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English Church Architecture -



CHEVELEY, St. Mary & the Holy Host of Heaven (TL 684 608)    

(October 2004)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This is a church of cruciform plan dating mostly from Decorated times, even though the nave windows have subsequently been replaced in Perpendicular style and a solitary lancet off-centre in the N. transept W. wall suggests that the origins of the building lie back in the thirteenth century.  Yet it is the early fourteenth century crossing that dominates, both outside and in, due internally to the massive, triple-flat-chamfered crossing arches supported on semi-quatrefoil responds (illustrated below right, viewed from the nave), and externally, to the tower's odd profile, which turns octagonal at the bell-stage in the Cambridgeshire manner, but does so irregularly, and which has a prominent, square, taller stair turret projecting to an exceptional degree at the northwest angle (shown left, from the southwest).  There are no battlements (here or elsewhere) and the bell-openings are two-light with reticulated tracery.  Other church windows in Decorated style include the S. transept S. window, the N. transept N. window, and the chancel E. window, all of which have curvilinear tracery, albeit now largely renewed.  The Perpendicular nave windows are three-light and supermullioned to the north and south, and the W. window is five-light and supermullioned with subarcuation of the outer lights in pairs and a castellated supertransom above the central light.  The church has a Perpendicular N. porch, and a Victorian S. vestry and independently-gabled organ chamber set in the angle between the S. transept and chancel.  Inside the building, a  mediaeval window with cusped Y-tracery looks through to the organ chamber from the transept, and the organ chamber communicates with the chancel via a broad, modern arch that dies into the jambs.


Other features of the church include the ogee-headed, cinquefoil-cusped piscina in the chancel S. wall and the double-cusped tomb recess to the right - which Pevsner considered to be a sedilia, although anyone using it as such would be liable to incur a serious head injury as soon as he stood up.  Perhaps instead it was intended as an Easter sepulchre,  for these are not found exclusively to the north.  Pevsner also considered the rood screen "tall and nobly slender", though others may find it more commonplace:  it has five divisions with alternate tracery.  The painted octagonal font bears the emblems of the Evangelists alternating with the Instruments of the Passion and may preserve its original Perpendicular form or may have been re-cut.  There is also room for doubt about the provenance of the nave, transept and chancel roofs, all of which look old in parts.  The transept roofs are of single hammerbeam construction, the chancel roof alternates hammerbeams with arched braces and has angels with spread wings decorating the cornice, and the nave roof is now of mansard form but has tie beams below with traceried spandrels.  The attractive wooden vault beneath the crossing is clearly modern.  This leaves just one monument to mention briefly, which can be seen on the chancel N. wall.  It features a kneeling figure looking east and holding a prayer book, and commemorates Symon Folkes, who died in 1642.  There is a large open pediment above.