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English Church Architecture -



STANTON, St. Michael & All Angels (SP 069 343) (March 2015)

(Bedrock: Lower Jurassic, Dyrham Formation)


Stanton can reasonably claim to be the perfect Cotswold village, and one, moreover, which although ideally situated for walkers on the direct line of the Cotswold Way, is happily placed to be overlooked by passing motorists, down one of three narrow side lanes, none of which lead anywhere else. St. Michael's (seen above from the south) stands roughly in the centre of the village and is a particularly attractive building, constructed of golden-coloured stone and displaying interesting work deriving from most architectural periods from the twelfth century to the early twentieth. 


The plan is an intricate one for a church of modest size, being formed of a short chancel, an aisled nave with transepts and a two-storeyed S. porch, and a W. tower rising in two stages to a tall surmounting spire.  Detailed description of these constituent parts is best begun inside, since that is where the earliest work may be found.  The N. arcade consists of a pointed arch to the west and a continuous three-bay Norman arcade to the east, separated by a wall-piece. The round, unmoulded Norman arches of two orders (shown left, from the southwest) are supported on circular piers and semicircular responds with scalloped capitals, all of which are original except for the eastern pier, which is a nineteenth century replacement - a matter which is obvious at once from the different colour of the stone and the crisp condition of the carving.  Nothing else appears to survive from this time, inside or out, but work from the succeeding (thirteenth) century seems more extensive and probably includes the basic structure of the S. transept (to judge from the lancet in the E. wall and the double-flat-chamfered arch leading into the transept from the aisle), the lower parts of the chancel walls (which, however, were largely reconstructed in the nineteenth century), and possibly the western bay of the N. arcade, already mentioned, and the entire four-bay S. arcade (illustrated below right), formed of double-flat-chamfered arches springing from octagonal piers with large head label stops carved in low relief facing the nave.  However, David Verey in The Buildings of England described this as "probably... late fifteenth century" in order to tie up the construction of the S. aisle and the extension of the nave and N. aisle by one bay to the west with the  contemporary erection of the W. tower and spire.  In either case, it seems at least clear that the church had a N. aisle before it had a S. aisle, and it is likely that the opposite was true in the case of the transepts since the N. transept windows are consistent with the Early English/ Decorated transition of around c. 1300, which would place it half a century or so later than its counterpart to the south.  (The N. transept  E. window is formed of two trefoil-cusped lancets set within a narrow encompassing arch and the larger N. window is formed of two trefoil-cusped lights and a quatrefoil inside an encompassing arch, in a design still entirely without ogees.)  Other features to notice inside the church, of various or indeterminate dates, include the passageway also acting as a squint, which leads from the N. transept to the chancel, the more conventional squint directed towards the sanctuary from the S. transept, and the passage arch between the S. transept and the east end of the nave, east of the S. arcade.


As for the remaining windows in the church, most are Perpendicular in style even if they cannot necessarily claim to be so in age.  The four-light S. transept S. window has supermullioned tracery and strong mullions, and the four-light chancel E. window has its lights subarcuated in pairs.  The porch (shown left, from the southeast) is a fifteenth or early sixteenth century addition:  the stair to the upper storey is enclosed within the thickness of the wall in the re-entrant between the porch and the continuation of the nave to the west, the simple outer doorway is double-flat-chamfered, and there is a little (presumably Victorian) statue of St. Michael in the ogee-pointed blank arch immediately above.


The most striking post-mediaeval window in the building is the wide dormer window in the S. side of the nave roof, just to the west of the transept, which is an eighteenth century insertion faced in stone or stucco, formed of four round-headed lights beneath a neat, classically-proportioned pediment.  The chancel was reconstructed in 1874 but the other Victorian alterations and additions were assigned by David Verey to the church's restoration of 1896-8, carried out under the direction of Sir Arthur Blomfield (1829-99), who may have been responsible for the form of the renewed two-light porch windows and the three-light S. aisle windows with their trefoil-cusped lights and drop tracery composed of two tiers of reticulation units.  (See the photograph, right.)   The artistically more important twentieth century contributions to the church are by Sir Ninian Comper (1864 - 1960), a former pupil of the great Gothic Revivalist, George Frederick Bodley, who designed the present reredos, rood screen, W. gallery and organ loft, together with the rustic three-light dormer window inserted to light the organ from the north side of the nave roof.  The rood screen and loft are particularly large and striking, constructed in dark wood with elaborate tracery at the top and gates across the central opening to the chancel, of the full height of the screen.  The loft supports a large rood, flanked by the traditional statues of St. Mary and St. John.  Surprisingly, perhaps, all this work appears to have been brought to fruition during the course of the First World War.


Finally, other miscellaneous furnishings in the church include the nice Perpendicular font with quatrefoils adorned with floral motifs on the eight faces of the bowl, which is canted out over a stem bearing the more usual blank arches. The large dark-wood pulpit is probably late seventeenth century work, perhaps subsequently reconstructed, but the lectern on the opposite (north) side of the chancel arch is actually the former Perpendicular pulpit, carved in tracery consistent with its date.