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English Church Architecture -



NORTON, St. Andrew (TL 962 663)     (March 2011)

(Bedrock:  Neogene to Quaternary, Crag Group)


This is another Suffolk church (shown above from the south) situated in an attractive rural spot, here with just the rectory of c. 1700 to keep it company.  It consists of a W. tower, aisled nave, S. porch and chancel, of which the tower, nave, and chancel probably date from the fourteenth century, and the aisle windows and porch, perhaps the fifteenth, although the chancel S. wall needed reconstructing in 1832, albeit re-using the original materials.


To begin, then, with the fourteenth century work, if that is what it is, the chancel has two cinquefoil-cusped Y-traceried windows to the north with the appearance of c. 1300, to the west of the vestry, one of which has a round arch, and the unbuttressed tower has a similar but pointed W. window, although how high up the tower’s construction went in this building phase is open to question as money had to be left for its completion in 1442.  (The bell-openings are no guide as they are now Victorian.)  The tower arch is formed of three orders bearing a hollow chamfer, a sunk flat chamfer and a wave moulding, the first springing from semicircular responds and the others continuous down the jambs, and the chancel arch has a wave moulding and a flat chamfer above semi-octagonal responds. The three-bay aisle arcades consist of double-hollow-chamfered arches on concave octagonal piers, with incised cusped arch heads  beneath the capitals like those to be seen at Lakenheath, Rattlesden and Walsham-le-Willows, which are probably by the same hand.  (See the N. arcade, left.)  Unfortunately, however, for their dating, they were described by Pevsner as “Decorated”, by Birkin Haward as “fourteenth century”, and by Roy Tricker (in the church guide) as “fifteenth century”, so it is futile to add to the dispute in the absence of clear evidence.


The two chancel S. windows are similar to the aisle windows at Rattlesden and Stowlangtoft, which appear to have been constructed at Stowlangtoft in the closing years of the fourteenth century.  The chancel E. window (shown right), which Pevsner considered transitional between Decorated and Perpendicular, it is not altogether unlike the windows at Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, where they have been dated to between 1396 and 1411 by Dr. John Harvey.  The aisle windows have supermullioned tracery and the porch windows, cinquefoil-cusped reticulated tracery, beneath segmental-pointed arches, but the latter must surely be regarded simply as a convenient design for a small window since the porch was clearly constructed as a piece with the S. aisle in Perpendicular times, as shown by the unbroken parapet and basal frieze with flint chequerwork patterning. The S. wall of the porch is faced with knapped flints and septaria and the side walls, S. aisle and chancel S. walls, with knapped flints and general fieldstones.  All windows are turned in brick and flint in the local style.  The tall porch outer doorway bears two hollowed-chamfered orders, the inner order supported on semi-octagonal responds.  There is a niche in the gable above.


The church contains a number of important furnishings.  These include the excellent octagonal font with mythical beasts and the symbols of the Evangelists carved on a bowl supported by angels and winged hearts, and with a stem covered in blank tracery, with standing figures bearing shields at the angles.  The woodwork includes seven original nave benches to the south and eight to the north, with carved figure and animal arm rests like those at Stowlangtoft and Tostock, albeit of lesser quality, and more especially the outstanding misericords in the chancel, which are worthy of the closest examination.  There are eight of these altogether, forming two freestanding blocks of three and one of two.  The subjects include the martyrdom of St. Edmund, the crucifixion of St. Andrew, a monk writing, and a woman warming her feet, and are carved with such life and vigour as to be rarely surpassed in work of this age or any.