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English Church Architecture -

Bedfordshire Central (U.A.).

 

EVERTON, St. Mary (TL 203 513)     (June 2003)

(Bedrock:  Lower Cretaceous, Lower Greensand Group)

 

The  church is built of the rusty brown sandstone rubble that Pevsner called “carstone” in Cambridgeshire but “ironstone” in Bedfordshire, presumably in response to its deepening colour as one travels southwest.  In both counties, however, this is a quite unmistakeable material that shows at once that one is crossing the narrow outcrop of the lower greensand, which is barely three miles wide at this point.

 

Although it is the tower at St. Mary’s which is most immediately striking (shown left), almost all other parts of the building are actually older and of more real architectural significance, for this is otherwise a surprisingly complete Norman church which has preserved both its plan and much of its fabric from the twelfth century.  It consists, apart from the tower, of an aisled nave, chancel and S. porch, and retains two small, original round-headed windows on each side of the chancel, together with a fifth, still thought to be in situ, in the W. wall of the S. aisle.  The S. porch inner doorway is also Norman and displays roll mouldings arranged in two orders, with the outer order resting on a pair of (now broken) shafts with scalloped capitals.  Most importantly, inside the church, the aisle arcades - which are almost identical - are also contemporary, being each composed of three unmoulded arches springing from circular piers with scalloped capitals, and the interior as a whole retains an uncluttered, ancient charm. (The N. arcade is shown in the photograph below right.)

 

It is difficult to be precise about when the tower was added. Pevsner considered this was in the early fourteenth century, for which he might have claimed as evidence, perhaps, the fact that the renewed W. window with supermullioned tracery is set internally in a simple arch consisting of a single flat-chamfered order rising from a pair of semicircular shafts.  However, the tower arch is very much like those at neighbouring Potton and Sutton, and at Great Gransden and Little Gransden, just a few miles to the northeast in Cambridgeshire.  These have a complex profile divided essentially into two orders, springing from characteristically shallow responds formed of two orders of semi-octagonal shafts with superimposed mouldings.  Elsewhere these arches are all in definite Perpendicular contexts and it is difficult to believe that this one could much predate c. 1360.  The tower is diagonally-buttressed and rises in two stages to stepped battlements and prominent pinnacles. Peculiarly, except for two tiny slits in the S. wall, it is now entirely without bell-openings.

 

Other external features of the building include the present low-pitched, leaded roof to the nave and the steeply-pitched, tiled roof to the chancel, the frieze of blank quatrefoils around the base of the porch and its Perpendicular outer doorway bearing two sunk quadrants, and the assortment of small inserted Perpendicular windows in all parts of the church, including the chancel (towards the west), the S. aisle (E. end), the S. porch, the N. aisle and the clerestory. The last seem mostly to have been inserted piecemeal for certainly no plan appears at all in evidence.  Inside the church, the chancel arch with two sunk quadrant mouldings, the inner rising from semi-octagonal shafts, is probably early Perpendicular (i.e. late fourteenth century).  (See Appendix 2 for some close-dated examples of the employment of sunk-quadrant mouldings in other churches in the region.)  The present nave roof is of the low-pitched tie beam construction, characteristic of the fifteenth century. The carved grotesques supporting the wall posts were probably part of the earlier, steeper roof.

 

Finally, St. Mary’s contains one notable monument, above the pulpit in the northeast angle of the nave (illustrated right).  It commemorates Sir Humphry Winche (d. 1624), Chief Justice to James I and features a demi-figure of the deceased beneath an arch, standing on three secondary arches below.  Carved lions and cherubs surround the composition, while a skull strikes a more sombre note above.