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English Church Architecture -



LITTLE ABINGTON, St. Mary (TL 529 492)     (August 2003)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This church is built of flint and pebble rubble with limestone dressings and stands in a quiet corner of a pleasant little village.  It consists of a W. tower, nave, chancel, N. transept and S. porch, and includes a feature or two in almost every style of English church architecture, perhaps reaching as far back as the Saxon period since the quoins at the southeast nave angle are laid in a manner resembling long-and-short work.  However, the earliest work unarguably in evidence is Norman, which is the period of the N. and S. doorways and probably the majority of the nave masonry.  The S. doorway is protected now by the Victorian porch while the blocked N. doorway (illustrated left) remains exposed to the elements, yet this is the slightly more elaborate of the two for the abaci here have diaper patterning.  Perhaps it was formerly the main entrance to the church for this is the side of the building facing the lane.


The original chancel was reconstructed in the thirteenth century and so is now Early English in style, albeit also much restored and renewed.  There are two lancets to the north and a stepped group of three to the east.  Inside, a double piscina with an octagonal shaft separating the bays and dog-tooth ornament around the arches (shown below right) is recessed in the S. wall, and the chancel arch is composed of two flat-chamfered orders springing from semi-octagonal responds.  Also of this time is the transept arch from the nave, which is likewise double-flat-chamfered but here rests on corbels.  The squint to the north of the chancel arch, giving a view of the altar from the transept, may have been cut a little later, but the ugly transept windows are much more recent - probably early nineteenth century.


The short embattled and angle-buttressed tower is chiefly early fourteenth century in date.  The bell-openings have renewed cusped Y-tracery but the three-light W. window with reticulated tracery is partly original.  It may be contemporary with the two-light one inserted in the nave N. wall.  A similar window in the S. wall, west of the porch, is new, but the Perpendicular period has added the large three-light, untraceried window, to the east of the porch, and the S. windows to the chancel, which have since been restored. 


Finally the most significant old woodwork dates from the seventeenth century and includes several benches in the nave and the Jacobean chair in the sanctuary.