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English Church Architecture -



ASHBOCKING, All Saints (TM 170 545)     (September 2008)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This church is situated down the lane to the Hall, where it may be found to consist of a chancel, a nave with S. porch, and a Tudor brick W. tower, of which the last (shown left, from the northwest) is most striking and probably more reminiscent of Essex than it is of this county.  The S. porch with crow-step gable is also brick-built, but Pevsner, for one, was not convinced that this is original:  certainly the two-light side windows are not, and while the moulded bricks that form the outer doorway look old, the bond elsewhere is mixed and unhelpful, and the little hammerbeam roof inside, of crude construction but still surprising in this position, is almost impossible to date by visual inspection alone.   


What is clear, however, is that the chancel is the earliest part of the building, as shown by two S. windows and one N. window, each composed of two lancet lights with a circle above.  This is thirteenth century work, but the chancel E. wall has been rebuilt in Flemish-bonded brick and the E. window formed of three trefoil-cusped lights, seems likely to be contemporary. Perhaps the date here is the eighteenth century (as opposed to the nineteenth), but the chancel appears to have retained its original length, as witnessed, for example, by the position of the mediaeval asymmetric piscina recessed in the sanctuary S. wall.  The chancel arch is probably Perpendicular, for while the double flat-chamfered arch itself could be contemporary with the side windows, the castellated capitals to the semi-octagonal responds from which it springs, almost certainly are not.  


The nave in its present form is essentially Decorated and lit by three renewed two-light windows on each side, with curvilinear tracery and trefoil-cusped lights, with the upper foil ogee-pointed.  There is also an unusual little square-headed window in the S. wall of the nave (to the west of the easternmost two-light window) which throws light into a tomb recess inside (discussed below).  The nave S. doorway (i.e. inside the porch) has a Perpendicular profile, and there are worn head label stops above and a stoup on the right.  


Returning now to the tower, this is constructed in English-bonded brick, with diapering in dark headers.  It rises in four stages to two-light bell-openings and a plain parapet, supported by wide diagonal buttresses with three set-offs, and with a projecting stair turret at the east end of the S. wall, which ascends to the bell-stage. The four-centred W. doorway formed in moulded brick, is formed of two orders beneath a hood-mould and a label, and the three-light W. window immediately above, is constructed in stone and provides just sufficient room for a little supermullioned tracery over the central light.  Inside the church, the four-centred tower arch is tall, constructed in stone, and composed of one flat-chamfered and one hollow-chamfered order, supported on semi-octagonal responds.


Finally, of the church’s other internal features, the font with its very odd curved bowl, set, as it were, within a stone frame, has been variously described as Norman (by Pevsner) and Saxon (in the notes on display in the church), but these ascriptions seem merely to be attempts to account for its curious form by assigning it a dim distant origin, and it seems more likely it simply served some other function once and was later pressed into service here.  However, a tomb recess in the nave S. wall (shown below), with elaborate carved canopy above, does survive in its original  (early fourteenth century) state, and displays a septfoil ogee-pointed crocketed arch with carved foliage on the spandrels and elaborate pinnacles at the sides, each with two tiers of crocketed gables supported on carved heads.  (See the photograph, above right, showing some of the carving on the left hand pinnacle.)  The nave and chancel roofs appear to be Victorian but the benches look like seventeenth century work.