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English Church Architecture -



ELSWORTH, Holy Trinity (TL 319 637)     (July 2003)

(Bedrock:  Upper Jurassic, Ampthill Clay)



Elsworth is an attractive village with cottages built in a great variety of styles and materials.  Holy Trinity church contributes to this architectural richness although it is actually one of the churches in Cambridgeshire most uniformly in Decorated style, albeit in all probability from the very end of the period.  The building consists of a squat W. tower in two stages, an aisled nave with N. and S. porches, and a chancel.  The tower is built of limestone ashlar with a nice three-light W. window with reticulated tracery above a doorway bearing a hollow chamfer and two sunk quadrants. These, and the similar mouldings around the aisle arcades, may indicate a date c. 1360 or even later. (See Appendix 2 and also the discussion of Balsham church.)  The bell-openings are two-light and there is a semi-octagonal stair turret rising to the bell-stage at the southeast angle.  The tower is crowned by battlements and crocketed pinnacles at the corners.


The rest of the church is built of limestone rubble and sandstone cobbles with limestone dressings, except for the easternmost bay of the chancel which is constructed in clunch ashlar.  The three-light aisle windows with archetypal reticulated tracery are original to the south (shown left) but reconstructed to the north.  The N. and S. windows to the chancel, with one exception, present a variation on this form for since the tracery has been squashed beneath segmental-pointed arches, the reticulation units have become round above, and the lights are now cinquefoil-cusped instead of trefoiled. (See the photograph, right.)  The Victorian E. window, though marred by over-wide lights, is conventionally reticulated, so only the porch windows, S. aisle E. window, and four-light chancel S. window, introduce a conflicting style, being Perpendicular but untraceried.  Indeed, the last of these may be Tudor.  The diagonally-buttressed porch has an outer archway carrying two flat chamfers separated by a hollow, springing from capitals supported on jambs bearing two hollows separated by a bowtell.


Inside the building, the four-bay arcades are composed of arches bearing two narrow sunk quadrants, rising from tall piers formed of four semicircular shafts with fillets, separated by rolls.  (The N. arcade is illustrated left.) The material is clunch, which has worn well in this protected environment and which brings a cool, modest nobility to this actually rather small interior.  The clerestory consists of quatrefoils set in two-centred arches,  the tower arch bears four sunk quadrants, the outer two of which die into the jambs while the inner two are supported on semi-octagonal responds, and the chancel arch displays two hollow chamfers supported on Victorian corbels.  The remains of a rood stair can be seen to the northwest.


Of furnishings, there is chiefly the nice triple sedilia in the chancel S. wall, contemporary with the other fourteenth century work, with trefoil-cusped arches supported on an order of shafts.  A two-bay piscina in similar style adjoins to the east.


Woodwork includes the Tudor choir stalls with linenfold panelling on the backs, which run along both sides of the chancel, an example of able, solid work, still in good condition, and the return stalls of a similar date backing on to the dado of the rood screen. The nave has a nice couple roof, and the aisles have lean-to roofs with traces of old paintwork.