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English Church Architecture -



BARDWELL, St. Peter & St. Paul (TL 942 736)     (July 2007)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


The history of this building is elucidated in part by a number of dates that are known to pertain to it, though inevitably, some uncertainties remain.  The church consists of a chancel, an aisleless six-bay nave with a S. porch, and a tall W. tower topped by a Hertfordshire spike.  The chancel is now almost wholly Victorian, following heavy restoration in 1853, but the nave appears still to be substantially as it was c. 1421, which is the date carved in Roman numerals on one of the four surviving figures at the ends of the roof hammerbeams.  It presumably displayed then the same early fourteenth century tracery still to be seen in eight of its ten windows today (the three of which to the east of the S. porch, are illustrated above), although these might have been re-set, for not only is the easternmost window on each side, Perpendicular, but so, perhaps, are the proportions of the others.  These light bays 1, 3, 4 and 5 from the west (the doorways occupy bay 2) and feature tracery composed alternately of cruciform lobing set vertically (cf. the use of this tracery form at Cowlinge and Troston among other places) and a quatrefoil on a stem, above two mouchettes.  The S. porch outer doorway bears the arms of Sir William Berdewell, d. 1434 (Pevsner), and his wife (née de Pakenham), in the W. and E. spandrels respectively.  Presumably Berdewell contributed towards the porch (illustrated right), although William Ingland left two shillings for its repair or further aggrandisement when he died in 1460.  It is certainly the most impressive part of the building, distinguished by a S. front faced with flushwork rectangles and by an outer doorway bearing two hollow chamfers decorated with fleurons and carved crowns at intervals, supported on semi-octagonal responds with hollowed sides and more fleurons round the capitals.  There is also a frieze of fleurons below the battlements, and three canopied niches round the doorway, which now hold modern statues of the Virgin & Child (above) and SS. Peter & Paul (respectively left and right). Finally in this external examination of the church, it remains to consider the tower, rising in three stages supported by diagonal buttresses and thought also to have been erected largely at Berdewell’s expense, though Reginald Payn (d. 1409) left money for it too.  Plain but tall, it has two-light bell-openings with supermullioned tracery and split “Y”s, and a similar W. window.  A projecting stair turret at the southeast angle, rises to the bell-stage.


Inside the building, the tower arch bears a continuous narrow hollow around an inner flat chamfer supported on semi-octagonal responds, and the wide chancel arch is similar, with a continuous, wider hollow chamfer around a flat chamfer springing from rather flattened responds.  A squint either side of this arch looks through to the sanctuary.  However, the internal interest of the church lies chiefly in its carpentry and monuments, and of the former, it is only really the single-hammerbeam nave roof (shown left, looking east), already mentioned, that is significant and even that can only be a shadow of its former self, with most of its figures gone and the tenons exposed behind, although it does display hammerbeams at both the full and half bays, castellated wall plates with brattishing, and carved bosses where the principal rafters meet the purlins and ridge beam, besides some of its original colour.  As for monuments, the church contains several large ones, of both seventeenth and eighteenth century date, just one of which was mentioned by Gunnis (Dictionary of British Sculptors: 1660-1851, pub. The Abbey Library, 1951), who in a rare oversight, missed another that is signed.  The one he mentioned is a wall tablet signed by Robert de Carle of Bury St. Edmunds (fl. 1795 -1842), who signed others at Market Weston and in St. Mary’s, Bury St. Edmunds, and the one he missed (on the N. side of the chancel) is essentially a plain slab given a modest architectural treatment and with a little tomb chest above, commemorating James Welton, his wife Mary, and her sister Martha Stracey (d. 1772, 1784 & 1770), and signed by Joshua Cushing of Norwich (1775-1824).  However, more notable than these are:  first, a large monument in the S. wall of the chancel, depicting Thomas and Bridget Reade (d. 1651 & 1690), kneeling and facing each other across a prayer desk, with their seven children beneath, of whom one is lying down, presumably to show he predeceased his parents, and; second, a more architectural monument featuring an open pediment and achievement above black alabaster columns, which is dedicated to Thomas Reade (d. 1678).  The inscriptions are in Latin.  Finally, above the blocked N. doorway hang the Royal Arms of George II.