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English Church Architecture -



HOXNE, St. Peter & St. Paul (TM 181 775)     (March 2009)

(Bedrock:  Quaternary, Norwich Crag Formation)


This is one of the larger churches in this part of Suffolk (shown left, from the southeast), with a dignified W. tower and a long nave and chancel with adjoining N. aisle and chapel. The church interior is rather bland but contains a few specific features of interest and the low six-bay N. aisle arcade that survives from Decorated times is certainly striking.


Externally, however, everything is Perpendicular and characterized by the colour contrast between walls faced in knapped flint and dressings cut from a more than usually creamy freestone. The tower is believed to date from c. 1450 and rises in four stages supported by diagonal buttresses with flushwork arches decorating the leading edges, to three-light supermullioned bell-openings and more flushwork on the battlements.  It is lit to the west by a three-light window with drop supermullioned tracery divided by stepped castellated supertransoms, there are canopied niches at the sides, holding (presumably modern) statues of St. Peter & St. Paul, and the W. doorway below carries two sunk chamfers decorated at intervals with fleurons and shields (on the inner and outer order respectively), supported on jambs with an order of attached bowtells.  (See the thumbnail, below right.)  String courses are prominent and coincide with the buttress set-offs, but the most distinguishing feature of all is the way in which the semi-polygonal projection for the stair turret at the eastern end of the S. wall, turns wholly octagonal at the bell-stage, producing an unusual and successful conceit  


The nave is lit from the south by restored two-light windows that are typical of this area, with cinquefoil-cusped ogee lights and drop supermullioned tracery with little quatrefoils in the apices, beneath segmental-pointed arches.  There are four of these windows which, together with the porch, divide the nave into five bays as seen from the churchyard, making it out of synchronization with the N. arcade inside.  The rather low S. porch is believed to be contemporary with the tower (church guide), notwithstanding its two-light side windows with reticulated tracery and simple outer doorway carrying only a pair of continuous flat chamfers.  The three-bay chancel was largely rebuilt in 1853 and its windows all look new, as do also the windows in the chapel.  The three-light N. aisle windows are supermullioned and not special, but there is also a clerestory on this side of the building, formed of five two-light windows which, again, make no reference whatever to the positions of the arcade arches beneath.


On entering the church, however, it is this six-bay N. arcade that one notices first.  (See the photograph below, taken from the east.)  It is commensurate in style with c. 1320, and is composed of low arches bearing a hollow chamfer on the inner order and a flat chamfer on the outer order, springing from octagonal piers with characteristic early fourteenth century capitals. The wall paintings above, though predictably now faint, are probably contemporary and depict, from left to right, St. Christopher carrying Christ across the river, the Seven Deadly Sins portrayed as fruits on a tree, a scene showing acts of mercy (shown in the thumbnail, left), and a final scene showing the Last Judgement.  Both the tower arch and the arch between the aisle and chapel are formed of three flat-chamfered orders, but whereas these die into the jambs in the latter case, in the case of the tower arch, the inner order is much wider than the others and supported on semi-octagonal responds. 


Other features to notice in the building must begin with the font (below left), which has an octagonal bowl bearing the usual emblems of the Evangelists alternating with angels bearing shields, supported on a stem with eight figure supporters around it, all bar one of which have been decapitated.  This is a common design in this area but this font is interesting for being capable of close dating by the arms of Bishop Lyhart of Norwich (E. face), who held the bishopric from 1446-1472, and the arms of the second Duke of Suffolk and his wife (S. face), who were married in 1460, which thus together narrow its date of construction down to the years 1460-72 (church guide).  The church contains no woodwork of real significance but the N. aisle contains a large and important monument commemorating William Maynard (d. 1742) (below right) by the Danish-born Charles Stanley (1703-61), which, together with his monument to the same family at Little Easton in Essex, was considered by Gunnis to be his best work (Dictionary of British Sculptors; 1660-1851, by Rupert Gunnis, The Abbey Library, 1951).  The monument features William Maynard in Roman dress, leaning on an urn, which stands on a pedestal on the base of which his wife and eight children are depicted in relief.  A second monument mentioned by Gunnis and dedicated to Sir Thomas Maynard Hesilridge (d. 1818), can be seen above the door to the vestry, and is by Sir Charles Legatt Chantrey, one of foremost sculptors of his day who amassed a great fortune and left 150,000 on his death.  His many statues in famous places include that of Sir William Pitt the Younger in Hanover Square, and that of George IV mounted on a horse in Trafalgar Square, which was executed in 1829, nine years after he had also carved a bust of the king for which George IV had insisted on paying three hundred guineas - one hundred more than the asking price!