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English Church Architecture -

Shropshire.

 

WISTANSTOW, Holy Trinity (SO 432 857)     (June 2015)

(Bedrock:  Silurian Wenlock Series, Coalbrookdale Formation)

 

This is a church of cruciform plan (seen above from the northeast) where the majority of the mediaeval work can be ascribed to the thirteenth century.  Most of the windows date from this period as do also the four identical arches of the crossing (shown below left, from the west), composed of double-flat-chamfered arches supported on semi-octagonal responds with shallow projecting capitals. The contemporary windows are generally simple lancets, best seen inside the building where their splays have survived unrendered.  This applies to the group of three stepped lancets in the chancel E. wall, with the central lancet wider and taller than the outer two, to the lancet in the nave W. wall, notwithstanding its greater than average width and partially renewed head, and to the two lancets in the nave S. wall, west of the porch, where the fact that the arches are cusped may represent subsequent remodelling.  Different in form but similar in age must also be the three-light windows in the chancel S. wall - the narrow western one with intersecting tracery and the eastern one formed of three separate lights set inside the same rere-arch  - and the Y-traceried window in the chancel N. wall, now only seen inside the building where it looks through into the vestry.  The S. transept S. window (below right) is an early fourteenth century (Decorated) insertion with attractive reticulated tracery.  That does not present any difficulties of interpretation, of course, but the same cannot be said of the N. transept's E. and W. windows, which appear externally as simple rectangles, probably following nineteenth century restoration, but whose round-headed rere-arches look genuinely Norman.  The visitor will already have noticed before entering the church, the round-headed doorway in the chancel S. wall, with a renewed head formed of two unmoulded orders, above what nevertheless appear to be twelfth century jambs with an order of side-shafts, the right hand one with a leaf volute capital and the left hand one with a capital formed of a carved head.  This doorway seems unlikely to be in situ, but where has it come from?  However, how the apparently earliest windows in the church have ended up in the N. transept, is an altogether greater puzzle. Pevsner's theory (set down in the Shropshire volume of The Buildings of England, Penguin, 1958), that the N. transept was the first part of the church to be erected, on the cusp of the change from Romanesque style to Gothic, doesn't seems very convincing, but neither do these windows appear to be re-set.  A further matter requiring explanation is why the N. and S. doorways to the nave (the former, now blocked, and the latter, enclosed by the porch) cut into lancet windows above, whose surviving rere-arches show them to be original.  Pevsner assumed this implied that the original doorway to the church (and presumably it would have been the one now re-set in the chancel S. wall) was in the nave W. wall, but since the lancet in that wall appears contemporary with the others, that does not make the chronology clearer either.

 

Be these matters as they may, other features to notice inside the church all relate to woodwork.  Both transepts are entirely filled with attractive Georgian box pews but with sides so high (in excess of 4') that it is difficult to imagine the occupants could have felt much engagement in the services.  (The pews in the N. transept are illustrated below.)  The nave, chancel and transept roofs all differ from one another.  The nave and S. transept roofs are of queen post construction and Pevsner claimed that the former is dated (somewhere) to the year 1640.  This roof shares with the nave roof at St. Mary's, Hopesay, four miles to the southwest, the feature of having the underside of its pitch divided into squares by its combination of purlins and rafters, and then of having each of these squares filled with short flat timbers describing a quatrefoil.  However, Pevsner's description of these as "windbraces" is surely stretching the term altogether too far, for these little individual pieces of wood, some of them noticeably unattached to the neighbours, would not strengthen anything and can surely only maintain their place by virtue of being fixed to the ceiling.  The N. transept roof is mediaeval and of collar-beam construction.   As for the chancel roof, this is probably Victorian and memorable chiefly for the little dormer window under a gablet on either side towards the west.  They have a rustic "arts and crafts" appearance about them, reminiscent, for example, of Eden Nesfield (1835 -1888), but no firm evidence of the date of this roof seems to be available.