English Church Architecture -
RAMPTON, All Saints (TL 428 681) (July 2008)
(Bedrock: Upper Jurassic, Ampthill Clay)
This is a relatively humble but attractively situated church, with many features of interest. Buildings such as this are not infrequently more enjoyable to visit than some of their larger and more prestigious yet also more heavily restored counterparts, such as the church at neighbouring Willingham.
All Saints’ (shown left, from the southeast) consists of a chancel, a nave with a S. aisle and porch, and a short W. tower, and is constructed of rubble with limestone dressings, a tiled roof above the chancel, a slate roof above the aisle, and thatch over the steeply-pitched nave. The earliest work in evidence is a few fragments of Saxon carving, re-set internally in the chancel E. wall, but the oldest features of real significance are the Norman responds to the chancel arch, though probably only that to the north is in situ (see the photograph right) as it is likely the arch was widened when the aisle was added, at which time the arch was also renewed above the springing and given its present flat-chamfered, pointed form, with telltale broaches resting on the projecting chamfered abaci. The responds are probably twelfth century work and replete on both sides (i.e. to east and west) with two orders of semicircular shafts, each with a scalloped capital.
The tower cannot be much later than c. 1300, notwithstanding the arch to the nave, bearing wave mouldings springing from semi-octagonal responds with tall bases. It rises in three short, unbuttressed stages, lit by a (later?) two-light W. window with reticulated tracery in the first stage and a renewed lancet in the second, to a bell-stage with cinquefoiled one-light bell-openings and surmounting battlements. The three eastern bays of the arcade (shown left) are Decorated and probably follow next, being formed of double-hollow-chamfered arches springing from short octagonal piers with prominent capitals and broaches above, while the westernmost bay is a Perpendicular extension. The S. windows to the aisle are square-headed Perpendicular insertions but the short E. window is Decorated (as seen in the photograph, top left), with trefoil-cusped lights and a squashed reticulation unit in the head. The nave N. wall is pierced: east of the brick vestry, by a two-light window with a pointed quatrefoil in the head, followed by a square-headed one in Tudor-style; and west of the vestry, by a window like that in the S. aisle E. wall. However, the two windows on either side of the chancel are more interesting than any of these (see the S. window, illustrated right) for above their cinquefoil-cusped lights, they display cruciform lobing set vertically, a fourteenth century design of which there are several examples in Suffolk. (See, for example, St. Mary’s, Badwell Ash and the discussion about this design under All Saints', Stansfield in the same county.) The five-light E. window with narrow reticulated tracery has been renewed, but the tracery shape is consistent with the S. aisle E. window, while above in the gable are the re-set portions of what appear to be Norman shafts. Inside the chancel, a Decorated tomb canopy, recessed in the N. wall (shown left), features a large crocketed ogee arch above a recumbent stone effigy of a knight drawing his sword from its scabbard and with his feet resting on a lion. The S. porch is constructed of English-bonded brick although the date is the eighteenth century when Flemish bond was more usual. (English bond is stronger than Flemish but is generally considered less economic as more facing bricks are required.) It has no windows and a couple roof.
The nave roof (seen right, from the west) is of makeshift queen-post construction, which like the roof at Willingham, appears to have been altered or cut down. The queen posts rise from damaged tie beams to purlins halfway up, which are connected by braced collars at an uncommonly low level. A more comfortable height for these would surely be at the two-thirds position, yet the queen posts seem too slender to support the supposition that there was once a second pair of purlins below and that the roof has been reduced by a third. The pulpit (left) is reputedly Elizabethan and forms an irregular septagon with five short sides round the front and two long sides at the back. The tester is supported on a tall backboard with two tiers of panels decorated with single round arches.
Finally, the nave walls retain extensive traces of mediaeval wall paintings, all now very indistinct. They probably include a painting of St. Christopher carrying Christ across the river (to the north, immediately west of the pulpit), but it is impossible to be confident.