English Church Architecture -
BAYLHAM, St. Peter (TM 102 516) (July 2008)
(Bedrock: Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)
This is now a pseudo-cruciform building (shown above from the south) thanks to the work of the nineteenth century restorers, who added the wide and tall transepts, and rebuilt the chancel and, probably, the porch, in the year 1870 - a date proudly recorded in the masonry beneath the S. transept S. window (above the doorway), together with the inscription “Domus Dei, Porta Cæli” (“... [this is none other but] the house of God, [and this is] the gate of heaven”, Genesis, 28/17). Consequently, although this is a fairly large church today, it is only really the W. tower and nave that are of any significant architectural interest.
The tower rises in two stages, with a string course below the bell-stage only, and is unbuttressed, like several others in this area, suggesting it may have a thirteenth century origin. However, a restored round-headed window in the second stage, with what look like re-used Roman bricks in the jambs, could be re-set twelfth century work, and a feature that certainly goes back to Norman times is the blocked N. doorway to the nave (illustrated left), with a simple tympanum displaying incised diapering. Other mediaeval windows are either Decorated (in the case of the bell-openings with reticulated tracery, and the two-light windows with curvilinear tracery in the W. wall of the tower and the S. wall of the nave) or Perpendicular (in the case of the N. windows to the nave, one with three lights and one with two, and both with supermullioned drop tracery below segmental-pointed arches). The windows to the Victorian transepts and chancel are in Second Pointed style apart from the re-used S. window in the sanctuary (shown above right), which has cinquefoil-cusped Y-tracery with the appearance of c. 1300.
To this modest stuff, the church interior adds little for, apart from the font, almost everything else has been restored or renewed. The tower arch is composed of three renewed flat-chamfered orders that die into the jambs, and the three arches from the crossing to the nave and transepts (for there is no arch between the chancel and crossing, which is effectively just the westward continuation of the chancel) are all Victorian as one would expect. A large re-set seventeenth century monument on the chancel N. wall, commemorating John and Elizabeth Acton of Baylham Hall, and showing the couple facing each other across a prayer desk, with symbols of mortality above and their three sons and two daughters acting as supporters below, is definitely not to modern tastes. The roofs are everywhere ceiled but the nave roof still has its old tie beams exposed, besides the square king posts and four-way struts these support. A blocked doorway for a rood stair is visible in the nave N. wall, immediately west of the transept (which is actually an organ chamber), and the octagonal font is decorated with angels holding shields to north and south, lions to east and west, and carved roses between, and stands on a stem with lion supporters at the ordinal positions.