English Church Architecture.
MARTOCK, All Saints (ST 402 192),
(Bedrock: Lower Jurassic, Dyrham Formation.)
Another proud Perpendicular, south Somerset church,
with a W. tower dated c. 1520, and a clerestory and nave roof dated 1513.
This is another church in Perpendicular style which, like St. Mary’s, Bruton, is reminiscent of A.K. Wickham’s 'Quantock Group' of churches as defined in his book The Churches of Somerset (London, David & Charles, 1965) (see the page for Bishop's Lydeard on this web-site for an explanation), for although not similar enough to be considered a true member, it does look as if it might have been influenced by them. It is also another golden building made of Ham Hill stone, situated in a village constructed largely of the same material, just two miles north of Ham Hill itself. The church comprises fifteenth and early sixteenth century work, of which the best may be seen inside.
The noble W. tower rises in four stages supported by set-back buttresses. The W. window, like that at neighbouring St. Martin's, Kingsbury Episcopi, is transomed, with outer lights subarcuated in pairs and a latticed supertransom above the central light, and the W. doorway below has continuous mouldings and a triangular shaft on each side. The stair turret rises to the same height as the tower and the tower is surmounted by battlements and single crocketed pinnacles at the corners. The generally accepted date for this work is c. 1520 and, if that is correct, it would, indeed, have been remarkable if the then recently built churches at Huish Episcopi and Kingsbury Episcopi, had not exerted some influence on the masons working here.
The rest of the church consists of an aisled nave with a two-storeyed S. porch and a mediaeval N. vestry, a chancel with a two-bay chapel on either side, and a projecting rood stair turret between the N. aisle and chapel. The chancel E. window consists of a group of five lancets which have survived from the thirteenth century, but windows elsewhere in the building are predominantly four-light with alternate tracery, subarcuation of the lights in pairs, and through-reticulation, although the chapel E. windows have five lights, and the chancel, which projects two bays further east, has three-light N. and S. windows beyond the chapels, with alternate tracery and subreticulation. (See the glossary for an explanation of these terms.) None of these windows feature ogee curves anywhere, the sublights to the north are all trefoil-cusped, and those units to the south that do have cinquefoil-cusping, seem to do so to compensate for the lack of subreticulation. This contrasts with the clerestory, which has obviously been added later: set beneath four-centred arches, the four-light windows here have ogee archlets, alternate tracery, subreticulation, subarcuation of the lights in pairs, and through-reticulation. The battlements above are filled with open quatrefoils holding central shields, in marked contrast to the solid battlements of the aisles, chapels and porch.
Nevertheless, it is the interior of this church which is particularly fine. The nave arcades are constructed in six bays (see the N. arcade, right) which are not properly synchronized with the aisle windows, but this almost escapes notice as one’s attention is drawn instead to their carved spandrels (illustrated below left), each filled with two blank arches set one above the other towards the pier, and two daggers and an encircled quatrefoil containing a shield towards the arch apex, and separated from its neighbour by a polygonal carved shaft. The angels bearing shields at the base of these shafts are considered to assign the work to the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509). Above the string course resting on the arch apices, rise highly elaborate, buttressed niches with intricate crocketed canopies, of which thee are more, arranged in two tiers, on either side of the tower arch. The tower arch itself is decorated with blank panelling beneath the soffits, in the local manner to be found at St. George’s, Hinton St. George and Holy Trinity, Long Sutton, among other places, where the work is so closely related it seems certain that the same mason was involved. The chancel arch is similar, though only half the width.
The magnificent tie beam nave roof (a detail of which is shown below) is dated by a shield taken from it and now hung in the N. chapel, which, unusually, records the exact year it was constructed, which was 1513. (Presumably this is also the approximate date of the clerestory.) Carved tie beams support angels each side and there are open quatrefoils in the spandrels between these beams and the principal rafters. The squares formed between the purlins and rafters create forty sections which are subdivided into sixteen smaller squares, and four more which are subdivided into twenty, making seven hundred and twenty in all. These squares feature six varieties of openwork crosses. The effect of the roof and arcades together, therefore, is rich and sumptuous, and the building as a whole, while showing some features that are certainly derivative, has undoubtedly been designed with great skill and confidence.