E ASTHAM CHURCH
This Norman Church dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul was founded in the 12th Century on the site of an earlier Saxon church. The walling of the Nave and Chancel are built chiefly of travertine stone, an unusual building stone formed as a calcareous deposit from springs and found at the Southstone Rock about four miles east of the church
The South doorway also of the 12th Century is set in a projecting panel of masonry between a pair of pilaster buttresses and has above it blank arcading of four intersecting arches with plain cushion caps.
Inserted in the outside of the South walling are carvings representing (1) Leo and (2) Sagittarius. (Weathering has rendered these carvings almost unrecognisable). Inside the church inserted in the wall on the South side of the Chancel arch are two more of this series of carvings (3) an Agnus Del and (4) a Lion with one head and two bodies. (Similar carvings are to be seen at St. Andrews, Stockton-on--Teme, and the carvings at both churches are probably the work of the same team of masons). In other parts of England viz. in Somerset and Yorkshire the same theme of these four symbolic figures is reproduced in stone carvings.
The South Doorway itself is a typical doorway of the smaller churches of the second quarter of the 12th Century, being fairly plain and decorated with heavy rolls and a simple cross pattern. A team of masons, probably the same team responsible for the carved symbolic figures, working in the North West of the County built similar doorways at Stockton-on-Teme, Knighton-on-Teme and Martley, and the practice of setting the doorway in a projection of the wall appears to be a popular feature of their work.
The arcading above the doorway is much older than the doorway itself. In the Doomsday survey of the Manor of Eastham a presbyter of the church mentions that here was a church of the Saxon age, and the arcading was a part of it.
Early in the 14th Century the chancel was extended to nearly twice it's original length.
In 1830 the ancient wooden bell-turret was pulled down and replaced by the existing brick tower.
Inside the church there is an interesting rood-loft stairway. It's exit is now the window in the wail of the chancel arch.
In details of the church recorded in 1816 it is stated that at the east end of the church there was no window but that the wall was painted with the figures of Moses and Aaron and the Ten Commandments. These have gone and now there is a small round window in the gable.
In the same account it is mentioned that the Nave is separated from the Chancel by a Norman arch whose pillars or sides had been cut away.
The base of these pillars can now be seen through small openings which have been left in the floor, one immediately behind the Lectern and the other half-hidden under the steps of the pulpit.
The existing Chancel arch which has replaced the Saxon one has above it a painting of the Royal Arms of George 1 and George 11. At the time of the Reformation the Rood (or Cross) above the Rood Screen separating Nave from Chancel was removed from churches and its place taken by the Royal Arms. However, it is considered unlikely that by the first half of the 18th Century (George 1 and George 11) there was any legal order enforcing the representation of the Royal Arms, therefore the fact that the parishoners chose to set up these Royal Arms is an interesting indication of their political views. The Arms of George 1 and George 11 with the White Horse of Hanover show that the Parish was opposed to the Jacobites, and preferred the heirs of the Electress Sophia of Hanover, being Protestants. The Electress of Hanover was the Grandaughter of James 1.
In the Chancel there is the usual stone Sedilia and Piscina. and carved wooden "Priests' Chairs". The Bishop's chair on the left of the Altar is of relatively recent date but the Priest's chair on the right, of turned and carved oak, is older. The Reredos is made of richly carved 17th Century panelling bearing six carved figures. The Altar panels are modern. The Octagonal Pulpit is also of 17th Century panelling. On the front of the Choir stalls and on the back of the Priest's Desk are some fine 16th Century carved panels. The Lectern - late 16th or early 17th Century- of wood has a turned and carved stem on four carved lions feet a2'd is reputed to have been part of a four-poster bed.
In the South wall of the Chancel there is an interesting Leper Window, probably modified as to the angle of vision, and now closed from the outside with stonework.
Also in the Chancel is an unusual painted memorial to Edward Soley of Orleton (ob. 1690) with a shield of the Soley Arms. On the walls of the Chancel are also two little brass memorial tablets to Infants bearing the following quaint rhymes -
1749. Haply the Babe who, priveleged by Fate, To shorter labour and a lighter weight, Received but yesterday the gift of Breath, Ordered tomorrow to return to Death.
1.789 The little stranger began to sip the Cup of Life, but, perceiving the bitterness, turned away his head and refused the draught.
The unusually large basin shaped Font is of the 12th Century with a Cable Moulding below and a short shaft of more recent date.
Inside the church, high up over the South door is a large painting of the Crucifixion, probably late 17th or 18th Century. Its upper part appears to have been painted with reasonable competence, but the lower part has been most crudely repainted.
The four bells bear the date 1663, 1665, 1699 and 1754
In the churchyard opposite the South Door there are the remains of an ancient Preaching Cross. Opposite the church is a small half-timbered cottage which was once the Rectory and before that part of a Monastery.
Agnus Del (Lamb of God) Guide books have described this carving as an Agnus Dei, but it has been suggested that it more closely resembles an ass or mule with right foreleg supporting a cross.
Leo (Lion) )
( Both signs of ( the Zodiac. Sagittarius (Archer or Centaur) )
Piscina A perforated stone basin for carrying away water used in rinsing chalice etc.
Sedilia Set of usually three stone seats for Priests in South wall of Chancel.
Reredos Ornamental screen covering wall back of the Altar.