English Church Architecture -
YELLING, Holy Cross (TL 263 625) July 2003)
(Bedrock: Upper Jurassic, Ampthill Clay)
This is a heavy, rather dark, but interesting little building, in which most of the interest lies inside. The outside shows it to consist of an embattled, angle buttressed W. tower in three stages, an aisled nave with S. aisle much wider than the N. aisle, a S. porch and a chancel, and to be lit by an assortment of thirteenth and fourteenth windows. Considered in anticlockwise order from the west, the tower W. window is Perpendicular, with three lights and supermullioned tracery, yet the bell-openings above are two-light and still Decorated. Then in the S. aisle there are two Early English windows (shown left), the first with Y- and the second with geometrical tracery, the latter featuring a quatrefoil in a circle above two lancet lights. Three early Perpendicular windows follow, with straightened reticulated tracery, one in the S. aisle E. wall and two in the chancel S. wall. The chancel E. window has been renewed, and so have most of those in the N. aisle, but in the E. wall of this aisle, one partly old window shows that they may preserve something of the original design: the trefoil-cusped lights have trefoils above, all set within Y-tracery with daggers in the apices. The N. doorway with a single flat-chamfered surround and the inner S. doorway (i.e. inside the porch) with its two flat chamfers, are probably Early English work, but the porch outer doorway could be Decorated for it bears two hollow chamfers separated by a deeper hollow.
However, this potpourri receives its most important elements internally, from the contribution of the nave arcades, and especially from the three-bay Norman-Transitional N. arcade, formed of three thick, unmoulded but pointed arches, supported on round piers with very large, flat, square capitals, one scalloped and one fluted (see the photograph right). There are no responds at the ends - just chamfered imposts. The S. arcade fails to agree with its counterpart, not only in respect of date but even in the matter of how many bays there should be, for here there are four, formed of arches bearing two hollow-chamfered mouldings with broaches where they meet the capitals, supported on piers of octagonal section, a form consistent with c. 1300. The tower cuts into the westernmost bay, providing clear evidence of the tower’s still later date. The tower arch displays three hollow-chamfered orders, which continue down the jambs with intervening capitals to the inner order only. The chancel arch is composed of two flat-chamfered orders rising from responds formed of groups of three shafts, the inner, wide and keeled. In the chancel S. wall there is a thirteenth century piscina (shown left) with an order of narrow shafts with fillets and a roll above. The adjacent S. window has its sill brought low in two steps to act as a sedilia. In the S. aisle S. wall, a low recess houses a tomb chest.
It is necessary to try to sum up this miscellany. The N. arcade is clearly work of c. 1200. A date of c. 1300 for the S. arcade and S. aisle would just about fit the S. aisle S. windows, and this could also be the date of the chancel arch and basic fabric of the chancel. The N. aisle windows could, perhaps, follow by a decade, assuming they are trustworthy, and the tower, S. aisle E. window and chancel S. windows, by some sixty years more, giving a date of c. 1370 here, although this can only be approximate. The church also features an assortment of bits and pieces from other times, such as the probably Victorian flying buttress that has been thrown across the N. aisle in an attempt to give support to the easternmost pier of the N. arcade. It was the soffits of the S. arcade that were cracking badly at the time of this visit.