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English Church Architecture -



ROCKBOURNE, St. Andrew (SU 115 184)     (September 2013)

(Bedrock: Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)

The church consists today of a nave, chancel, S. aisle and S. chapel, with a N. vestry adjoining the nave and a wooden belfry above the west end of the aisle (sic).  (See the photograph above, taken from the southeast.) However, its original plan was pseudo-cruciform (i.e. with transepts but no crossing tower), as shown by the higher floor level of the longest and easternmost of the nave’s four unequal bays, and by the surviving arch to the N. transept (illustrated below left), now leading to the vestry.  This is Norman work, and perhaps early at that (although not Saxon, as suggested by the church guide):  two masonry courses in the rubble E. wall (seen in the exterior view, below right) are formed of Roman tile set herringbone-wise, which Sir Arthur Clapham considered to be "commonly distinctive of  late eleventh century building" (English Romanesque Architecture, Vol. 2, Oxford University Press, 1934).   Probably also from this period is the tall blocked arch above the N. doorway to the nave with its ungainly cinquefoil-cusping.



The thirteenth century was responsible for the three western bays of the arcade (constructed of Chilmark stone from the Upper Jurassic Portland Group), composed of octagonal piers supporting double-flat-chamfered arches, all slightly differing in length.  Their insouciant appearance was greatly exacerbated shortly afterwards, however, when the W. crossing arch and the W. wall of the transept were demolished to incorporate the crossing into the nave and the S. transept into the aisle, and the S. crossing arch was replaced with a wide arch in the style of the arcade, to make it three bays plus one, separated by a wall piece.  (See the photograph below left, which shows the arcade viewed from the chancel.)   At the same time, the E. crossing arch was rebuilt to open up the chancel to the nave, and a one-bay chapel was constructed, east of the newly-extended aisle.  The double-flat-chamfered, lancet-pointed S. doorway inside the porch is probably another feature of this date, which may also have seen some of the internal faces of the doors and windows provided with carved shafts and decorative capitals - a possibility suggested by the re-set fragments around the internal face of the nave W. window, as left by the nineteenth century restorers.



This was obviously a major phase of reconstruction which affected the basic form of the building, but inevitably, many later alterations were carried out, even if they appear comparatively minor by comparison.  Lancet windows survive in the vestry and the aisle, but all other windows are now Perpendicular in form even where they are later in age.  The most interesting are the two, two-light windows with straightened reticulation units in the head (in the E. wall of the chapel and immediately east of the S. porch in the aisle), perhaps indicative of a late fourteenth century origin.  The chancel windows are believed to date from the late 1820s (church guide).  The inevitable thorough-going Victorian restoration of the church was carried out in 1893 under the supervision of C.E. Ponting (church guide), who built the S. porch and cut down the eighteenth century box pews and three decker pulpit to produce the perfectly respectable but historically largely valueless furniture the church holds today.  Other carpentry to notice includes the S. door to the nave (the outer face only, formed of six convex vertical planks), and the nave and chancel roofs, with barrel vaults supported by thin parallel ribs at the ridge and the one-third and two-third positions up the pitch.  The chancel roof is pointed.  The belfry, which is faced with shingles and surmounted by a short pyramidal spire, “carries the date 1613” according to Pevsner, although the church guide declares it “certainly existed by the middle 16th century” as three bells were recorded in the steeple in church inventories dated 1549 and 1552.


Finally, the church contains a number of significant wall monuments, of which the two most important face each other across the sanctuary and commemorate General Sir Eyre Coote (S. side) and his son of the same name (N. side).  The former is the work of William Theed the Younger (1804-91) and shows Sir Eyre, who died in 1823, aged 63, lying on his deathbed, attended by his weeping family and an angel hovering above to the right, carved in bas-relief.  However, the latter is better carved and notable for the absence of the figure of the deceased, who died, aged 28, in 1834:  signed by John Gibson (1790-1866), it depicts an angel trying unsuccessfully to comfort his widow and children, and is thoroughly concordant with an age of sensibility.  (See the photograph above right.)