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English Church Architecture -



HAWSTEAD, All Saints (TL 856 593)     (October 2001)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


Although this church is aisleless, its fine construction, noble proportions and interesting furnishings, make it a significant building and the visitor will need to go in search of the key if he or she finds it locked. This description is set out by architectural period, with brief notes about the woodwork and the monuments to follow.


The building plan is simple enough for it consists only of a W. tower with a southeast stair turret, a nave with a tall S. porch, and a chancel. The earliest work is Norman and consists of the nave doorways.  That to the north (shown in the first thumbnail below right) is formed of a round-arched outer order bearing chevron, springing from scalloped capitals, within which the unmoulded inner order is slightly pointed.  Perhaps the date is c. 1200.  However, the S. doorway (second thumbnail) shows no Transitional tendencies.  The outer order here is similar to its northern counterpart except for the addition of cable moulding on one of the abaci.  No other work of this period remains and the width of the nave is now such as to raise the question of whether one or both of these doorways have been re-set. However, a desire to preserve the work of past generations was not usual in the Middle Ages, except where it was the result of the need to save money.


The chancel is Early English work and ordinary.  The S. wall exhibits a blocked window with Y-tracery and two blocked lancets, one of which is cut through by a transomed Decorated lowside window.  The N. wall displays another blocked lancet and a (late?) Decorated window with two small daggers and two large mouchettes in the head.  


Externally, therefore, the important work is Perpendicular.  The nave windows each have three cinquefoil-cusped ogee lights beneath four-centred arches, and to the north, are separated by heavy buttresses.  The tracery is supermullioned but space is found for quatrefoils in the eyelets.  The chancel E. window is roughly contemporary and has five trefoil-cusped ogee lights, of which the central three display stepped castellated transoms.  Mortlock ascribes all these windows to the late fifteenth century, but stylistically, any fifteenth century date would probably fit (The Guide to Suffolk Churches, The Lutterworth Press, 2009).  The ogee arch, the use of which never entirely died out in some East Anglian pockets of architectural conservatism, had returned as part of the standard Perpendicular grammar by c. 1400, as shown, for example, at Wingfield, in work of 1412.


The tower (illustrated above left, from the south) was reputedly finished  in 1510, although money was left for its erection as early as 1446.  It rises in three diagonally-buttressed stages to stepped battlements and has a stair turret rising higher than the  tower itself at the southeast angle, but the impression it creates derives partly from the skilful way in which the masonry has been put together, using the entirely local materials of knapped flint and septaria, with limestone dressings.  The battlements are decorated in flint flushwork with a variety of motifs and there are more of the same in the basal frieze along the W. wall, which change to narrow, trefoil-cusped arches to the north and the south.  The W. window has three-lights and supermullioned tracery and there is a large gargoyles concealing a rainwater pipe on each side, below the mid-point of the battlements.


The interior of the church is very dark even on a bright day, a victim of several nineteenth century, stained glass manufacturing firms. This is a pity as there is much here to see.  The architectural details are limited chiefly to the chancel and tower arches, the former predictably Early English, with two narrow flat chamfers borne on wide semi-octagonal responds, and the latter Perpendicular, with a casement moulding running all the way round and an inner flat-chamfered order supported on semi-octagonal responds with fleurons decorating the capitals.


The woodwork is more important and begins with the nave roof, of sixteenth century date albeit much restored.  It has carved wall plates, impossible to see clearly in the gloom, and hammerbeams beneath alternate principle rafters.  The fifteenth century rood screen in six sections with typical Perpendicular tracery above septfoil-cusped ogee arches, is not special, but the octagonal pulpit (shown right) is important (in spite of the grossly insensitive varnishing it has received) because it is early, dating from c. 1520 instead of the more usual Jacobean period.  The family pew in the southwest corner of the nave derives from this later time, however, and shows the use of a little marquetry work.


Hawstead church has one of the largest collections of monuments of any church in Suffolk, and although the quality of some of them is not especially high, they require some time to view.  Earliest by far is the tomb-chest with recumbent effigy of a thirteenth century knight, set in a deep arch like an Easter sepulchre in the chancel N. wall.  Next come a series of mostly very heavy sixteenth and seventeenth century monuments in the chancel to members of the Drury family.  They include a huge and repulsive one in black plaster against the S. wall, to Sir Thomas Cullum, designed by Jacinthe de Coucy and dated 1675.  de Coucy was an Italian brought to Britain by Cullum to work on Hawstead Hall, and Cullum gets his just deserts for that here.  Mercifully much better is the monument to Elizabeth Drury (d. 1610, aged 14) to the east, in which the deceased reclines on a tomb chest (shown below left) between two hounds and beneath an arch on which sits a large allegorical figure. The monument to her father, Sir Robert Drury, opposite, includes a bust not of Sir Robert, but of his father Sir William Drury, in an oval niche above two arches (below right).


The nave monuments chiefly commemorate members of the Metcalfe family and are by John Bacon the Elder (1740-1799), John Bacon the Younger (1777-1859), and Samuel Manning the Elder (1788-1842).  The latter was a partner of John Bacon the Younger from 1818 to 1842, having previously been his pupil.   By this time, however, Bacon himself was doing little of the work and was leaving Manning to turn out many lucrative but repetitive designs, commissioned on the basis of Baconís famous reputation. That reputation itself was declining, however, even in Baconís lifetime, and his work was increasingly seen as rather facile and formulaic, and not the equal of his fatherís.  Only one monument by John Bacon senior is to be found at Hawstead, namely that to Lucy Metcalfe (d. 1793) at the E. end of the nave (shown below left), on the N. side, depicting Benevolence.  By Bacon the Younger is the monument to Mary Buckley, Viscountess Carlton (d. 1810) at the E. end of the nave S. wall, where a mourning, allegorical female figure reclines on a sarcophagus.  The rest are by Bacon and Manning and are all variations on the theme of an allegorical figure and an urn.  They include one to Christopher Metcalfe (d. 1794) and his wife Ellen (d. 1775) on the N. wall (below right), and one to Christopher Barton Metcalfe (d. 1809) and his wife Sophie (d. 1815) on the S. wall, the latter with an urn only.   One other monument, to Clare Colville, at the W. end of the nave, is by Edward Hodges Baily (1788Ė1867), who like both the Bacons was a prolific sculptor and some of whose statues can be seen on the faÁade of the National Gallery  (Dictionary of British Sculptors; 1660-1851 by Rupert Gunnis, The Abbey Library, 1951).