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English Church Architecture -



RUSHBROOKE, St. Nicholas (TL 894 616)     (August 2004)

(Bedrock:  Neogene to Quaternary, Crag Group)


This is a small but odd church (shown above from the south-southeast) with a Decorated W. tower, a chancel now with Perpendicular features, and a Tudor nave, S. aisle and porch of c. 1540, when they were rebuilt in brick at the expense of Thomas Jermyn.  The W. tower is unbuttressed and constructed in three stages of the usual materials, rendered now in concrete.  Embattled with trefoil-cusped, Y-traceried bell-openings, it bears the line of an earlier, slightly steeper-pitched nave gable on its E. wall and has an inserted Perpendicular W. window with supermullioned tracery, a form found also in the E. and S. windows of the chancel, the latter beyond the eastward extension of the aisle as a S. chapel, while the nave and aisle have windows with intersecting tracery beneath four-centred arches, uncusped in moulded brick to the north and cinquefoil-cusped in stone to the south.  The gables of the building are everywhere crow-stepped.  The aisle has a parapet without embrasures.


Inside the building one is surprised to find the S. aisle divided by cross-walls into three, the two western bays forming what Mortlock calls a vestibule (The Guide to Suffolk Churches, The Lutterworth Press, 2009), the next, now a vestry but once an enclosed family pew, and the last, a funerary chapel.  The arches from the aisle to the nave and chancel, all constructed in brick, comprise first a two-bay arcade with flat and hollow-chamfered mouldings, the former springing from semi-octagonal shafts with capitals, then a simple four-centred, flat-chamfered arch supported on semi-octagonal responds and set inside a taller two-centred arch, and finally, after a short wall piece, an arch like the first two, with a small subsidiary archway cut through the wall to the west, presumably to provide access to the chapel when the main arch was blocked by a screen.  The chapel itself contains a number of large monuments to several members of the Jermyn family, of which the best (shown right) commemorates another Thomas, who died in an accident at sea in 1692 at the tragic age of 15 when a mast fell on him.  It features a tomb-chest and recumbent effigy of a much older person, lying on a cushion with one hand on a skull, backed by an architectural surround composed of black alabaster columns with Corinthian capitals, supporting an open pediment containing a shield.  It appears to be unsigned and is not mentioned by Gunnis.


The nave is now particularly strange.  It was set out like a college chapel with stalls running transversely by Colonel Rushbrooke c. 1840, but though his furnishings are interesting, they are not artistically significant.  Much more important in that regard are the rood beam, the tympanum with coat of arms above (there is no chancel arch), and the church roofs, of which the first is traceried beneath, supported by wall posts with carved niches containing figures (still with their heads), and inscribed "DIEU ET MON DROICT" (sic) to the west.  The coat of arms is that of Henry VIII, and is thought to be the only example of such in England (although since Mortlock believes it was not in the church in the early nineteenth century, there must be some doubt about its authenticity).  The nave roof is steeply pitched and entirely without collars:  the cornice has Tudor flower carved along it at intervals and there are little semi-octagonal shafts with castellated capitals attached to the wall posts, supporting the narrowest of arched braces above.  In contrast, the chancel roof (shown below) is very flat and has scrollwork on the wall posts and principals, and shields and other motifs on the arched braces.  This is good quality work which is not anticipated by the building's rather ordinary exterior.