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English Church Architecture.

 

ROYDON, St. Remigius  (TM 096 804),

NORFOLK. 

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk.)

 

One of 181 churches in England with round towers, of which all but five are in Cambridgeshire ( with 2), Essex (with 6), Norfolk (with 126) or Suffolk (with 42).

 

Round church towers were almost invariably assumed by Pevsner to have a Saxon or Norman origin.  That is not necessarily the case, and the form is a function of geology rather than age, for the lack of the ready availability of good building stone to serve as quoins made this a cheap design option by avoiding the expense in the pre-railway age of bringing, usually by horse and cart or at best along the rivers by boat, heavy, bulk materials from afar.  The definitive book on this subject is, and is long likely to remain, the late Stephen Hart's The Round Church Towers of England  (Ipswich, Lucas Books, 2003), to which the notes on these buildings are inevitably, to a greater or lesser degree, indebted.

 

The present building, however, has been so altered and restored that it is very difficult to tell which features are original.  This is unfortunate, for beneath the later changes, there are surely the remains of an ancient fabric here, as implied by the arches between the nave and S. aisle, which have been cut through a wall of twelfth century thickness.  The tower has an octagonal upper stage considered to be Victorian by both Pevsner and Stephen Hart (The Round Church Towers of England, Lucas Books, p. 147), but whether its Perpendicular bell-openings are true to the original form, is impossible to tell.  The two circular stages provide no useful dateable features (the W. window is almost certainly an insertion), although Hart considered they are probably post-Norman (p. 168).

 

The  rest of the church consists of a chancel with a S. vestry, a nave with a S. aisle and N. porch, and a modern parish room and kitchen. The Perpendicular porch is now the only part of architectural interest and features an outer doorway with a niche above the apex (illustrated left), two more beside the spandrels, and a further, smaller pair in the jambs, where they are sandwiched between two pairs of shafts with castellated capitals (as shown below right).  The shafts support a complex series of mouldings around the arch, including a casement containing worn carvings at intervals.  The porch is lit by three-light side windows and has a flushwork basal frieze to the north (only), more flushwork on the buttresses, and a knapped flint facing over the gable.  

 

Windows in the nave and chancel have mostly renewed Perpendicular tracery in the nave and aisle and renewed Decorated tracery in the chancel, which may or may not indicate the different ages of the walls into which they have been inserted. The cross-gabled S. vestry is the re-sited Victorian S. porch, which was first built in 1840 to the designs of Lewis Vulliamy (1791-1871). The interior of the church dates almost entirely from its Victorian restoration, and the parish room and kitchen were added to the S. side of the nave in 2001 and are purely utilitarian.

 

[Other churches with round towers featured on this web-site are Bartlow and Snailwell in Cambridgeshire, Quidenham, Rushall, Shimpling and Thorpe Abbotts in Norfolk, and Aldham, Brome, Hengrave, Higham, Little Bradley, Little Saxham, Rickinghall Inferior, Risby, Stuston, Theberton, Wissett and Wortham in Suffolk.]