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English Church Architecture -

Norfolk.

 

UPWELL, St. Peter (TF 506 028)     (May 2018)

(Bedrock:  Upper Jurassic, Ampthill Clay Formation)

 

 

This all-embattled church (seen above from the northeast) appears suddenly as a large impressive pile to anyone travelling east down the A1101 on the opposite side of the old course of the River Nene, its bulk emphasized by its large two-storeyed N. porch and the northwest position of its tower, projecting above the aisle and terminating in an octagonal bell-stage in a manner more familiar in neighbouring Cambridgeshire.  The porch leads into the tower though entry to the building today is obtained from the west.  It has two-light side windows, an outer doorway bearing waves, and a three-light square-headed window lighting the upper storey with a niche on either side.  Like the majority of the church, this is manifestly Perpendicular, but the exception is the tower, which is thirteenth century below the bell-stage and early fourteenth century above, as shown by the two-light second stage windows in the first case, which were originally the bell-openings, with plate tracery and uncusped lights separated by shafts, and in the second case by the present bell-openings, which have subarcuated lights with daggers above.  This provides the clue to the unusual building plan, for the tower earlier adjoined the nave before the original plan was lost in an extensive fifteenth century reconstruction when a new nave and aisle were raised to the south, relegating the original nave to the status of a N. aisle.  Windows along both aisles and the chancel are now three-light and supermullioned with split-Ys beneath four-centred arches.  The clerestory is formed of two-light, untraceried, square-headed windows, and the nave W. window is four-light and particularly large, with cinquefoil-cusped intersecting tracery.

 

Inside the church, the S. arcade consists of six bays and the N. arcade of five since it necessarily stops short of the tower.  The arches are two-centred and supported on compound piers with semi-octagonal shafts towards the openings and a series of continuous rolls and wave mouldings running round the arches and down the piers to north and south without intervening capitals.  (See the photograph of a section of the S. arcade left.)  The arch leading into the long three-bay chancel is four-centred and carries roll mouldings above responds again with attached semi-octagonal shafts with little capitals.   A doorway in the S. respond leads to the rood stair which continues upwards inside an external octagonal turret to the roof level and terminates in a bell-cote looking curiously two-dimensional in this position.   (See the thumbnail, right, showing the church from the north.)  Inside once again, the blocked thirteenth century tower arch retains its semicircular responds and double-flat-chamfers above, though these are visible now only from the west.

 

Furnishings in the building can probably be considered to include the large rectangular recess in the S. wall of the sanctuary, which serves as a sedilia.  A piscina beyond is set conventionally beneath a trefoil-cusped arch.  The nave roof has tie beams between the bays supported by arched braces with traceried spandrels, and false hammerbeams at the halfway positions decorated with carved angels, of which there are more on the independently-gabled aisle roofs of couple construction.  The very large dark-wood Victorian pulpit with spiral stair leading up into the drum (shown in the lower thumbnail), is intricately carved around the base and on its ogee-domed pineapple tester.  Unusually, the church also retains two early nineteenth century galleries, positioned over the N. aisle and the W. end of the nave.