English Church Architecture -
WYKEHAM, St. Helen & All Saints (SE 965 834) (April 2013)
(Bedrock: Upper Jurassic, Upper Calcareous Grit Member)
William Butterfield (1814–1900) retained the detached mediaeval tower when he rebuilt this church in 1853. (See the photograph, left, taken from the east.) It rises in three stages, supported by diagonal buttresses, and stands on the western boundary of the churchyard where it has been made to act as a gatehouse by the cutting of a passage through the lower stage, beneath inserted double-flat-chamfered arches and a quadripartite vault with flat-chamfered ribs. Butterfield also added the broach spire with its single tier of gabled lucarnes in the cardinal directions, although the bell-openings beneath are mediaeval, formed of two lancet lights below quatrefoils in circles. The date is probably c. 1300, which happens to match the style of the new building, twenty yards (18 m.) to the northeast (shown right, from the west).
This is formed of a chancel with a N. organ chamber, and a steeply-pitched aisled nave with a S. porch and typical Butterfieldian N. chimney (for the heating system). Windows, as expected, are in late First Pointed style. The W. wall of the nave is pierced by two windows separated by a buttress, with trefoil-cusped lights and pointed trefoils beneath Y-tracery. The two-light N. and S. windows to the aisles all differ slightly from their neighbours, while the clerestory consists of trefoils or quatrefoils in circles, set sometimes vertically, sometimes at an eighth of a turn. The chancel E. window is formed of three lights with a lower central light to create space above for a rounded triangle containing a sexfoil with three pointed and three rounded foils. The porch is windowless but has another quadripartite vault within. Constructional colour across the building exterior is confined to the very gentle contrast between the irregular, slightly orange stones, brought to courses at intervals in the main body of the walls, and the paler blocks of ashlar, employed for quoins and dressings round doors and windows.
Inside the church, the nave arcades are formed of three bays plus one, with the narrower westernmost bay separated from the others by short intervening wall pieces. It is difficult to conceive why this arrangement was necessary and the probable explanation is that it was merely intended to emphasize the entrance bay. All the arches are double-flat-chamfered and the arcade proper is supported on thick octagonal piers in the centre and narrow semicircular shafts at the ends. (See the interior view of the church, above left, taken from the west.) The chancel arch inner order is supported on corbels and the arch between the chancel and the organ chamber is single-flat-chamfered only. Roofs are a little odd: the chancel roof has very deep ashlar pieces and is framed in six cants, and the nave roof (illustrated above right) is pitched at around 60˚, producing a similar angle at the ridge. This roof has its principal rafters tied by collars, half way up, which is also the position of the only pair of purlins. It is clearly quite adequate for purposes of construction, but it looks flimsy and one is left with the suspicion that Butterfield adopted it as a deliberate provocation to anyone insolent enough to challenge its safety. (And see also the roofs on Butterfield's vicarage, immediately to the east of the church, where the pitch rises to an angle of about 70˚.) The octagonal font (below) is also a little curious though not without ingenuity: the octagonal bowl is simple enough, with its cardinal faces decorated with floral patterns in squares, but the stem is cut from a single block of stone from which the shafts have been only partially defined, giving the impression carving had been unintentionally interrupted when the work was incomplete.