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English Church Architecture -



LAWSHALL, All Saints (TL 864 543)     (October 2002)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This is a substantial church consisting of a diagonally buttressed, embattled W. tower (shown left, from the southeast), an aisled nave with a S. porch, both also embattled, and a chancel. It has been much renewed but this provides part of the building's interest for the restoration was undertaken by William Butterfield (1814-1900), an architect of the first rank who was much more conscious of vernacular traditions than many of his contemporaries and who has here taken as his materials the humble, local mix of brick, flint and septaria, but used them in a way that is both attractive and distinctive.  It is interesting to compare the walls at Lawshall (of 1857) with those of St. Mary's, Ardleigh, Essex, where Butterfield rose to a similar challenge, there posed by brick, flint and pudding-stone, almost a quarter of a century later (in 1881).  At both churches, the unusual  quality of the masonry is achieved by ensuring a very even distribution of each material throughout the matrix, but whereas at Ardleigh contrast is provided chiefly by a flat stone band at the clerestory springing level, at Lawshall the effect is heightened rather than toned down, by the voussoir-like arrangement of tile and flint over the window heads, which can be distinguished from the local, mediaeval fashion for tumbled-in brick and flint around window arches by the fact that Butterfield does not so much alternate the tile and the flint as use the former to frame the latter.   (Cf., for example, the porch windows here (shown right) with those at Felsham, where the work is dated c. 1470.)


All Saints' church presents today mediaeval work of, perhaps, three periods. The chancel is in Early English style but now seems entirely due to Butterfield and it is not clear whether anything has a truly thirteenth century basis.  However, the tower is still essentially the work of the late fourteenth century, and the nave and aisles, of the fifteenth. The two-light bell-openings have straightened reticulation units in the heads, which are nearly always an indication of an early Perpendicular date in East Anglia (see Appendix 2 for some close dated examples of the employment of this tracery shape), and the tower arch is composed of three flat-chamfered orders, the innermost of which springs from semi-octagonal shafts.  By comparison, the aisles windows have supermullioned tracery, only some of which is renewed, and the four-bay nave arcades consist of arches bearing a hollow chamfer and a wave moulding, supported on slender, piers with four semicircular attached shafts with fillets in the ordinal positions, separated at the diagonals by the narrowest of circular shafts between hollows.  (See the N. arcade, illustrated left.)  The capitals are prominent and castellated, and above the arcades there is a painted string course with demi-figures of angels over the spandrels, from which rise shafts with more castellated capitals, which here act as corbels beneath the wall posts of the nave roof.  The string course steps up to the east to rise over a chancel arch bearing a flat chamfer and a casement moulding, which appears contemporary with the arcades.


This brings this brief account of the church back to the chancel, to consider Butterfield's fittings and decoration, but disappointingly there is little to describe, including nothing in paint and almost nothing in structural polychrome.  Indeed, just two items need be mentioned, of which the first is the double sedilia and piscina in the S. wall, with arches bearing a single flat chamfer, supported on circular shafts of a grey stone, and the second is the reredos, composed in simple fashion of intricately designed tiles, most probably Mintons.