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English Church Architecture -



LITTLE WALDINGFIELD, St. Lawrence (TL 924 452)     (April 2004)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


The church consists of a W. tower, am embattled aisled nave with N. and S. porches, N. and S. rood stair turrets with crocketed spirelets, and a tiled chancel.  It was described by Pevsner as "All Perp." but there is scope for argument about whether it is really this late as the tower arch is triple-flat-chamfered above semi-octagonal responds and the bell-openings have reticulated tracery even though the W. window is supermullioned (though this could be a later insertion). Of course, in such cases it is difficult to know whether the work in later style represents the alteration of what was there before or whether the work in earlier style shows the use of older forms by a conservative mason at a relatively late date, but certainly there must be a possibility at least that the tower has an early fourteenth century  origin - a period with which the diagonal buttresses would be entirely consistent.  The N. and S. windows to the aisles and chancel are indeed Perpendicular, however, being three-light with supermullioned drop tracery, with castellated supertransoms on top of the central lights (except in the case of the restored, chancel S. windows, where they sit on the outer lights).   The hood-moulds are of particular interest, for their label stops depict faces in profile that are quite out of the ordinary.  (See the S. aisle S. window illustrated  above left.)  By comparison, the chancel E. window is very plain and formed of five uncusped lights in Tudor style, with a transom linking the mullions two-thirds of the way up and seeming to add to the window's ungainly proportions. The brick N. porch (shown right)  is Tudor too and has two-light side windows and a stepped gable in moulded brick over the now-blocked outer doorway, superimposed on a steep, plain gable behind, although this carries large blunt octagonal pinnacles at the sides, and another in the centre with a plain niche in its N. face.  The S. porch returns us to the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century but appears to have been Victorianized in a Butterfieldian manner (and since Butterfield worked at Great Waldingfield, perhaps this is not altogether accidental), for the masonry is arranged in neat courses of grey pebbles and re-used (Roman?) brick and tile.  It has three-light side windows with stepped lights, stepped battlements to the south with crocketed pinnacles at the sides, and a trefoil-cusped niche in the gable.  The outer doorway carries a casement moulding and hollow chamfer, the latter rising from semicircular shafts with castellated capitals, and the inner doorway has a casement decorated with faces, crowns and fleurons at intervals. Above this, there is a crocketed hood-mould with carved label stops, of which the heads have been destroyed.


The interior of the church is light and pleasant but the pink colour of the stone is curious for it is unlike any other used locally yet does not appear to have been discoloured by fire.  The arcades consist of quatrefoil piers with castellated capitals from which spring arches bearing a wide hollow chamfer and a wave moulding, for which the date could be the second half of the fourteenth century (though H. Munro Cautley assigned it to the late sixteenth [in Suffolk Churches and their Treasures, Batsford, 1938] ).  The chancel arch is similar but taller, although here, only the inner foils of the responds have capitals.


The nave roof is of couple type and both this and the aisle roofs are largely old.  Other woodwork includes the octagonal Jacobean pulpit, on a circular stem with acorn pendants hanging from the bottom rail;  the curved stairs are especially nice and the wide cornice is intricately carved beneath with leaf scrolls.  Rather similar is the reader's desk on the N. side of the chancel.  Then there are the communion rails with turned balusters, probably of seventeenth century date, and two old chests in the tower, including one (shown below) with blank tracery on the front in four-light ogee divisions, each with a face in the apex, which Pevsner ascribed to the fifteenth century.