Sunday, 1 December 2013

Essex References in Joseph Strutt's 'Manners': (12) St John's Abbey, Colchester

Complete View of the Manners, Customs, Arms, Habits & Co of the Inhabitants of England, 1774, by Joseph Strutt.
Essex references
12.   St Johns, Colchester
Page 103

St John's Abbey Gateway, Colchester

“Plate 30, fig 4, exhibits a remarkable gateway, which formed the entrance into the abbey (1), dedicated to St John, a Colchester; which abbey was built by Eudo Dappifer, sewer to king Henry the first, and was finished during the reign of that Prince.  But I by no means think that this present gateway is of that early date, not only on account of the vast acuteness of the gothic arches, but because the stile of architecture seems to bear the evident marks of a more modern invention: and if the view given by Morant (2), of the abbey church (engraved from an antient M.S.) is authentic, I shall not in the least doubt the truth of my present supposition, because the arches of the windows therein are round, and the whole building is in the fashion as different from this gateway, as the gateway itself is from the ruin of St Botolph’s just described: but without any doubt this gateway is very old, and may justly be deemed a great curiosity.  Its form is not quite four square, because the inside front is considerably narrower than the outside, which makes the two sides incline each way from the front backwards.  See the plan marked A: it consisted of a broad entrance, and a small postern on the right hand; on the left hand of the gate is an additional building, which seems also very old.  The gate itself is ornamented at the corners with four bastions, which rising higher than the rest of the building form four handsome turrets, whose effect is very picturesque and elegant.  The main walls (which are about 2 feet and a half thick) are built of pebbles, hewn flints and bricks, mixed with a strong cement, which is curiously faced with hewn flint and free-stone.  The light gothic ornaments are the free-stone, carved, and the space between each ornament is filled up with the dark flint, cut like small tessala, about 3 or 4 inches square, and 2 inches and a half thick: and the cornishes and arches are of free-stone as is also the foundation, rising full 2 feet above the present surface.  One thing here is remarkable, which is in the arches of the gateway that are faced with stone; these arches are first turned with bricks, and the stone set thereon with the cement, a method diametrically opposite to what has been observed of St Botolph’s Priory, where the arches are turned with stone and faced with brick.”

References: (1) Speed’s Chron.  (2) Hist. of Colchester by Morant. 

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