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English Church Architecture.

 

ICKLINGHAM, All Saints  (TL 691 738) and St. James (TL 771 730),

SUFFOLK. 

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk.)

Two churches at opposite ends of the same village.

 

'We strongly recommend our readers to visit [All Saints'] church.  It is an unusually fine building, and of the greatest interest. for it has never been 'restored'.  At the request of our member, Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, the Secretary made a careful survey of the building, and a detailed report was sent by the Society to the Rector stating how, in his opinion, the building should be dealt with.

'As the place has two churches, and the Rector only proposes to use the present building for occasional services, it becomes possible to treat the building in a simple way and to do nothing more than clean and repair it.

'We believe we are right in saying that the Prince has generously offered the Rector a sufficient sum to start with the work.  We regret that space does not allow us to give a description of the church.'

                                          The Annual Report of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
                                          June 1894.

 

 

The little village of Icklingham was once divided into two separate parishes and both churches remain, All Saintsí being now in the care of the Churchesí Conservation Trust.  Architecturally, this is the more important building, remarkable not least for the thatched roofs covering the nave, chancel, independently-gabled S. aisle and S. porch.  The diagonally-buttressed W. tower rises in three stages to a plain parapet and, unusually, adjoins the aisle rather than the nave (as shown in the photograph  above left, viewed from the southeast).  It dates back, however, to the mid to late thirteenth century - as witnessed by the W. lancet and possibly the tall, renewed bell-openings with Y-tracery and daggers in the heads - and may represent the oldest significant work still in evidence, even though the basic fabric of the nave is probably Norman judging from the vestiges of two small, blocked, round-headed windows still discernable in the N. wall.  The present windows include one late thirteenth century one, with three lights and intersecting tracery, and one from the early fourteenth century, with reticulated tracery above two lights.  The S. aisle S. windows both have intersecting tracery, of which the easternmost is cinquefoil-cusped, indicative of c. 1300, but the aisle E. window (above right) is five-light with an archetypal reticulated tracery that can scarcely be earlier than c. 1320.  The chancel is lit to the north and south by trefoil-cusped lancets and two-light windows each with two mouchettes and a quatrefoil in the head, while the three-light E. window displays a splendid non-standard design (illustrated below), formed of intersecting subarcuations, with mouchettes, daggers and quatrefoils fitted into the resulting spaces.  The porch adjoins the westernmost aisle bay and is a Perpendicular addition, as shown by the two-light side windows with supermullioned tracery;  the outer doorway bears a flat chamfer and a wave moulding, but the inner doorway is Decorated, as might be expected, and carries two hollow chamfers.

 

 

 

The interior of the church is delightful, a consequence of clear glass and the fact that the building was left largely unaltered by the Victorians as described above.  The four-bay S. arcade is composed of octagonal piers with typically prominent early fourteenth century capitals from which spring arches bearing a wide flat chamfer and a roll with a fillet, separated by a deep hollow.  The arch from the S. aisle to the tower is formed of two flat-chamfered orders dying into the jambs, while at the east end of the aisle there are two large niches, one each side of the E. window, replete with cinquefoil-cusped ogee arches, crocketed gables above, little vaults within, and intricately decorated buttresses at the sides.  On top of the aisle walls, a stone cornice displays ball flower ornament (illustrated below left), which is another characteristic Decorated motif, albeit one more frequently encountered in neighbouring Cambridgeshire.  The aisle roof is tied together with scissor-braces and collars beneath, in a form of construction traced back in Essex by Cecil Hewett (Church Carpentry, London & Chichester, Phillimore, 1982, p. 9), at least as far as c. 1220 (cf. St. Nicholasís, Little Coggeshall in that county), although here there are tie beams too.  The nave roof is also similar, albeit this shows evidence of a more extensive restoration.  The chancel roof is panelled and may date wholly from 1895, but the chancel is notable especially for its encaustic floor tiles, which are probably original.  As for the former rood screen, only the dado now survives, displaying Perpendicular tracery towards the nave, while the gate appears to be a seventeenth or eighteenth century addition.  The pulpit (below right) is Jacobean and quite attractive: the conventional carved panels featuring the usual blank round-headed arches, are combined here with various shallowly-incised motifs including one resembling a small apple.  The octagonal font displays different examples of early fourteenth century window traceries carved on the bowl, including uncusped intersecting tracery, suggesting that this form, although of thirteenth century origin, was still acceptable in this region at this date.

 

 

St. James's church (shown at the foot of the page), which is still used for worship today, is of little architectural interest by comparison.  Its poor unbuttressed W. tower of c. 1800 and its heavily restored aisled nave, chancel and N. porch, St. Jamesís is striking externally only for its employment of squared knapped flint - a material which rarely repays its cost in labour (although the masons must have been pleased with it since they left their names scratched in the N. aisle wall - 'H.A. 1865' and 'Joseph Needham 1865').  Some windows are partly old, having either retained their original positions or else been re-set, of which the most notable are the chancel windows of c. 1300.  The two-light aisle windows with straightened reticulation units in their heads, would usually suggest the second half of the fourteenth century, but it is difficult to know how much confidence to place in them here.  The aisle W. windows are different again:  that to the north with plate tracery might normally imply the first half of the thirteenth century, and that to the south with reticulated tracery, the first half of the fourteenth, but no corroboration for these dates is available inside the church, where most of the evidence seems to fit the fifteenth century best.  The four-bay nave arcades are composed of arches bearing wave mouldings and a hollow, springing from compound piers with semicircular shafts towards the openings only, while the chancel arch is similar.  The clerestory windows are positioned above the arcade spandrels.  The church contains just one important piece of woodwork, namely the fourteenth century chest at the W. end, covered with iron scroll work and described as 'exceptional'  in The Buildings of England (in the 'Suffolk West' volume by James Bettley and Nikolaus Pevsner, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2015, p. 324).