English Church Architecture.
NETTLESTEAD, St. Mary (TM 088 494),
(Bedrock: Quaternary, Norwich Crag Formation.)
A small church of Norman origin, with some interesting individual features.
This small church, formed of a chancel, a nave with a S. porch, and a W. tower, is notable for a number of disparate features rather than the architecture of the building itself, although the latter must probably be considered to include the little beautifully preserved, round-headed Norman window (seen above right) in the N. wall of the nave, with delicate carved decoration around the head formed of an inner band of beads, a second of scrollwork, and a third of intersecting semicircles. This must surely have spent most of the last nine centuries covered up to have survived in so crisp a condition. The nave and chancel are built without structural division and are rendered externally like the nave and chancel at nearby St. Mary's, Naughton. Most of the windows are two-light, with supermullioned tracery beneath segmental-pointed arches, but there is also a similar one-light window in the nave N. wall towards the west, a two-light window with a straightened reticulation unit in the head in the chancel S. wall, likewise towards the west, and the chancel E. window with attractive but entirely renewed 'Decorated' tracery. The tower seems to have undergone a complete reconstruction. (D.P. Mortlock says the church sustained serious bomb damage in 1940 (The Guide to Suffolk Churches, Cambridge, The Lutterworth Press, 2009, pp. 356-357)). It rises in three unbuttressed stages to cinquefoil-cusped Y-traceried bell-openings and stepped battlements, with a prominent semi-polygonal projection for the stair ascending the first stage at the east end of the S. wall. More important than this, however, the S. porch looks original and is an attractive little structure with a semicircular gable, constructed in English-bonded Tudor brick (seen below left, from the southeast), featuring an outer doorway carrying two sunk quadrants in moulded brick, set inside a label that steps up in the centre over a shield bearing a lion rampant. The Perpendicular inner doorway has a casement moulding running around it, decorated at intervals with carved leaf and flower motifs.
The church interior is light and spacious due to the equal width of the nave and chancel and the absence of either a chancel arch or screen. The relative positions of the nave and chancel are demarcated by a former rood stair, however, whose entrance may be seen in the S. wall of the nave, though all signs of the exit have now disappeared. Wooden furnishings include the Jacobean octagonal pulpit, now standing on a modern base (shown above right), with a low tier of sunk panels, the usual blank arches around the second stage, and applied fretwork on the short upper stage; the cornice is scalloped. The chancel retains some mediaeval benches with poppyheads and carved 'arm rests' featuring figures and animals (including the anthropomorphic lion shown below left). An incompetently designed Royal Arms of George IV hangs on the nave N. wall, above the pulpit (as illustrated below right), and the remains of a monument on the sanctuary N. wall features busts of Sir Samuel Sayer (d. 1625) and Thomasine his wife (d. 1647), who hold hands above a skull. The nave and chancel roof is ceiled but the tie beams can still be seen.
The font is particularly interesting. The elaborately carved octagonal bowl features the symbols of the Evangelists alternating with images of a king, a bishop, and a couple of green men, one of whom is sticking out his tongue. The stem is supported by four crowned lions separated by buttresses terminating in crocketed pinnacles. (See the photographs below, showing the font from the southeast on the left and from the southwest on the right.)