English Church Architecture -
FRAMSDEN, St. Mary (TM 200 598) (July 2013)
(Bedrock: Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)
This is another fairly large, proud Suffolk church, maintained against the odds by a small rural community. Bats are a particularly severe challenge here.
The building (seen above from the southeast) consists of a long chancel, a nave with a S. aisle and porch, and a W. tower. The oldest features to be seen outside are arguably the two Y-traceried windows in the aisle, in late thirteenth century style, but as these have been renewed, it is difficult to quarrel with Pevsner's judgement that the earliest proven contributions are the aisle's three-light E. window in early fourteenth century style, with three cinquefoil-cusped lights set in an encompassing arch, and inside the church, the five-bay S. arcade, composed of double-flat-chamfered arches supported on octagonal piers with prominent, deep capitals, the silhouette of which is broadly characteristic. (See the photograph, left, taken from the west end of the nave, looking southeast.) More overtly Decorated work includes the piscina recessed in the aisle S. wall towards the east, and the greater part of the chancel: the E. window is a Perpendicular replacement but the other windows, though restored, retain what is still reticulated tracery, and the cinquefoil-cusped, corner piscina (if that is what it is, for it has no drain hole) set in the eastern splay of the sanctuary S. window, is ogee-pointed above a circular column at the northwest angle. (See the thumbnail, right.) This work might be contemporary with the arcade or later. The flat-chamfered chancel arch rises above tall corbel shafts and the remains of the rood stair are seen in the nave wall, immediately to the northwest.
However, most of the important work at Framsden is actually Perpendicular, and includes, in particular, the porch and W. tower with their fine display of flint flushwork. The well-proportioned tower, faced in knapped flint, rises in five stages from a flushwork basal frieze to battlements decorated with pommée crosses under the embrasures and blank arches in the merlons, supported by deep diagonal buttresses with tall flushwork arches adorning the leading edges. The two-light bell-openings stretch through the tower's two upper stages and have supermullioned drop tracery beneath segmental-pointed arches. The W. doorway bears a wave moulding around the outer order and a sunk flat chamfer decorated at intervals by crowns and fleurons around the inner; the spandrels are carved with the Instruments of the Passion (Pevsner's description), and a short frieze resting on top, displays flushwork arches alternating with carved shields, sandwiched between two ogee-pointed, crocketed niches. (See the photograph, below left.) The three-light W. window has supermullioned tracery with strong mullions and a castellated supertransom above the central light. The tower arch to the nave is very tall and bears a flat chamfer and a couple of waves above semi-octagonal responds, while above again, the remnants of the pre-clerestory nave gable line can still be seen, fossilized in the plaster.
The outer doorway to the S. porch (shown below right) carries a couple of narrow rolls above an order of side shafts, and a sunk chamfer on the outer order, containing carved crowns and rosettes. The elaborate decorative work around it comprises two tiers of flushwork arches below the springing, blank niches carved in clunch on either side of carved spandrels perhaps intended to depict St. George and the dragon (a man with a club on the left confronts a dragon on the right), blank arches of graded height above, leading the eye to an attractive canopied niche in the centre, and yet more flushwork designs on the tall stepped battlements. There is additional flushwork on the W. wall and on the W. wall of the aisle, creating the impression from this direction that the porch is two bays deep. The nave clerestory is a Tudor addition in moulded brick, with six, two-light windows with uncusped supermullioned tracery above the aisle, and a further three towards the aisleless north. The N. windows to the nave, below, are probably contemporary.
So too, one presumes, is the double-hammerbeam nave roof (as illustrated below left): the angels are now missing (assuming they ever existed), but the wall plates, hammerbeams and collars are nicely moulded and the spandrels contain tracery. The beams of the lean-to S. aisle roof are inscribed (from west to east), according to H. Munro Cautley (Suffolk Churches and their Treasures, pub. Norman Adlard & Co. Ltd., 3rd ed. 1954), "William Stebbing, Gentleman 1676", "R.B. 1620", and " Peter Kersey and William List, Churchwardens". The misericords now set against the N. wall of the sanctuary but reputedly from another church, have all been defaced. The octagonal font (below right), unusually aligned east-northeast, north-northeast, north-northwest, etc., is one of a number in the immediate neighbourhood featuring angels alternating with lions round the bowl and four additional lion supporters round the stem (cf. Helmingham and Pettaugh). Presumably they are contemporary and the work of the same mason or firm, and it is a pity that none of them appears able to be close-dated.