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English Church Architecture.

 

GREAT WALDINGFIELD, St. Lawrence  (TL 912 439),

SUFFOLK. 

(Bedrock:  Neogene to Quaternary, Crag Group.)

 

A fifteenth century village church thought to have been built by John Appleton (dates unknown) and with a chancel rebuilt by William Butterfield, 1865-9.

 

St. Lawrence's church consists of a W. tower with a higher stair turret rising at the southeast angle (shown in the photograph at the top of the page on the left), an aisled nave with N. and S. porches communicating with its westernmost bay, and a chancel with a shorter N. chapel and a vestry beyond.  It is Perpendicular in style except for the vestry E. window, which seems to be a re-used, early to mid fourteenth century survival, and for the nineteenth century chancel discussed separately below.  Most of the other features of the building are consistent with a mid fifteenth century date, and although the Little Guide to Suffolk (P.G.M. Dickinson, London, Methuen, 1957) quoted a tradition that the church was built by one John Appleton at the end of the fourteenth century, Birkin Haward was unable to distinguish this man from among three successive generations of that name, who died in 1459, 1481 and 1483 respectively  (Suffolk Mediaeval Church Arcades, Hitcham, The Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 1993, p. 238).

 

To consider the church stylistically with these uncertainties in mind, therefore, the W. tower is diagonally buttressed and the two-light bell-openings have straightened reticulation units in their heads, which would actually be consistent with a late fourteenth century date.  However:  (i) the W. window has drop tracery, a transom and a supertransom, which certainly look later; (ii) the W. doorway to the tower and the inner and outer doorways to the S. porch (the last of which is illustrated above left) have casement mouldings around them, decorated at intervals with carved figures and fleurons, comparable to those around the S. doorway at Long Melford, which can probably be dated to c. 1480;  and (iii) Birkin Haward noticed that two shields above the W. doorway at Great Waldingfield bear the arms of Sir Andrew Boteler (d. 1429) and his wife Catherine (d. 1460).  Inside the church, unfortunately, the four-bay nave arcades are impossible to date closely  (see the N. arcade, illustrated at the top of the page on the right), but the aisle windows and N. chapel N. window have stepped lights and supermullioned tracery above (see the S. aisle E. window above right), very similar to a design seen also at Edwardstone, two miles (3 km.) to the southeast, and Clare, nine miles (14 km.) to the east, where the date is probably c. 1470, so on the balance of all this evidence, it does seem very likely that that is the approximate date here, and if the Little Guide was right to ascribe the work to one, John Appleton, perhaps it was he who worked also on St. Mary's, Edwardstone, and SS. Peter & Paul's, Clare, either before or afterwards.

 

The aisles are built of flint, cobbles and tiles, but these materials have been used much more ostentatiously in the walls of the chancel, in a characteristic piece of work by William Butterfield (1814 - 1900), where he produced exactly the sort of colour combination he delighted in, by bringing the tiles to very pronounced, regular courses (see the illustration of the masonry, above left) and by setting the walls off with a tiled roof that contrasts with the battlements elsewhere.  The five-light, rather 'Christmassy' E. window (above right) has trefoil-cusped outer lights subarcuated in pairs above trilobes and pointed quatrefoils, a cinquefoil-cusped central light, and a wheel of oddly squashed pointed quatrefoils and trilobes above that.  This is not entirely successful but as is often the way, Butterfield's best work is inside, where there is a good display of structural polychromy for a modest building, the main accent being on the seven feet (2.1 m.) high dado round the walls, panelled in coloured marbles (as illustrated below left).  An inscription in a recessed arch in the N. wall records how these were collected by two church members with a greater feeling for economy than old buildings, 'from the ruins of heathen temples in Old Rome, A.D. 1867 -1869'.  A sedilia in the S. wall is also decorated with coloured marbles (see the photograph below right) as is, more elaborately, the reredos (shown at the foot of the page), with panels filled with irregularly-shaped marble pieces of pale colours, set inside bands of squares and circles largely in grey.  Above the dado, the chancel walls are decorated at intervals with lines of tiles.

 

 

The church has few furnishings of note but an obvious exception is the communion rail, placed between the nave and chancel.  According to Pevsner, this came from the church of St. Michael Cornhill in the City of London and is probably by William Cleere, c. 1675 (Nikolaus Pevsner & James Bettley, The Buildings of England: Suffolk West, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, p. 267).