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English Church Architecture -



CROWFIELD, All Saints (TM 142 578)     (October 2008)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This little church stands in a most attractive rural position, set well back from the road and immediately adjacent to Crowfield Hall deer park.  Its claim to fame is its chancel (shown left, from the southeast, and below right, in an interior view from the west), which is half-timbered and the only example of such in ecclesiastical architecture in the county.  Constructed in the usual east-of-England manner, with a close-studded box-frame, it is some fourteen panels in length and lit by a square-headed two-light window opposite each other to north and south, tucked in towards the nave and with trefoil-cusped lights and a little supermullioned tracery above, and by a similar window further east in the S. wall and a larger three-light window with deep supermullioned tracery in the E. wall, all of which are fashioned in wood.  Yet glazed as they are with heavy stained glass, these windows are certainly not adequate to light the interior, the details of which are hard to make out in the gloom on even the sunniest of autumn afternoons.  The chancel roof of mansard form is supported by braced, cambered tie beams, that are castellated above.  The eighteenth century communion rail has turned balusters and there is a sedilia beneath the easternmost south window, with treacherous-looking tracery.


The half-timbered S. porch has four-light, square-headed side windows with moulded mullions, and an outer doorway with a very depressed arch, above which there is just sufficient room for a little encircled trefoil in the spandrel on the left.  The bargeboard in front of the gable is decorated with more trefoils and, inside, the roof is supported by a cambered tie beam with traceried spandrels decorated with flowers and bunches of grapes.


The rest of the building - formed of a nave with a lean-to N. vestry and a surmounting bell-turret towards the west - is Victorian work of the poorer sort, and it is no surprise to discover the architect was Edward Charles Hakewill, whose family included at least four indifferent members of that profession, much of whose work appears characterized by ungainly window traceries.  That is certainly the case here, as witnessed by the three-light nave window on either side towards the east, each displaying a supertransom joining the apices of the lancet subarcuations above the outer lights, and creating by this simple expedient, a design ingenious for its ugliness.  Inside, they are arguably still worse, for each is backed by two heavy trefoil-cusped arches, supported on a thick central shaft.  The nave roof (shown left, from the east) is not much better, though Hakewill cannot be blamed for this as it appears to have been re-used in all its essentials.  It looks, however, almost the model of indecision, as reflected in the curious alternation of hammerposts braced to collars, with arched braces divided into two tiers and pendants between, attached to the principal rafters well below the line of the purlins.