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English Church Architecture -

Suffolk.

 

SHIMPLING, St. George (TL 859 513)     (October 2001)

(Bedrock:  Neogene to Quaternary, Crag Group)

 

The church is situated in an attractive rural position down an avenue of limes.  It consists of a diagonally-buttressed W. tower rising in three stages to battlements, a nave with a S. aisle and porch, and a chancel, and is constructed of flint and septaria rubble with limestone dressings.  Windows are in Decorated style and mostly reticulated, those in the aisle having segmental arches, but the N. and E. windows to the chancel have curvilinear tracery while one S. window (shown right) has a form of cruciform lobing set vertically.  (See the discussion of this tracery design under the entry for Stansfield.)  The tower W. window displays this wheel too but has been entirely renewed and so may not represent the original form.  The bell-openings, indeed, have supermullioned tracery, but the tall tower arch is Decorated and has a hollow-chamfered order between two more with flat chamfers, of which the inner order is very wide and supported on semi-octagonal shafts.  This must be contemporary with the chancel arch, which bears one flat and one hollow-chamfered order above over-wide capitals and semi-octagonal responds, but stylistically the four-bay nave arcade of double-flat-chamfered arches on octagonal piers, might be considered earlier but for the difficulty of imagining how a late thirteenth century date here could fit with the early fourteenth century dates elsewhere.  Even so, it is impossible to avoid all hard questions about the building's history for internally, above the priest's doorway in the chancel S. wall (shown left), there is a band of dog-tooth, which is a characteristic Early English masonry ornament.  Is it possible, therefore, that the church might have built in the closing years of the thirteenth century and given new windows some forty or fifty years later, or could it simply have been built in Decorated times by an elderly mason of conservative ways?  Probably the chief thing to bear in mind, as always, is that the truth is likely to be more complicated than may be deduced from visual evidence alone.

 

It remains to describe the font and two of the monuments.  The church guide refers to the font as Norman.  That it most certainly is not, but it is odd and difficult to date closely.  Pevsner considered it most probably to be fourteenth century work but was not sure either. The octagonal bowl is very shallow and decorated with trefoils, shields in quatrefoils and blank arches, while the stem has eight semicircular, attached shafts.  Finally of monuments, the large one in the S. aisle commemorates Thomas Halifax (d. 1850), his wife, Anna (d. 1841), and their son, another Thomas (d. 1849).  It depicts two angels kneeling over a tomb chest with an open Bible on top, and is unsigned, but the monument against the nave N. wall to Elizabeth Frances Plumpton (d. 1771) (illustrated right), depicting a female figure holding an urn, is by Richard Westmacott the Elder (1747-1808), dated 1774, and finely executed like all his work.  Westmacott's best monument was considered by Gunnis to be that in the church at Sherborne in Gloucestershire, commemorating James Dutton and featuring an angel trampling death, but though the present work is carved only in shallow relief, it shares with that one the same naturalistic, sensual treatment of the female figure.