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English Church Architecture.

 

DICKLEBURGH, All Saints (TM 168 824),

NORFOLK.

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk.)

 

A church just inside Norfolk that should probably be associated with the group of Suffolk churches identified by the late Birkin Haward as part-built by

the same master mason, 'Hawes of Occold', fl.  1410-1440.

 

The question of whether or not it is pertinent to talk about 'the mediaeval mason' is a subject that has fiercely divided architectural historians in recent decades, with many taking the view that the very concept of 'authorship', defined as the consideration of a work of art as an expression of an individual's creative skill and personality, had no currency before the Tudor period.  This supposition has coincided with the passing from fashion of connoisseurship as an approach to art history more generally, whereby the identity of individual artists was previously sought by stylistic analysis, in favour of such modern obsessions as  understanding art as an expression of ethnicity, colonialism, gender, 'the male gaze', or similar issues, and since some academics have built their reputations on the basis of these new studies, they naturally seek to defend them vigorously.

This shift in the focus of art history has not gone completely unchallenged however, albeit that some of the greatest champions of 'the old school' have since passed away too.  One such was Dr. John Harvey (1911-97), whose biographical dictionary English Medieval Architects (Gloucester, Alan Sutton, 1987) identified some 1,700 men of varying importance, who appear to have been responsible for buildings or part-buildings in England before 1550, and who argued that the only reason the men who designed mediaeval buildings are so little known is that no-one makes the effort to discover them.  This theme was subsequently taken up at a local level in Suffolk by the late Birkin Haward (1912-2002), who tried to group Suffolk's mediaeval churches on the basis of their aisle arcades (Suffolk Mediaeval Church Arcades, Hitcham, Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 1993) and who, in particular, went on to pick out on stylistic grounds, a dozen churches in mid Suffolk that appear to have been part-built by the same master mason, referred to by name in a building estimate for work at Wingfield church as 'Hawe[s], mason of Ocolte' (Master Mason Hawes of Occold, Ipswich, Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 2000).  The validity of this exercise is ultimately for the reader to decide, but the examples illustrated on this web-site will seek to promote it.  Indeed, the present writer has attempted to identify another group of Suffolk churches using Haward's methodology, centred on and around St. George's church, Stowlangtoft, and these can be examined separately. 

 

This is a church of predominantly grey stone (knapped flint and other fieldstones beneath slate roofs), externally much restored, consisting of a chancel with a small lean-to N. vestry, an aisled nave with a S. porch, and a W. tower.   The tower is unbuttressed and rises in two short stages to a bell-stage with Y-traceried bell-openings in the W. wall, suggesting a late thirteenth century origin, although the supermullioned bell-openings to north and south, and the untraceried W. window with double-cusped lights between strong mullions, are clearly later insertions.  A stair turret in Tudor brick has also been added at the eastern end of the N. wall.  The chancel, aisles and nave clerestory all have renewed segmental-pointed windows of Perpendicular form, with supermullioned drop tracery above stepped lights topped by castellated supertransoms in the aisles, and simple panelled tracery with stepped lights, which is the form Birkin Haward associated with master mason Hawes of Occold, as seen for example, at Bildeston (Suffolk) (Master Mason Hawes of Occold, Ipswich, Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and history, 2000, p. 20).  There are two clerestory windows per bay, positioned above the arcade spandrels, and the nave is surmounted by battlements which are crow-stepped above the chancel to the east.  The chancel windows, which are not part of the same build, have equal lights and the E. window is four-light and obviously Victorian but on either side of it there is a tall mediaeval, trefoil-cusped ogee niche with a pedestal for a statue.  However, the S. porch (above left) is the best work to be seen outside the building, being faced to the south in four tiers of flushwork arches, with more inside the merlons of the battlements. There are also ogee-pointed crocketed niches beside the spandrels of the outer doorway, set between diminutive 'buttresses' that terminate in crocketed pinnacles, and a third, canopied, niche with similar buttresses, rests on the apex.  The outer doorway itself is formed of two orders, the inner of which bears two wave mouldings springing from semicircular shafts with capitals, while the outer carries a casement moulding (a wide, shallow hollow chamfer) all the way around, filled with carved fleurons at intervals, one of which is replaced by a face.  The inner doorway carries a series of continuous waves and has carved rosettes in the spandrels, which are heavily worn.

 

 

Inside the church, the tower arch consists of three flat-chamfered orders, with the inner order springing from semi-octagonal responds.  However, the four-bay nave arcades are by far the most significant work here, being composed of arches of two orders, each bearing a flat chamfer divided into two bands by a groove down the centre, supported on piers composed of four major shafts and four narrow diagonal spurs, all with fillets, with capitals that go all the way round.  (See the N. arcade, right, viewed from the west.)  Described as 'Dec.' by Pevsner and Bill Wilson, in the Northwest and South Norfolk volume of The Buildings of England (New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 1999, p. 297), they are, in fact, a perfect fit with the known work of Hawes of Occold (fl. 1410-40), and can be dated accordingly.  The entrance to the former rood stair opens in the short stretch of wall between the chancel arch and the N. arcade.

 

The chancel contains three large monuments on the N. wall, of which the easternmost (shown left) was listed by Gunnis (Dictionary of British Sculptors: 1660 - 1851, London, The Abbey Library, 1951, p. 254).  This commemorates Dame Frances Playters (d. 1659) and is the work of Edward Marshall (1598 -  1675), whose statuary was described by Gunnis as 'of the first importance' and whose other monuments include one to William Harvey, the physician, in Hempstead church, Essex.  His monument in this church shows Dame Frances looking directly ahead, above an inordinately long inscription, framed by an elaborate architectural surround.  The two other monuments commemorate Henry Winchcote Turner who died at Sevastopol in 1855, and Colonel Charles Turner, who died in 1860, aged 78.  

 

Pre-Victorian woodwork is very limited in the church but includes the Jacobean pulpit (below right), with the usual round-headed arches filling the lower tier of panels and the usual knobs in the centre both of these and the rectangular panels above.  However, rather older than this is the dado of the former rood screen, which is all of it that survives but which still includes two unusual, elaborately carved and painted panels each side of the central opening, featuring quatrefoils in circles, decorated with birds, beasts and grotesques.  It seems impossible to date closely but the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries will probably cover it. (The photograph, below right, shows the panel north of the central passageway.)  The roofs throughout the building appear to be new except for the lean-to S. aisle roof, which is carved with the name 'R. Harvey'.  Finally, the font (illustrated below right) is another of those in this area aligned with the secondary inter-cardinal directions (i.e. east-northeast, east-southeast, south-southeast, etc.),  and is notable for its crisp undamaged carving, which includes four wild men alternating with lions round the stem, and the emblems of the Evangelists alternating with angels holding shields on the eight faces of the bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Other churches featured on this web-site where Hawes of Occold appears to have worked include Bedingfield, Bildeston, Bramford, Debenham, Thorndon, Wickam Skeith and Wingfield, all of which are in Suffolk.]