English Church Architecture -
ALDHAM, St. Mary (TM 041 444) (September 2012)
(Bedrock: Neogene, Red Crag Formation)
This heavily-restored but picturesque little church, situated in attractive hillocky countryside less than a mile and a half from the centre of Hadleigh, consists of a chancel with a N. vestry, a nave with a S. porch, and a circular W. tower. (See the views from the southeast, above left, and northwest, above right.) On the basis of their brick lining and the position of their putlog holes, the three unequal stages of the tower in their present form, have been ascribed to the fourteenth or fifteenth century, the sixteenth or seventeenth century, and the nineteenth century respectively. (See The Round Church Towers of England by Stephen Hart, pub. Lucas Books, 2003.) However, the triple-chamfered tower arch to the nave is built of yellow gault brick, which was rarely used before the eighteenth century, so perhaps the lower stages are later still. The windows and bell-openings are lancets throughout, with double-chamfered surrounds constructed in moulded brick.
The majority of the nave and chancel windows have Y-tracery which, if it could be trusted, would suggest the late thirteenth century. Two of these on the north side of the church are cusped, which might push the date on to c.1300, and a third has reticulated tracery, which is characteristic of the early fourteenth century. The easternmost S. window in the chancel, with supermullioned tracery, is obviously a fifteenth century replacement. The chancel E. window is modern, together - presumably - with the pair of niches on either side, internally, with crocketed ogee arches and brattishing above. (See the photograph below left, showing the niches on the right-hand [south] side of the window.)
The porch, like the vestry, is wholly Victorian. The inner doorway carries two hollow chamfers. The chancel arch is composed of three orders - the inner two, bearing a sunk quadrant and a hollow, springing from semi-octagonal responds, and the outermost carrying a flat chamfer that continues all the way around. The chancel is approached up two steps. The Perpendicular S. window, mentioned above, has a lowered sill to act as a sedilia, and there is a piscina immediately beyond, tucked in beneath the window splay.
The large square font with engaged octagonal corner shafts (shown above right), standing on five circular supports, the outer four with moulded bases and capitals, is another feature that defies reliable dating. A little mediaeval carpentry certainly survives, however, in the form of a couple of bench ends to the north, including one carved with a bear, and a few re-set poppyheads to the west. The communion rail with turned balusters is probably Stuart.