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English Church Architecture -



GREAT WHELNETHAM, St. Thomas Becket (TL 878 593)     (April 2012)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)

This is an attractive little church (shown above from the southeast), consisting of a chancel, a nave with a small S. porch and a half-aisle to the north, and a  picturesque weatherboarded bell turret with pyramidal roof, dated by Pevsner to 1749.  The oldest part of the building is the chancel, as witnessed by the three N. lancets, the westernmost taller than the other two, and the triple sedilia and piscina with twin bowls, recessed internally in the S. wall, with two little rolls around the sedilia arches, rising from an order of characteristic Early English colonnettes.  The E. window (illustrated below right), with minimal tracery beneath a four-centred arch, is probably a Perpendicular insertion, but the chancel S. windows and N. aisle N. windows must surely be Victorian, as also is the chancel arch (if it may be graced with the term - it is very large and almost entirely plain, save only for the very slightest of flat-chamfers), The nave arcade, which runs alongside the two easternmost bays of the nave, is early fourteenth century work, for although the octagonal piers and double-flat-chamfered arches could derive from almost any age, the prominent capitals are distinctive.  (See the photograph below left, taken from the southwest.)   Perhaps the nave was reconstructed  at this time for it is lit by a two-light Decorated window in the S. wall towards the east, and there is a little contemporary piscina, with a trefoiled ogee arch, immediately east of that. The shapeless clerestory windows (two to the north, both towards the west, and four to the south) must be sixteenth or seventeenth century additions, and possibly the same age as the porch.


Monuments on the chancel N. wall include a seventeenth century one to Richard Gipps in the sanctuary, with the usual (for the period) "symbols of mortality" here taking the form of a large skull and crossbones, and a scarcely more attractive memorial to Charles Battely (d. 1722) and Elizabeth his wife (d. 1752), further to the west. The chancel roof is ceiled and the collar-beam nave roof appears to be renewed.  The Perpendicular font does not require particularizing.