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English Church Architecture -



EDWARDSTONE, St. Mary (TL 940 421)     (April 2002)

(Bedrock:  Eocene, London Clay)


Just 3 miles (5 km.) east of Sudbury, this church is still set in deep countryside in the grounds of the former Hall and when visited in April for the purpose of obtaining these notes, was surrounded by a churchyard yellow with cowslips.  It consists of  a diagonally-buttressed W. tower, a nave with a N. aisle and S. porch, and a chancel alongside which the aisle continues for one additional bay to form what is now an organ chamber, east of which again there is a nineteenth century,  independently-gabled vestry.  However, most immediately striking to a visitor who has just been to the nearby church at Great Waldingfield (2 miles to the northwest), is the close relationship of the aisle windows between these two buildings: each has supermullioned tracery above stepped lights and is also reminiscent of windows at Clare (11 miles west), where the date is probably c. 1470.  That the basic fabric of the present church is earlier, however, is shown externally by the cusped lancet and cusped Y-traceried window in the chancel S. wall, with the appearance of c. 1300, and probably by the cusped lancets in the tower walls and the two-light bell-openings with straightened reticulation units in their heads - the latter being a design most usually associated in East Anglia with the second half of the fourteenth century. (See Appendix 2 for some close dated examples of its employment in East Anglia.)  Nevertheless, a date around 1470 would probably best fit the tower arch - replete with a wave moulding, roll, casement and flat chamfer, the chancel arch - which is similar to the N. arcade but taller and with castellated capitals, and the five-bay N. arcade itself (shown left) - formed of arches bearing wave mouldings in two orders, springing from piers composed of four keeled shafts with capitals displaying many narrow mouldings.  This last is another design very similar to that seen at Clare, except that there, the inner order of the arcades bears a single hollow chamfer. Even so, it seems likely that the master mason in charge of the work here was also responsible for the work at Clare and Stoke-by-Clare, as well as for the windows at least at Great Waldingfield.


As for the remaining work of significance at Edwardstone, most of this is by George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), who was brought in to restore a church that had become very dilapidated.  In all likelihood the vestry is his, although not the S. porch in Flemish bonded brick - a material Bodley is unlikely to have introduced unless it was already present.  In fact, most of Bodley's more important work at St. Mary's was done inside, where he restored the pulpit and tester (shown right), designed benches, panelling around the nave, an organ case and a reredos, and painted the chancel roof and walls.  The pulpit is large and Jacobean in origin;  it stands on a tall circular stem and is approached up six steps.  Behind this is the door to the rood stair, though all signs of a screen have now gone.  Unfortunately, Bodley's original work here, as at St. Peter's, Sudbury also, has suffered the loss of much of its colour scheme, leaving a very partial impression of his likely  intentions (but see the detail of the chancel roof, left), though just enough remains to show his sensitive workmanship, most notably in the wall panelling, "still in first class condition" (Pevsner), and the attractive reredos (shown below), which shows some close similarities to that at St. Peter's.  The present church also contains two monuments mentioned by Gunnis (Dictionary of British Sculptors: 1660-1851, pub. The Abbey Library, 1951), which are the work of John Bacon the Younger (1777-1859).  They commemorate Thomas Dawson (d. 1807) and William Shepherd (d. 1815) and are both entirely commonplace.