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Life of St. Margaret : Wendens Ambo, Essex (‡Chelmsford) c.1330


Very faded, but in general very similar to the painted Life of S. Margaret at Charlwood in Surrey, and closely contemporary too (the given dates for both locations are Tristram’s). By far the most remarkable feature is the first Life of S.Margaret, Wendens Ambo, detail, Margaret instructed by her nurse (55KB) scene in the narrative, showing Margaret being instructed by her (secretly Christian) nurse :

“...where she is shown, with other small girls, being taught by her nurse, as if in a ‘dame’s school’...It is a work in which naturalism is exceptionally strong...” ¹
This is the scene at the left, faint and confusing as it now is. A tall female figure with a plain short headress and wrapped in a cloak, sits just to the left of centre on a bench-like seat still showing part of the cross-hatching usually used to denote padding or cushions - as at, for example, Corby Glen. This is Margaret’s nurse, and at the lower right are the faint outlines of two much smaller figures, probably Margaret’s classmates. Margaret herself is now hopelessly obscure, but she was originally standing at the left of the picture, holding out her book to her teacher, who points towards it with an extended index finger. Tristram’s 1934 drawing ² shows traces of a fourth small figure, kneeling in the foreground below Margaret and also holding a book.

The ‘instruction’ scene is unique among English painted lives of S. Margaret now, but the remaining scenes resemble those at Charlwood very closely. At the left below, Margaret sits at the far left, holding a distaff. A hillside below her is implied, and it once had seven sheep on it. Further right, the herald of Olybrius, holding a narrow spear, or more probably, a banner-staff, kneels before Margaret, holding out to her a ring with a very large stone, clear in 1934 ³ but unfortunately quite obscure now. Below the herald,a faint whitish greyhound chases a slightly less faint red hare. Beyond to the right, Olybrius, holding the reins of a now virtually invisible white horse and once identifiable by his crown, follows, attended by a man on a red horse, and another Life of S. Margaret, Wendens Ambo, detail, arrival of Olybrius (54KB)attendant, probably on foot, at the righthand edge.

Shown below at the lower right are the only remaining scenes in the narrative. The most prominent feature is the brickwork, intended, I think, as a battlemented perimeter wall, with a tall tower-like building beyond it, into which a jailer was once thrusting Margaret, again much as at Charlwood. I suspect that the perspectival failure with the brick-courses (otherwise painted with care) stem from this desire to show one structure, the prison-house, standing beyond another, the outer wall. To the right of the vertical dividing line, Olybrius or another authority-figure, once with a visible crown, sits cross-legged in judgement. Any further scenes, which might have included Margaret’s Life of S. Margaret, Wendens Ambo, detail, Margaret in prison/Olybrius in judgement (76KB) encounter with the dragon, have been destroyed by subsequent structual alterations to the church.

Traces of pigment can still be seen on all the walls at Wendens Ambo, but only St. Margaret’s story remains.

¹Tristram 111, p. 90
²ibid. Plate 50b
³ibid. Plate 49

Website for St Mary the Virgin, Wendens Ambo

St. Andrew Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland St. Anne teaching the Virgin to read-Corby Glen, Lincolnshire St. Antony and the Pig, Barton, Cambridgeshire St. Barbara : Hessett, Suffolk St. Bartholomew : Selling, Kent St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Castor, Cambs St Catherine of Alexandria, Cold Overton, Leicestershire NEW St.Catherine of Alexandria : Hardley Street, Norfolk
St.Catherine of Alexandria : Old Weston, Northants St.Catherine of Alexandria : Pickering, N. Yorks St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Sporle, Norfolk St. Catherine of Alexandria, Martyrdom of: Burton Latimer, Northants NEW St. Catherine of Alexandria or another female saint : Ashley, Hampshire NEW St. Clement : South Leigh, Oxon. Scenes from the life of St. Cuthbert : Pittington, Co. Durham NEW St. Dunstan holding the Devil by the nose : Barton, Cambs
St.Edmund : Boxford, Suffolk St. Edmund : Lakenheath, Suffolk St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Bishopsbourne, Kent St.Edmund, Martyrdom of : Fritton, Norfolk St. Edmund (or St. Walstan) : Gisleham, Norfolk St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N.Yorks St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Stoke Dry, Rutland St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Troston, Suffolk
St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Weare Giffard, Devon St.Eloi, Broughton, Bucks St. Eloi and the possessed horse, Slapton, Northants St. Eloi, as bishop & blacksmith, Wensley, N.Yorks St.Erasmus, Martyrdom of : Chippenham, Cambs St. Etheldreda : Willingham, Cambs St. Francis Preaching to the Birds : Little Kimble, Bucks St.Francis Preaching to the Birds : Wissington, Suffolk
St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, Slapton, Northants St. George & Dragon : Banningham, Norfolk St. George & Dragon : Broughton, Bucks St. George & Dragon : Earl Stonham, Suffolk St. George & Dragon : Fritton, Norfolk St. George & Dragon : Hornton, Oxon St. George dedicating himself to the Virgin : Astbury, Cheshire St. George, with the princess : Little Kimble, Bucks
St. George & the Dragon : Kirtlington, Oxon NEW St.Helena, Broughton, Bucks St.James the Great : Hales, Norfolk Life of St. James, Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire St. James the Great, meeting pilgrims : Wisborough Green, Sussex St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Heydon, Norfolk St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Idsworth, Hampshire
St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Old Weston, Northants St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N. Yorks Life of St. John the Baptist : Cerne Abbas, Dorset St. John the Evangelist, Selling, Kent St. John the Evangelist, Weston Longville, Norfolk St. Margaret of Antioch : Old Weston, Northants St. Margaret and the dragon : South Newington, Oxfordshire St. Margaret of Antioch Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland
St. Margaret of Antioch, Life of : Charlwood, Surrey Life of St. Margaret, Wendens Ambo, Essex Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Duxford, Cambridgeshire Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Ashby St Ledgers, Northamptonshire NEW St. Martin dividing his cloak, Chalgrave, Beds St. Martin dividing his cloak, Wareham, Dorset St Michael, with kneeling donor, South Newington, Oxfordshire NEW St.Nicholas of Myra, life of : Little Horwood, Bucks
St. Nicholas of Myra, two miracles of : Wissington, Suffolk St. Nicholas of Myra & the Boys in the Barrel, Padworth, Berkshire St.Paul : Black Bourton, Oxon St. Paul : Beckley, Oxon St. Paul : Selling, Kent St. Peter : Beckley, Oxon St.Peter : Black Bourton, Oxon St. Peter, Martyrdom of : Chacombe, Northants
St. Peter : Selling, Kent SS. Peter & Paul, Old Idsworth, Hampshire NEW St. Roch : Pinvin, Worcs St. Sexburga? : Willingham, Cambs S. Stephen, Martyrdom of, North Stoke, Oxon St. Stephen, Stoning of: Black Bourton, Oxon St. Stephen, Stoning of: Catfield, Norfolk St.Swithun (?) enthroned : Old Weston, Northants
Scenes from the life of St. Swithun : Corhampton, Hampshire St. Thomas Becket, blessing, Hauxton, Cambs. St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, Marston Magna, Somerset St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, North Stoke, Oxfordshire St.Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Burlingham, Norfolk St. Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Newington, Oxfordshire St. Walstan of Bawburgh? or St. Edmund : Gisleham, Norfolk St. Zita : Horley, Oxon
St. Zita : Shorthampton, Oxon Unidentified female saint : Heydon

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Anne Marshall 2003