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English Church Architecture -



GREAT WILBRAHAM, St. Nicholas (TL 548 577)     (March 2017)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk)


The church (seen above, from the north, and at the bottom of the page, from the southeast) stands in a quiet corner of the village and is constructed chiefly of flint, pebbles and clunch rubble, with limestone dressings and tiled roofs.  The tower and rebuilt N. transept have been rendered.


St. Nicholas's was once cruciform in plan and although the central tower was taken down in Perpendicular times and replaced with the present tower at the W. end, the massive crossing arches remain (illustrated left, from the west).  Crossing, nave, transepts and chancel are all essentially Early English and, notwithstanding the Norman window in the nave N. wall which shows (shown in the thumbnail, above right) some of the fabric to be older, around the year 1300 this must have been an almost completely thirteenth century building of very satisfying form and appearance.  Of windows from that time, two lancets remain in the S. transept W. wall, a third can be seen in the chancel S. wall together with the remains of a fourth beside an inserted Perpendicular lowside window, a group of three stepped lancets are deeply set inside double chamfered surrounds in the chancel E. wall, and there are one large and two small lancets in the chancel N. wall and three more in the nave N. wall.  The S. transept E. wall is filled by a blocked arch that probably once led to a small chapel and, if that was the case, it is likely this was apsidal, for the masonry of the chancel S. wall does not suggest that chancel and chapel were linked at any time.  Externally this blocked arch can be seen to have been double-flat-chamfered and supported on semi-octagonal responds, but internally it is decorated with rolls and dog-tooth.  The church is entered through a fourteenth century S. porch with an Early English inner doorway formed of an acute arch of three orders, with colonnettes at the sides and more rolls and dog-tooth above (shown below right).  The church interior is very light thanks to the absence of stained glass, and being also aisleless, the crossing arches create the dominant impression. They are appropriately tall and heavy, supported on semi-octagonal responds, and all are double-flat-chamfered except for the west face of the W. arch which bears rolls with fillets.  The lancets in the chancel E. wall are set between colonnettes in shaft rings.


The rest of the building may be quickly described.  The W. tower is diagonally-buttressed and rises in three stages to stepped battlements and crocketed pinnacles.  The three-light W. window with supermullioned tracery and a castellated supertransom has been renewed, as have the S. transept S. window and the lowside and square-headed windows in the S. wall of the chancel.  The two, three-light windows with supermullioned tracery in the nave S. wall are old, but to judge from their slightly differing styles, not contemporary with each other.


Finally, of furnishings only the font need be mentioned.  This is Norman and has a big square bowl with corner volutes supported on an octagonal shaft.