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Monday, 29 December 2014

Fingringhoe Wills (4): Transactions 'New Series' Volume 20 Part 1

{Part 4}

But perhaps the most interesting fact in connection with the history of the church that these documents reveal, is its correct dedication. Fingringhoe church is said to be dedicated to St. Andrew, but I have long felt that this ascription was doubtful.[1]  The dedication was unknown to Newcourt (1710), and to Holman, the Essex historian (c.1720), although in the second draft[2] of the latter's notes on the parish a later hand has inserted "St. Andrew" in the blank left in the MS. This attribution was copied by Salmon (1740),[3] Morant and other writers,[4] and thus passed into current use. It is not uncommon to find, however, from the evidence afforded by ancient wills, that the original dedication of a church has been wrongly supplanted.  Certainly a large percentage of dedications in use to-day are of doubtful authenticity, while many still remain unknown. This is due to the lack of an authoritative list of English dedications. The matter is further complicated by the fact that dedications were frequently changed in the Middle Ages; moreover, the re-consecration that necessarily followed the enlarging of Fingringhoe church in the fourteenth century[5] provided a special opportunity for altering its dedication if such were desired; but, as we shall see, there is good reason for supposing that the dedication remained unchanged from the erection of the church in the twelfth century down to the Reformation.

We may now turn to the wills in question, where the patron saint is mentioned no fewer than five times, the name being spelt differently in each case. The earliest reference dates from 1504, "the church of St. Awdeon in the said town [of Fyngryngho]"; in 1504-5 we find "the churchyard of St. Audeon, Fyngryngho"; and similar allusions are met with in 1505-6 (St. Audoyn), 1530-1 (St. Awdorn), and 1532? (St. Audoene). The evidence thus adduced proves conclusively that the correct dedication is to St. Audoen or Ouen, whose name underwent various modifications, and in this country became anglicized into Owen and, probably, Ewen. St. Owen, the great friend and biographer of St. Eloy, and the well-known patron saint of Rouen, was bishop of that city. He was born about 609, and died at Clichy, near Paris, on 24 August, 683, on which day he is commemorated in the York Calendar; and in the Sarurn Missal a "memorial" of him occurs on the same day (St. Bartholomew), his name being also included in the long list of invocations in the Sevenfold Litany, which was recited during the ceremonies of Easter Eve.

The choice of St. Owen as patron of an Essex parish at first sight may seem somewhat singular, but it has an historical significance and can easily be accounted for. The manor of Fingringhoe was granted by St. Edward the Confessor to the abbey of St. Ouen, at Rouen, and became part of the temporalities of the priory of West Mersea, a cell of the abbey, to which it was appropriated.  The abbey presented to the vicarage until the reign of Edward III., when Mersea, as an alien priory, fell to the Crown. The dedication, therefore, marks the association of the church with a foreign religious house: similar connections have influenced other English dedications.

The substitution of St. Andrew for St. Owen is probably due to some early eighteenth-century misreading of St. Audoenus.[6]

Besides Fingringhoe, there are two ancient churches in England – at Hereford and Bromham, Beds. - under the patronage of St. Owen; there was also a church of St. Owen at Gloucester, but this no longer exists, though the name is retained in the designation of the parish with which it has been incorporated "St. Mary de Crypt with All Saints and St. Owen." Assuming that Ewen represents Owen there is, in addition, St. Ewen's, Bristol, which was demolished in 1820, though the name is preserved in conjunction with that of Christ Church, into which parish it has been absorbed.  Mention may also be made of the London church of St. Ewen, in Newgate Market, which was destroyed in 1546.[7]



[1] A suggesti on, based merely on iconographical detail, was made forty-five years ago (EAT., vol.  iii. (n .s.)  pp. 119-20) that the original dedication was to  SS. Mary the Virgin and Michael; and in Miss Arnold-Forster's S tudies in  Church Dedications (1899), (vol. iii ., p. 124), the patron is given as St . George, or St. Andrew - St. George evidently beiug derived from a misinterpretation of the carving of St. Micbael outside the south porch.
[2] Preserved with the original, in the Colchest er and Esse x Museum.
[3] As the Holman MSS. passed from Holman, through Tindal, to Salmon, the addition of the dedication must have been made either by Tindal, or by Salmon himself.
[4] The dedication of Fingringhoe church is given as St. Andrew in  Ecton's  Theasarus (1742), on the authority of Browne Willis;  also in Bacon 's Liber Regis  (1786).
[5] One of the original fourteenth century consecration crosses still exists on the south-west respond of the nave arcade.
[6] A similar mistake in the inscription of Pentlow church to St Gregory in place of St George, the true dedication, is due, so our President informs me, to a like carelessness on somebody’s part.
[7] See Miss Arnold Foster’s Studies, vol i, pp 176-177.

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