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English Church Architecture -



BADWELL ASH, St. Mary (TL 989 680)     (August 2006)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


It is the tower of this church  (shown left, from the southwest) that is most interesting for it is one of a family to be met also at Elmswell and Ixworth, and at Garboldisham in Norfolk.  A full description of these is given under the entry for Elmswell church and will not be repeated here.  The differences between the Elmswell tower and this one concern chiefly the bell-openings, which are simple and two-light here but four-light with flushwork panelling at Elmswell, the buttress set-offs, of which there are six here and seven at Elmswell, and the tower arch, which has a wide hollow on the second order and a sunk quadrant on the third at Badwell Ash, compared with hollows on both at Elmswell.  Conversely, however, both towers have a remarkable display of flint flushwork devices around their basal friezes and down the leading edge of the buttresses (which is now the subject of a little book, Mediaeval Flushwork of East Anglia by Margaret Talbot, pub. Poppyland, 2004), and the W. doorways of both have the tumbled-in brick and flint patterning round the arch heads so often met with locally, a fashion that is certainly mediaeval in origin but which has also been much spread around in nineteenth century restoration work.


This patterning is repeated around the window heads of the S. porch (illustrated right), which shares the design of its basal frieze with the tower and is possibly by the same mason.  Above the frieze, the S. front displays narrow flushwork arches in four tiers, and there is a fifth tier on the stepped battlements and more flushwork arches on the inner and leading edges of the diagonal buttresses. The outer doorway has a complex series of mouldings and two orders of shafts at the sides, beneath a square surround with St. George and the Dragon carved (badly) in the spandrels.  The windows have supermullioned drop tracery and are set in side walls faced with knapped flint.  


The S. aisle windows are two- and three-light, with partly renewed supermullioned drop tracery.  Two of these - the E. window (left) and the easternmost S. window - have little subarcuations linking the lights, similar to the church windows at Stowlangtoft where they are dated to the closing years of the fourteenth century.  The nave N. windows are probably also of this date (there is no N. aisle), as shown by the straightened reticulation units in their heads - generally a sign in East Anglia of the second half of the fourteenth century (see Appendix 2 for some close dated examples of the use of this tracery shape in East Anglia), while the two tall chancel S. windows with cruciform lobing set vertically (illustrated below right) appear to be Decorated (but see also the discussion of this motif under the entry for Stansfield).


Certainly the four-bay S. arcade and chancel arch appear to be early fourteenth century work, with their arches formed of one flat- and one hollow-chamfered order, springing from octagonal piers and semi-octagonal responds with large capitals of characteristic profile.  The only other internal features of the church requiring mention are the font and nave roof.  The former has cinquefoil-cusped arches on the faces of the octagonal bowl, a castellated rim, figures of saints supporting it, and shields between buttresses on the stem.  The nave roof alternates tie beams with single hammerbeams bearing massive carved angels, and has wall posts decorated with figures standing on castellated corbels.