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English Church Architecture -

Shropshire.

 

LYDBURY NORTH, St. Michael & All Angels (SO 353 860)     (May 2012)

(Bedrock:  Silurian Wenlock Series, Bridgnorth Sandstone)

 

This is a very large church for a small rural community.  (See the photograph above, taken from the southeast.) The building consists of a squat but massively constructed W. tower, a long nave and chancel with a S. porch, and bulky N. and S. transepts.  The earliest work is Norman, as witnessed by a small round-headed window on either side of the nave, three round-headed windows in the chancel N. wall (one of which is shown below left), and an unusually grand priest's doorway to the south (below right).  The last is formed of an arch of two orders bearing a narrow flat chamfer on the inner order and horizontal chevron on the outer, resting on stepped jambs with a heavily worn pair of side-shafts whose leaf capitals imply a date around 1200 and suggest the chancel is probably later than the nave.

 

The tower belongs to the opening decades of the 13th century.  (See the photograph below left, taken from the northeast.)  About thirty feet square in plan, like its neighbour at Clun, it now leans conspicuously to the west, from where it is heavily supported by an assortment of heavy buttresses.  The arch to the nave (below right) is double-flat-chamfered and pointed, yet still has scalloped capitals in the Norman style.  The bell-openings are formed of lancet pairs, of curiously different heights on every side.  Other openings in the masonry are chiefly plain little rectangles.  The original work now terminates at a corbel table: the battlements are a later addition, as is the low pyramidal cap projecting minimally behind.

 

Other external features are a veritable assortment.  A Y-traceried window in the S wall of the nave must date from c. 1280, the N. transept N. window has primitive pre-ogee Decorated tracery of around 1310, the window with reticulated tracery in the eastern end of the chancel S. wall (below left) is commensurate with 1320-50, and the apparently Victorian features shade into Edwardian, as the church was restored in 1901-2 by J.T. Micklethwaite (1843 - 1906), who almost rebuilt the S. transept from scratch, inserted a couple of additional nave windows and the new chancel E. window, and did many less obvious things, both there and elsewhere.  The date of his restoration is carved into the tie-beam, above the entrance to the porch (as seen below right).

 

Inside the building, it is woodwork that comes to the fore.  The unmoulded round arch of two orders from the nave to the N. transept, may indicate the Norman church was cruciform or may be the former chancel arch re-set, for there is no chancel arch now.  The former rood stair winds its way up from a concealed position behind the arch to the east.  The S. transept arch is Micklethwaite's and has head corbels facing into the nave, clearly depicting Queen Victoria on the left and King  Edward VII on the right.

 

More striking than these features, however, are the box pews down the entire length of the nave - eighteen on the north side and fourteen on the south.  They are essentially Jacobean, albeit restored and added to, and the church guide ascribes some of them to a date before 1617 (without explaining why) and most of the rest to the reign of Charles I (1625-49).  They are elaborately carved on the backs, doors and side panels, and all different from one another, yet all in general accord with the style of the pulpit, which Pevsner claimed is dated 1624.  The restored and rather primitive rood screen is formed of three bays each side of the central opening, itself two bays in width, and has a panelled dado decorated with simple patterns composed of little piercings and a kind of fretwork tracery above.  (The photograph, below left, shows a general view across the pews on the nave S. side, and the photograph, below right, shows one of the pew doors to the north.)

 

The nave roof (shown at the foot of the page) is of collar-brace construction, with V-struts above the collars, purlins at the one-third and two-third stages, and with wind braces between the purlins, both the right and the wrong way up, creating a pattern of quatrefoils.  The very securely-trussed chancel roof has both tie beams and collar beams, with diagonal struts between the two, V-struts above the collars, purlins at the one-third and two-third stages, and wind braces below the lower purlins, this time, the right way up only.

 

Finally, the low font is of crude Norman workmanship.  The square bowl is steeply cambered beneath and decorated with scallops.