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English Church Architecture.


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


(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk.)


A large church with dramatically dissimilar arcades,

perhaps dating from the late fourteenth and mid-fifteenth centuries.


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, everything outside appears restored Perpendicular work, apart, that is, from the chancel and organ chamber, which look as if they have been completely renewed.  The Perpendicular work is, besides, very difficult to date on purely stylistic grounds, but the porch may be due to the beneficence of John Intewood, who left 6s.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 photograph below left.)  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 complete the description of 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 at intervals, and there are more fleurons on the label and carved roses in the spandrels.  The W. window above has  three stepped lights with castellated supertransoms immediately on top and supermullioned tracery with split 'Y's between strong mullions.  (See the photograph above right.)  A canopied niche on either side, contains headless mediaeval statues.



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 viewed from the southeast, at the top of the page on the left.)  The S. aisle E. window and the easternmost N. window to the N. aisle (seen above right) (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 (mullions that reach all the way from the sills to the window heads with no diminution in thickness at the springing level).  The two-storeyed N. porch rises higher than the aisle even though it is flush with it to the north, and is decorated with five tiers of flushwork arches (as shown), 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 set within it, the outer two, ogee-pointed, and the central one, canopied, while the upper tier beneath the stepped battlements has at its centre, the two-light window to the porch upper storey. 


Inside the church, the difference between the arcades in height is little short of dramatic. (See the photograph above left.) 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 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  (as shown above 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 below left) have tall bases and are quatrefoil in section with little hollows in between the foils and separate capitals to each.  The clerestory windows are perforce of different heights from north to south, but these do correspond with each other otherwise, both in their position and 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, seems entirely 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;  another piscina can be seen recessed in the east end of the S. aisle S. wall.  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 (below right) is presumably contemporary with the clerestory and is arched to cambered collars, which are structurally rather weak members sometimes associated with senescent late Perpendicular work.