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English Church Architecture -



LITTLE THURLOW, St. Peter (TL 680 512)     (October 2001)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


The church (shown left from the west) consists in plan of a W. tower in two stages, an aisled nave with circular clerestory windows (those to the south filled with large quatrefoils), a chancel with a N. chapel of plastered brick, and a simple brick N. porch.  The segmentally-arched N. aisle windows are two-light and early fourteenth century in style. One window in the S. aisle has Y-tracery of possible thirteenth century date, but the chancel E. window and tower W. window (which are both three-light) have cusped intersecting tracery which can be no earlier than c. 1300.  The church is built of the usual local mix of flint, pebble rubble and septaria, with some limestone used for quoins.


Internally, the evidence of the four-bay nave arcades would also fit the thirteenth or early fourteenth centuries: the arches are composed of two slightly hollow-chamfered orders and spring from large, octagonal piers.  The tower arch is tall and bears two flat chamfers, the inner springing from semicircular responds.  The chancel arch carries two flat chamfers above semi-octagonal responds, and there is a two-bay arcade of round arches with narrow flat chamfers from the chancel to the N. chapel, and a similar arch communicating from the N. aisle to the chapel, which have shallow, strapwork plaster decoration on the soffits.  These date from the early seventeenth century, when the chapel was added to accommodate the enormous monument (illustrated below left) commemorating Sir Stephen Soame (d.1619, aged 73), one time Lord Mayor of London, and his wife, who are depicted in effigy (shown below right), lying on an altar tomb beneath an elaborate, round alabaster arch. To either side four sons kneel in prayer beneath pedimented canopies, carried at the springing level of the main arch by black Corinthian columns, while beneath the altar tomb, three daughters are shown.  Unfortunately the name of the artist is unknown, but a small monument to the left, to another Stephen Soame (d.1771), is signed by John Walsh (d. 1778), whose relatively few works include one in Westminster Abbey dedicated to Sir Thomas Robinson and his wife (Dictionary of British Sculptors: 1660 - 1851 by Rupert Gunnis, The Abbey Library, 1951).