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English Church Architecture -



CONEY WESTON, St. Mary (TL 972 784)     (July 2007)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


Situated a mile to the west of the village, this picturesque little church (seen above, from the south), out of sight of any other building, consists today of just a chancel and a nave with a tall S. porch, an erstwhile tower having fallen at some time in the past.  The nave is thatched and the walls are constructed largely of flint rubble except for the S. wall of the nave and the walls of the porch, which are faced with knapped flint.  Stylistically, the differences between the nave and chancel are marked, yet these parts of the church cannot be far apart in age, leaving Pevsner, indeed, content to describe both merely as Decorated.  However, the chancel is surely a somewhat earlier piece of work or else the product of a more conservative mason.  The tracery of its three, two-light S. windows is still closely allied to the late thirteenth century geometric style, and the tentative use of the ogee around the upper lobes of the trefoil-cusped lights, suggests this was only then just beginning to be employed, which occured around 1315.  The  chancel E. window is formed of four trefoil-cusped lights with three trefoils above, which is all there is room for beneath its segmental arch.  Whatever the precise date here, this also appears to represent an early use of a new arch-shape, firmly dated examples of which, in this case, are hard to find before its employment in the Great Hall of Penshurst Place (Kent), erected c.1340.   The chancel N. wall shows evidence of two blocked arches that must once have communicated with a chapel, but this may have been demolished  soon after its construction for the two-light square-headed window inserted into the westernmost blocked arch is also Decorated in style (although it could be re-used, of course) and, this time, like most of the nave windows, which are tall but square-headed and composed of two ogee-pointed cusped lights with half a quatrefoil above.  A date around 1340 would probably fit these, as it would the two shorter, similar windows to the porch.  The porch has a very low-pitched roof and battlements above, and is entered through a modified outer doorway, now formed of a rather insubstantial arch bearing a sunk quadrant moulding, springing from much more substantial, semicircular responds.  (See the photograph, right.)


Inside the building, the nave is seen to consist of essentially four bays, in conformity with the fenestration of the S. wall but not that of the N. wall.  The chancel arch is composed of two flat-chamfered orders, with the inner springing from semi-octagonal responds and the outer, continuous down the jambs.  On either side of the chancel arch, a pair of blank arches recessed in the nave E. wall is believed once to have formed the reredos of a small chapel, squeezed into one or other of cramped positions.  The S. chapel was clearly also provided with a little piscina, which can still be seen recessed in the S. wall of the nave.  However, by far the most attractive and noteworthy interior feature of the church is the angle piscina in the chancel S. wall (shown left), which opens through stilted trefoil-cusped arches into the chancel to the north and a window splay to the west, supported on a circular column at the northwest angle and on half columns to the south and east;  the arches have gables above, topped by carved leaf motifs.  There is little else to see.  The nave roof has been ceiled and the chancel roof is modern like the furniture.  The church contains a single monument, on the N. side of the chancel arch, commemorating “Maurice Dryer of London, Merchant, who departed this life 21st  November 1786, aged 49”.  However, it is not of good quality and appears to be unsigned.