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English Church Architecture -



BOTTISHAM, Holy Trinity (TL 545 604)     (December 2012)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk)














This rewarding building is the product of two main phases of construction -  the mid-thirteenth century in the case of the galilee and tower, and what was probably the early to mid fourteenth in the case of the aisled nave.  The two-storeyed galilee or W. porch (seen above left, from the southwest) must surely have been based on the almost contemporary (but obviously grander) structure at Ely Cathedral.  Lit by lancets to north and south, it greets the visitor approaching from the west with a tall blank arch with a chamfered surround, extending the whole height of the structure, encompassing a doorway of two flat chamfered orders rising from an order of renewed shafts, a grilled opening lighting the upper storey, and a niche in the apex. The fossilized gable line of the original, more steeply pitched roof, is visible above the galilee, in the W. wall of the tower.  The low pitched roof which replaced it was an elementary mistake that has destroyed the proportions of the blank arch beneath.


As for the tower, it follows - both logically and stylistically - that this was erected with, or slightly in advance of, the galilee, although the battlements and pinnacles are a later (Perpendicular) addition.  The slightly different appearance of the bell-stage compared with the rest, appears merely to be the result of subsequent refacing but lest there were any doubt, its two-light, plate-traceried bell-openings place it equally firmly within the Early English tradition and not the Decorated, as stated by Pevsner.  The low but wide arch between the tower and the nave is formed of three flat-chamfered orders dying into the jambs;  the arch between the tower and the galilee was not accessible for inspection at the time of this visit














Other thirteenth century work at Bottisham seems to include the basic fabric of the chancel albeit that the only surviving features from that time are the chancel arch springing from moulded corbels, and the double piscina and two western bays of the triple sedilia recessed internally in the S. wall of the sanctuary (illustrated above left), with keeled rolls around the arches resting on colonnettes. The three stepped lancets in the chancel E. wall are Victorian, and the Perpendicular N. and S. windows with supermullioned tracery consist on either side of a two-light window with a high sill towards the west and a three-light window with a low sill towards the east, although Hugh Rogers, writing in the church guide (5th edition, 2010), records an early nineteenth century drawing by Richard Relham of Cambridge, showing the sills at that time at the same lower level.  Additional Perpendicular work inside the building includes the attractive, stone chancel screen (above right), constructed in three bays supported on narrow piers formed of four bowtells separated by hollows, with solid spandrels pierced by quatrefoils.



The fourteenth century aisled nave is an impressive piece of work in Decorated style to judge from the restored windows, perhaps dating from the pre-ogee phase before c. 1320.   The five north and five south windows are composed of three to the east of their respective porches and a conjoined pair to the west (where the aisles partially embrace the tower), each featuring a quatrefoil above a pair of cinquefoiled lights.  (See the photograph of the S. front, above left.)  The S. windows create a grand impression, resting on wide arched recesses, both outside and in, and the buttresses separating the bays on both sides of the building are enriched with blank trefoiled arches beneath gablets.   In addition, at the eastern end of each aisle but still facing north or south, a two-light square-headed window divided into two tiers by a transom, has been inserted (probably in the fifteenth century) to throw light on the rood.  The aisle windows to the east and west are three-light with irregular sexfoils in rounded triangles in the apices and outer lights subarcuated above trilobes.  (The N. aisle E. window is shown above right.)  The nave clerestory is formed of four pairs of cusped lancets, positioned above the spandrels of the five-bay nave arcades.
















The arcades are excellent pieces of work and yet they raise doubts, for being formed of arches of complex profile springing from piers consisting of four major semicircular shafts with fillets and capitals, and four minor keeled shafts set in deep hollows, just how early can they be?  (The photograph, above left, shows the N. arcade viewed from beneath the chancel arch, and the photograph, above right, a close-up of a S. pier.)  The late Birkin Haward, in his comprehensive guide to the nave arcades of the neighbouring county of Suffolk (Mediaeval Church Arcades, pub. Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History", 1993), found only four possible fourteenth century examples with quatrefoil piers where the main shafts were filleted, and none that could be indisputably dated before c.1410.  That doesn't preclude these from being earlier, of course, but it should give pause for thought.  The treatment of the rere-arches round the N. and S. nave doorways, with tall shafts supporting segmental-pointed blank arches above and blank rectangular panels on either side (as seen below left), is attractive but difficult to date at all closely.  The shallow-pitched nave roof (below right) must be a late Perpendicular replacement:  it is most notable for the downward bracing of the king posts, which rise to support the collars.

















Church carpentry also includes the two almost identical fourteenth century parclose screens enclosing the east ends of the aisles, featuring attractive Decorated tracery above the lights and elaborate openwork fronting the lofts.  However, these make it almost impossible to photograph or even properly to view the large wall monuments behind, of which that to the north commemorating Thomas Pledger (d. 1599) and his wife, Margaret, portrays the couple kneeling, set within an architectural surround, and that to the south, dedicated to Sir Roger Jenyns (d. 1740) and his wife, Elizabeth, depicts the pair seated, a book in one hand, clad "in night attire" in consequence of which "there was... a period when the monument was thought to be obscene" (Rogers).  A smaller monument on the S. wall of the S. aisle, which was mentioned by Gunnis in his Dictionary of British Sculptors, 1660-1851 (pub. The Abbey Library, 1951), is dedicated to Soame Jenyns (d. 1787) and his wife, and signed by John Bacon the Younger (1777-1859), who earned a fine reputation by the age of thirty and squandered it ever afterwards.