( back to home page)

 

BELCHAMP OTTEN, St. Ethelbert & All Saints  (TL 803 418),

ESSEX. 

(Bedrock:  Neogene to Quaternary, Crag Group.)

 

A humble village church of Norman origin, with some interesting carpenter's work.

 

 

 

This is a small church, constructed of flint and pebble rubble with brick patchings and roofs of red tile, comprising a nave and chancel with the additions of a S. porch, a Victorian N. vestry, and a small wooden (sic) belfry.  The Norman origins of the building are witnessed by the round-arched S. doorway (seen below left), composed of two orders bearing a roll and a band of chevron, supported on shafts decorated with spiral ornament and topped by scalloped capitals carved with five-petalled flowers and saltires. The N. doorway - now only visible inside, where it communicates with the vestry - is Norman also, although this time, entirely plain.  Windows are variously Decorated or Perpendicular, and include as probably the earliest, a N. window to the nave, with intersecting cusped tracery characteristic of c. 1290 - 1310.

 

This is humble stuff but nside the church, it is the carpentry that is most interesting and Hewett must be quoted for his description of the nave and chancel roofs and belfry. 

'The chancel roof  [illustrated below] is ... of seven cants with scissor braces made of tenoned short lengths; these are a type derived from Salisbury cathedral's northeast transept, dated to c.1237.  The nave roof is also of seven cants and there is a belfry at the W. end, originally on portal frames.  It is now carried by four eastern posts, the central pair of which are due to a seventeenth century repair,... carved with guilloche ornament [as seen above right and at the foot of the page]' (Church Carpentry, London & Chichester, Phillimore, 1982, p. 97).

The posts support plaster arches, which divide off the westernmost bay of the nave, to create a wide vestibule.  Externally, the belfry has been rendered and made ridiculous by the addition of plaster battlements.

 

 

Church furniture includes the little Jacobean pulpit with two tiers of panels around the sides, the upper of which is carved with the conventional round arches.  The modest box pews, dated by Pevsner to the early nineteenth century, may be contemporary with the quaint little gallery in the nave northwest corner (seen below), perhaps formerly a family pew, whose curiosity value can probably be accounted greater than its value as historic carpentry.  The attractive communion rail with twisted balusters is Stuart.