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English Church Architecture -



BOURTON-ON-THE-WATER, St. Lawrence (SP 167 209)  (February 2001)

(Bedrock: Lower Jurassic, Middle Lias Mudstones)


In plan the building falls into three parts, namely a fourteenth century chancel, which is all that remains of the mediaeval church, an eighteenth century W. tower, which is left from the rebuilding of 1784, and a Victorian nave and N. aisle, which is the most attractive and artistically significant work.


The chancel is Decorated and reliably dated to 1328 when a benefactor, Walter de Burhton, gave money for its construction. Unfortunately considerable restoration has taken place and the work was probably not of especial distinction in any case.  The S. windows are two-light and simple and the E. window is three-light but looks untrustworthy.


The W. tower of 1784 (shown left) by William Marshall who lived at Bourton, is the only Renaissance church tower in the county. However, it is interesting rather than attractive, for the details are fairly simple.  The lowest stage is rusticated and the upper two have flat Ionic pilasters at the angles, but the ornament otherwise is limited to the balustrade above the cornice, the urns serving as corner pinnacles, and the small recessed lead-covered dome.  These features together give the tower a simple, classical dignity, yet it looks plain besides the nineteenth century nave.


The Gothic Revival work is by Thomas Jackson (1835-1924) and was built in stages, with the N. aisle coming first in 1875, the S. porch next in 1890, and the rest of the nave a year later, as Marshall's work was taken down bit by bit.  The S. façade is especially attractive for although the windows are only two-light and three-light, the tracery of each is delicate and finely proportioned (see the first thumbnail, below left), with trefoil-cusped, sometimes ogee-pointed lights, subarcuated above mouchettes or trefoils, and quatrefoils in the heads.  The S. porch (illustrated right) is also finely wrought, with a large, crocketed ogee arch over the cinquefoil-cusped outer doorway, which has two orders of colonnettes down the jambs and a third order set some 2 feet (60 cms.) behind. The gable above is decorated with trefoil-cusped, transomed blank arcading.  The N. side of the building is simple by comparison, with two-light aisle windows each with a quatrefoil and two daggers in the head, but inside they are set in splayed, blank arches.  The aisle W. window (shown in the second thumbnail, below left) is altogether more elaborate again:  the four lights are subarcuated in pairs with ogees, and above and between these, there is a wheel of five trilobes.  Trilobes also  appear in the head of the individual lights, above trefoil-cusping below.  The whole composition shows that Jackson had a good feeling for line and, when occasion allowed, could produce attractive and distinctive work in a context that for many a Victorian church builder would have led to just another dull restoration.


Jackson's five-bay arcade consists of arches with two orders of sunk quadrants on circular piers, and the arches between the nave and chancel and between the aisle and its extension as a N. chapel, are similar except that the responds consist of two orders of shafts bearing fillets.  The nave roof, also by Jackson, is of king post type, with collar beams above at the odd height of halfway between the first and  second  purlins.  The attractive painted ceiling in the chancel and the finely carved screens, date only from the 1920s.