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English Church Architecture -



PLAYFORD, St. Mary (TM 218 481) (April 2011)

(Bedrock: Neogene, Red Crag Formation)


This little church (seen above left from the south) consists of a nave, chancel with N. vestry, and mediaeval S. tower which also serves as a porch. The tower, which is diagonally-buttressed and rises in three stages to battlements, has been described by Pevsner, Mortlock and the britishlistedbuildings web-site (each, possibly, in pursuit of the other), as late fourteenth century - the gift of Sir George Felbrigge, who died in 1400. However, the two-light bell-openings to the east, north and west have reticulated tracery, so perhaps Felbrigge only paid for a remodelling of the S. front (illustrated above right), which has been ennobled by a pair of two-light bell-openings with supermullioned tracery (Pevsner erroneously described these as found "on each side"), a canopied niche, and an impressive S. doorway (left) with a casement moulding containing carved crowns, and a hood-mould and label enclosing Sir George's arms in the spandrels. However, the nave windows are also Perpendicular and it would be interesting to know whether Felbrigge paid for these (perhaps to be inserted in earlier walls), the three-light south and west windows in particular, with their supermullioned tracery and linking subarcuations above the lights, for these bear a striking resemblance, even in their greatly reduced form, to the nave windows at Canterbury Cathedral which Henry Yevele (c. 1325 - 1400) was constructing at much the same time. (See the nave S. window. illustrated right.) Unfortunately, the chancel contributes nothing to these grand speculations for this is undistinguished work of 1873, by Richard Makilwaine Phipson (1827-85), which offers no foretaste of what this architect would rise to, a mere four years later at Great Finborough.


Neither does the interior contain anything much of interest. The nave roof and all the furnishings (including the font) are Victorian, leaving the Perpendicular chancel arch composed of two orders bearing waves supported on shallow semi-octagonal responds with castellated capitals, to provide virtually the only interest. There are two wall monuments, however, with nicely carved portraits of the deceased - one on the S. wall of the chancel (below left), by Sir William Hamo Thornycroft (1850 - 1925), commemorating Thomas Clarkson (d. 1846) (although the monument was carved only in 1878 - Mortlock), and one on the N. wall of the nave (below right), by Francis John Williamson (1833 - 1920), commemorating Sir George Biddell Airy (d. 1892), Astronomer Royal for forty-six years, from 1835-81.