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English Church Architecture -



LITTLE GRANSDEN, St. Peter & St. Paul (TL 271 551)     (July 2003)

(Bedrock:  Lower Cretaceous, Lower Greensand Group)


Little Gransden is situated at the northeastern tip of a major outcrop of lower greensand that stretches from here to Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, dissected only by the River Ivel west of Sandy.  The church is thus constructed principally of sandstone rubble, but the colour is not yet quite the deep rusty brown to be seen just two miles away at Gamlingay.


St. Peter & St. Paul’s has been heavily restored but some original features remain and the W. tower (shown left, from the southwest) is surprisingly stately for a small village.  It is Perpendicular and rises in four stages to battlements, the three-light W. window has supermullioned tracery, and the W. doorway, constructed of clunch and consequently very worn, is set beneath traceried spandrels. Inside, the design of the arch to the nave is one which, with only slight variations, has been much employed in churches in the region, as, for example, at neighbouring Great Gransden, and at Everton, Potton and Sutton, immediately across the border in Bedfordshire.  All these buildings have tower arches of complex profile but essentially two orders, springing from characteristically shallow responds formed from two orders of semi-octagonal shafts with superimposed mouldings.  They appear to be attributable to the same master mason, probably working in the third quarter of the fourteenth century.


The rest of Little Gransden church is composed of an aisled nave and a chancel.  The earliest feature evident outside is the lancet in the S. aisle W. wall and this prepares the visitor for the more important Early English work within, where the four-bay arcades are composed of double-flat-chamfered arches supported on octagonal piers.  The chancel arch lacks capitals but is otherwise similar.  All other windows are Perpendicular and include two in the chancel S. wall with straightened reticulated units, generally indicative in East Anglia of the second half of the fourteenth century (see Appendix 2), and the square-headed two-light clerestory windows which, to the south, appear to have their splays and central mullions constructed of re-used, cut Roman tiles.  The N. porch is Victorian and notable only for being laterally gabled.


Finally, it remains to mention two items of woodwork, of which the most significant is the restored but nicely painted, five-bay rood screen (illustrated right), with ogee arches and carved angels decorating the stiles.  (The rood above is a regrettable modern addition.)  The pulpit is Jacobean, although it sits today on a nineteenth century stone base.