English Church Architecture -
HAILES (no dedication) (SP 051 301) (April 2004)
(Bedrock: Lower Jurassic, Middle Lias Mudstones)
This little church is situated on the opposite side of the road to the abbey (founded in 1246 by the Cistercians), which it pre-dates. In plan it consists of just a nave and chancel with S. porch, built and roofed with local Cotswold stone, but within its small dimensions it presents a number of interesting features and raises one or two difficult questions about its precise building history. That its origins lie in the Norman period is clear from the chancel arch, which has semicircular responds and an outer order of circular shafts, both with scalloped capitals. The arch above, however, is pointed, so either the whole arch is Transitional work of c.1200 or else it has been remodelled from the springing line upwards. Most other features of the building seem to date from the early fourteenth century and here the windows pose a minor conundrum. They consist from west to east on each side of (i) a trefoil-cusped lancet to the nave, (ii) a cinquefoil-cusped lancet to the chancel with a squashed trefoil in the head, (iii) another window like the second, and (iv) a blocked window like the first. However, the salient point is that the spacing between (i) and (ii) is equal to that between (ii) and (iv), not that between the (ii) and (iii), suggesting that (iii) is the odd window out. This implies (iii) was inserted later when, perhaps, (ii) was remodelled and (iv), blocked, but that would obviously raise the question of why this might have been done, for the new windows were no larger, and if altered for reasons of fashion, then why was (i) left unchanged?
Inside the church, the eastern splays of the blocked chancel windows have been curiously utilized as sites for figure wall paintings, of which that to the north, depicting St. Catherine (illustrated left), has been nicely restored. There is also a faded but extensive scheme of wall paintings on the main surfaces of the chancel walls to north and south, albeit chiefly of heraldic motifs, but the encaustic floor tiles are more striking (see the two thumbnails, below right), especially around the altar. They have almost certainly come from the abbey, where a tiler, originally from Chertsey in Surrey, is thought to have set up a workshop to supply the monks in the 1270s. Two-colour decorated floor tiles are first known to have been produced in England for Henry III at Westminster in 1237 and the Chertsey school seems to have come from there, either directly or via Winchester. Of woodwork in Hailes church there is a simple mediaeval rood screen, with eight traceried divisions and vine scroll carved on the top rail, and a square pulpit with plain octagonal tester (sic) that probably dates from the eighteenth century.