St. Botolph’s, Colchester

Of another monastic establishment of the period in review, St. Botolph’s, Colchester, we need not enter into any lengthened notice (Fig. 516). It was founded in the reign of Henry the First, as a Priory of Augustine Canons, by a monk of the name of Ernulph; dissolved, of course, at the Reformation; and the chief buildings reduced to a premature ruin in the Civil War, when the great siege of Colchester took place. Parts of the Church form the chief remains. The west front has been originally a very magnificent though very early work; the double series of intersecting arches that form the second and third stages of the facade, and extend over the elaborately rich Norman gateway, are especially interesting; as it is from such examples of the pointed arches thus accidentally obtained by the intersections of round ones that the essential principle of the Gothic has been supposed to have been derived. Some of the lofty circular arches of the walls forming the body of the Church also exist in a tolerable state of preservation. The length of the Church was one hundred and eight feet, the breadth across the nave and aisles about forty-four. The exceeding hardness of much of the materials used in the construction of this building renders it probable that they had been taken from the wrecks of Roman buildings at Colchester.

The Priory of Lewes, in Sussex, of which there are only a few walls remaining (Fig. 515), was founded in 1077, by William, Earl of Warenne, who came into England with the Conqueror. The founder has left a remarkable document in his charter to the Abbey, wherein he describes the circumstances which led him to this act of piety. He and his wife were travelling in Burgundy, and finding they could not in safety proceed to Rome, on account of the war which was then carrying on between the Pope and the Emperor, took up their abode in the great monastery of St. Peter at Cluni. The hospitality with which they were treated, the sanctity and charity of the establishment, determined the Earl to offer the new religious house which he founded at Lewes to a select number of the monks of that fraternity. After some difficulties his request was complied with, and the Cluniacs took possession of this branch of their house. The anxiety of the Earl liberally to endow this house, and his determination “as God increased his substance to increase that of the monks,” finds a remarkable contrast four hundred and fifty years afterwards. After the dissolution of the religious houses John Portmari writes to Lord Cromwell of his surprising efforts in pulling down the Church; and having recounted how he had destroyed this chapel, and plucked down that altar, he adds, “that your Lordship may know with how many men we have done this, we brought from London seventeen persons, three carpenters, two smiths, two plumbers, and one that keepeth the furnace. These are men exercised much better than the men we find here in the country.” And yet they left enough “to point a moral.