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English Church Architecture -

Suffolk.

 

STOKE ASH, All Saints (TM 115 704)     (March 2009)

(Bedrock:  Neogene to Quaternary, Crag Group)

This is a relatively humble building (shown above from the southeast) consisting of a W. tower, a nave with a S. porch, and a chancel, constructed of flint and pebble rubble with limestone dressings, apart from the S. porch, which is of brick in mixed bond.  The earliest features are the S. doorway to the nave (inside the porch) and a smaller N. doorway to the chancel, which are evidently Norman as witnessed by their round arches and narrow flat-chamfered surrounds. (See the thumbnail showing the nave S. doorway, below left.)  The tower appears to be Decorated work (i.e. early fourteenth century) while windows in the nave and chancel are variously Decorated, Perpendicular and Victorian. To begin, then, with the tower, this is diagonally-buttressed and rises to a bell-stage with two-light, reticulated bell-openings and battlements above.  The W. wall is cut by a little two-centred doorway bearing a series of wave mouldings running round it without intervening capitals, a renewed two-light window with supermullioned tracery above, and a one-light window above that.  An irregular polygonal projection for the tower stair at the eastern end of the S. wall, rises approximately halfway up, lit by two tiny windows in the form of four-petalled flowers. Other Decorated features to the building probably include the N. window to the chancel with three trefoil-cusped lancet lights set within an encompassing arch, a blocked N. doorway to the nave (again with a flat-chamfered surround but now with a pointed arch), and a three-light N. window to the nave with cruciform lobing - an occasional but widely-dispersed tracery motif in Suffolk which is discussed briefly under the entry for All Saints' church, Stansfield. Perpendicular windows to this church are all two-light and comprise two in the S. wall of the chancel and three more in the nave (two to the south and one to the north) which are broadly similar but have in addition a quatrefoil in the head.  The chancel E. window and the porch windows are Victorian but the S. wall of the porch (illustrated right) is unaltered Tudor work, with a doorway formed of three orders of moulded brick, the inner with semicircular shafts, and a worn niche above.

 

Inside the building, the nave and chancel appear surprisingly wide - an impression created partly by the absence of a chancel arch, although the junction between the nave and chancel is apparent as the chancel roof is slightly lower and the nave N. wall is cut away to form a stair that obviousy once led to a former rood loft.  The tower arch, though narrow, is tall and heavy for the building, with a wide flat-chamfered inner order supported on semi-octagonal shafts with massive capitals, and two narrower flat chamfers outside that continue down the jambs without intervening capitals.  Inside the chancel, the easternmost S. window has a lowered sill to act as a sedilia and to the left of this is a simple credence, while another, lower recess opposite may have functioned as an aumbry.   The pulpit is seventeenth century work, comprising six sides of an octagon (the missing two providing the entrance) with three tiers of panelling (shown left), of which the lowest is blank, the second carries the usual Jacobean round arches, and the uppermost has half-arches, while the stiles and rails between the panels are also carved. Other furnishings are limited to modest pieces of Victorian or twentieth century woodwork, and the entirely plain font formed of an octagonal bowl on a square stem with chamfered corners.  The nave roof is framed in seven cants with scissor bracing above collars and either largely or wholly renewed, but the chancel roof, which is heavier and arched to the collars, probably retains some mediaeval timbers.  The S. door itself may also be old and is constructed of seven vertical boards of varying widths.