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English Church Architecture -

Norfolk.

 

TIVETSHALL ST. MARGARET, St. Margaret

(TM 164 871)     (May 2009)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)

 

This church (seen  above, from the southeast), consisting simply of a W. tower, nave with S. porch, and chancel, is notable chiefly for one particular feature, which may be seen inside.  Externally, the tower and chancel are essentially late thirteenth century in style, and the nave and porch, Perpendicular.  To begin with the chancel, this has one N. window and two S. windows with Y-tracery and an E. window formed of three cinquefoil-cusped lancet lights set inside an encompassing arch;  the three-light window at the eastern end of the S. wall, with supermullioned tracery between strong mullions, is a later insertion.   The tower rises in two stages, unsupported by buttresses, suggesting the thirteenth century, but the bell-openings have the reticulated tracery of the early fourteenth century, which probably implies the true date is nearer to c. 1320, while the battlements with flushwork decoration may have been added as a result of a bequest mentioned by Pevsner, dated 1456.  The two-light nave windows have dropped supermullioned tracery displaying split "Y"s beneath depressed triangular arches.  The porch, which now leans drunkenly at all angles, has square-headed side windows and an outer doorway bearing two wave mouldings, the inner of which springs from an order of shafts.  The inner doorway carries a complex series of mouldings, and there are is a hood-mould and a label above, both decorated with fleurons, and carved shields in the spandrels.

 

All this is pleasant enough but also rather commonplace.  However, on entering the nave, a surprise is in store, for filling the area above the rood screen like a giant tympanum (in what would be the head of the chancel arch if there were one), is a massive royal arms of Elizabeth I.  (See the photograph at the foot of the page.)  Painted in reds and browns across a series of wooden planks, this displays the legend "God Save our Queene Elizabeth", the date "1587" and the names of those "who caused for this to be done" - Jeffrey Neve, John Freeman and Richard Russell. The long inscriptions below include the Ten Commandments and - in these confused religious times - the distinctly perplexing injunction from Romans 13/i, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers for there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God", coupled as it is, not only with the prayer for Elizabeth's safekeeping but also with emblems at the sides displaying the portcullis of Henry VII, the rose and crown of Henry VIII, the phoenix-in-flames of Edward VI, and the pomegranate of Mary I.  The screen below is formed of four one-light divisions on each side of a central opening with two lights above, rising from a dado that retains a little applied tracery, still noticeably painted and gilded.  The chancel has a trefoil-cusped, ogee-pointed piscina recessed in the east end of the S. wall, a niche for a statue, high up to the right of the E. window, and a tomb canopy in the N. wall. The chancel roof has been ceiled.

 

Immediately west of the rood screen, there is a rood stair in the nave N. wall, entered by a door some two feet up and exited through a rough opening above.  The nave roof is formed of six bays divided by arch-braces rising from the wall posts to the purlins halfway up the pitch, but thereafter rising to the ridge without collars and decorated only with attractively-carved bosses.  Finally, the nave benches retain the remnants of their mediaeval poppyheads, which once featured carved animals and figures, but, sadly, these are all now broken off.