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English Church Architecture -

East Riding of Yorkshire (U. A.).


WITHERNWICK, St. Alban (TA 194 405)     (April 2016)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk Rowe Formation)


This little church (shown above from the southeast) was reconstructed by Mallinson and Healey in 1854-5, using some of the old materials.  Consisting of only a chancel, and a nave with a lean-to S. aisle, N. vestry, S. porch, and E. bell-cote, it is distinguished by its attractive masonry, formed of large assorted cobbles laid in seven discrete bands separated by double courses of red brick, set off with cream-coloured limestone dressings and roofs of grey slate.  (See the photograph below left, showing part of the chancel S. wall.)  Windows are in the mature Decorated style and include one on each side of the nave with falchion tracery and another with cusped Y-tracery with trilobes in the heads of the lights and daggers in the "Y"s.  The aisle and vestry E. windows have an odd tracery featuring a trilobe above a bifoil (as illustrated below right), which may be a quirky characteristic of Thomas Healey's for bifoils are encountered in odd places from time to time in his other churches (as, for example, at neighbouring Mappleton) but the nave N. windows are reticulated and the aisle S. windows are untraceried and segmental-pointed.  The tower W. window and chancel E. window are three-light and display, in the former case, trilobes above the outer lights and a wheel of quatrefoils in the head, and in the latter, outer lights subarcuated above daggers and a wheel of three trilobes above and between.



Inside the church, the five-bay nave arcade (shown below left) comprises double-flat-chamfered arches springing from octagonal piers with prominent octagonal capitals and an astragal beneath - a very basic form that nevertheless fits best the early fourteenth century.  The majority of this work appears to have been re-used but the westernmost pier is a replacement along with various stones elsewhere.  The double-flat-chamfered chancel arch rests on semi-octagonal responds and the doorway from the chancel to the vestry is trefoil-cusped and ogee-pointed.


Interesting carpentry in the building is confined to the nave and chancel roofs, which are both scissor-braced but where the narrower scantlings and lack of purlins in the chancel roof (compared with purlins at the ⅓ and ⅔ positions in the nave) produce a more delicate effect.  (The nave roof is shown above right.) The wooden furniture is probably all twentieth century work but the church contains a few re-set eighteenth and nineteenth century monuments including one on the S. wall of the S. aisle, commemorating the Rev. Matthew Topham (d. 1773), and two more on the N. wall of the nave, in memory of his second son, Henry (d. 1817), and his fourth son, another Matthew (d. 1823).  Finally, a drawing in the church (photographed below) shows what the building looked like before it was reconstructed.