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English Church Architecture -



LYDFORD, St. Petrock (SX 509 848)   (March 2016)

(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Dinantian Subsystem, Lydford Formation)

St. Petrock (d. c.564) was reputedly a Celtic prince who ministered to the Christians of Devon and Cornwall (Wikipedia).  His principal church is at Bodmin in the latter county but the somewhat disappointing, all-Perpendicular building dedicated to him here (seen above from the southeast) is distinguished by its ancient (perhaps ninth century) embanked site, next to the remains of the twelfth century castle, a short distance to the west of the justly famous little gorge.


The church itself derives what visual impact it can muster from its short but prominent W. tower, rising above the low independently-gabled nave and aisle roofs, supported by set-back buttresses and topped by battlements and tall corner pinnacles, initially of square section before terminating in chunky, thickly crocketed pyramids.  The material throughout is granite, whose intractability accounts for the simplicity of the building's mouldings and window traceries, and for the lack of carved ornamentation.  Save only for the chancel E. window with West Country alternate tracery, all other windows are either untraceried or else a squashed or straightened variant of reticulated form, which might suggest the church has a late fourteenth rather than fifteenth century provenance. Yet on entering within one discovers the piers to the three-bay mediaeval S. arcade assume the usual Perpendicular four-shafts-separated-by-four-hollows section that makes these Devonshire and Cornish churches so monotonous to visit, and the wide arches above are four-centred, not two-centred as stated in The Buildings of England, and bear two flat chamfers - a simple enough pattern the Victorian N. arcade seems unable precisely to replicate for the arches there carry shallow wave mouldings and the capitals to the shafts are semi-octagonal rather than semicircular, and both lower and deeper.  (See the interior view below, looking east towards the rood screen.)  The tall tower arch carries a flat chamfer and a wave above responds formed of two semi-octagonal orders, but its notable feature is the carving down the inner order of narrow columns of trefoiled arches - a doubtless arduous task given the hardness and crystalline structure of the stone that the end result scarcely justifies.



As for woodwork in the church, the visitor should notice first and foremost the barrel vaults above the nave, chancel and aisles (i.e., four in all), with chamfered principal ribs and large carved bosses where they intersect the purlins and ridge beam.  However, although the Tudor rose is a commonly encountered motif, none of the work appears reliably to pre-date the church's late nineteenth century restoration, and the chancel screen (below) does not even go back that far, having been constructed, according to Pevsner, in 1904, to the designs of a certain Bligh Bond, although it is no less a fine piece of work for that.  Formed on either side of the central opening of a single four-light bay with alternate tracery featuring subreticulation, subarcuation of the lights in pairs, and through reticulation, it is distinguished chiefly by its loft, supported by a fan vault, decorated on the cornice with four tiers of running ornament displaying vine leaves, grapes and birds etc., beneath a highly elaborate openwork crest.