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English Church Architecture -



STANNINGFIELD, St. Nicholas (TL 877 563)     (October 2002)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This is an attractive building, nicely situated alongside a lane in a parish of dispersed settlement.  It consists in plan of a nave and chancel externally forming a single unit, a S. porch, and the stump of a W. tower from which an upper stage was removed in 1880 after it became unsafe.  Constructed of flint, pebble rubble and septaria, it can be ascribed chiefly to two periods, namely the Norman and the Decorated. From the former comes the basic fabric of the nave, a small round-headed window in each of the nave walls and, especially, the blocked N. doorway (shown right) with chevron moulding and shafts with scalloped capitals with little volutes at the angles.  To the original, small, and probably dark and heavy, Romanesque structure the thirteenth century added a Y-traceried window on each side of the nave before the chancel and the nave S. doorway were either rebuilt or remodelled in the opening years of the fourteenth.


The chancel is notable now for its display of very individualized, not to say idiosyncratic, window traceries, reminiscent of late thirteenth century geometrical tracery to the north and south but of slightly later appearance to the east.  There are two, two-light windows on each side - the south windows with cusped, diagonally-set crosses set in circles in the heads (illustrated below centre) and the north windows with wheels of bifoils (i.e. shapes like figure "8"s, formed of two lobes) (shown below left).  The latter bear a strong resemblance to the circular nave window inside the S. porch at Rattlesden, about seven miles to the east-northeast, where the work can probably also be dated to the first decade of the fourteenth century.  The E. window (shown below right) has cusped intersecting tracery, with thin trilobes above each light but beneath subarcuation.  Above again there are inverted daggers and an encircled quatrefoil in the apex.  Thus taken together, perhaps this work may be attributed to c. 1310, and certainly the ballflower moulding around the dripstone of the nave S. doorway suggests that its construction took place no earlier than that. 


All this work has been well executed and it provides the building with its main interest for the rest is quickly described.  The present appearance of the tower owes most to the restorers: it has a southeast stair turret rising as far as the present bell-stage, a pyramidal roof, and a four-centred arch to the nave bearing a flat chamfer and a casement.  The chancel arch is formed of two flat-chamfered orders springing from semi-octagonal responds.  Above can be seen the remains of a very worn "doom" painting in red and black.  


Finally of furnishings, the rood screen has four lights each side of the ogee-arched central opening and has been cut through just below the original top rail.  The font is Perpendicular and has blank arcading on the octagonal bowl and stem, some with supermullioned tracery, and there is a blank ogee arch set in the nave S. wall that must once have been part of a tomb canopy.