English Church Architecture -
GREAT LIVERMERE, St. Peter (TL 885 714) (September 2005)
(Bedrock: Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)
Viewed on approach, the three most striking features of this church (illustrated above from the southeast) are the thatched nave roof, the short weatherboarded upper stage of the tower, constructed after the original bell-stage collapsed in 1871, and the attractive and unusual windows in the walls of the nave, in Decorated style. This is the period of most of the building, although there is a little earlier evidence and, inevitably, some features which are later. The church consists of just a W. tower, a nave with a S. porch, and a chancel with an ugly nineteenth century N. vestry, but it is a substantial structure which is given additional prominence by being placed on a low eminence from the west. In fact, the oldest work here may be the blocked, round-headed N. doorway, ascribed by Pevsner to c. 1200, for while the wave moulding it now bears externally might appear to cast doubt on its authenticity, there is also what looks like the remains of a small blocked Norman window, now only visible inside. The existing nave windows (three each side) are two-light, with a variant of cruciform lobing set vertically, formed of two conventional quatrefoils, placed one above the other, between two “winged” quatrefoils set sideways. The tower appears to be contemporary (i.e. also early fourteenth century), being diagonally-buttressed with a two-light W. window with a wheel of daggers in the head. The wooden bell-stage is topped by a hipped roof and a diminutive surmounting lantern. The chancel is lit by a Decorated lowside window to the north and south (the former being west of the vestry), each consisting of a single trefoil-cusped, ogee-pointed light, with reticulation units in the spandrels beneath a square head. However, this part of the building appears thirteenth century in origin to judge from the blocked lancet further east in the S. wall, while east again there is a three-light Perpendicular window with cusped intersecting tracery and a very depressed arch that looks quite out of place. Perhaps the porch, too, is Perpendicular, notwithstanding its outer doorway of two flat-chamfered orders springing from semi-octagonal responds, for the two-light side windows have supermullioned tracery beneath triangular-pointed arches.
Inside the church, the tower arch is double-flat-chamfered all the way round, without intervening capitals: it could be thirteenth or early fourteenth century in date. The chancel arch may be later with its series of wave mouldings. The chancel E. window has a trefoil-cusped ogee niche on either side, while the chancel S. wall houses a piscina but no sedilia. The nave roof is ceiled but the chancel roof is exposed and most attractive, due chiefly to its varied and well carved wall plates (see the photograph of the N. wall plate below) featuring a range of openwork tracery patterns; the wall posts bear little shafts with capitals, rising to collar braces supporting collar beams and short king-pieces. Other mediaeval woodwork in the building includes the rood screen, now in rather poor condition, which has the usual blank tracery decorating the dado and alternate openwork tracery in the heads of the five panels above. The choir stalls are not particularly remarkable except for one traceried bench end, but they include another on the N. side dated “1601” and bearing the initials “W. M.”, and there are six similar benches at the W. end of the nave. However, by far the most important piece of church furniture is the impressive three-decker pulpit (above left), thought to date from the early eighteenth century, constructed to accommodate the sexton below, the reader above, and the priest delivering the sermon at the top. Finally, mention should also be made of a few fragments of wall paintings on the nave walls, including two standing figures to the north and, by the screen to the south, what is believed to be a “noli me tangere”.