( back to home page)

English Church Architecture -



TWINSTEAD, St. John (TL 861 367)  (December 2017 [sic])

 (Bedrock:  Eocene, London Clay)



This little church (shown above, from the southeast) by William Butterfield's erstwhile pupil, Henry Woodyer (1816-96), dated 1860 above the porch inner doorway, manages both to reflect Butterfield's idiosyncratic style while nevertheless showing Henry Woodyer at his best.  The principal point of contact with Butterfield's work around this date may found in his model church of All Saints', Margaret Street, Westminster, finally completed in 1859, where the polychromatic brickwork, now robbed of much of its vibrancy by traffic pollution, shows comparable banding and pattern work. That Woodyer could show equal ability in his handling of colour - whether in structural polychrome or paint - he had demonstrated a decade earlier in his church of Holy Innocents, Highnam, Gloucestershire.  Unfortunately, as time was to go by, his penchant for piling every conceivable decorative feature into his buildings, regardless of mixed media or styles, would turn them increasingly into a dog's breakfast, as well as lead to some very cloying restorations (as, for example, at Stratford St. Mary, Suffolk).  That is not the case here, and although the coloured brickwork is certainly ubiquitous (and escaped the fate of much similar work by not being whitewashed over), the overall effect is cheerful and uplifting.


























St. John's, Twinstead, consists a chancel with a N. lean-to vestry and cross-gabled organ chamber, and a nave with a S. porch and a little bell-cote over the W. gable.  The chancel windows are an assortment, consisting of two lancet lights subarcuated beneath trilobes and a third window comprising an arched head filled with a wheel of four trefoils and four squashed quatrefoils in the S. wall, and in the E. wall, a three-light window subarcuated above "Christmas trees" in the outer lights and with a large  pointed octfoil in the window head.  (See the photograph above left.)  The nave is lit from the north and south by two widely-spaced, four-light windows with cinquefoil-cusped lights subarcuated in pairs above daggers and trilobes in rounded triangles in the apices, and the W. window (above right) is composed of a wheel of six squashed quatrefoils beneath a pointed arch supported on each side by two colonnettes rising from buttresses, but the unity of the exterior is firmly established by the use throughout of orange-red tile for the roofs and red, English-bonded brick for the walls, tied together below the window springing line - or, in the case of the chancel E. window, below the sill - by a 15" high (38 cm.) frieze in black and yellow brick, forming a pattern of little trefoil-cusped blank arches running between narrow yellow bands. The raising of the E. window was a common feature at this date, characteristic in particular of George Edmund Street (1824-81) and intended to give greater emphasis to this, ecclesiastically most important end of the building.  (See, for example, St. Mary's, Fimber, East Riding and St. Peter's, Helperthorpe, North Yorkshire).





However, if the exterior is richly decorated, the interior is more so, for here a blank arcade in red and black brickwork runs along every wall and in the nave, the area above the springing is covered in orange-brown lattice work.  It now becomes clear why the nave windows are so widely spaced for this allows room for two blank arches between.  The W. wall of the nave is decorated further with a higher tier of narrower blank arches (as seen above) but the east end (below) is occupied by the triple chancel arch in white stone, formed of lancet-pointed arches bearing a roll and a sunk quadrant, supported on tall quatrefoil piers and semi-quatrefoil responds rising from a thick, one metre high stone wall, and partially filled above head height by ornamental brass work.




The coloured brickwork in the chancel is most striking around the splays of the S. lancets, the easternmost S. window previously described (which, with its dropped sill, was obviously inserted to form a sedilia), and the arch to the organ chamber diagonally opposite.  The reredos in white stone encompasses three scenes from the Passion including, in the centre, SS. Mary & John standing beside the Cross.   The chancel and sanctuary floors are attractively paved with blue, red and black patterned tiles.


The chancel has a boarded wagon roof but the nave roof is open and of collar brace design with wind braces beneath the purlins, "V" struts reaching up to the rafters above the collars, and no ridge piece.  The font is composed of an octagonal bowl with a black marble band and the text "Except a man be born of Water and the Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God" running round it, supported on a central stone shaft and eight very narrow columns in orange marble.  The wooden font cover is painted and gilded and suspended from an elaborate wrought iron superstructure.  The counterweight takes the form of a dove.