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English Church Architecture -

Norfolk.

 

RUSHFORD, St. John the Evangelist (TL 924 813)       (July 2010)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)

 

The history of this building is, perhaps, more interesting than its architecture.  It consists of central thatched cell of four bays, which was formerly the nave but which now constitutes both the nave and the chancel (of three bays and one respectively), a W. tower, S. porch and S. organ chamber, and an ugly semi-octagonal apse to the east, which today forms the sanctuary. The church (illustrated left, from the southeast) was at one time pseudo-cruciform in plan (see Appendix 3) and the Victorian organ chamber has been built where the S. transept once stood.  The apse dates from 1904 (church notes) and is rendered in one of the most unattractive of all cladding materials - bright yellow pebble-dash.  Nonetheless, this end of the building is worthy of examination for between the apse and the buttresses of the main cell, are the shafts of the erstwhile chancel and transept arches. (See the photograph, below right, showing the southeast angle.) The chancel that once stretched eastwards from here, is reputed to have been sixty feet long (18.3 m.) (ibid.).

 

For this was at one time the church to a college of priests, established in 1342 in the building which still partly survives, immediately to the south.  The founder was one, Edmund Gonville (? - 1351), who came here as rector in 1326 and, twenty-two years later, would establish Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge.  He came to a church in Rushford that seems to have been late thirteenth century in date and already of some significance, as shown by the tall wall arches inside the main cell, in which pairs of Tudor brick lancets were later to be set.  (See the photograph of the N. wall, left.) The  insertion of these may have been contemporary with the lowering of the nave roof, which resulted in the wall arches being cut off a little above the springing.  The original height of the roof is demonstrated by the fossilized line of weathering seen on the tower east wall (shown, top left), and the little opening below is likely to have been a Sanctus bell window, which opened into the nave to allow the ringer of the Sanctus bell to follow the service.  Thus what was done by Gonville between the church's original construction and its major restoration some three hundred years later, is now not clear, but may have included the tower and, very probably, the chancel.

 

The W. tower is Decorated work (i.e. early fourteenth century), rising in two diagonally-buttressed stages to cinquefoil-cusped, Y-traceried bell-openings.  The semi-octagonal projection from the S. wall, which houses the large, ungainly stair turret, gives the tower a clumsy appearance from all sides except the north. 

 

The S. porch is Perpendicular.  (See the photograph at the foot of the page.)   The side windows have been blocked but the S. front offers a modest display, with its knapped flints contrasting with the tumbled-in brick around the doorway, the little blocked ogee niche above, and the remains of a window above that (now converted into a sunk panel), apparently showing that it once had two storeys.  The niche has a pair of tiny trefoil-cusped flushwork arches either side, and a stone panel next to each of these.  The doorway has an order of bowtells, supporting a series of narrow mouldings above.