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English Church Architecture -



PULHAM MARKET, St. Mary Magdalene (TM 197 862)      (May 2009)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This is a substantial town church in a settlement that in the upshot has never grown bigger than a medium-sized village.  Consisting of a chancel with a N. organ chamber, an aisled nave with a N. porch, and a W. tower, outside everything seems restored Perpendicular work except for the chancel and organ chamber which look completely Victorian. The Perpendicular work is very difficult to date closely but the porch may be due to the beneficence of John Intewood, who left 6/8d (33p) towards it in his will of 28th December 1456, and if that is the case, it seems likely that the N. aisle is later, for this joins the porch at the side and continues the line of it to the east.  (See the fourth photograph down.) The S. aisle extends the full length of the nave and includes a door (with no adjoining porch) in its westernmost bay, yet the S. arcade appears to be earlier, to judge by its size and primitive capitals.


However, to describe the exterior first, the W. tower rises in  four stages supported by diagonal buttresses, to a bell-stage with two-light openings and stepped battlements above, decorated with flushwork.  The tower stair is housed in a semi-polygonal projection at the east end of the S. wall and the W. doorway is surrounded by two casement mouldings, containing carved crowns and fleurons, and there are more fleurons on the label and carved roses in the spandrels.  The W. window above has a canopied niche on either side, containing headless mediaeval statues, and three stepped lights with castellated supertransoms immediately on top and supermullioned tracery with split "Y"s between strong mullions.  (See the thumbnail, right.)


The nave clerestory consists of five pairs of trefoil-cusped Y-traceried windows beneath very depressed four-centred arches, while the two-light S. aisle S. windows are segmental-arched with supertransoms above the lights, split “Y”s in the tracery, and quatrefoils in the apices.  (See the photograph of the church from the southeast, top right.) The S. aisle E. window and the easternmost N. window to the N. aisle (illustrated left) (which  was probably taken from the E. wall and re-set here when the organ chamber was built) have three lights with supertransoms above joining the apices of lights 1 and 3, and the remaining three windows in the N. aisle N. wall are three-light with strong mullions.  The two-storeyed N. porch (below) rises higher than the aisle even though it is flush with it to the north, and is decorated with five tiers of flushwork arches, of which there is one on the basal frieze, two more beside the doorway, and a further two above.  The lower of these includes three niches within it, the outer two, ogee-pointed and the central one, canopied, and the upper tier beneath the stepped battlements has at its centre, the two-light window to the porch upper room.  The doorway below has a casement moulding around its outer order, containing worn carvings at intervals, an inner order bearing a sunk chamfer springing from bowtells, and carved roses in the spandrels.



Inside the church, the difference between the arcades in height is little short of dramatic. (See the photograph at the foot of the page.)  The stubby S. arcade is formed of five bays, of which the first is round-arched – a curious feature with no obvious explanation, for it is certainly not Norman unless it has been both re-set and entirely remodelled since it now bears wave mouldings and springs, like the rest of the S. arcade, from quatrefoil piers and semi-quatrefoil responds with projecting ogee spurs between the foils and prominent octagonal capitals that go all the way round.  (See the upper thumbnail, right.)  The four remaining arches are double-flat-chamfered, like the N. arcade opposite,  but that is where the similarity ends. The N. arcade consists of four bays in total, which reach from the porch to the chancel and are supported on slender piers, perhaps two-thirds as high again as their counterparts opposite, with whose positions they noticeably fail to correspond. These piers (illustrated in the lower thumbnail, right) have tall bases and are quatrefoil in section with little hollows in between and separate capitals to each shaft.  The clerestory windows are perforce of different heights from north to south, but these do correspond with each other, both in position and in style, and so are no earlier than the later of the two arcades.  The chancel arch, which was heightened in 1873, is double-flat-chamfered above semi-octagonal responds with prominent capitals – a form that could date back to the early fourteenth century (Decorated period).  The huge painting of Christ in Majesty above, now seems wholly Victorian.  The chancel has a trefoil-cusped ogee-pointed piscina recessed in the S. wall of the sanctuary, which appears to be old, and there is a blocked, former priest’s doorway in the chancel S. wall;  there is also another piscina in the east end of the S. wall of the S. aisle.  The very tall, heavy tower arch is formed of three orders, of which the inner bears a flat chamfer springing from semi-octagonal responds, and the outer two bear flat chamfers that continue uninterrupted down the jambs.  Finally, the furniture is nearly all new but the nave roof (shown left) appears to be contemporary with the clerestory and is arched to cambered collars, which are structurally rather weak members sometimes associated with senescent late Perpendicular work.