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English Church Architecture -



CHELSWORTH, All Saints (TL 980 479)       (October 2003)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This is quite a small church, perhaps most notable for its early fourteenth century tomb recess, reset in the N. aisle N. wall and visible both outside and in.  The building itself consists of a low, diagonally-buttressed W. tower in three stages, a short aisled nave with N. and S. porches, and a chancel, and is not enhanced externally by being rendered in pinky-orange concrete.  As the windows are a somewhat confusing guide to the age of the building, for once it is better to begin an inspection inside, where the nave arcades can be seen to be fifteenth century work (see the N. arcade, left) and built on a grander scale than the church exterior would lead one to expect.  The arches carry a series of waves and hollows arranged in two orders and the tall piers are composed of four semicircular shafts separated by hollows, with finely detailed, castellated capitals.  Presumably the aisle walls are contemporary with these arches, but probably not with the chancel arch, which has two continuous wave mouldings around it, a flat chamfer on the inner order, and semi-octagonal responds.  This arch seems likely to be earlier, therefore, albeit not as early as the tower arch, composed of two flat chamfered orders.  Both Pevsner and the church guide (perhaps in deference to him) describe the tower as "early fourteenth century", yet only the cusped lancet in the W. wall really fits this date, both the tower arch and the Y-traceried bell-openings being more in keeping with a date somewhat earlier still.  Besides, there are two lancets in the N. aisle N. wall and two Y-traceried windows in the S. aisle S. wall  (while the other aisle windows are Perpendicular and supermullioned).  Pevsner did not mention these, perhaps because he considered them spurious, but it seems possible they are the windows of the former nave, re-used here when the aisles were built.  That might establish the nave as thirteenth century in date  and, perhaps, some fifty years older than Pevsner and the church guide suggest.  Yet be that as it may, both agree the tomb recess (illustrated right) in the N. aisle has been re-set, and nor can there be any doubt about its Decorated vintage, which is demonstrated by a line of ball flower ornament beneath its parapet outside (see the photograph below left), between circular embattled pinnacles.  Internally, its depressed arch and quadripartite vault springing from circular shafts, is set within a taller two-centred arch with diapering on the tympanum, and there is a crocketed gable above that, and gabled, crocketed pinnacles at the sides.  It has been suggested that this is the tomb of St. John de Philibert, Lord of the Manor, who died abroad in 1359, but the style appears too early to be his and it is more likely to commemorate his father and namesake, who died in 1334.  The tall embattled S. porch probably returns us to the time of the nave arcades, with its two-light side windows with supermullioned tracery and outer doorway bearing one flat and one hollow chamfer above an order of semicircular shafts.  It was enclosed to form a vestry in 1843.  The N. porch is half-timbered and probably Victorian.  The chancel has a Decorated S. window with an octfoil above two trefoil-cusped lights, a two-light Perpendicular window with supermullioned tracery on either side, and an E. window dating from the restoration of 1866.