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English Church Architecture -



STOW-ON-THE-WOLD, St. Edward* (SP 191 258)   (October 2010)

(Bedrock: Middle Jurassic, Chipping Norton Limestone Formation)


This is a large town church displaying work in a variety of styles, although the more significant features are generally Early English.  The notable exception is the Perpendicular S. tower, for St. Edward’s is a mediaeval building with a distinctly unusual plan, formed of a chancel, nave with very unequal aisles, N. transept, and tower in the position of a S. transept.  The N. porch is a seventeenth or eighteenth century addition according to Alan Brookes and David Verey (The Buildings of England - Gloucestershire: The Cotswolds, Yale University Press, 2002), and the S. porch, N. vestry and cross-gabled organ chamber (now the boiler house) are Victorian.


















In fact the oldest masonry in the church is probably Norman, to judge from the lower parts of the west wall of the nave.  These are not very informative admittedly, but the Early English work inside is another matter altogether and proves that by the mid to late thirteenth century, there was a church on this site of similar dimensions to the church here today.  The S. arcade is three bays long and a simpler version of its counterpart to the north (see the internal view of the nave at the top of the page, taken from the east), suggesting it is the earlier.    It consists of double-flat-chamfered arches supported on quatrefoil piers (an example of which is shown above left) with fillets down the foils and nailhead round the capitals, and opens to an aisle one bay in width, just half that of the N. aisle opposite, which advertises its depth with a two-bay arcade running transversely between it and the transept, composed of arches carrying a flat chamfer on the outer order and two shallow rolls on the inner, supported on a central pier composed of eight shafts without fillets, a respond formed of three shafts to the south, and a head corbel to the north (shown below).  The N. arcade between the nave and the aisle, is four bays long, with an easternmost arch opposite the tower, leading into the transept. This is formed of triple-flat-chamfered arches supported on piers formed of clusters of eight shafts, with fillets in the cardinal directions, cable moulding round the tops of the shafts, and nailhead above, around alternate capitals only.  (See the  example, above right, which lacks the nailhead decoration.)  This arcade is presumably contemporary with the two plate-traceried N. aisle windows (of which that to the east has since been renewed), displaying:  outside, a pair of lancet lights with side shafts, set inside an encompassing arch with a second order of shafts and a small trefoil above and between;  and inside, another order of shafts beside the deep splays.  The tower opens into the S. aisle to the west, through a plain pointed arch that may be re-set.  The wide, round arch to the chancel, bearing two flat chamfers which die into the jambs, may be the result of reconstruction.



The S. windows to the S. aisle are early fourteenth century work, formed of pairs of trefoiled lights with little encircled quatrefoils in their heads.  The chancel, though much restored, is also essentially Decorated, although the E. window is Victorian and the N. and S. windows, each formed of two trefoiled lights with a rounded triangle above, all seem to have been restored.  Thus the best work of this period is the excellent five-light nave W. window (illustrated  left) with an elaborate form of reticulated tracery with subreticulation, beneath an ogee arch which rises to a crocketed niche at the point.  The E. and N. windows to the transept are four-light and Perpendicular, with supermullioned tracery and outer lights subarcuated in pairs, but the former is also set between a pair of surviving lancets.  Inside the church, all these windows reveal their deep splays with flat-chamfered surrounds and side shafts without capitals. The aisle W. windows are both four-light but the N. window has supermullioned tracery with strong mullions between the lights and the S. window is uncusped and untraceried, and probably Tudor.  The nave clerestory is formed of five pairs of large square-headed windows in Perpendicular style, all apparently renewed.  The massive S. tower (shown below right, from the south) is fifteenth century in date and rises in four stages supported by angle buttresses to the first two, to two-light supermullioned bell-openings, battlements decorated with blank arches, and crocketed pinnacles at the corners. A projecting square section at the southwest angle, houses the stair turret.


Finally, other features to mention briefly include the odd N. porch, with five little trefoil-cusped windows arranged round an unmoulded arch and quatrefoil openings at the sides.  Church carpentry is not of much importance but significant monuments in the building include one to John Chamberlayne (d. 1714) on the N. wall of the chancel (shown in the thumbnail, below left), with a long inscription in Latin, putti above, an open and broken and pediment with more putti on top and an achievement between, black marble Corinthian columns at the sides, and the usual symbols of mortality beneath (four skulls).  Another monument on the S. wall of the sanctuary commemorates another John Chamberlayne (d. 1667) and features an open and broken pediment enclosing an achievement, supported by barley-sugar columns  The easternmost S. window in the chancel has a lowered sill to create a sedilia and there is a piscina with a credence shelf immediately to the east.



*But which Edward? According to the church guide, this is far from clear. However, this glossy publication is a sad disappointment, for it is one of many such guides in which a blend of broad generalisations with unimportant or irrelevant detail, passes for worthwhile information!