English Church Architecture.
EGLETON, St. Edmund (SK 876 075),
(Bedrock: Lower Jurassic, Marlstone Rock Formation.)
A modest church, notable for its Norman work and blocked Decorated N. arcade.
This is a small church that looks largely Perpendicular in style on approach from the south, but which has a blocked Decorated arcade exposed in the N. wall of the nave (shown left, in the view from the northeast) and where the most important work (inside) is actually Norman. The tower upper stages and surmounting spire are late eighteenth century additions, and parts of the fabric have been renewed or heavily scraped, so the significance of the building today is more as a collection of significant features than of a properly integrated architectural whole.
The Norman work is very striking, however. The S. doorway inside the porch is supported on an order of shafts carved with a moulding that looks transitional between chevron and rows of overlapping scales. The capitals are highly decorated and the heavy, projecting rectangular imposts display interlacing to the right, sandwiched between two narrow bands of gadrooning, and less regular patterns to the left, while the tympanum (illustrated at the foot of the page) features a horizontal rectangular panel below, carved with a strip pattern like sea-wrack, and a semicircular section above bearing a six-spoked wheel supported by a dragon on the left and a bird on the right. The entire composition is crudely-carved and poorly planned, and on the same account, entirely characteristic of most parochial sculpture in this period (probably before 1150). Around the arch itself there is a double-cone moulding and then chevron and a roll outside that. The chancel arch (shown below right) has side shafts decorated with incised latticing to the right, and to the left (see the photograph below left), flat zigzag bands alternating with nailhead. Again, the imposts are heavy and highly carved. The round, double-flat-chamfered arch above, ascribed by Pevsner to c. 1200 (The Buildings of England, Leicestershire and Rutland, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1960, p. 293), has been so heavily scraped or restored that it could just as easily be Victorian.
The blocked four-bay N. arcade appears to have been formed of double-flat-chamfered pointed arches supported on very short octagonal piers. Presumably, this was constructed in Decorated times (i.e. the early fourteenth century) but when or why the aisle was demolished and the arcade blocked is impossible to tell. The central bays are now pierced by simple three-light, four-centred windows and there is a clerestory above consisting of square-headed two-light windows positioned over the arcade apices. The S. windows to the church are probably late fifteenth century work. They include a three-light untraceried but transomed nave window, west of the porch, and a four-light window to the east, with a transom, subarcuation of the lights in pairs, and daggers in the window head and heads of the subarcuations. The chancel is lit by two four-centred untraceried S. windows, a five-light E. window with strong mullions, and a two-light square-headed window and a renewed four-centred three-light window to the north. The S. porch has an ogee-pointed outer doorway and no windows. Inside the building, the roofs of both the nave and chancel are very low-pitched and supported on camber beams. That this was not the original arrangement at least in the nave, is evident from the corbels projecting from the walls at the level of the arcade spandrels, on which, presumably, the wall posts once stood.
The tower rises in three stages to simple round-arched bell-openings and a plain surmounting spire. The two-light W. window with reticulated tracery and the triple-flat-chamfered arch to the nave, surely indicate that the lower parts of the structure are mediaeval and perhaps contemporary with the aisle as first built.
The church contains a few furnishings of note, including the thirteenth century font with its square bowl. The little screen beneath the tower arch was probably once part of the rood screen, though what remains is barely seven feet high (2m.) and scarcely more in width: it consists of three sections with ogee-pointed lights and a castellated supertransom running right through the tracery above. The painting over the chancel arch is not a doom painting as might be expected at first glance, but part of a Royal Coat of Arms, most probably of George III. The easternmost S. window in the chancel has a sill lowered to act as a sedilia and there is a restored piscina immediately to the east. Finally, two monuments on the N. wall of the chancel and a third on the W. wall (south of the chancel arch) are late eighteenth century in date and consist of simple wall plaques with architectural surrounds.