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English Church Architecture.


HOCKWOLD, St. Peter  (TL 724 880),


(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk.)

A large redundant church with some interesting features.

Now in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust, this is essentially an early fourteenth century building formed of a chancel, a nave with a S. aisle and porch, and a tall southwest tower that communicates with the aisle.  Surviving contemporary windows include, in particular, the two similar but far from identical ones in the W. wall of the nave (illustrated below left) and the E. wall of the aisle (below right), with tracery composed of intersecting ogees akin to the standard one at St. Mary Magdalene's, Madingley (Cambridgeshire), but with trefoil-cusped lights in the former case and with no cusping at all above the lights in the latter.  In both cases, the date must be c. 1340, yet presumably they represent separate phases of construction or, at the least, the work of different masons.  Other windows in Decorated style comprise one with two-lights and pinched reticulated tracery in the S. wall of the aisle, another with reticulated tracery of normal dimensions in the W. wall of the tower, and the similar, two-light bell-openings, of which those on the north side are blocked.  The chancel and nave windows, and the remaining S. aisle window, are restored or renewed Perpendicular work, while the clerestory (which is present on the S. side only) represents a late fifteenth or early sixteenth century heightening of the building, which saw the introduction of the splendid nave roof.  The two massive brick buttresses supporting the north wall of the nave, sloping all the way from the ground to the eaves, are clumsy additions probably dating from the restoration of the building in 1857 (Nikolaus Pevsner & Bill Wilson, The Buildings of England: Northwest & South Norfolk, New Haven & London, Yale university Press, 1999, p. 410).  The tower is supported by angle buttresses and rises to a plain parapet, divided in the course of its ascent, only by a string course beneath the bell-stage.  The stair turret is housed in a very large projection to the northeast.



Inside the building, the four-bay S. arcade (seen below left, viewed from the southwest) returns us to the early fourteenth century: the piers and the arches are of standard design except in one particular, the latter being double-flat-chamfered, and the former, octagonal, but more than usually narrow, with capitals still more prominent than is generally the case at this period, due chiefly to the large abaci.  The very different tower arch (below right) reinforces the impression that it is unlikely to be precisely contemporary:  the arch carries a flat chamfer on the outer order and a sunk chamfer on the inner order, and the shafts attached to the responds are semicircular.  (Pevsner described these as octagonal, a mistake that is repeated on the britishlistedbuildings web-site.  They are not.)  Since it is impossible from its position that it should predate the aisle, the implication must be that it postdates it.  The chancel arch carries a single flat chamfer above semi-polygonal responds with the only slightest of capitals.  


For obvious and understandable reasons, few redundant churches retain much in the way of fittings, but the shallow-pitched nave roof is a fine piece of carpentry (as seen below left), with bays divided by tie beams each supporting four pairs of queen posts, and false hammerbeam trusses at the half bays with carved figures (saints, perhaps, but pace Pevsner, probably not angels) that have survived the assaults of the iconoclasts.  The only monument of significance (below right), set against the E. wall of the aisle, commemorates Jermyn Wyche and Maria Hungerford (both d. 1719) and is signed by Robert Singleton of Bury St. Edmunds (fl. 1706-40), who was described by Rupert Gunnis as taking 'high rank' as a monumental sculptor (Dictionary of British Sculptors, 1660-1851, London, The Abbey Library, 1951, p. 353).  This work, however, is of such extraordinary incompetence as to suggest it may be a composite, formed of fragments originally intended for different positions and not quite in scale with one another.