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English Church Architecture.


NORTH FERRIBY, All Saints  (SE 735 881),


(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk.)


A modest church by one of the foremost Victorian church architects,

John Loughborough Pearson (1817-97). 


Born in Brussels but raised from a young age in Durham, John Loughborough Pearson was the tenth and last child of Ann and William Pearson, a painter of landscapes who regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy and who probably ensured his young son was exposed to the visual arts as he grew up, even if, as it appears, the younger Pearson's formal education was very limited (Anthony Quiney, John Loughborough Pearson, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 1979, p. 5).  By the age of fourteen, it was certainly clear he could draw however, and his father obtained a pupillage for him with Ignatius Bonomi (1787-1870), a well-respected architect of Italian origins, practising in the city, who, over the next ten years, ensured Pearson acquired a thorough training in all aspects of the profession, until September 1841, when Bonomi announced he was going to form a partnership with a young man of his acquaintance, and Pearson promptly left, probably feeling he had been unfairly passed over.  A hiatus then ensued in Pearson's career, followed by a year or thereabouts, during which he worked,  in turn, for Anthony Salvin and Philip Hardwick in London.  But Pearson was able to build up his own individual clients and commissions during that time, and a point was soon reached where he had a viable church building practice of his own. (Quiney, pp. 7-18).

Pearson was a devout churchman throughout his entire life, but although he joined the trenchant Ecclesiological Society, there is little evidence that he shared that Society's dogmatic Anglo-Catholic views, being, in all likelihood, of a latitudinarian persuasion.  His architecture is less intense than that of his High Church confrères and with a few conspicuous exceptions, his buildings are not notable for the structural polychromy that was all the rage in the third quarter of the nineteenth century especially, but rather for an ingenious use of internal space, which was his supreme accomplishment.  Pearson could design a vault for almost any space, however awkward, and largely as a result, many of his churches are distinguished by their interesting internal perspectives.  His generally relaxed manner and churchmanship did not suit everybody, however, and sometimes he was replaced, after having been appointed to a job initially, by a more thrusting competitor - most notably Street.


This is one of Pearson's early churches, erected in 1846-8 in a quiet English style at a cost of £3,039.  'The building is largely constructed of local brown sandstone [though it stands above chalk].  The walls are made up of stones of irregular shape and size at uneven height intervals… and are reinforced by Mexborough stone dressings…'  (Rev. David Bulman, A Guide to All Saints' Parish Church, North Ferriby, 4th edition, 2007).   The building style is decribed in the church guide as 'Middle Pointed or Decorated' but is more accurately represented as the geometrical style of the Early English/Decorated transition, c. 1280-1315.


The church was paid for by public subscription and a substantial donation from Ann Turner of Ferriby House ( A Guide to All Saints' Parish Church, North Ferriby, p. 2). The patrons should have been well satisfied with their commission, for besides an aisled nave with N. & S. porches and a short chancel with a N. vestry, Pearson provided a W. tower with a broach spire, which has the distinction of being Pearson’s first steeple.  To describe the building in detail, the spire has a tier of lucarnes in the cardinal directions and an exaggerated entasis which has the effect of making it appear slightly bloated, but the church is certainly impressive as one approaches from the north.  The aisle windows are two-light with trefoils, quatrefoils, cinquefoils or sexfoils in the heads.  The chancel E. window is five-light, with lights 1, 3 & 5 lancet-pointed above trefoils, lights 2 & 4 two-centred beneath large encircled cinquefoils, and an encircled sexfoil in the apex.  The aisle E. windows are three-light with encircled quatrefoils above lights 1 & 3 and wheels containing three trefoils and three trilobes in the heads.  The tower is angle-buttressed and rises in two stages to bell-openings formed of pairs of lancet lights beneath quatrefoils in circles. There is no W. doorway but the W. window is three-light with trilobes above the lights and two encircled cinquefoils and one encircled quatrefoil in the head. Rather curiously, the most elaborate external feature is probably the priest’s doorway in the chancel S. wall (the side away from the road), which is approached up three steps and given additional prominence by a more than usually complex moulded profile and a gable above with a blank trefoil in the apex.  (See the photograph, below left.)


















Inside the building, the four-bay arcades are supported on alternately circular and octagonal piers, with large capitals of the same section and little broaches at the base of the outer of the two orders of flat chamfers above.  (See the N. arcade, above right, viewed from the southwest.)  The ends rest on corbels decorated with carved heads depicting four disparate, vaguely mediaeval figures, two of which may have been intended to depict “green men”.  Two further carved heads act as label stops to the dripstone around the double chamfered chancel arch, and a further pair immediately above, grace the corbels supporting the wall posts at the eastern corners of the nave roof.  (The photograph at the foot of the page on the left, shows the corbel at the east end of the N. arcade and the head label stop at the north end of the chancel arch dripstone, and the photograph next to it on the right, shows the corbel beneath the wall post at the southeast angle of the nave roof.)   The chancel is raised one step from the nave, the sanctuary by another, and the space around the altar by a third.  The nave and chancel roofs are steeply pointed, with continuous arched braces rising from the wall plates to the ridge, and are each provided with a single pair of purlins, positioned a third of the way up the pitch, rather than halfway.


Furnishings in the building are not of great significance. The octagonal font is Victorian and not remarkable, but its cover is modern and an unusual example of 'mouseman' furniture by Thompson of Kilburn.  The large monument retained from the church’s mediaeval predecessor and now re-set against the N. wall of the sanctuary, is a barely competent piece of work attributed by Pevsner to Thomas Steynor (c. 1668-1731), commemorating Brigadier Luke Lillingston (d. 1713) and his wife, Elizabeth (d. 1699), and featuring the couple in effigy in utterly unconvincing poses, he holding a broken truncheon (the description in the church guide) in his right hand and looking towards the southwest and she appealing hysterically to the heavens, her hands clasped in front of her left shoulder in an unnatural attitude of prayer.

Other churches by Pearson featured on this web-site are Dartington and Landscove in Devon, Broomfleet, Scorborough and South Dalton in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Daylesford in Gloucestershire, Appleton-le-Moors in North Yorkshire, and Wentworth in Rotherham Metropolitan Borough.]