English Church Architecture -
THIXENDALE, St. Mary (SE 842 611) (August 2012)
(Bedrock: Upper Cretaceous, Welton Chalk Formation)
This little church was constructed for Sir Tatton Sykes II according to designs by George Edmund Street (1824-81) at the same time that two of Streetís other Yorkshire churches were being erected at Fimber and Robin Hoodís Bay, in 1868-70. St. Maryís, Thixendale, is not particularly promising externally with its unrelieved N. elevation (below left), composed of just a nave and slightly lower chancel, with only a little bell-cote over the intervening gable and a diminutive N. porch to provide punctuation, and its almost flat-roofed leaded S. aisle (as seen below right). A rather more interesting perspective may be obtained from the southeast (as illustraetd in the photograph above), where the steeply-pitched, independently-gabled vestry adjoins the humble lean-to organ chamber, itself only an insignificant eastward extension of the aisle. However, a feature holding out hope for better things inside is the small apsidal projection at the west end (sic) of the nave, which some visitors will identify (correctly) as a baptistery. Moreover, except in the S. aisle, windows to the building are otherwise traceried, in contrast to Streetís more usual resort to various arrangements of cusped lancets - and include: (i) a three-light, trefoiled E. window, with three trefoils in rounded triangles above the springing; (ii) two two-light chancel N. windows (illustrated in the thumbnails below left), the easterly with cusped Y-tracery, a dagger in the apex and trilobes in the heads of the lights, and the westerly with a wheel of three little trefoils above trefoiled lights ; (iii) two three-light nave N. windows, with trefoils in the heads of the outer lights and an irregular cinquefoil above the central light; and (iv) a high, circular W. window above the baptistery, formed of a sexfoil surrounded by quatrefoils in circles. Judged on his own terms, this represents almost a riot of invention for Street, who generally showed little interest in window tracery. Nevertheless, the artistís fingerprints are in evidence here, in the way the string course beneath the windows steps up progressively towards the east, until, even on a building of this size, it reaches 9 or 10' high (3 m.). The porch is windowless: the outer doorway carries a couple of rolls and a hollow, and the trefoil-cusped inner doorway has a complex series of little mouldings running round it, above an order of shafts in shaft-rings.
Inside the church, the four-bay aisle arcade is very nicely designed for such a humble building (seen below left, viewed from the nave), with accurately-cut piers formed of four major and four minor shafts - the former circular with fillets, and the latter, keeled - and arches bearing an outer flat chamfer and a series of narrow sunk quadrants and hollows. A half-arch crosses the aisle between the organ chamber and nave aisle proper, and a wide arch opens between the chancel and organ chamber, with a sunk quadrant around the inner order and a keeled moulding around the outer. The rere-arches to the aisle windows are triple-hollow-chamfered over their heads and the S. window in the sanctuary has a lowered sill to act as a sedilia. The arch around the baptistery apse (below right) is round-headed and bears a keeled roll between hollows. The font consists of an octagonal bowl with a pair of blank trefoil-cusped lancets on each face, above a moulded octagonal stem.
Other furnishings in the church include the stone pulpit with trefoil-cusped arches decorating the circular drum and pointed quatrefoils beneath the cornice. The wooden rood screen and loft are heavy affairs, with little to commend them, but the stone reredos (below) is very attractive and features a row of trefoil-cusped blank arcading along the back, with ivy leaves in the spandrels, further carvings above, and a castellated top rail, set between elaborately patterned tiled panels on either side. Further tiling patterns inevitably feature on the floor where, as usual, they increase in intricacy as one approaches the altar. Finally, the chancel roof is barrel vaulted and patterned in dark brown with the sacred monogram; the nave roof is arched to the collars and there are wind braces beneath the purlins.