English Church Architecture -
BADINGHAM, St. John the Baptist (TM 305 684) (November 2014)
(Bedrock: Neogene to Quaternary, Crag Group)
This is a church of simple plan but considerable interest. It consists of just a chancel, a nave with a S. porch, and an unbuttressed W. tower, but even a cursory external circuit reveals clear evidence of many construction phases. The earliest work is Norman, as witnessed by the nook-shafts at the southwest and northwest angles of the nave and the very narrow round-headed windows three-fifths of the way up the tower. (See the photograph above, taken from the west-southwest.) Thirteenth century features are more obvious, however, and include a lancet on either side of the nave and the Y-traceried bell-openings and W. window to the tower, the first, perhaps, from the early part of the century, and the others, later on. The Decorated period is represented by a north window to the nave, with elaborate tracery which includes encircled trefoils in the heads of the two subarcuated lights, and an only slightly simpler window, re-used in the N. wall of the Victorian chancel (illustrated below left, looking out over the oil tank). Windows elsewhere in the nave include a three-light one with dropped supermullioned tracery, split Ys and strong mullions beneath a four-centred arch, also in the N. wall, three two-light Perpendicular windows, all different from one another, in the S. wall (shown in the photograph, below right), and a two-light window in Tudor brick, high up in each, that were obviously inserted to throw light on the rood. It seems probable that every one of these windows is the work of a different date and hand, and the proud fifteenth century porch, ascribed by Pevsner to c. 1482, seems likely to have been designed by a different mason again. Faced entirely in knapped flint and, to the south, flint flushwork set out in two tiers of narrow panels beneath battlements with more flint panels in the merlons and stone shields on the embrasures, it is entered through a doorway decorated with worn carvings of St. George and the dragon in the spandrels and a canopied niche for a statuette immediately above the apex.
So much for the exterior... Inside the church, since there is no chancel arch and only a simple thirteenth century arch to the tower bearing a single flat chamfer, the building is dominated by three features in particular - the single hammerbeam nave roof, the font, and the very large monument against the N. wall of the sanctuary. The nave roof (illustrated below left, viewed from the chancel) is framed in eight bays, with intricately carved wall plates, traceried spandrels between the principal rafters and hammerposts, and nicely moulded purlins and arched braces; the angels on the ends of the hammerbeams are, inevitably, "modern" replacements. (Pevsner says "of 1900".) The monument against the sanctuary N. wall commemorates William Cotton (d. 1616) and his wife (d. 1621) (see the photograph, below right), who lie in effigy on a tomb-chest, she in front of and a little lower than him, beneath an architectural frame supported by two Corinthian columns elaborately painted with heraldry running all the way up, proclaiming their pedigree to the initiated, while on the tomb-chest itself, their two adult children are depicted kneeling solemnly in prayer.
The exceptionally well-preserved font, carved in clunch, is one of a number in Suffolk featuring the Seven Sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, Penance, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination and Extreme Unction) on the faces of the bowl, together, in this case, with the Baptism of Christ. The figure scenes are set out beneath slight canopies topped by crocketed pinnacles, mock lierne vaulting decorates the overhang of the bowl around the stem, and the stem is carved with figures of the prophets holding scrolls in more shallow recesses with more pinnacles above. (See the photographs below left and right, taken from the southeast and southwest respectively.)