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English Church Architecture -

Cambridgeshire.

 

BURROUGH GREEN, St. Augustine (TL 636 555)     (September 2003)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)

 

This picturesque church (shown left, from the south), attractively situated down a short lane, has a distinctly domestic appearance due to the late sixteenth or seventeenth century cross-gabling on both sides of the three aisle bays.  It is also immediately evident that the church has been much altered down the centuries for the walls are full of blocked arches, blocked windows and other patchings, and the main interest for the visitor lies in unpicking the building's history.

 

St. Augustine's today consists of a nave and chancel comprising a single unit, a W. tower, the cross-gabled aisles already mentioned, and a S. porch.  Formerly there was also a chantry chapel on each side of the chancel and the removal of these in the seventeenth century accounts for most of the alterations now visible in the chancel walls.  These include a blocked arch towards the west on each side and the remains of a double piscina recessed in the exterior of the N. wall (shown below right).  The outline of a tomb canopy immediately to the right of this (but left of the blocked arch), corresponds with a chancel monument which must once have been open on both sides.  The chancel appears to date from the first decade of the fourteenth century:  it has a re-set S. window with cinquefoil-cusped Y-tracery and the remains of a similar blocked one that probably represent the original fenestration before the chapels were added.  The E. window with cusped intersecting tracery is also of this time and although it has been re-set beneath a brick arch, this in turn is set within what must be the original E. wall beyond which, according to Pevsner, there was for a time an eighteenth century extension, possibly an apse.  He also deduced dates for the chapels of c. 1330 and 1445 but the evidence for the construction of tomb chests and the establishment of chantries is not straightforward and it is probably better simply to conclude that both had been built by the mid-fifteenth century.  Chantries were abolished by Act of Parliament in 1547, during the reign of Edward I, and all their endowments were transferred to the crown.  From then on, presumably, the chapels declined into obsolescence.

 

The W. tower appears to take us back to around the time of the chancel.  It is diagonally buttressed and has a two-light W. window with reticulated tracery and a double-flat-chamfered nave arch springing from semi-octagonal responds.  Externally on its E. wall, a former and higher nave roof gable line can still be seen.  The present nave roof (though not the aisle roofs) has been ineptly ceiled off internally at eaves level, necessitating the removal of the chancel arch above the springing and leaving in place just the semi-octagonal responds.  The nave arcades match these and the tower arch, being double-flat-chamfered above octagonal piers.  As at neighbouring Brinkley, Pevsner ascribed these to Perpendicular times, but judged on stylistic grounds and in the context of the rest of the building, they are not out of keeping with a date c. 1310 and nor, indeed, would they be with one fifty years earlier.  An early date is also corroborated by the insouciant attitude shown towards ensuring the capitals are all of equal proportion.

 

The large aisle windows without tracery bars are the work of the seventeenth century.  They are ungainly and completely artless, but fortunately the effect they produce is mitigated by the gables above, pierced by pairs of small rectangular openings like a country cottage.  There is also a contemporary square-headed window in the S. wall of the chancel, with a dilapidated door below.

 

The chancel interior requires close examination.  On the S. side (illustrated left) there is a triple sedilia and a double piscina, the former formed of one flat-chamfered order supported on thick circular shafts and the latter having similar shafts but trefoil-cusping above.  Opposite, against the N. wall, three tomb chests remain (shown below), beneath double-cusped ogee canopies.  From left to right these are believed to commemorate Thomas de Burgh (d. 1334), John de Burgh and his wife (d. 1393 and 1409) and another John de Burgh (d. 1330).  The first and last were brothers and successive Lords of the Manor and patrons of the church. John de Burgh the younger then succeeded Thomas at the age of only six.  As Pevsner pointed out, however, the canopies and effigies do not necessarily belong together.

 

Finally back in the nave, the font is dated 1672.  It has a plain octagonal bowl and a wooden cover surmounted by a dove.