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English Church Architecture -



GAMLINGAY, St. Mary (TL 241 523)     (July 2003)

(Bedrock:  Lower Cretaceous, Lower Greensand Group)

Gamlingay is situated at one end of a major outcrop of lower greensand that stretches southwest to Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, dissected on the way only by the River Ivel west of Sandy.  The church is constructed of an unmistakeable, deep rusty brown, sandstone rubble, that lays bare the underlying geology.


St. Mary’s church owes its impressive appearance partly to this construction material and partly to being stylistically of a piece, for externally it is everywhere Perpendicular and while windows are mostly untraceried, the uniformity of design provides an architectural example in which the whole really does seem to be more than the sum of the constituent parts.  This is evident from the photograph above, where the two-light bell-openings which do, in fact, have supermullioned tracery, and the four-light transept windows with their modest squash tracery formed from the subarcuation of the outer lights in pairs, can be seen to contribute very little to the building’s overall effect.  Much more important is the application of battlements to all the roof lines, and the grouping of masses provided by the cross-gabled transepts and N. sacristy, which provide the whole composition with a robust solidity.  In all, the building consists of an angle buttressed W. tower with leaded flèche above, an aisled nave, N. and S. transepts, N. and S. porches, a chancel and a  N. sacristy.  The N. porch is two-storeyed and has a sexpartite vault below.


The interior of the building is rather commonplace by comparison.  The five-bay arcades, which prove to be Early English, consist of double-flat-chamfered arches springing from octagonal piers, the contemporary arches from the aisles to the transepts have two flat-chamfered orders dying into the imposts, and the narrow but very thick tower arch bears two flat chamfers, the inner of which is supported on semi-octagonal shafts, and the outer being continuous down the responds without intervening capitals.  Only the chancel arch is Perpendicular: here the two orders bear sunk quadrant mouldings and rise without capitals from responds with wave mouldings.  Many of the piers and responds are scratched with ancient graffiti, of which one on the easternmost pier of the N. arcade reads, “hic est sede Margrete Tayl...d”.  (“Here is Margrete Talyard’s seat.”)  Walter Talyard paid for the remodelling of the N. transept in 1466.


Few furnishings require mention. The font is Early English and consists of just an octagonal bowl with a pair of completely plain, blank arches on each face.  The rood screen is partly old and has a central bay with supermullioned drop tracery and four-light outer bays with supermullioned tracery above lights subarcuated in pairs.  Backing on to the dado facing east, are two pairs of misericords.  Finally, in the chancel S. wall there is a recessed Perpendicular sedilia (shown right) of three equal bays, with cinquefoil-cusped, ogee arches.