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English Church Architecture -



ICKLINGHAM, All Saints (TL 691 738)     (September 2005)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk)


"We strongly recommend our readers to visit this 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 Saints’ now being in the care of the Churches’ Conservation Trust.  Architecturally, this is unquestionably the more important building (shown left, from the southeast), remarkable not least for the thatched roofs covering the nave, chancel, independently-gabled S. aisle and S. porch.  The diagonally-buttressed tower rises in three stages to a plain parapet and, unusually, adjoins the aisle rather than the nave.  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 here, even though the basic fabric of the nave is probably Norman, to judge by the vestiges of two small, blocked, round-headed windows still visible 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 (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 (the head of which is illustrated in the thumbnail below left) displays a splendid non-standard design, 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 at the foot of the page), 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, Phillimore, 1982), at least as far as c. 1220 (cf. St. Nicholas’s chapel, 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 (left) 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.