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English Church Architecture -

Cambridgeshire.

 

WILBURTON, St. Peter (TL 479 750)     (July 2008)

 (Bedrock:  Lower Cretaceous, Lower Greensand Group)

 

The architectural story of this church is essentially one of the fifteenth century reconstruction of a late thirteenth century building of similar size.  Externally, it is much restored, however, so that today it is dependent for its effect outside on its two-storeyed S. porch (not, pace Pevsner, a N. porch) and its little W. tower (shown left), which rises in three stages, supported by angle buttresses to the tall first stage and with a deeply projecting stair turret at the eastern end of the S. wall, providing access to both the bell-stage and the porch upper room.  The church consists, apart from these, of a nave with a N. transept, and a chancel with a N. organ chamber and vestry, and it is lit by supermullioned windows with strong mullions that are almost everywhere renewed.  The transept, indeed, is entirely Victorian (of 1868) apart from the re-set N. window, but the details of the porch are old, including the outer doorway composed of two orders carrying wave mouldings, the inner supported on semi-octagonal responds with castellated capitals, and the square-headed S. window to the upper storey, above a string course and a cinquefoil-cusped blocked niche.

 

The church interior is distinguished by wide two-centred blank arches round the windows, divided by groups of narrow shafts.  There are three bays on the north side of the nave, between the W. wall and the transept, and four bays to the south (of which the westernmost surrounds the door).  Three further bays each side of the chancel show the present nave and chancel were erected in a single phase. That this was nevertheless a reconstruction of an earlier building is demonstrated by the tower and chancel arches, of which the latter has two orders of side shafts and two roll mouldings above, with other mouldings between.  The date appears to be the late thirteenth century or earliest fourteenth, and the same is true of the tower arch (which is relatively tall and carries a complex series of mouldings above semicircular responds), showing the nave at that time was of identical length.  Returning to the fifteenth century work, the chancel windows at least seem largely original inside and the westernmost N. window (illustrated right), which now looks into the organ chamber, appears wholly unrestored, showing the design of the windows was preserved in the restoration.  In the eastern corners of the chancel, tall cinquefoil-cusped niches set diagonally, once presumably held statues.  The low-pitched chancel roof of couple construction is contemporary, but the attractive, still lower pitched nave roof (viewed left, looking east) is better and has cambered tie beams with brattishing on top, supported by arched braces with open tracery in the spandrels.

 

Finally, a note should be added on a few furnishings and fittings.  The nave retains faint traces of wall paintings in red and black to the north, one of which appears to depict two bishops.  The rood screen is restored Perpendicular work up as far as the new loft, with a dado with applied alternate tracery and carved dragons in the spandrels, and elaborately-cusped open tracery above.  The communion rail with barley-sugar balusters is probably Stuart.