English Church Architecture -
SOMERTON, All Saints (TL 801 530) (October 2001)
(Bedrock: Neogene to Quaternary, Crag Group)
This church (shown left, from the southeast) and its tiny village can reasonably claim to be set in the middle of nowhere, surrounded as they are by open countryside at the end of a no-through road. The building consists of a W. tower, a nave with S. porch, a chancel and an independently-gabled S. chapel, and is constructed chiefly of flint and pebble rubble with limestone dressings. Around the W. and S. walls of the chapel, these materials have been attractively arranged by the restorers in a Butterfieldian manner, between double courses of red tile set some eighteen inches (45 cm.) apart. Less happily, the E. walls of both chapel and chancel have been rendered, while the S. wall of the S. porch has been partially rebuilt in red brick.
All Saints' church today displays work of several periods and an external circuit of it reveals at once that this begins with the blocked N. doorway (illustrated below right), which is Norman. It is formed of two orders, with a roll moulding around the outer order and the narrowest of flat chamfers on the inner, and is supported beneath by a pair of shafts with scalloped capitals. Surprisingly though, this is the only surviving feature of this date and the next evidence in chronological order is Decorated work of the early fourteenth century. Above all, this includes the two-bay arcade between the chancel and chapel (shown below left), with two hollow chamfers round the arches, a central pier formed of four keeled shafts separated by very narrow semicircular ones in the diagonals, and an E. respond in similar style. However, the shafts beside the chapel E. window (internally) are probably contemporary, for they certainly do not go with the supermullioned window that is there now, and also of this time must be the squint looking through from the chapel to the chancel, and the tall tower arch bearing two flat and two hollow chamfers above semicircular responds.
Most of the present windows in the church are Perpendicular in style. The chapel E. window has well proportioned, perhaps late fifteenth century, supermullioned drop tracery, set in a four-centred arch, which in all probability is rather later than the tracery in the three-light, two-centred chancel E. window, with its inverted daggers and subarcuations above the outer lights, and a pair of sub-lights and a quatrefoil over the central light. The N. wall of the chancel is pierced by another four-centred late window, this time with two ogee-pointed lights and an attractive variation on supermullioned tracery, while west again, in the N. wall of the nave, a two-light window with a straightened reticulation unit in the head, is unlikely to postdate c.1400. (See Appendix 2 for some close dated examples of the employment of this tracery shape in East Anglia.)
Finally, two items of woodwork should be mentioned briefly. The first is the Jacobean pulpit, a nice but far from uncommon piece, with round-headed blank arches decorating the upper tier of panels, lozenges decorating the middle tier, and a frieze of narrow blank arches on the lower. The second is the altar rail, in an altogether heavier style but probably of comparable date. It is now used as a substitute for a rood screen and positioned between the nave and chancel.