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English Church Architecture -



BRIDGHAM, St. Mary (TL 958 858)     (July 2010)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)

This is a small building, comprising a chancel, nave, N. porch and bell turret.  That a tower existed once is manifest from the blocked arch in the W. wall of the nave (as shown in the photograph above, which was taken from the northwest).  The church provides a minor illustration of the three styles of Gothic architecture - Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular, in the nave, chancel and porch respectively.  Inside, it is wonderfully light, with clear glass in large windows.


The nave is four bays long and lit by three Y-traceried windows to the south (in bays 1, 3 & 4 from the west) and two to the north (in bays 1 & 3), set in large rere-arches within, with flat chamfers around their heads.  This is thirteenth century work and probably not contemporary with the N. and S. doorways (the former, inside the porch), each bearing a wave and a flat chamfer and set in segmental-pointed rere-arches.  The easternmost N. window is a Decorated replacement, and the Dutch gables, which are now so prominent at each end of the nave, are probably an embellishment of the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries.  The small wooden bell turret of uncertain date, above the W. end, was presumably added after the tower was demolished or fell.


The present chancel dates from 1320-50.  There are two, two-light reticulated windows, each to the north and south, of which the westernmost S. window has a blocked trefoiled opening below, that presumably once acted act as a lowside window, and the splendid five-light E. window has reticulated tracery which could serve as an exemplar. (Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to photograph adequately due to the limited space behind.)   The chancel's other significant feature is inside, recessed in the S. wall, where it consists of a double sedilia with a double piscina adjoining to the east (as illustrated left).  Both these are clearly Decorated, and yet they hardly go together:  the piscina has reticulated tracery beneath a two-centred arch while the sedilia is square-headed, with a round central shaft with a capital, supporting a proto-supermullion above.  This is clearly the later design, most probably dating from around the mid-century, and it seems to have been squeezed in between the piscina and where the sanctuary was deemed to begin.  The chancel arch carries two flat chamfers which die into the jambs.


The diagonally-buttressed porch (illustrated in the thumbnail, right) has been heavily patched with brick and the poor little side windows are now entirely of this material.  However, some of the proud Perpendicular flushwork remains, displaying three tiers of trefoil-cusped  arches on the N. face and two to the east and west.  The two-centred outer doorway carries a series of narrow mouldings above the responds.


Finally, of furnishings, the Perpendicular font is composed of an octagonal bowl supported on an octagonal stem.  The bowl is carved with angels on the ordinal sides, saints to the north and south, the Holy Trinity to the east, and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to the west.  (This last can be seen in the photograph below left, which was taken from the west.)  The stem is decorated with lion supporters, curiously positioned at the east-northeast, south-southeast, west-southwest and north-northwest angles, and the base displays an attractive frieze of open quatrefoils.  The dado is all that survives of the fifteenth century rood screen, consisting of two three-light sections of painted, cinquefoiled panels north of the central opening and a single section to the south.  (See the photograph below right, showing the section immediately north of the opening.)  Notes in the church record that in 1475, a certain John Wattyson, bequeathed 10/-  for its painting and it is probably the same man who is commemorated by a mediaeval bench-end in the chancel, carved with the inscription "John Watson and Alice hys wyff".  The north section of the screen abuts the large, curious, Jacobean pulpit, which is clearly adapted from something else.