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English Church Architecture.


EYEWORTH, All Saints  (TL 250 456),


(Bedrock:  Lower Cretaceous, Gault.)


A church situated close to the Lower Greensand outcrop, built largely of ironstone.


Before the advent of the canals and (especially) the railways, the transport of heavy goods overland frequently cost more than the goods did themselves.  Builders, therefore, used vernacular materials whenever possible, preferably sourced within a mile or two of the site.  Mediaeval stone buildings consequently reflect the underlying geology and churches in particular provide an approximate geological map of Britain, which is naturally most faithful in areas of less complexity.   This general principle is revealed to good effect along the Lower Greensand ridge which rises along the western edge of the Lower Cretaceous outcrop of south and east England, which is itself very narrow in the southeast/northwest direction, yet extensive and continuous from northeast to southwest, as seen below.   Moreover, the rubble building stones to which the Lower Greensand gives rise, which are generally known as carstone (chiefly in Norfolk) or  ironstone,  are a very distinctive, liquorice-brown colour, which is difficult to miss.  Drivers heading northwest from East Anglia to the Midlands along one of the quieter roads that passes through intermediate villages, will suddenly notice one or two village churches (probably no more) that show they are crossing this outcrop, while someone with a will to do so, might set out from Hunstanton on the north Norfolk coast and, except across the Fens, pick his or her way southwest, at least as far as Leighton Buzzard on the southern border of Bedfordshire, and encounter one such church after another.  The churches named on the map below, all of which are represented on this web-site, serve to illustrate this.



The Lower Cretaceous Rocks of Eastern England, laid down 146-97 Ma.

1 = Heacham (Norfolk);  2 = Castle Rising (Norfolk);  3 = Wilburton (Cambridgeshire);    4 = Cottenham (Cambridgeshire);
5 = Great Gransden (Cambridgeshire);  6 = Bourn (Cambridgeshire);   7 = Gamlingay (Cambridgeshire); 
8 = Everton (CENTRAL Bedfordshire);  9 = Blunham (CENTRAL Bedfordshire);   10 = Eyeworth (CENTRAL Bedfordshire);  
11 = Biggleswade (CENTRAL Bedfordshire);  12 = Edworth (CENTRAL Bedfordshire); 

Like the nearby church at Edworth, All Saints', Eyeworth  is another church set down a track in an attractive rural position, although here the lane through the tiny village is visible just a field away.  Situated on boulder clay above gault, the old part of the building is constructed of ironstone cobbles and other fieldstones with limestone dressings, and consists of an embattled chancel and short embattled nave with a S. aisle and a semi-octagonal stair turret at the southeast angle.  The curious W. end, consisting of a pantiled extension with surmounting bell-cote, was constructed only in 1967, after Pevsner’s visit (The Buildings of England: Bedfordshire, Huntingdon & Peterborough, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1968, pp. 88-89))and after the mediaeval tower with its recessed spire was destroyed by lightning.  The church guide is quite forthright in declaring that it was only the insurance money subsequently received, that enabled the church, previously in poor condition throughout, to be restored to good order.


The oldest work here is Early English (i.e. thirteenth century).  Of this period is the N. doorway with two flat-chamfered orders and no capitals, and more significantly the S. arcade, which consists of three double-flat-chamfered arches springing from octagonal piers.  The tower arch, which is more or less contemporary and now very off-centre, is comprised of two orders with the inner springing from semi-circular shafts.  By contrast, where not renewed, windows are either Decorated or Perpendicular (i.e. early fourteenth century or later).  In the former style can be seen a two-light, two-centred window with reticulated tracery in the S. wall of the aisle, a two-light square-headed window next to it (but on the other side of the doorway), and a three-light window with reticulated tracery in the S. aisle E. wall.  In Perpendicular style are the three pairs of two-light, square-headed clerestory windows  (for there is a clerestory on the north side of the nave as well as the south, even though there is no N. aisle), all the chancel windows, and one N. window to the nave. 


There is little to say about the church's woodwork.  The chancel roof dates essentially from the fifteenth or sixteenth century and is of tie-beam construction and so low-pitched that it cuts off the apex of the E. window.  The nave roof is entirely modern.