really the last Anglo-Saxon king...

 is said to be buried just outside the present abbey. Cheshunt Great House was located nearby.

History


Waltham Abbey was founded in 1030 to house a Holy Rood
Holyrood (cross)
The Holyrood or Holy Rood is a Christian relic considered to be part of the True Cross on which Jesus died. The word derives from the Old English rood, meaning a cross, or from the Scots haly ruid...

 or Cross that was the subject of pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

. Legend says that at Montacute
Montacute
Montacute is a small village and civil parish in Somerset, England, west of Yeovil. The village has a population of 680 . The name Montacute is thought by some to derive from the Latin "Mons Acutus", referring to the small but still quite acute hill dominating the village to the west.The village...

 near Glastonbury
Glastonbury
Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England, situated at a dry point on the low lying Somerset Levels, south of Bristol. The town, which is in the Mendip district, had a population of 8,784 in the 2001 census...

, an Anglo-Danish Thegn
Thegn
The term thegn , from OE þegn, ðegn "servant, attendant, retainer", is commonly used to describe either an aristocratic retainer of a king or nobleman in Anglo-Saxon England, or as a class term, the majority of the aristocracy below the ranks of ealdormen and high-reeves...

 called Tovi the Proud
Tovi the Proud
Tovi the Proud was a rich and powerful 11th-century Danish thegn who held a number of estates in various parts of southern England. He was staller to King Cnut the Great....

 found a large black flint crucifix
Crucifix
A crucifix is an independent image of Jesus on the cross with a representation of Jesus' body, referred to in English as the corpus , as distinct from a cross with no body....

 buried at the top of a hill, following a dream. He loaded the cross onto an ox-cart
Bullock cart
A bullock cart or ox cart is a two-wheeled vehicle pulled by oxen . It is a means of transportation used since ancient times in many parts of the world. They are still used today where modern vehicles are too expensive or the infrastructure does not favor them.Used especially for carrying goods,...

, but the oxen would only go in one direction and didn't stop until they reached Waltham, a journey of some 150 miles. Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.It could be argued that Edgar the Atheling, who was proclaimed as king by the witan but never crowned, was really the last Anglo-Saxon king...

 (later King Harold II) rebuilt, refounded and richly endowed the church in 1060; a legend says that this was because in his childhood, he had been miraculously cured of paralysis by the Holy Cross. He stopped to pray at Waltham on his way to fight William of Normandy, and the battle-cry of the English troops at Hastings
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

 was "Holy Cross". After the battle, Harold's corpse is said to have been brought back to the abbey and buried there.

In about 1120 Harold's work was demolished and a new church with crossing tower and transepts was built in the Norman
Norman architecture
About|Romanesque architecture, primarily English|other buildings in Normandy|Architecture of Normandy.File:Durham Cathedral. Nave by James Valentine c.1890.jpg|thumb|200px|The nave of Durham Cathedral demonstrates the characteristic round arched style, though use of shallow pointed arches above the...

 style. In 1177 the abbey was re-founded once more, this time as an Augustinian
Augustinians
The term Augustinians, named after Saint Augustine of Hippo , applies to two separate and unrelated types of Catholic religious orders:...

 foundation, by Henry II
Henry II of England
Henry II ruled as King of England , Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the...

 as part of his penance for the murder of Thomas Becket
Thomas Becket
Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion...

. At this point considerable additional building works were carried out, although the nature and extent of these still await detailed research. The rebuilding, in the Early English style, made the abbey far more extensive than the original Norman establishment, as can be seen today from traces in the abbey grounds. Those parts of the Norman church east of the crossing were demolished, and a new church, with its own nave, was constructed. The Norman nave was retained as a parish church, divided from the new work by a screen. A cloister was built to the north of the new nave. A short passage that led into the cloister still exists; this, and a fourteenth century gatehouse, are the only surviving monastic buildings.

The Augustinian abbey was a popular place for overnight stays with kings and other notables who were hunting in Waltham Forest
Epping Forest
Epping Forest is an area of ancient woodland in south-east England, straddling the border between north-east Greater London and Essex. It is a former royal forest, and is managed by the City of London Corporation....

. It was the last abbey in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 to be dissolved
Dissolution of the Monasteries
The Dissolution of the Monasteries, sometimes referred to as the Suppression of the Monasteries, was the set of administrative and legal processes between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland; appropriated their...

, in 1540. Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis was an English composer. Tallis flourished as a church musician in 16th century Tudor England. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the best of England's early composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English...

 was the last organist at the Abbey prior to its dissolution. The Holy Cross disappeared without trace at this time. Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 suggested Waltham as one of the new cathedrals for the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, but the proposal was not implemented. The Abbey site was leased to Sir Edward Denny and the remnant of the nave became the town's parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....

.

