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English Church Architecture -



HOPTON, All Saints (TL 994 791)     (April 2007)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


Hopton is a small but rather unprepossessing village and the church stands immediately beside the busy B1111.  Consisting of a chancel, an aisled nave with a S. porch, and a W. tower, it is an interesting building, however, with attractive features from a number of disparate periods, which are difficult to weave into a unified building history.


The earliest surviving work appears to be the tall lower stage of the tower, which is evidently Early English, lit to the west by two equal lancets and communicating with the nave through a lancet-pointed arch (shown left) bearing a single, narrow flat chamfer. This looks hardly later than c. 1230, a date that is surely too early for the next group of features which include the S. aisle W. window (illustrated below right) with its nice geometrical tracery formed of trefoil-cusped lights and a quatrefoil in a circle above.  The chancel N. window and the two restored S. windows, with the appearance of c. 1300, are tall and square-headed, and each composed of two trefoil-cusped lights that go right to the top, without tracery but with transoms crossing them, about one quarter of the way up.  A similar or slightly later date might also fit the restored E. window, formed of three cinquefoil-cusped lancets set beneath a single arch, with little daggers squashed between the lights in the head, and the four-bay nave arcades formed of double-flat-chamfered arches springing from slender octagonal piers with prominent capitals in keeping with the Decorated style. The western ends of the arcades are supported on corbels and the eastern ends die into jambs decorated below by trefoil-cusped niches with little quatrefoils in circles in the spandrels.  The chancel arch is in like style. 


Today, the aisles are lit to the south and north by renewed supermullioned windows, with segmental and segmental-pointed arches respectively.  The two-light S. aisle E. window is reticulated, with half a quatrefoil above, beneath a segmental-pointed arch, and the N. aisle E. window is four-light and four-centred, with a kind of reticulated tracery formed of quatrefoils and squashed mouchettes above flattened cinquefoil-cusped lights.  It is difficult to propose a date for either of these but perhaps they could be the work of a conservative-minded mason working in the late fourteenth century.  The porch has an outer doorway bearing wave mouldings and renewed side windows.


The nave clerestory is constructed of Tudor brick and composed of seven pairs of two-light windows with triple-cusped Y-tracery and little hood-moulds, all formed in moulded brick, with battlements above. Internally, there are moulded brick shafts between the windows to lead the eye up to the admirable painted nave roof (a detail of which is shown left), which is presumably contemporary and of hammerbeam construction not withstanding its shallow pitch, with elaborately carved wall plates and figures on the hammerbeams perhaps intended to illustrate local sixteenth century citizens.


Finally, the present tower bell-stage (shown right) is an eighteenth century addition to the church that Pevsner described as “pretty” but which some visitors may consider rather cumbersome, due partly to its heavy, single-light and over-large, round-headed bell-opening on each side, and partly as a result of its projecting quoins, which have the effect of making it appear too wide to sit comfortably on the remains of the earlier tower below.  It is faced with flint chequerwork and topped by battlements and garlic-bulb pinnacles at the corners.