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English Church Architecture.


KELSALE, St. Mary & St. Peter (TM 388 652),


(Bedrock:  Neogene to Quaternary, Crag Group.)

A large church of Norman origin, with several features
including a particularly fine Jacobean pulpit.

This is not an easy church to interpret for it was thoroughly restored twice in the course of the nineteenth century and neither the surviving physical evidence nor the existing literature is sufficient to permit an unambiguous reconstruction of its historical development.  Composed of a long, wide nave and chancel, and a lean-to S. aisle and chapel with adjoining S. porch and southwest tower (as seen above), the building's oldest extant features are two Norman doorways - a large, proud one in the N. wall of the nave, and a lesser one serving as a priest's doorway in the S. wall of the chapel.  Nikolaus Pevsner and Enid Radcliffe, in the 1974 edition of the 'Suffolk' volume of The Buildings of England (Harmondsworth, Penguin), assumed the nave door to be in its original place and consequently that this was where the church was aligned before the tower, aisle and chapel were added, and this is also the view of the compilers of the British Listed Buildings web-site, as, indeed, it was of the present writer until a church member insisted that the first church was on the site of the present S. aisle.  In fact, upon reflection, it has to be admitted that this is the more compelling hypothesis, not least because it allows the tower to have been raised in the much more usual (west) position.  D.  P. Morton ascribes to this theory (The Guide to Suffolk Churches, Cambridge, The Lutterworth Press, 2009, p. 283), as does James Bettley in the new Buildings of England: Suffolk East volume (New Haven & London, Yale University Press, p. 379).   The aisle arcade seems to be early fourteenth century work, to judge from its double-flat-chamfered arches and octagonal piers with prominent capitals, so this must have been the time of the original church's enlargement, towards, it would now appear, the north!


To consider the parts of the church in approximate, assumed, age order, therefore, the Norman doorways must be described first.  The N. doorway to the nave (illustrated above left) is composed of two orders, the inner bearing a roll and chevron moulding above shafts with narrow cushion capitals, and the outer, decorated with dentils above shafts with scalloped capitals.  The hood-mould carries billet.  The priest's door to the S. chapel (above right) has a roll and two orders of chevron, one incomplete, around the arch, above jambs with nook shafts.  The inner order of the arch is a curious mongrel affair, perhaps indicating reconstruction from disparate fragments.  (James Bettley considers the present N. door to have been the original S. door, and the priest's door, once to have been the N. door, and this argument seems persuasive.) 


The early fourteenth century is represented, as we have seen, by the four-bay arcade (viewed, above left, from the northwest), while other surviving features of this time probably include the very simple flat-chamfered arch dying into the jambs between the aisle and the chapel, the basic form of the heavily restored tower, rising in two tall stages supported by diagonal buttresses, and the easternmost aisle window with reticulated tracery beneath a triangular head (above right).  At the buttress to the east of this window, there is a marked change in the masonry from a composition principally of cobbles to one formed chiefly of flint.  The chapel and sanctuary windows to the south and east are now Victorian, while the N side of the chancel abuts a long lean-to vestry.  


The rest of the church is essentially Perpendicular, though not all of the same date.  The two-bay arcade from the chancel to the chapel is formed of arches bearing a sunk quadrant and a hollow chamfer, carried on responds and a central pier composed of semicircular shafts separated by hollows.  The arch between the nave and the chancel is double-flat-chamfered above shallow semi-octagonal responds.  The porch  is decorated on the S. front by a low tier of flushwork arches, a canopied niche above the doorway, holding a small modern statue of St. Peter, and more flushwork on the battlements.  (See the photograph below left.)  Two casement mouldings around the outer doorway are decorated at intervals with carved shields on the outer order and roses on the inner.  The nave and nave aisle windows are an assortment and mostly renewed, including the huge five-light, nave W. window, with supermullioned drop tracery, slightly stepped lights, strong mullions, outer lights subarcuated in pairs, and a latticed supertransom.


As for furnishings, the church contains a number of significant items, including the wide, Perpendicular octagonal font (shown above right) bearing the emblems of the Evangelists alternating with angels holding shields around the faces of the bowl, and resting on a short stem with lion supporters.  This stands now at the W. end of the nave, whence it has been moved from the W. end of the aisle, and one wonders if its present alignment, with the faces of the bowl pointing in the secondary intercardinal directions (i.e. east-northeast, east-southeast, south-southeast, etc.), represents the original arrangement.  The pulpit (below) is Jacobean and better than most of that period:  the usual round-headed blank arches in the central panels have cornflower patterns either side and delicate strapwork round the heads, while the top panels feature winged dragons pursuing each other clockwise beneath the bookrest.


Stained glass is rarely mentioned in these notes but perhaps an exception should be made of two panels in the chancel N. window (illustrated below left), to the west of the vestry, depicting the church's two patron saints, with Peter on the left (notice the keys in his left hand), reputedly designed by William Morris (1834-96), and Mary on the right, reputedly by Edward Burne-Jones (1833-98).  The model for St. Mary - as so often the case with these artists - appears to have been Jane Burden, Morris's wife from 1859.   Finally, the church contains one significant monument (below right), which stands against the S. wall of the nave towards the west, 'just like a public monument in a market place' (The Buildings of England: Suffolk East, p. 380).  It commemorates Samuel Clouting (d. 1852) and is signed by Thomas Thurlow of Saxmundham (1813-99), whose work appears to have been confined to this county. This is his largest piece and features a tall standing effigy of the deceased 'which, with its beaky nose and almost military type of cloak, bears a curious resemblance to the Duke of Wellington' (Rupert Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors, 1660-1851, London, The Abbey Library, 1951, p. 395) .