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English Church Architecture -



PALGRAVE, St. Peter (TM 116 785)     (May 2009)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


The church (shown left from the southeast) consists of a chancel, a nave with a N. aisle and N. & S. porches, and a W. tower.  Apart from the Norman font inside the building, the tower is the oldest feature, perhaps dating from the closing years of the thirteenth century.  However, the Perpendicular S. porch is best, and the short chancel is also interesting for it appears to be an example of early Georgian Gothick work, marked "E.B. 1726" on the window jamb outside to the right (north), which Pevsner obviously did not notice as he wrote “probably early nineteenth century”, although he did also record a footnote saying that “Tom Martin the antiquarian [d. 1770] mentions a new chancel in 1729” (The Buildings of England, Suffolk volume, second edition revised by Enid Radcliffe, Penguin, 1974).


However, to describe the building systematically, beginning outside with the tower (illustrated right), this rises in two stages to tall, renewed bell-openings with cinquefoil-cusped Y-tracery and stepped battlements and pinnacles that are surely  later additions, but its thirteenth century derivation seems assured by the complete lack of buttressing and by the W. window in the first stage with uncusped Y-tracery.


The Perpendicular S. porch (which is difficult to photograph between yews) was once two-storeyed and has a very ornate S. front decorated with flushwork arches and a row of little quatrefoils, a casement moulding around the doorway containing carved crowns at intervals, carved spandrels depicting St. George and the Dragon (to left and right respectively), and a niche on either side, which also has carved spandrels, portraying shields between buttresses.  (See also the thumbnail below right for a detailed view of this.)  The upper storey has a renewed two-light S.  window and stepped flushwork battlements above, with carved shields in octfoils beneath the embrasures and a canopied niche in the centre.  The porch side windows have ogee cinquefoiled lights, split “Y”s, and quatrefoils in the apices.  The stair for the upper storey can be seen projecting slightly in the re-entrant to the west, between the porch and the aisle.  The inner doorway carries a single sunk chamfer and a hood-mould above with figure (king and queen?) label stops.


The S. windows to the nave have been renewed in Perpendicular style.  The N. aisle and porch are wholly Victorian, as is also the arcade within.  The short and presumably early Georgian chancel has Y-traceried windows in very wide round arches which must have passed in its day for Gothic work given the benefit of improved classical shape and dimensions.


Inside the church, the attractive nave roof (photographed right, from the west) is one of two features of especial note, being of single hammerbeam construction, albeit with arched braces that rest directly on the hammerbeams without intervening hammerposts.  It retains its stencilling in black on the common and principal rafters, central purlins, and castellated wall plates.  The wall posts rest on stone figure corbels which appear to have given one or more mediaeval craftsmen scope to indulge their fancy with a selection of rustic village characters, some of sage appearance and some rather less so.  (See the two examples, below left.)  The Victorian N. arcade is five bays long and composed of arches carrying two wide hollow chamfers supported on quatrefoil piers - a design, however, which seems to have come from the chancel arch, which is mediaeval and of similar form, with a hollow chamfer beneath the soffit as well as at the usual angle, and broaches leading into the chamfers from the capitals.  Pevsner ascribed this to "c. 1300" but a little later might serve better. (See, for example, Birkin Haward's dating of many of the county's quatrefoil arcades in Suffolk Mediaeval Church Arcades, Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History", 1993.)  The tower arch consists of two flat-chamfered orders which die into the jambs.


Finally, that leaves just the second important internal feature to describe, in the form of the late twelfth century font (below right), which is square and supported at the corners on round shafts with scalloped capitals.  Figures at the chamfered angles are particularly well-carved (especially for the presumed date) but the sides of the bowl are filled with more provincial crosses in wheels.