Description



The monastic buildings and those parts of the church east of the crossing were demolished at the dissolution, and the Norman crossing tower and transepts collapsed in 1553.
The present-day church consists of the nave
Nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 of the Norman abbey church, the 14th-century Lady Chapel
Lady chapel
A Lady chapel, also called Mary chapel or Marian chapel, is a traditional English term for a chapel inside a cathedral, basilica, or large church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary...

 and west wall, and a 16th-century west tower, added after the dissolution. Markers on the remains of the walls in the grounds indicate the location, before demolition, of the high altar, (beneath which some believe Harold Godwinson is buried), and other parts.

The interior is notable for the massive Norman piers
Pier (architecture)
In architecture, a pier is an upright support for a superstructure, such as an arch or bridge. Sections of wall between openings function as piers. The simplest cross section of the pier is square, or rectangular, although other shapes are also common, such as the richly articulated piers of Donato...

 and also for the many carvings of human faces nestling in the stonework left by the original masons. Waltham Abbey is also renowned for its 15th-century Doom (painting)
Doom (painting)
A Doom is a traditional English term for a painting or other image of the Last Judgment, an event in Christian eschatology. Christ judges souls, and then sends them to either Heaven or Hell...

.

Later architectural history



In 1859 the architect William Burges
William Burges (architect)
William Burges was an English architect and designer. Amongst the greatest of the Victorian art-architects, Burges sought in his work an escape from 19th century industrialisation and a return to the values, architectural and social, of an imagined mediaeval England...

 was appointed to undertake a restoration of the site and a refurbishment of the interior. The restoration was extensive; the removal of pews and galleries from the South and West, the a new ceiling (painted with signs of the zodiac
Zodiac
In astronomy, the zodiac is a circle of twelve 30° divisions of celestial longitude which are centred upon the ecliptic: the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year...

 as at Peterborough Cathedral
Peterborough Cathedral
Peterborough Cathedral, properly the Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew – also known as Saint Peter's Cathedral in the United Kingdom – is the seat of the Bishop of Peterborough, dedicated to Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Andrew, whose statues look down from the...

), a new chancel and significant re-building. The designs were exhibited at the Royal Academy
Royal Academy
The Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, London. The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and...

. Work was completed by 1876. In the view of Burges's biographer, J. Mordaunt Crook
J. Mordaunt Crook
Professor Joseph Mordaunt Crook, CBE, FBA, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, D.Phil, MA, generally known as J. Mordaunt Crook, is an English architectural historian and specialist on the Georgian and Victorian periods...

, "(Burges's interior) meets the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 as an equal." However the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner
Nikolaus Pevsner
Sir Nikolaus Bernhard Leon Pevsner, CBE, FBA was a German-born British scholar of history of art and, especially, of history of architecture...

 states that Burges's remodelling was carried out "with all the robust ugliness which that architect liked". The revised Pevsner of 2007 takes a somewhat more sympathetic view, describing Burges' work as "pioneering (and) powerful".
The Abbey's stained glass is particularly noteworthy, including early work by Edward Burne-Jones
Edward Burne-Jones
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet was a British artist and designer closely associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who worked closely with William Morris on a wide range of decorative arts as a founding partner in Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, and Company...

 in the rose window and lancets of the east wall, and A K Nicholson
Archibald Keightley Nicholson
Archibald Keightley Nicholson was an English 20th century ecclesiastical stained-glass maker. His father was Charles Nicholson and his two brothers, Charles and Sydney, were a church architect and church musician respectively....

 in the Lady Chapel. Much was destroyed during The Blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

.

Links with Harold Godwinson


Harold's links with the area, (although only his connection with the original foundation can be proven) persist. The local secondary school, King Harold School
King Harold School
King Harold Business and Enterprise Academy is a secondary school located in Waltham Abbey, Essex. Students attending the school are between the ages of 11 and 16...

, is named after the last Saxon King of England.

Organ


The church contains a large 3 manual organ, mostly by J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd
J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd
J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd is a British firm of organ builders established in 1828 by Joseph William Walker in London. Walker organs were popular additions to churches during the Gothic Revival era of church building and restoration in Victorian Britain, and instruments built by Walker are found in...

. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.

Organists


Its organists have included:
  • Thomas Tallis
    Thomas Tallis
    Thomas Tallis was an English composer. Tallis flourished as a church musician in 16th century Tudor England. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the best of England's early composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English...

  • Polly Thompson
  • William Hayman Cummings
    William Hayman Cummings
    William Hayman Cummings , born in Sidbury in Devon, was an English musician, tenor and organist at Waltham Abbey....

    1847 - 1853
  • Mr. Gibbons
  • Mr. Banks
  • Joseph Chalk 1859 - ????
  • Stuart Nicholson
  • Stephen Bullamore 2005 - current

External links