(« back to home page)

English Church Architecture -

Somerset.

 

WINSHAM, St. Stephen (ST 374 063)     (June 2012)

(Bedrock:  Lower Cretaceous, Upper Greensand Formation)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The appearance of this church is enhanced by its axial plan and its modern detached vestry, which is linked to the S. porch by a short covered walkway.  (See the view of the church from the southeast, above left, and the view alongside the church, due west towards the vestry and S. porch, above right.)  It is largely Perpendicular in style albeit that earlier features towards the east and west confirm a building of similar length has stood here since at least the thirteenth or early fourteenth century.

 

The thirteenth century work is formed of three lancet windows, one in the N. wall of the nave and one each in the N. and S. walls of the chancel, the former towards the west and the latter towards the east.  Presumably the chancel originally had two on each side.  They are unlikely to be later than c. 1250. 

 

The early fourteenth century (Decorated) work consists of the three-light W. window to the nave, above the former doorway (which has subsequently been converted into an additional window) (illustrated left).  The lights step up slightly in the centre and the tracery is composed solely of two ungainly mouchettes.

 

Everything else is probably fifteenth century in date.  The characteristic window is formed of three ogee lights and alternate tracery containing subreticulation, and the subreticulation units are ogee-pointed and trefoil-cusped at both the top and the bottom.  (See the S. window to the nave, illustrated right.)  The renewed chancel E. window is formed of three uncusped lights with three circles above, enclosed within an encompassing arch.  The sturdy central tower rises in three stages to two-light bell-openings with straightened reticulation units in the heads and surmounting battlements, but its emphasis derives chiefly from the prominent octagonal bell-turret at the southwest angle, rising higher than the tower itself.  The S. porch has simple flat-chamfered outer and inner doorways and a ceiled wagon roof.

 

The attractive interior of the building appears larger than one might expect in view of the fact that it is aisleless, due partly to its generous width and partly to the excellent lighting, for which clear glass in most of windows can obviously take the credit.  This is a church one is happy to linger in, even if the architecture is relatively modest. Inevitably, the tower arches are the most important internal features, being each composed of two orders of wave mouldings supported on circular shafts separated by wide casements - a design diagnostic of their age.  (The photograph, left, shows the W. tower arch, viewed from the nave.)  A solitary head label stop on the east side of the E. arch (S. respond) suggests others have been removed.

 

The octagonal font is decorated on the every face of the bowl with a pair of squashed quatrefoils, and on the octagonal stem, with a sunk rectangular recess between protruding ribs.  The rood screen, set in the arch between the tower and the chancel, appears to be old in parts, although it would no easy matter to determine precisely which.  The artless late mediaeval tympanum(?) hanging on the N. wall of the crossing tower, must once have filled the space above the screen, from where its child-like depiction of the Crucifixion would have been visible to all.   Finally, the large and excellent pulpit with massive tester (right) in the southeast corner of the nave, is a much more urbane piece of carpentry which the Friends of Somerset Churches describe as Jacobean on their Church Card No. 29 (2006), although Pevsner’s silence on the subject may have been more tactful for it is not typical of that reign.   Finally, the ceiled wagon roof of the nave is another attractive feature and has gilded bosses and castellated wall plates.