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English Church Architecture.

 

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

CAMBRIDGESHIRE. 

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk.)

 

A once cruciform church, demonstrating the Early English lancet style.

 

The church (seen above, from the north, and below, 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 west end, the massive crossing arches remain.  Crossing, nave, transepts and chancel are all essentially Early English in style, notwithstanding the Norman window in the nave N. wall (shown above right) showing some of the fabric to be older.  Nevertheless by the year 1300 this must have appeared an almost completely thirteenth century building of very satisfying form and general uniformity.  Of windows remaining from that time, there are two lancets remain in the S. transept W. wall, a third in the chancel S. wall together with the remains of a fourth beside an inserted Perpendicular lowside window, a group of three stepped lancets deeply set inside double chamfered surrounds in the chancel E. wall, one large lancet and two small ones in the chancel N. wall, and yet 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 to have been 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 moulding.  The church is entered through a fourteenth century S. porch with an Early English inner doorway formed of an acute arch of three orders (shown below left), with colonnettes at the sides and more rolls and dog-tooth above.  The church interior is very light thanks to the absence of stained glass, and being also aisleless, the crossing arches create the dominant impression (shown below right, looking southeast, and at the foot of the page, where the northwest pier is illustrated).  They are appropriately tall and heavy, supported on semi-octagonal responds, and are all 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 one another.

 

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.