( back to home page)

English Church Architecture -



WINFARTHING, St. Mary (TM 109 858)     (March 2015 [sic])

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This pleasantly situated church (shown 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 and 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, 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 windows of the newer Decorated fashion instead.  The nave clerestory, consisting (pace Pevsner) of two encircled quatrefoils on each side, is probably consistent with this date (say, c. 1320), though quite what one should make of the large three-light E. window to the S. aisle (illustrated right) is more difficult to tell, with its tracery composed of a pair of octfoils in circles and a small 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 unarguably Perpendicular, with strong mullions and supermullioned tracery with split Ys and quatrefoils in the apices.  The tower rises in two stages, supported by diagonal buttresses, to battlements and a 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 left, 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 so clearly once reached by wooden steps below.


Other noteable 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 (shown 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, although the crudely-cut upper part is surely older than the nineteenth century.  The undisputed lower part is circular, with additional, attached circular 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.