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English Church Architecture -



COMBE FLOREY, St. Peter & St. Paul (ST 151 312)     (March 2005)

(Bedrock:  Triassic Sherwood Sandstone Group, Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds Formation)


As shown by the local soils, the church stands only yards from the outcrop of the red Otter sandstone (to the south), and the building is constructed almost wholly of this material, except for the chancel windows and tower W. window and doorway, which are of golden Ham Hill stone.  The colour combination this produces is distinctly more garish than the one seen elsewhere in Somerset, between Ham Hill stone and blue lias, but is not unattractive (cf., for example, St. Mary’s, Huish Episcopi).


This is another of the county’s churches in largely Perpendicular style, consisting in this case of a W. tower (shown left), a three-bay nave with a N. aisle and S. porch, and a chancel with a N. chapel. The tower is diagonally buttressed and rises in three stages to battlements and crocketed pinnacles at the corners.  It has an embattled octagonal stair turret at the northeast angle, the bell-openings are two-light with supermullioned tracery, the second stage windows are two-light with alternate tracery, and the four-light W. window in the first stage has alternate tracery with subreticulation, subarcuation of the lights in pairs, and through reticulation.  Below this, the W. doorway bears a series of narrow mouldings around it, without intervening capitals.  The nave S. windows (one of which is shown right) are three-light with alternate tracery and subreticulation, and a rectangular projection at the southeast corner of the aisle, houses the rood stair. The chancel is Victorian, and so are the ugly windows in the N. walls of the aisle and chapel (with Y-tracery constructed in iron!), although the latter retain mediaeval cinquefoil-cusping to their internal arches, and the three-light chapel E. window is wholly mediaeval, featuring alternate tracery, again with subreticulation.  The S. porch has no side windows and the outer doorway bears two flat chamfers that die into the jambs.


Inside the building, it is striking how misshapen the arcade arches have become, the easternmost in particular.  They carry a wave moulding and a keeled roll separated by a deep hollow, and spring from piers formed of four semicircular shafts separated by hollows, with capitals that go all the way round, formed of carved angels in the cardinal positions, with spread wings meeting at the diagonals (illustrated left).  There is no arch between the nave aisle and its one-bay extension as a chapel, but the arch from the chancel to the chapel is formed, in effect, of two separate and parallel arches, with stone panelling between (cf. St. James’s, Halse). The tower arch is similar to the arches of the nave arcades, but taller, of course, with shafts towards the opening only and capitals adorned with small carved angels.


The church’s old and significant woodwork seems largely confined to the roofs, of which that to the nave has a ceiled barrel vault with carved bosses.  The N. aisle roof is also of barrel type but has all its beams exposed.  


The church contains a number of monuments, including one on the N. aisle W. wall, featuring two winged cherubs’ heads inside a broken pediment.  It is attributed to John Rysbrack (1694-1770), although if that is correct, it is hardly an important example of his art:  it reputedly commemorates Philippa Fraunceis (d. 1745), but for some reason was never inscribed, and it was not mentioned by Gunnis.  Perhaps rather more important are the three stone effigies at the E. end of the N. aisle, of probable fourteenth century date, depicting a knight and his two wives(?), he with his legs crossed and resting on a lion and they with their legs lying on a pair of dogs.