English Church Architecture.
GAMLINGAY, St. Mary (TL 241 523),
(Bedrock: Lower Cretaceous, Lower Greensand Group.)
A impressive church situated on the Lower Greensand, Woburn Sands Formation,
built of ironstone.
The Lower Cretaceous Rocks of Eastern England, laid down 146-97 Ma.
1 = Heacham (Norfolk); 2 = Castle Rising (Norfolk); 3 = Wilburton (Cambridgeshire); 4 = Cottenham (Cambridgeshire); 5 = Great Gransden (Cambridgeshire); 6 = Bourn (Cambridgeshire); 7 = Gamlingay (Cambridgeshire); 8 = Everton (CENTRAL Bedfordshire); 9 = Blunham (CENTRAL Bedfordshire); 10 = Eyeworth (CENTRAL Bedfordshire); 11 = Biggleswade (CENTRAL Bedfordshire); 12 = Edworth (CENTRAL Bedfordshire); 13 = HOUGHTON CONQUEST (CENTRAL BEDFORDSHIRE); 14 = LOWER GRAVENHURST (CENTRAL BEDFORDSHIRE).
Gamlingay is situated on the Lower Greensand outcrop that forms a distinctive ridge for much of the distance from here to and 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 and owes its impressive appearance partly to this and partly to being stylistically all of a piece, for externally it is Perpendicular everywhere, the windows are almost all alike, being four-centred and untraceried, and all parts of the building are topped by battlements, providing a uniformity of design where 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, contribute very little to the building’s overall effect. Much more important is the constant angle of pitch of the very low-pitched roofs and the grouping of masses provided by the cross-gabled transepts, the porches and N. sacristy, which endow 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 above the lower storey.
The interior of the building seems rather commonplace after this grandeur. The five-bay arcades, which actually prove to be Early English (i.e. thirteenth century) in date, 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, of which the inner is supported on semi-octagonal shafts and the outer continues 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 old in part 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), comprised of three equal bays, with cinquefoil-cusped, ogee arches. These modest features are perhaps a little disappointing, but the church is a splendid to this large and growing village.