English Church Architecture -
BRAUGHING, St. Mary (TL 396 253) (March 2016)
(Bedrock: Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)
Apart from a single thirteenth century lancet visible in the N. wall of the chancel within, this is an all-Perpendicular building whose appearance has been compromised by several restorations. (See the photograph of the church above, taken from the east.) It is formed of a W. tower, an aisled nave with a two-storeyed S. porch and a projecting rood stair turret at the southeast angle, and a chancel with a N. chapel and vestry constructed in English bonded brick c. 1638 (see www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk). Externally, the least rewarding of its features is its multifarious assortment of windows. These are nearly all Victorian as revealed in the aisles (a) by a close examination of the internal stonework, where the mediaeval jambs and mullions can be seen to have been cut through at the springing level and to be constructed of a slightly different stone from the pristine tracery above, and (b) by a drawing of the church made in 1832 by J.C. Butler, hanging on the S. wall of the S. aisle, in which the windows visible in a view from the southeast, differ noticeably from the present ones although their sizes are more or less the same. I have also discovered the following entry in the Annual Report of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings for July 1889:
“The Secretary of the Royal Archaeological Institute brought [the case of this church] before the notice of the Society, and visited the building in conjunction with our Secretary.
“Afterwards a joint report was sent to the Vicar, who, in reply, said he could not agree with the Societies in wishing to retain the old plaster on the internal face of the walls and the pavement, and that he thought new tracery in the windows and new glazing would be a great improvement. He thought it was undesirable to preserve the old form in the chancel, even though it might be 300 years old. He also said that it was natural that he should fall in with the wishes of a gentleman who subscribed nearly £1,000 towards the work, rather than with those of a Society which subscribes nothing.
“The Society tried to influence the architect, Mr. Buckle, but without success, and the case had to be abandoned.”
Perhaps the original form of the majority of these windows is shown by the S. aisle E. window in the sketch, composed of three cinquefoil-cusped, two-centred lights separated by strong mullions, with supermullioned tracery and a tiny quatrefoil in the apex. The only unadulterated windows today are probably those in the porch (left): the S. window in the upper storey is two-light and square-headed, with supermullioned tracery and split-Ys, and the east and west windows to the lower storey are similar but uncusped. The porch adjoins the second bay of the S. aisle from the west and projects high above it; it is embattled and has crocketed pinnacles at the angles and a niche on either side of the upper storey window. The very worn outer doorway below (of clunch) has traceried spandrels and an almost indistinguishable order of side-shafts from which spring the series of little waves around the arch. The tower rises in four very unequal stages supported by set-back buttresses. The very short third stage is just sufficiently tall to accommodate a glazed encircled quatrefoil opening in a square surround on each side. The bell-openings have straightened reticulated tracery, often indicative of the late fourteenth century, though the date may be a little later here as Pevsner mentioned a bequest of 1416 in which a certain John Kyllan left £5 for work on the building. The recessed leaded spire rising behind the tower battlements may be contrasted with the more characteristic (for this area) Hertfordshire spike.
The very tall porch inner doorway has traceried spandrels beneath a heavy rectangular surround. Passing through this into the nave, careful observation exposes another major alteration to the original work, witnessed, in this case, by a slight variation in the stonework between the piers and arches in the four-bay arcades, which seems to show the piers are later (sic) and that the arches above have been re-used: the piers are composed of four semicircular shafts separated by hollowed spurs, with capitals to the shafts only, while the simpler arches resting upon them are formed of a wide flat-chamfered inner order and an outer order bearing a wave. (See the interior view of the church below left, taken from the west, and the close-up of the central pier of the N. arcade, below right.) However, the piers may not differ greatly from those they replaced for the responds at the ends of the arcades, which do seem to be part of the original work, are actually very similar, only the capitals differing significantly. (The W. respond to the S. arcade is shown at the foot of the page, on the right.) The square-headed, three-light clerestory windows are modern and aligned with the nave arcades. The chancel is approached up three steps and a large modern arch on the immediate left communicates between the chancel and former chapel, now converted into an organ chamber. At the opposite end of the building, the extremely tall tower arch is formed of three orders, the innermost bearing two wave mouldings above semicircular shafts with capitals and the outer two carrying wave mouldings that continue uninterrupted down the jambs.
The nave roof retains its mediaeval wall posts, principal rafters, and carved wooden figures. The wall posts rise from an interesting display of carved figure corbels, further examples of which can be seen in the aisles. The east end of the nave roof is covered over with a renewed “canopy of honour”, partly gilded and partly painted in blue. Other furnishings include the original font at the E. end of the N. aisle, with an octagonal bowl decorated with trefoiled blank arches and a plain stem. A tiny trefoil-cusped ogee squint looks through from the N. aisle, almost due south to immediately behind the chancel arch, presumably for the benefit of any priest officiating here at a subsidiary altar.
The chancel contains several significant monuments, including two especially large ones facing each other across the sanctuary. The one to the north (above left) commemorates John Brograve (d. 1625) and his younger brother (Pevsner) and features effigies of two men, lying awkwardly, one above the other, clad in armour, beneath a round coffered arch in brown alabaster, with brown Ionic columns at the sides, supporting an entablature and cherubs above, separated by an achievement. The monument to the south (above right) is dedicated to Ralph Freeman (d. 1772), his wife Elizabeth, and four of his forebears, viz. another Ralph Freeman (d. 1742) and his wife Elizabeth, and William Freeman (son of the elder Ralph) (d. 1749) and Catherine his wife. This was listed by Gunnis (Dictionary of British Sculptors: 1660-1851, pub. The Abbey Library, 1951) as the work of Thomas Scheemakers (1740-1808), son of the more famous Peter, working in collaboration with James Stuart ("Athenian Stuart") (1713-88), and comprises two well-fed cherubs pointing to an achievement above a marble sarcophagus flanked by medallions and with a third one attached, depicting the three couples in profile, the male in front in each case. Further west in the same wall, a monument above the priest’s doorway, displays a frontal bust of Augustin Steward (d. 1597) (www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk), set in a square surround (below left).