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English Church Architecture -



STANTON, All Saints (TL 966 734)     (July 2007)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This is, perhaps, a less atmospheric building than the ruined church of St. John the Baptist, a quarter of a mile down the road, but it is of no less interest.  Its principal features are also of similar age, which is to say early fourteenth century, although there are subtle differences between them, which inevitably raise a number of questions.   The best window can be found in the S. aisle E. wall (shown left), composed of three lights and reticulated drop tracery beneath a segmental-pointed arch - features that must surely indicate a late date for work in the Decorated style, and very possibly postdating the Black Death of 1349.  The use of the segmental arch, for example, was quite uncommon in the first half of the fourteenth century, and reliable dates for its employment in that period seem very hard to come by, one of the few that is closely attributed being for the Great Hall of Penshurst Place, Kent, which was erected c. 1340.  However, this aisle at Stanton also has ballflower ornament around it (forming a frieze beneath the eaves), which is as characteristic a feature of Decorated architecture as may be found anywhere (albeit much less common in Suffolk than neighbouring Cambridgeshire).  The (unsigned) church guide speculates that the aisle was an addition to a pre-existing nave and chancel, built to link them with the formerly free-standing S. tower.  This must certainly be considered a possibility, for which corroborating evidence may be claimed in the imperfect alignment of the nave N. windows with the S. arcade, the awkwardly squashed-in clerestory on the S. side, the projection of the tower buttresses into the aisle (especially that to the east of the S. doorway), and the fact that the chancel arch, although in exactly the same style as the aisle arcade, is nevertheless quite out of scale with it.  However, it is equally possible to argue that these features represent nothing more than incompetence, exacerbated, perhaps, by changes of plan while work was in progress, and the fact that the tower seems to have been designed to serve as a porch from the first, is a contrary piece of evidence, as is also the arrangement of the rood stair, built into the S. side of the chancel arch and seemingly constructed with it, which is entered from the S. aisle. 


All Saints’ church then, consists in plan of a chancel with a mediaeval vestry, a nave with a S. aisle, and the remains of a S. porch tower, which is now topped by a pyramidal wooden roof.  Once seventy feet tall (21 metres), the original tower collapsed (fortunately southwards) one night in March 1906.  Its outer arch is double-flat chamfered and internally the side walls each show the remains of two blank arches, one of which to the east has been cut away to make room for a window. The two-light S. aisle S. windows are short and square-headed and the chancel windows and nave N. windows, which are also two-light, are tall with variously reticulated or curvilinear tracery (of a sort);  the nave W. window is three-light and reticulated.  It is difficult to decide to what extent any of these are original.


Inside the building, the S. arcade (shown left, from the west) is composed of four double-flat-chamfered arches supported on octagonal piers with capitals of typically prominent Decorated section.  Between the two windows in the aisle S. wall, there is a very large triple-cusped ogee-pointed arch (see the thumbnail, below right) that must once have housed a tomb chest, and on the other side of the window to the east, there is an angle piscina which opens northwards into the aisle and westwards into the window splay, supported in the usual manner by a shaft at the corner.  The S. doorway is certainly clumsily managed if its arrangement is entirely original, being formed of almost an arch within an arch within an arch (sic), the innermost two-centred, the next segmental-pointed, and the last - which is much wider and set further back - two-centred again.  A stair turret built into the tower’s northwest buttress, which cuts diagonally across the aisle’s southwest angle (sic), is entered through a door that must be quite five feet from the ground and so, presumably, once had wooden steps leading up to it.  The scissor-braced roofs of both the nave and chancel are modern and the church contains no old monuments of significance, nor any wooden furniture. The Royal Arms on the N. wall are those of George III.