We have often seen the Church of St Mary and St Martin, Blyth from the A1, thought it looked an interesting building and we ought to visit…
We had been to Hodstock Priory for the snowdrops (see separate review) and on leaving had seen signs saying ‘Blyth Church open today’. It was too good a chance to miss. The church is in the centre of the village reached up a lane through a gateway. There is plenty of parking by the church. Entry is through the side gate to the left of the south porch.
The church was first built in 1088 as a Benedictine Priory and later on was extended when the parish church was added at the side. Relations between the parish and the priory were not always good and at one point the two were separated by a wall.
Inside the original Norman building is delightful with sturdy pillars and rounded arches gradually subsiding under the weight of the stones. There was no east end window but there was a wall painting depicting the Day of Judgement. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries this was covered with whitewash and was only discovered 35 years ago. Apart from small pieces where the colours can still be seen all that is left are the black outlines of the figures. Even so it is still a remarkably powerful painting. The bottom of the painting was destroyed when the family vault of the Mellish family was built against the east wall. This later moved onto the north wall. This is a splendid structure.
The altar screens were decorated with paintings of saints but these were disfigured during the Dissolution.
At the back of the church on the north wall are diamond shaped panels called hatchments which had the coat of arms of the deceased painted on them and were carried in the funeral procession and later hung in the church.
Look up at the bosses in the centre aisle. They have carvings of a green man, green dragon and green lion. The head of the green man is tiny and surrounded by heavy foliage.
Home made cakes and scones were on sale with tea and coffee at the back of the church.
This was a very well worth while visit.
There is information about the wall painting here: www.paintedchurch.org/blyth.htm