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English Church Architecture -



FORNHAM ALL SAINTS, All Saints (TL 837 677)       (July 2004)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This is quite a large church about which Pevsner had little to say, possibly because he considered it too heavily restored to be of much interest.  There is, however, quite a lot here on which comment is needed, including the very asymmetric building plan, which comprises a W. tower, nave and chancel, with: to the north - an aisle adjoining the three western nave bays and a transept communicating directly with the easternmost bay; and to the south - a porch communicating with the second nave bay from the west and an aisle adjoining this and running beside the two eastern nave bays and the westernmost bay of the chancel.  The building's earliest feature is Norman, though only the S. doorway with its one order of shafts, survives from this period (inside the porch).  The thirteenth century is rather better represented, both by the tower (though not its pinnacles) with its Y-traceried bell-openings and lancets below, and the Y-traceried nave S. window, to the west of the porch, which probably indicates the date of the basic masonry.  The church's other windows are variously Decorated, Perpendicular and Victorian, with the most striking, the three-light E. window to the chancel, which appears to be original Decorated work with its reticulated tracery and (unusually in this area) subreticulation of the upper unit, and this is followed by the two-light N. window (illustrated right), with large daggers set askew above the lights and a small quatrefoil in the apex. The porch is faced in knapped flint and has an outer doorway with an order of shafts, quatrefoils carved in the spandrels beneath a triangular hood mould, a niche in the gable, and blank quatrefoils inside a running band of lozenges along the parapet.  There is also flint flushwork decoration on the S. aisle battlements (as shown at the bottom of the page), consisting of circular devices below the embrasures and narrow triple-cusped arches inside the merlons.  This work is clearly mediaeval in origin, although, perhaps, restored.


Inside the church, the N. arcade (left) adopts the same design as the two-bay S. arcade between the nave and S. aisle, being formed of arches bearing a sunk flat chamfer around the outer order which continues down the piers, and a complex series of mouldings on the inner order, supported on attached semicircular shafts towards the openings.  It was pointed out by Birkin Haward (Mediaeval Church Arcades, pub. Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History", 1993) that the pier section this produces is nearly identical to that of the N. arcade piers at nearby Great Barton, making the involvement of the same mason very likely, though his suggestion that this might be William Layer, the presumed architect of St. Mary's, Bury St. Edmunds, seems to be entirely speculative. These arcades are hard to date with confidence but are likely to be fifteenth century work.  There is a separate arch between the chancel and S. aisle.  The depressed arch from the nave to the N. transept now appears to be Tudor, to judge by its shape, although the elements consist only of a sunk chamfer and a series of wave mouldings, semicircular shafts, and large castellated capitals.  However, the four-centred arch from the N. aisle to the N. transept is clearly of this period and has traceried spandrels towards the aisle and pairs of trefoil-cusped, blank arches carved beneath the soffits.  The chancel arch is the work of Sir Arthur Blomfield (1829-99), who restored the church in 1863.  It was he who designed the panelled chancel roof with its elaborate bosses.  The church retains a few bench ends with carved arm rests of the type to be seen at Stowlangtoft, Tostock and Woolpit where, like here, dogs are particularly in evidence.