( back to home page)

English Church Architecture.

 

WINFARTHING, St. Mary  (TM 109 858),

NORFOLK. 

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk.)

 

An attractive rural church, seemingly built during the metamorphosis of the popular  architectural style from the 'Early English' into the 'Decorated', c. 1300.

 

This pleasantly situated church (illustrated above from the southeast), backing on to cornfields, appears to be transitional between the Early English and Decorated styles, suggesting a history of construction beginning at the east end, c. 1300 and proceeding slowly westwards over the next two or three decades.  The building consists of a chancel, a nave with a S. aisle and a N. porch, and a W. tower.  The porch, S. windows to the aisle, and W. window to the tower, are later additions or insertions.

 

The short chancel is lit by a three-light E. window with intersecting tracery and by one Y-traceried window each to the north and south, as well as another on each side that are probably largely or wholly Victorian.  The nave, however, has two, two-light N. windows (one of which is shown below left), and the S. aisle, a W. window, with narrow reticulated tracery set in lancet-pointed encompassing arches, suggesting the original intention was to have Y-tracery here also, but that at the last moment, the decision was made to insert tracery in the newer, Decorated fashion instead.  The nave clerestory, consisting of two encircled quatrefoils on each side, is probably coeval (of, say, c. 1320), though quite what one should make of the large three-light E. window to the S. aisle (illustrated below right) is more difficult to tell, with its tracery composed of a pair of encircled octfoils and a diminutive uncusped ellipse in the apex, above fat ogee-pointed lights:  perhaps it has been altered, or could it represent another early attempt at reticulated tracery by a mason unfamiliar with the form?  The restored three-light S. windows to the aisle and the tower W. window are Perpendicular, with strong mullions, supermullioned tracery with split 'Y's, and quatrefoils in the apices.  The diagonally-buttressed tower rises in two stages to an embattled bell-stage with bell-openings that are still Y-traceried to the east but reticulated on the other sides.   The N. porch has two-light square-headed side windows and an outer doorway with a worn niche above and an order of integral shafts to the jambs;  the inner doorway carries two flat chamfers separated by a hollow.

 

 

Inside the church, the three-bay S. arcade (shown below left, viewed from the west) is formed of double-flat-chamfered arches supported on  octagonal piers with prominent capitals consistent with an early fourteenth century date.  The chancel arch  is similar but the tower arch is obviously later and carries a double-wave moulding on each of its two orders, of which the inner is interrupted by capitals with shields on the sides.  The Y-traceried S. window to the chancel has had its sill lowered to act as a sedilia, and to the east of this is a little piscina with a trefoil-cusped, slightly ogee-pointed arch.  A stair to the former rood loft leads from the aisle, immediately east of the arcade's E . respond, starting some 6 feet (almost 2 m.) up, and thus clearly once reached by wooden steps below.

 

Other notable features in the building include the mediaeval lean-to aisle roof, with openwork tracery in the little spandrels beneath the arched braces.  The nave roof (below right) is framed in seven cants, with arched braces halfway up the pitch and scissor bracing above the collars.  However, the most interesting item is probably the font, which Pevsner considered to consist of a Victorian upper section sitting on an almost equally wide, Norman one beneath (Nikolaus Pevsner & Bill Wilson, The Buildings of England: Northwest and South Norfolk, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2002, p. 783), although the crudely-cut upper part is surely older than the nineteenth century.  The lower part is circular, with additional, attached round shafts in the ordinal positions, of which those to the southeast and northeast are shaped into faces and the one to the northwest is carved with spiralling billet moulding, which seems to confirm its twelfth century date.