English Church Architecture -
TISSINGTON, St. Mary (SK 177 524) (June 2013)
(Bedrock: Carboniferous Dinantian Subsystem, Craven Group)
This church was horribly “Normanized in 1854” (Pevsner) with the result that it is only the tower and certain individual features that are of much interest today. The N. arcade and the chancel, nave and N. aisle windows merely demonstrate how gross some nineteenth century attempts to “restore” mediaeval buildings (to their imagined original form) could actually be, but it is mercifully unusual to find anything quite this preposterously unscholarly at this relatively late date.
As it is, the tower (seen left, from the southwest) seemed to escape the worst of the vandalism and presents itself as a squat, muscular affair, hunkered down above the village. Pevsner considered it to be Norman and the thickness of the walls certainly seems to support this contention, although, if so, the massive set-back buttresses, at least, must surely be later. The bell-openings consist simply of little rectangles and there are no windows or other openings elsewhere in the structure.
Indisputably Norman, however, are three features that have been suffered to remain in the nave and the chancel: the S. doorway (inside the porch), the chancel arch, and the font. The S. doorway has an order of very worn shafts at the sides, two rows of depressed traingles around the arch, and a tympanum and lintel (illustrated below left) decorated with squares, saltires, and two utterly naďve carved figures, displaying a degree of incompetence of which only the Normans were capable. The chancel arch has lost its northern jamb but the culprit on this occasion was the seventeenth century sculptor who obliterated it by fixing a large wall monument on top. The part of the arch that remains is composed of two orders - the inner, unmoulded, and the outer, decorated with chevron - above large abaci with chamfered under-edges and a jamb on the south side with an attached shaft towards the nave. The font (below right) consists of the simplest circular bowl, decorated (to use the term loosely) with scratch carvings that would have appeared primitive five centuries earlier.
The pulpit (below left) is a large “two-decker”, possibly altered and of uncertain date. Could it possibly be Tudor? It is certainly not typical of Jacobean work. The wall monument mentioned above (and seen below right) is of the latter time and features effigies in two tiers, facing each other over prayer-desks. The upper tier commemorates Sir John FitzHerbert (d. 1642) and his wife, Elizabeth, and the lower tier, John’s father, Francis FitzHerbert (d. 1619) and his two wives, Elizabeth and Jane. Other seventeenth century monuments round the walls of the chancel are characteristic of their date.