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English Church Architecture -



GAZELEY, All Saints (TL 719 642)     (October 2004)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This building (illustrated left, from the southeast) beside the wide main street presents an archetypal English village scene and it is disappointing to discover that the church is considerably less attractive inside than out.  The most important work is in the chancel, where the N. & S. windows (shown below right) have geometric tracery composed of quatrefoils above pairs of trefoil-cusped lights, with the westernmost also being of lowside form. The E. window, with panelled splays inside, now looks otherwise entirely renewed, but Pevsner considered it true to its original design and described it at length:  it consists of three trefoil-cusped lancet lights (the centre one lower than the outer two) with a large, ungainly sexfoil above, set in a triangle with rounded sides. Mortlock also believed this to be old but put the date at c. 1330, which seems very late as there are no signs of ogee curves, here or elsewhere.  Nor can he have based his view on the form of the chancel arch which, together with the similar four-bay aisle arcades, both he and Pevsner described as "late thirteenth century", even though on purely stylistic grounds, these could actually be later.  (See the N. arcade below left.)  Supported on quatrefoil piers and semi-quatrefoil responds, the arch mouldings above are actually hollow chamfers, which are more commonly encountered in East Anglia in work of the early fourteenth century.  If that were the case here, then an explanation could be that a decision to add aisles to the church was only made a few decades after the nave was first built.  However, the cinquefoil-cusped piscina in the chancel S. wall with an order of colonnettes at the sides, is Early English in style rather than Decorated, and further evidence may also be provided by the tower, for although partial rebuilding of this took place in 1884, it can hardly have been as complete as Pevsner and Mortlock suggest, since the gable line of the steeper-pitched, pre-clerestory nave roof is still visible outside on the E. wall, together with a lancet opening beneath that must once have been either a Sanctus bell window looking into the nave or else an external window as now, in which case the position of the nave roof has been altered twice, first up, and then down.  Either way, the mere existence of this lancet appears to indicate a thirteenth century origin for the tower also, thus making more likely the earlier dating of the chancel.  Another mediaeval feature of the tower - but this time clearly not an original one - is the Perpendicular W. doorway, and also from this later period are the aisle and clerestory windows, with supermullioned drop tracery beneath, respectively, four-centred and segmental-pointed arches.


After this rather detailed discussion, much briefer consideration can be given to the church furnishings.  Most interesting is probably the font, if only because it offers further ambiguities, with an octagonal bowl of seemingly c. 1300 at the latest, decorated with blank lancets and intersecting tracery, standing on an octagonal stem with blank tracery more akin to reticulated than geometric - although here again, the ogee curve has not quite crept in.  The chancel is almost devoid of furniture but there is a little old woodwork in the nave, notably six dilapidated but once elaborate benches at the W. end of the S. aisle, with poppyheads and open-traceried backs, one with lettering, and a simple pulpit that H. Munro-Cautley (Suffolk Churches & Their Treasures, Norman Adlard & Co., 1954) believed to date from the early sixteenth century.  Everything, however, was in such poor condition at the time of this visit that the internal exploration of the building was not a rewarding experience, and the contrast between it and the well kept interiors of most other churches in the region, often in smaller villages, was striking. 


Note - May 2010:  I am reliably informed that since this entry was written, the church has been thoroughly refurbished and that its internal condition is now excellent.