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English Church Architecture -



MONKS ELEIGH, St. Peter (TL 966 477)     (October 2001)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


The most rewarding part of the church is the Perpendicular W. tower (shown left, from the east-southeast, and below right, from the south-southeast), which rises in five stages to battlements and has two tiers of trefoil-cusped blank arches in flint flushwork around the base and a semi-octagonal stair turret projecting from the S. wall (as opposed to the angle).  Though angle-buttressed as far up as the springing-level of the bell-openings, the buttresses become octagonal and clasping thereafter, before projecting above the battlements as crocketed pinnacles.  The W. doorway, set in a square surround, has two surrounding casements decorated at intervals with carved faces, animals and flowers, and separated below the springing by semicircular shafts, while to either side are cinquefoil-cusped ogee-headed niches.  It is difficult to ascribe a date to all this with any precision but it must surely lie within the fifteenth century.


Unfortunately the rest of the building is large but disappointing for, on close inspection, it proves to be mostly restored or renewed.  It consists of a four-bay aisled nave with a S. porch, and an aisled chancel, of which the latter was entirely rebuilt in 1855.  The aisles are embattled but the nave and chancel have slate roofs.  The S. doorway (inside the porch) has a complex, late fourteenth century profile, while the door itself is probably contemporary but too worn to be special.  Internally, the S. arcade is formed of arches of two flat-chamfered orders supported on octagonal, concave-sided piers, and the N. arcade, of arches bearing one flat and one hollow chamfer on octagonal flat-sided piers.  Perhaps the latter derives from Decorated times but the former seems more likely to be early Perpendicular.  The chancel arch may go with the N. arcade or be earlier again:  it is composed of two flat chamfered orders springing from semi-octagonal responds.  The tower arch is formed of three orders bearing two flat chamfers and one hollow chamfer, and responds of irregular semi-octagonal section, much wider east to west than north to south.


This leaves three other features to mention briefly.  The font (illustrated left) is considered to be a thirteenth century piece, although as Pevsner pointed out, it is now decorated to the south by a seventeenth-century-looking cartouche.  The bowl is octagonal but its shape is obscured by octagonal shafts, rising from circular shafts below, attached to the diagonal faces.  The material is Barnack stone.   The nave roof of wagon type dates from the fourteenth century but has been restored, and the hexagonal pulpit is one of the few in Suffolk pre-dating the Reformation although it has been heavy-handedly stained and varnished.  Thus little in the church has entirely escaped the hand of the restorer, and yet the building is light and welcoming, attractively situated and kept open, and so a visit here is still a pleasant one.