(« back to home page)

English Church Architecture -

Bedfordshire Central (U.A.).

 

TODDINGTON, St. George (TL 010 290)     (June 2003)

(Bedrock:  Lower Cretaceous, Gault)

 

Toddington sits on glacial gravels above gault but the outcrop of the lower chalk is only a mile away and the church is constructed principally of Totternhoe stone with some use of ironstone (for the clerestory), flint, fieldstones and brick (especially in the S. transept).  The building is of impressive appearance viewed across the greens in the centre of this busy village, for it is cruciform and the white masonry of the crossing tower stands out brilliantly above the roofscapes.

 

St. George's consists in plan of a four-bay aisled nave with N. and S. porches, a crossing tower, transepts, and a two-bay chancel with unusual, three-storeyed N. extension, originally a chantry chapel and priest's apartment (cf., for example, All Saints', Ripley, North Yorkshire and St. Nicholas's chapel, Gipping, St. Ethelbert's, Hessett, and All Saints’, Hitcham, all in Suffolk).  The tower is the glory of the building (shown left, from the southwest).  It rises 90' (27.4 m.) and has a prominent stair turret at the southeast angle (illustrated below right) and pairs of two-light bell-openings in each wall with straightened reticulation units in their heads.  These are probably early Perpendicular in origin but the basic fabric of the tower is Early English: the massive crossing arches below are composed of three unmoulded orders on the thickest of all possible semi-octagonal responds, while above the W. arch (but still inside the building) is a blocked lancet (shown below left). None of this can be much later than c. 1220, a date borne out by the fact that the church is actually known to have been consecrated on St. George's Day, 1222 (the same year in which St. George was declared the Patron Saint of England), by which time at least part of it was presumably available for worship.  The four-bay nave arcades are rather less easy to ascribe closely.  Pevsner considered them to be of "about 1300 or a little later"  but that is probably too late, even though they must certainly post-date the crossing.  They consist of double-flat-chamfered arches springing from octagonal piers, but as they were made taller c.1420 when the clerestory was added, the effect today is not quite true to the original. Even so, in a county short of Early English buildings, this interior must rank among the best (although see Felmersham in Bedford Unitary Authority).

 

Most other work here is Perpendicular:  the upper stage of the tower has already been alluded to;  the nave clerestory, the aisles, the porches, the chancel, and the chantry chapel, now all appear to be essentially the work of the fifteenth century.  The N. porch has a nice stoup carved in the east wall, but the very worn S. porch is more striking due, again, to the whiteness of the Totternhoe stone.

 

The N. transept, known as the Wentworth Chapel, appears to have been largely reconstructed in the early seventeenth century, when a family vault was inserted underneath.  By contrast, the S. transept, known as the Cheney Chapel, is at least partly thirteenth century in date for, unlike its counterpart, the arch from the aisle matches the nave arcades and it also retains an Early English double piscina, apparently in situ.  This chapel is notable now, however, for the ugly, massive tomb-chests of some of the erstwhile lords of the manor, all members of the Peyvre family.  The earliest commemorates Nicholas Peyvre (d. 1362), but none require particularizing.