English Church Architecture -
LANSALLOS, St. Ildierna (SX 172 516) (September 2011)
(Bedrock: Lower Devonian, Dartmouth Slates)
Southeast Cornwall, in particular, is surprisingly well provided with generously-sized Perpendicular churches and Pevsner’s scanty volume for the county (in The Buildings of England series) hardly awards them commensurate coverage. They do have two faults, admittedly, for many of them are very similar, and being generally made of local, hard grey slate, much of their carved detail lacks fine definition. However, this was the result, of course, of local geology and conditions, and insofar as Britain’s hugely varied structure and scenery has been largely responsible for the richness of its built environment also, it can hardly be a matter for complaint.
St. Ildierna is another Cornish saint of whom nothing is known, and the church which is dedicated to him (shown left, from the southeast) is composed of an aisled nave and chancel, a W. tower and S. porch. The aisles and continuing chapels are independently-gabled, and like the nave and the chancel, devoid of structural division. The N. aisle extends westwards only half the distance of the nave, to terminate, in Pevsner’s opinion, at the west wall of a former transept.
Windows are Perpendicular in all parts of the building, though it is often difficult to tell what has been restored or renewed. The three-light S. windows have alternate and supermullioned tracery in turn, but the E. windows of both aisles are four-light with subarcuation of the lights in pairs and through-reticulation rising from the apices of the central lights. The chancel E. window (right) is five-light with outer lights subarcuated in pairs, and an inner light separated by strong mullions, enclosing two tiers of reticulation units separated by a castellated supertransom. The tower so closely resembles that at neighbouring Pelynt, it seems very likely they are by the same hand. Both rise in three stages to battlements and rather oddly swollen pinnacles (although at Lansallos, these have been restored more than once), both are supported by diagonal buttresses, and both have three-light bell-openings with alternate tracery and a two-centred W. doorway with small traceried spandrels beneath a label. In the present case, the tower arch to the nave is formed of two wave-moulded orders which die into the jambs.
Inside the church, the six-bay S. arcade is composed of piers which adopt another common local form, formed of four shafts separated by hollows, with capitals to the shafts only, and of four-centred arches bearing - again, in the present case - a wave and sunk quadrant. Each pier has been cut from a single piece of stone and the capitals display very simple carving. (See the example below left.) The three-bay N. arcade differs from its longer counterpart in the precise form of this simple patterning and also in the fact that the capital to its western pier continues all the way round.
St. Ildierna’s is graced with a fine nave and chancel wagon roof (illustrated below right, from the west), with nicely carved wall plates, ribs and bosses. The S. aisle roof is old but simpler and the N. aisle roof is modern. However, the wagon roof to the porch is essentially mediaeval, formed of little arched braces linking the wall plates to a collar purlin.
Other significant carpentry in the building includes a substantial number of re-used fifteenth or early sixteenth century bench ends. Though hardly up to Suffolk standards and entirely without poppyheads, the carving that covers them is less conventional than first appears and includes a fascinating assortment of idiosyncratic animals and figures. (Two examples are shown below.)
Finally, the church contains one notable monument, which is actually a slate coffin slab now mounted on the S. chapel S. wall. Bearing the name of its engraver (Peter Crocker), it is dedicated to Margery Smith (d. 1579) and shows “the lady in shallow relief, wearing farthingale, pointed stomacher and ruff. Her kirtle is decorated with incised patterns suggestive of rich damask” (notes in the church).