English Church Architecture.
WELBURN, St. John the Evangelist (SE 722 678),
(Bedrock: Middle Jurassic, Ravenscar Group.)
This is a relatively large church for a very small village, and one of Mallinson and Healey's best. The partners were chosen for the commission in August 1858, the foundation stone was laid by the Earl of Carlisle on 15th March the following year (notes in the church), and work had advanced sufficiently for the building to be opened for worship on 20th May 1860 even though the spire was not finally completed until 1865. The church was then a chapel-of-ease to St. Martin's, Bulmer, and so it remained until 1986.
St. John's (shown above, from the southwest and northeast respectively) stands a little above the Derwent valley in possibly the most rural position of any church Mallinson & Healey ever designed, and the budget was allowed to overrun from an, admittedly paltry, original estimate of £1,200, to a final figure of almost £4,000. The builder contracted to undertake the work was J.C. Teale of Malton, who was also given responsibility for some of the stone carving. The stone employed for the walls was Upper Jurassic, Malton Oolite, from Wath Quarry near Hovingham, five miles to the northwest (notes in the church). The building comprises a nave and chancel, N. and S. transepts, a northwest tower doubling as a porch and surmounted by a well-proportioned broach spire, and a steeply-gabled southeast organ-chamber-cum-vestry terminating a couple of feet short of the chancel. The nave, transept and chancel windows of variously one, two and three lights, have geometrical tracery of varying forms, all pleasantly drawn if also rather predictable, in proper conformity with Ruskinian precepts set out in 'The Lamp of Truth', as discussed under the entry for Bankfoot (Bradford). However, another essay from The Seven Lamps of Architecture whose influence is seen playing out here is 'The Lamp of Power', where Ruskin was driven by his admiration of such chunky Italian piles as the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, which he endeavoured to associate with the prophecies of the Book of Revelation: 'and [the angel] measured the city with the reed... The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal'. This became the basis of Ruskin’s privileging of mass over line, which would soon characterize High Victorian architecture above all else:
[T]he square and circle are pre-eminently the areas of power among those bounded by purely straight or curved lines; and these, with their relative solids, the cube and sphere, and relative solids of progression.., the square and cylindrical column, are the elements of utmost power in all architectural arrangements. ('The Lamp of Power', para. ix.)
Healey’s work first reflects this movement at Bowling and here at Welburn, in two otherwise very different churches designed in the same year. Both look, however, as if they have been composed by the juxtaposition of assorted cuboids and triangular prisms, with the addition of a pyramid sliced off at the angles to provide the helm roof of the tower at St. Stephen's, and a tall, slim, octagonal pyramid to form the spire at St. John’s. Interest is created in both designs by the asymmetry of the elevations while unity is preserved by the steep, 60º pitch of the roofs - to the nave, dormers, tower and gables round the semi-octagonal apse at Bowling, and to the nave, chancel, transepts and vestry here. St. John’s is especially successful: the grouping of masses is highly effective, and the vestry in the re-entrant between the chancel and the S. transept (which in many churches appears as a necessary but unfortunate appendage), is neatly integrated into the composition to enhance the building's perspective from this direction, in the manner, for example, seen at George Edmund Street's little church at Thixendale in the Yorkshire Wolds (East Riding). The tower rises in three stages, supported by diagonal buttresses to the lower two, and features a lancet-pointed W. doorway with an order of side-shafts and a quatrefoil in the tympanum, a circular window containing three trilobes lighting the second stage, and two-light bell-openings with trilobes in rounded triangles in the heads.
Inside the church one notices first the semicircular projection in the northwest angle of the tower, enclosing the stair. The very wide arches from the nave to the transepts rise from corbels decorated with leaf carving and the chancel arch springs from semi-octagonal responds with carved leaf capitals. (See the general interior view of the church, looking east, above left, and the view of the east end of the N. transept arch, above right.) The chancel has a panelled wagon roof but the nave roof timbers are exposed and framed in seven cants.
As for furnishings, then as discussed under the entry for Thornhill Lees, the number of items Healey appears to have designed for his churches seems to have been roughly commensurate with the buildings' total cost, and here it seems likely the exceptional pulpit is his, not least on the grounds of its general similarity to his authenticated pulpit at Thornhill Lees. (See the photograph above left.) Indeed, the carving at Welburn is arguably the less intricate of the two, but the overall effect is richer due to the careful introduction of a little structural colour: there is leaf carving beneath the bookrest; the drum is decorated with two-light, geometrical-traceried 'windows' with elaborately crocketed gables, separated by carved angels atop diminutive brown marble columns; and the stem is surrounded by eight mottled black marble shafts with stiff leaf capitals in white stone. It is a particularly fine piece and it is a pity there seems to be no information about its design or manufacture. The font (above right) is not the equal of the pulpit, but would be a fine addition under most circumstances, nicely carved as it is in white stone.