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English Church Architecture -



SCOLE, St. Andrew (TM 151 791)     (April 2009)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This is a very welcoming building of which the minister and congregation appear to be making admirable use and it is a pity it is so ugly.  Much of the blame for this must lie with the arsonist who set fire to the church on the evening of Monday, 7th January 1963, when Britain was in the grip of one of the coldest winters it experienced in the entire course of the twentieth century.  By next morning, all that remained was the tower, the outer walls of  the nave, S. aisle and chancel,  and - perhaps most importantly - the four-bay S. arcade.  Unfortunately, the 1960s was far from a good time for the sympathetic treatment of old buildings and St. Andrew’s did not receive it.  The new work, along with further additions and reordering carried out in 1974-7, which together included the construction of two large extensions beneath catslide roofs to the north and a western continuation of the S. aisle alongside the tower, made no concessions to aesthetics but doubtless had the advantage of being relatively cheap, as well as the continuing one of providing a series of internal spaces that must offer welcome and unusual flexibility both for worship and general use by the community. Even so, that much granted, for the unrelenting roof that stretches unbroken from the tower to the east end of the chancel, covered in appalling machine-made black pantiles, there can surely be no excuse, for it must have been possible to design something better for little additional expense.  As it is, the roof seems almost to have been intended to be a deliberate assault on the senses.


However, to describe the mediaeval features that remain in the church, these must include above all the S. arcade already mentioned (shown right, from the northwest), composed of arches bearing two hollow chamfers supported on octagonal piers with prominent capitals, in a characteristic early fourteenth century form.  Blocked openings above the arcade presumably show the positions of erstwhile clerestory windows that must once have looked out over the S. aisle roof and seem likely from their size to have consisted of quatrefoils in circles.  The responds of the chancel arch below the capitals, appear to be contemporary, though everything above is new.  The modern Y-traceried windows in the S. wall of the aisle, are arguably a bit “early” to conform with this style, which the original(?) bell-openings in the W. & S. walls of the tower, which are similar but cusped, do rather better.  Yet the three-light E. window to the aisle appears to be mediaeval and has uncusped intersecting tracery, so perhaps the S. windows have been faithfully replaced.  The chancel has been heightened in undisguised brick in stretcher bond, to enable a flat ceiling to be inserted within and the construction of the roof of unvarying pitch above.  The chancel E. window is Victorian.  The N. wall of the nave retains two windows beneath segmental arches (between the two extensions) which are Perpendicular in spirit even though the tracery consists only of a pair of daggers. The tower is unbuttressed and has a Perpendicular window with supermullioned tracery, inserted to the west.


Inside the building, except for the arcade, there is little to see.  The northeastern extension, which opens from the chancel, is two-storeyed, with access to the upper storey by an iron spiral staircase.  The font, in the east end of the S. aisle, looks like retooled Perpendicular work and has lion supporters between buttresses round the stem and carved angels on the eight faces of the bowl.  Nothing else needs to be particularized and the building as a whole has a sanitized air.  However, that is not the fault of the present incumbent or churchwardens, of course, who at least have the compensation of a building of particular versatility, and doubtless there will be some congregations of historically much finer churches, who will envy them for that.