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English Church Architecture -



TYDD ST. MARY, St. Mary (TF 446 186)     (August 2009)

(Bedrock: Upper Jurassic, Ampthill Clay Formation)


This is a substantial and attractive church (shown left, from the southeast) in a  pleasant little fen village off the A1101.  Composed of a chancel, an aisled nave with a S. porch, and a W. tower with a recessed spire, it preserves its oldest work inside, but as the tower is seen first, that is a better place to begin.


This is an impressive structure, built of rough early mediaeval brick and rising in three stages supported by stone angle buttresses, to brick battlements and a surmounting, recessed, octagonal stone spire lit by three tiers of lucarnes (sic – Pevsner said “two”) in alternating directions. Both the tower and the spire are approximately 55 feet tall (16.8 m.) according to the church guide, which also ascribes both to the fifteenth century, which the use of bricks might support.  However, the two-light bell-openings and second-stage W. window, have straightened reticulation units in their heads, suggesting the date is early if so. (See Appendix 2 for some close-dated examples of the use of straightened reticulation units in window traceries in eastern counties of England.)  The W. doorway carries a series of waves and hollows, and there are three stepped trefoiled niches above, now containing modern statues.  (See the thumbnail, right.)  A semi-octagonal projection for the stair at the east end of the S. wall, is lit by four narrow rectangular lights.


The oldest work to be seen externally is the fine Decorated chancel, with windows each side (i.e. north and south) consisting of one with cusped Y-tracery and one with cusped intersecting tracery, each with narrow trefoils above the lights. (See the S. window, illustrated left.)  This design considered alone might indicate c. 1310, yet the lights are slightly ogee-pointed, and since the ogee rarely makes an appearance before c. 1315, then Pevsner and the church guide, not unreasonably, propose c. 1320.   The E. window is Victorian.


With the exception of a Decorated two-light window in the E. end of the N. aisle, the nave aisles are lit by an assortment of restored Perpendicular windows, the majority of which are square-headed.  Most interesting among them, however, is a three-light, four-centred one to the north, with its central light crossed by a castellated transom.  The shallow, windowless S. porch has an outer doorway bearing two flat chamfers above semi-octagonal shafts.


Inside the church, the five-bays arcades (shown below, from the west) are early thirteenth century in date and, indeed, both Pevsner and the church guide describe them as Transitional, but even if this ascription is accepted, the date proposed by the guide (“1145-89”) is certainly too early, one of c. 1210-20 probably being a better estimate here.  The arches are pointed and carry two wide flat chamfers, which is very unlikely to be twelfth century work, even though pointed arches do make their first appearance in England c. 1160-80 in prestigious work such as the chancel and transepts at Ripon Cathedral.  The piers and responds are circular and semicircular respectively, and the capitals, octagonal, with two to the north showing what may have been an initial intention (abandoned almost immediately) to decorate them with water leaf.  The tall chancel arch, which is double-flat-chamfered above semi-octagonal responds, is presumably contemporary with the chancel, together with the cinquefoil-cusped sedilia of three equal bays and the double-piscina beyond, recessed in the S. wall.  The tower arch carries one flat and one hollow chamfer above a pair of narrow semicircular shafts with a fillet, topped by large castellated capitals.  The Perpendicular nave clerestory is formed of five pairs of four-centred, two-light windows, with strong central mullions.



Finally, the church has few furnishings of note but the font is Perpendicular and formed of an octagonal bowl decorated by angels holding shields, supported on an octagonal stem decorated with cinquefoil-cusped blank arches.  The church contains no old carpentry of significance apart from the nave roof, which is probably contemporary with the clerestory, at least in the main.  The church contains a number of monuments, of which two on the N. aisle N. wall, are:  (i) first from the east, a tablet (shown below) commemorating Sigismund Trafford (d. 1741), reputedly by Rysbrack (1694 – 1770) (church guide), featuring a male figure in profile, carved in low relief, sitting on the cornice;  and (ii), third from the east, a tablet commemorating John Trafford (d. 1719), with an inscription in Latin, putti at the sides, and an open pediment above.