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English Church Architecture -

Essex.

 

GREAT BROMLEY, St. George (TM 083 263)      (March 2015)

(Bedrock:  Eocene, London Clay)

 

This is a splendid church notwithstanding the poverty of the building materials, consisting of an impressive W. tower composed largely of puddingstone, an aisled nave with a S. porch, and a chancel with a S. chapel, all built externally in Perpendicular style though not in a single construction phase.  The chapel is only distinguished from the aisle along the principal (south) façade, by a basal frieze of flushwork arches (seen in the photograph, above), and the solitary segmental-pointed window lighting each, shares the same design of supermullioned tracery.  However, the magnificent S. porch is an addition of the sixteenth century which appears either to be the inspiration for the porch at neighbouring Ardleigh or to have been built with the intention of rivalling it.  The S. front (illustrated right) is decorated with four tiers of flushwork arches reaching from the base to the battlements, there are similar arches on the three stages of the diagonal buttresses, a vaulted canopied niche surmounted by a crocketed pinnacle is prominent above the apex of the doorway,  and the outer doorway itself has traceried spandrels featuring St. George and the dragon carved in shallow relief.

 

The W. tower (left) is probably fifteenth century in date.  It rises in four stages supported by buttresses that are clasping for the first two stages (square becoming octagonal) but then assume a hybrid "angle-cum-diagonal" form before terminating above stepped battlements in prominent crocketed pinnacles.  The tower's basal frieze is composed of blank quatrefoils.  The W. doorway is surrounded by a casement, decorated with carved fleurons at intervals in the Suffolk manner.  The five-light W. window has been largely renewed but displays supermullioned tracery, a castellated transom, castellated supertransoms at two levels, and subarcuation of the outer lights in pairs with through reticulation.  The bell-openings are three-light and transomed.   All this is still original, like the excellent wooden door itself, carved with alternate tracery arranged in six tiers.

 

The N. front of the church is relatively plain but the three-light aisle windows and two-light chancel windows have supermullioned tracery with castellated transoms.  The N. doorway bears three hollow chamfers decorated with fleurons.  The sixteenth century clerestory is richly executed with flushwork decoration on both sides and consists of seven pairs of two-light windows which in no way correlate to the three-bay nave arcades within and below.  The chancel and chapel E. windows are modern.

 

Inside the porch, the doorway to the nave (shown right) is formed of two hollow-chamfered orders decorated with vine leaf, while immediately above are the re-set spandrels of an earlier, steeper arch, displaying carvings of Adam on the one side and Eve on the other, holding out an apple.  However, much better preserved carvings are to be seen on entering the church, where the early fourteenth century S. arcade formed of double-flat-chamfered arches springing from octagonal piers, is distinguished by its capitals carved in high relief, and especially so by its western capital, where a lion, a devil, men being eaten by monsters, and a couple of angels are depicted.  (See the photographs at the foot of the page, showing this capital from two angles.)  The N. arcade (below left) is cruder and perhaps later than its southern counterpart:  here the octagonal piers are broader and the arches bear two hollow chamfers; the capitals are conventional.  However, there are other carved figures to be seen among the corbels below the wall posts of the nave roof, resembling an assortment of self-satisfied contemporary noblemen.  They lead the eyes up to one of the best double-hammerbeam roofs in the county (illustrated below left), where the work is likely to be approximately contemporary - even though the angels have since been sawn off.  Nevertheless, the leaf carving on the braces, the elaborately carved wall plates, and some of the painting, have survived, and in this well-lit church, can be seen to admirable advantage.  The aisle roofs are of simple lean-to construction, but solidly made, of which that to the south has carved leaf bosses and short wall posts, again supported on corbel heads.  

 

The tower arch is formed of three orders bearing hollows around the outer two and a sunk quadrant round the inner, springing from demi-shafts with simple intervening capitals.  The chancel arch is modern, but the two-centred arch between the chancel and the chapel is mediaeval;  it carries a casement moulding on each order, of which the inner springs from semi-octagonal responds. Immediately to the east, there follows a two-bay cinquefoil-cusped sedilia and a small trefoil-cusped piscina, in which the bays of the former are separated by a colonnette.  However, the wooden church furnishings, including the rather nice box pews, cannot be earlier than the restoration of 1867.  The reredos and the font are still more recent additions, dating from 1932 and 1933 respectively.

 

Finally, the building contains two monuments by John Bacon the Younger (1777 - 1859), though neither is particularly special and which, in common with Bacon's usual practice, were probably used again elsewhere, very possibly on several occasions.  They commemorate Henry Hanson (d. 1809) and William Hanson (d. 1815), who was killed in action against French cavalry at the age of twenty-five.  His monument features a weeping woman, leaning on a cairn from the top of which there flies what may best be described as a shroud.  The inscription records, "He fell at the head of his Troop at a Moment of brilliant Success, which his gallant Example had much contributed to obtain".