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English Church Architecture -



PETTAUGH, St. Catherine (TM 168 596)     (October 2008)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This is a small church (shown above from the northeast), set back from the A1120 and consisting of an unbuttressed W. tower, a nave with a S. porch, and a chancel with a N. vestry and organ chamber (of 1929) in separate cross-gabled bays.  Much of the work here has been restored or renewed, but the basic fabric of the building appear to date, at least in essence, from c. 1300, and still to include the three-light chancel E. window with restored cusped intersecting tracery, a restored or renewed window with trefoil-cusped Y-tracery in the nave N. wall, and the simple N. and S. nave doorways (the latter, inside the porch), each bearing a single flat chamfer.   The tower could originally have been a late fourteenth century addition:  it rises in three stages, lit by a three-light W. window with a straightened reticulation unit in the head (see Appendix 2 for some close-dated examples of the use of this tracery shape in East Anglia), to a bell-stage with later bell-openings and stepped battlements above, bearing modest flushwork decoration.


The most striking impression the visitor receives on entering the building, is of the unity of the internal space, an effect that is created by the equal width and floor height of the nave and chancel, and the way in which the chancel arch - which consists of a single flat-chamfered order springing from semi-octagonal responds - has been set right back against the exterior walls, in order not to diminish the effect.  The tower arch bears just the very slightest of flat chamfers, and consists of a simple pointed arch, cut through the full thickness of the wall.


Finally, a few observations on church furnishings must be made. The octagonal font resembles that at neighbouring Helmingham and displays lions alternating with angels round the bowl, and lions alternating with buttresses round the stem.  (Notes in the church describe the carvings on the bowl as depictions of the apostles, but that does not appear to be correct.)  The reader’s desk in front of the organ is composed of fragments of Stuart bench ends.   However, probably older than anything seen so far are the two very crude piscinas - the first set in the S. wall of the sanctuary and the second in the eastern end of the S. wall of the nave - that may be re-used Norman work.  They are nothing special, however, and it seems likely that they were discovered during Victorian restoration work and re-set here for antiquarian reasons.