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English Church Architecture -



ORWELL, St. Andrew (TL 362 505)     (October 2014)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk)




The churches in the southwest corner of Cambridgeshire form an architecturally varied group but their interest is often compromised by excessive restoration.  That is rather the case here, yet the tower is a good piece of thirteenth century work, albeit a little patched, and the chancel was once a "Perpendicular masterpiece" (Pevsner's description) even if it is now only inside one can tell what precisely is mediaeval.  (See the photograph above right, taken from the southeast.)


The tower (above left) is angle-buttressed and rises in two stages lit by tall lancets, to Y-traceried bell-openings set in shallow three-bay blank arcading. The battlements, in darker stone, are clearly an addition.  The nave arch is composed of two flat chamfered orders, the outer of which continues down the jambs while the inner is supported on shafts of semi-octagonal section.


The three-light aisle windows and the depressed Y-traceried clerestory windows in a manner common around 1400, have been partially renewed externally, but the N. aisle walls have been completely reconstructed in Flemish-bonded gault brick, of all unfortunate materials.  This is singularly unpromising but inside the nave, the four-bay aisle arcades to both the south and the north, and the tall arch to the chancel, are original fourteenth century work (see below) and slightly at variance with one another, presumably in reflection of different phases of building operations or the work of different masons.  Both the arcades carry double-flat-chamfered arches but whereas the N. arcade has dripstones without label stops and quatrefoil piers with very slight shafts in the diagonals and fine mouldings around the capitals, the S. arcade has large head label stops and piers with hollows between the foils and somewhat bulbous, idiosyncratic-looking capitals.  The capitals to the chancel arch fall somewhere between these two designs but the arch also introduces fillets down the foils of the responds and sunk quadrant mouldings above the springing.


The chancel itself is a tall, proud piece of work which, according to Pevsner, was formerly dated by a lost inscription in a window, stating it was built at the expense of the rector, Richard Anlaby, who died in 1396.   The side windows are segmentally-pointed, three-light and transomed, with additional mouldings around the internal splays and tracery featuring strong mullions, split "Y"s, and quatrefoils in the eyelets.  The vestry to the northeast, appears to be contemporary, but the renewed five-light E. window with intersecting subarcuation of the lights in threes, through reticulation, and daggers above odd-numbered lights, may or may not represent an original feature.




Furnishings are not of great significance in this building but the chancel has a ceiled wagon roof with shields for bosses at the intersections of the ribs, which Pevsner dated to the eighteenth century, albeit with repairs by William White (1825 - 1900) in the restoration of 1883.  The nave roof, of tie beam construction, now appears largely new.  The chancel is lined to the north and south with mediaeval misericords, but their quality is poor and all the figures beneath the seats have subsequently been hacked off.  The monument on the S. wall of the sanctuary with an inscription in Latin, commemorating Jeremias Radcliffe (d. 1623), features a diminutive effigy facing north across the chancel, boasting a straight-ended beard and clad in a red robe, his hands devoutly clasped in prayer.