English Church Architecture -
KIRBY MISPERTON, St. Laurence (SE 779 795) (April 2015)
(Bedrock: Upper Jurassic, Ampthill Clay Formation)
This little church (seen left, from the southwest), immediately adjacent to the entrance to Flamingo Land, is composed of a W. tower, a nave with a S. aisle and porch, and a chancel with a lean-to N. organ chamber, most of which parts were rebuilt or heavily restored in the nineteenth century. The little mediaeval work that remains is largely confined to the aisle, whose three-light, three-centred windows with supermullioned tracery to east and west, seem essentially original, but whose most interesting feature is the four-bay arcade to the nave (shown at the foot of the page), formed of arches bearing two flat chamfers that die into octagonal piers without intervening capitals - a design that is memorable if only for its unsatisfactoriness.
The tower rises in two stages, supported by diagonal buttresses to the lower stage only. The latter is possibly Tudor but the bell-stage is surely Victorian, a fact betrayed by its bell-openings with the curious combination of fat Y-tracery set in round arched openings.
The best piece of nineteenth century work is the chancel, rebuilt in three bays in 1875 to the designs of Charles Hodgson Fowler (1840-1910), a pupil of Scott, in a late Victorian style characterized by the raising up of the three-light E. window featuring strong mullions, outer lights subarcuated above inverted daggers, and two tiers of subreticulation units above the central light. The height of this window was probably intended to provide space for a tall and elaborate reredos below, in the manner favoured, for example, by George Frederick Bodley. The chancel arch is unremarkable, being composed of two orders bearing a continuous wave moulding round the outer order and a hollow chamfer on the inner, supported on semi-octagonal responds.
Church furnishings do not amount to much but of the several monuments on the nave N. wall, the best one is dedicated to the memory of the Rev. John Clarke M.A. (d. 1761), one time Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, whose academic credentials are commemorated by a collection of instruments of learning including several books, a globe, a pair of dividers and, more curiously, a snake, carved in bas-relief below a draped urn. The very odd font (illustrated right) is probably Norman although the church guide, probably wisely, contents itself by describing it as "extremely ancient": a plain octagonal bowl stands on an octagonal splayed stem of exceptionally raw design.