Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cattail Church

N37.75761 W77.13587 1751

Cattail Church, what is left of it, is in King William County at the end of a country lane in a suburban looking neighborhood. When we first saw it, we thought it was a nineteenth century church as the brick was overlaid with a thick layer of stucco, steeples with bizarre spikes have been added, the original rectangular room-church was shortened, and an addition was erected at the eastern end of the edifice. The buttresses, reminiscent of St. Luke's in Smithfield are a non-original addition. On close inspection, the bevel of the water table can be identified; all else, including the window frames, is substantially altered. As reported by Rawlings in 1963, several benches may be original (he cites four of them), and, indeed, Tom and I saw what seemed to be an old bench left out in the open portico east of the church that seemed to have been left there for some time.

Its original dimensions were most likely 60' x 30'; the more or less standard size for rectangular room churches. There is little for the student of colonial churches here. Note the curious quoins on the north steeple opposite the triangular cap for the southern one. In Rawlings' account, he mentions that the steeples are painted green although they are now silver. Cousin Tom mentions that European steeples are invariably green. Does anyone have documentation or a raison d'etre for green steeples?

The surrounding graveyard, begun by a local Black Baptist congregation, has numerous internments and curious features such as grave slabs and concrete crosses on many of the graves. Rawlings calls the church ". . . curious and lamentable" (184) while Upton has eliminated it from architectural analysis completely.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Stories of Vauter’s Church

According to Bishop Mason’s book that I just recently received, there are several interesting anecdotes about this edifice.

First Mr. Richard Baylor of Essex County relates that his father had the Bible carried home each week and that it bore notations in his father’s handwriting in the nineteenth century. At that time the doors to the church were left open and Baylor records that he and his horse took refuge inside during a thunderstorm. This corroborates accounts that the churches were often entered by dogs or pigs (Yeocomico I think) and that chancel rails were ordered to be erected to keep them out of the chancel. This incident, too, generally coincides with Upton’s assertion that the Virginia gentry were not too reverent as evidenced by what seems sacrilegious treatment of the churches. Remember that vestry meetings because of the secular nature of the discussion were often held in small outlying building instead of in the church itself.

Baylor also reports a dual fought in the churchyard by General Bankhead and a Mr. Buckner on the south side of the church. One or two shots were fired before the parties dispersed.

The most common story is that of local farmers in the early nineteenth century who entered to remove the aisle stones and bricks who were confronted by a Mrs. Moscoe Garnett who threatened to prosecute them for trespass and theft on the legal basis that her family had permitted the church to be built on their land, and, therefore, it reverted to their ownership after the Disestablishment. The farmers, according to the present Rector, Dr. Agnew, were Baptists and fled upon the woman’s assertions, leaving the church preserved (Mason 408-409).

The church silver also has a fascinating tale. With the exception of the chalice, it disappeared during the Civil War, but the platen and the other chalice were found them displayed in an antique shop (?) in the North and raised money to purchase them and return them to the parish where they are still in use. The flagon that was stolen has never been found.

Dr. Agnew is also related to the Rev. John Agnew who in 1776 gave a sermon with the topic “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and was driven from the church by a patriotic vestryman, William Cowper. Cowper is reputed to have replied, to the assertion that Agnew was serving his master, “Which master? Your master in heaven, or your master over the seas? You must leave this church or I will use force!” Agnew, who has served as rector for over twenty years, left and never returned. He became the chaplain of the Queens’ Rangers along with his son, Stair Agnew, who was its captain. The pair were captured and sent to France as prisoners of war (Mason 178), and he finished his life after the Revolution as a pastor in New Brunswick. Cowper served as a delegate for Nansemond County in the Constitutional Convention of 1776.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Vauter's Church Interior

Another unique aspect of this church is the interior that is one of the few relatively intact ones from colonial days. For some reason, I didn't take extensive pictures, but I will remedy this in a future visit.

As already mentioned, the doors are probably the only original ones still in situ and are in amazingly find condition. Even the frames and moldings are in excellent shape; note that they reflect the general Northern Peninsula structure with a semicircular arch over the west door and a triangular one above the southern one. For a close description read Rawling's book pages 92ff. Note the differentiation between the pilasters (bas relief columns) beside the doors and the square voussoirs above the south door based on continuing the lines of the circular or flat arch. The windows, too, are of colonial origin if not original including the compass frames for those in the walls and the semi-arched square sash windows above the south door to provide light for the balcony.

The flagstones of the aisles are most likely original, but the chancel was first paved with bricks removed in 1925. The wooden floors under the pews are said to cover remains of bricks. The chancel was in colonial days in the east but was moved to its northern, central location in 1827 when the church was renovated. At the same time, the pews were cut down to the present height of three feet or so (I need to measure), but the doors, hinges, and rail caps are original. The present color, a pleasing light blue, is according to Dr. Agnew, derived from colonial paint samples found within the church.

