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English Church Architecture.

 

LANREATH, St. Marnarck  (SX 181 589),

CORNWALL. 

(Bedrock:  Lower Devonian, Meadfoot Group.)

 

A good Perpendicular granite church, containing some fine woodwork.

 

Nothing whatever seems to be known about this saint, and the only church dedicated to him now appears in wholly Perpendicular guise, save only for the font. The building is composed of a nave and chancel without structural division, together with a W. tower, a N. transept, and an independently-gabled S. aisle and chapel, also without structural division but with an adjoining S. porch.  The tower is the most striking of these component parts on approach, rising in three stages to battlements and crocketed pinnacles, supported by thin set-back buttresses:  the bell-openings are two-light, the two-centred W. doorway has blank quatrefoils in the spandrels, and the three-light window above has stepped, cinquefoiled lights and uncusped supermullioned tracery. The church windows elsewhere include one with uncusped oval-headed lights in the N. wall of the transept, two with four lights and intersecting tracery beneath very depressed arches immediately to the west in the nave, windows with uncusped alternate tracery in the walls of the S. aisle and chapel, and a five-light E. window to the chancel (illustrated below left), that can serve to illustrate some of the terminology coined by Dr. John Harvey (The Perpendicular Style, London, Batsford, 1978, p. 71) to differentiate windows in the Perpendicular style.  Thus if the lights are numbered 1 to 5 from left to right, the window features:  (i) subarcuation of the outer lights, 1 & 5, and intersecting subarcuation of lights 1-3 with lights 3-5;  (ii) trilobes filling the spaces in the tracery immediately above lights 1, 3 & 5;  (iii) supertransoms above lights 2 & 4;  and (iv), through reticulation above the central light, where the mullions on either side of the light cross the subarcuations on their upward passage to the window head.  The windowless S. porch has a four-centred outer doorway bearing a crudely carved wave and an inner doorway surrounded by a hollow, but by far its most important feature is its stone barrel vault, decorated at the intersections of the ribs with simple carved bosses which were presumably all the carving the hard grey granite would allow. 

 

 

On entering the church, one’s first impression is that of spaciousness, created, in particular, by the characteristic Cornish absence of a chancel arch.  The five-bay S. arcade is similar to many in the county’s churches, formed of piers composed of four shafts separated by hollows, integral capitals to the shafts only, some simply carved, and arches above bearing a wave and a roll with a fillet.  (See the photograph of the westernmost pier and capital, above right.)  The chancel sanctuary projects east of the S. chapel by about 18' (6 m.),  the transept arch is Victorian and dies into the jambs, and the tall tower arch carries a double-wave on each of its two orders, supported in both cases by a pair of semicircular shafts with capitals. 

 

Woodwork inside the church, however, is more significant than architecture.  A rood screen runs across the nave and aisle, defining their junctions with the chancel and chapel, in a position, very perversely, three and three-quarter bays from the west.  It is composed of ten bays itself, each formed - except for the two with doorways - of four cusped ogee lights with alternate tracery and subarcuation of the lights in pairs.   (The photograph below shows the section across the nave.)  It has all, it is true, been substantially restored (in 1905 according to Pevsner - The Buildings of England: Cornwall, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 1970, p. 92), but a lot of mediaeval work remains, including most of the dado, which retains some painted panels, depicting, among other characters, King Henry VI (reigned 1422-61 and 1470-71) (Rosemary Pollock, St. Marnarch's Church, Lanreath: a Guide and History, undated, p. 5) – a possible indication of date.

 

However, scarcely of less importance than the screen are the fine wagon roofs to the nave and aisle, with carved bosses where the principal ribs intersect.  (The photograph below left shows the continuous nave and chancel roof, viewed from the west.) The nave contains a number of partially old benches, of which the two clergy stalls immediately west of the screen are conspicuously the best:  one nicely-carved arm-rest on each features a man and a woman at prayer.   (The former is illustrated below right.)  The pulpit is ascribed to the reign of Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603), although that too is much restored;  the round-arched panels around the sides display a number of designs, one of which features a two-headed eagle.

 

The unusual, circular Norman font (below left) has palmettes decorating the bowl, a projecting integral stone ring around the stem, roughly carved with zigzag, and large upward-pointing 'V's on the chamfered base below.  The wooden font cover is probably Jacobean (he Buildings of England).

 

Finally, the church contains only one monument of note but that is a highly elaborate one, set up against the sanctuary S. wall and constructed in wood made to resemble stone (see below right).  Commemorating Charles Grylls (d. 1611) and his wife, Agnes, it depicts the couple in miniature. kneeling in prayer on the tomb-chest, supported beneath by their four sons and four daughters and watched over from above by the rector and Charles Grylls’s steward (St. Marnarch's Church, Lanreath: a Guide and History, p. 15), who stand on opposite sides on projecting consoles.  The complicated superstructure rising from the chest consists of two tiers supported by brown alabaster columns with gilded Corinthian capitals.