The pulpit, which originally was a three decker with a clerk's deck, a reading desk, and the pulpit itself, was replaced with a simpler, one-level pulpit in 1827. It may has stood against the north wall as it now does, but there is little evidence for the original placement. The interior is plastered with a flat ceiling. From the level of the pulpit, the minister is level with the balconies in the west and south -- not a place for one with vertigo.

All in all, the interior like the exterior of the church is charming and truly evocative of a different era. Like Merchant's Hope, it lets the viewer step back into another era and be surrounded by the past.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Vauter's Church

Vauter's Church (Vawter's) 1719-1731 N38.08642 W77.06798

This delightful building lies just to the north of Route 17 in Essex County between Port Royal and Tappahannock. There are several interesting features of the structure, so I will post different blogs about the exterior, the interior, and the stories about the church.

Vauter's Church is a T-shaped building with the offset to the south -- the best preserved church of its type in the USA. It is the fourth (?) building of St. Anne's Parish and the first brick church of the parish. St. Anne's Parish was founded circa 1704-1711. Rawlings and Upton both consider this church as a modified one with the basic rectangular structure erected around 1719 and the southern T erected in 1731 according to the dating brick. The present rector, Dr. Agnew, states from his examination of the rafters on a crawl though them that the structure was originally erected as a T-shaped structure in 1731?

In any case, the location of the church on a small knoll surrounded by picturesque trees and a small graveyard, makes this the most pleasing site I have visited so far. The rectangular east-west structure is 56'6" x 30'2" -- of average size -- while the T-wing is 30'2' wide by 16' long. The T of the chancel is 10'3" wide. Rawlings cites the irregular placement of the southwest windows so that the shutters overlap and irregular flagstones in the aisles as evidence of later construction of the south wing. I, sadly, didn't think to examine them. The walls are 2' thick.

The walls are in superb shape with the checkering of the glazed brick particularly noticeable. The water table is beveled with the expected English bond below and Flemish bond above. A small number of glazed headers are used in the water table itself. Along the angled rafters of the roof (barge boards) is a row of glazed headers as, to a disorganized extent, in Yeocomico and, in a similar manner, in St. John's, King William. Rubbed brick is present in doorways and window jambs, and there is as well fairly consistent use of queen closers in doorways and windows.

The doors themselves are possibly the oldest ones in the state; an interesting feature of the south doors is that they seem to have been put on backwards -- the door panels are concave instead of convex and the weathering on them suggests that they were always that way. the size and spacing of the arches shows great craftmanship. The south door has a triangular pediment while the west door has a semicircular arch as seems typical in these Northern Peninsula churches compared to those south of the James. The pilasters also show great evidence of symmetry and master brickwork.

The windows have circular (compassed) arches with some replacements in the arches. The west facade has two small windows for the balcony that are square with semicircular arches. The roof appears at first to have a consistent angle but is actually kicked gently at the eves, giving it a graceful look.

All in all, this church is beautifully preserved in an idyllic setting and a must visit. It is still an active congregation, and while, we were there, a tour bus arrived, and we were invited by the genial pastor and visitors to tag along with them.


Mangohick Church

Mangohick Church 1730-32 N37.80782 W77.27191
This greatly modified church is located some twenty miles northeast of Richmond on Route 30 in King William County to the south of the roadway in a large, grassy area with mature cedar and hardwood trees. The name Mangohick is reputed to be of Native American origin as is as well the name of a nearby creek.

The original building was of average size, 61' x 28' and is of typical bonds: English bond below the water table and Flemish bond with glazed headers above it. There are several bricks with initials, some modern and some of possible colonial origin: particularly over the south doorway with the date 1731 and the initials WV? The water table is characterized by a beveled edge where it meets the walls, and there are ventilation holes still present in the lower courses. The south door frame shows the effect of a clumsy restoration as do several of the windows and sections of brick about the structure, most notably the north wall. The west doorway was likely originally a segmental arch but is now a flat one with voussoirs and, as the south door, a recent set of doors.

Added to the east wall is a completely new structure that obscures the brickwork almost entirely. There is a one small window asymmetrically placed on the north wall that is, I believe?, behind the original pulpit. The dental molding at the roof is considered to be original, and the glazed brick is of considerable interest -- a closeup of a glazed brick is included in the illustrations.

The church was abandoned after the Disestablishment and taken over by a local Black Baptist congregation that still uses it to this day. It is again pleasing to see an ancient edifice still in use.