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English Church Architecture -



THELNETHAM, St. Nicholas (TM 018 783)     (March 2007)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)



This remote little church (shown above, from the southwest) situated in pleasant countryside on the Norfolk border, is formed of a chancel, nave, W. tower, independently-gabled S. aisle and S. porch, dating largely from the years c. 1300-50.  Its best feature is a proud geometrical-traceried window in the eastern end of the S. aisle S. wall (shown below right), formed of trefoils in circles above two trefoil-cusped lights and so similar in design to two aisle windows at nearby Rickinghall Inferior  as must surely show it to be the work of the same hand.  However, it seems unlikely that the same mason was responsible for the very different E. and W. windows with cusped intersecting tracery, albeit either mason might  have overseen the construction of the adjoining porch with its double-flat-chamfered outer doorway and small side windows with Y-tracery.  A second S. window, immediately east of the porch, must post-date c. 1320, as shown by its ogee lights and the squashed quatrefoil above.  The five-light E. window in the chancel now has very odd tracery which must originally have been of comparable age, although it appears to have been reconstructed subsequently from an incomplete set of fragments.  Of similar age too are the nave and chancel N. windows with reticulated tracery beneath segmental-pointed arches, and the W. tower which rises in two stages supported by diagonal buttresses, to two-light reticulated bell-openings, although that the two-light W. window with niche above is a Perpendicular insertion.


Inside the building, the four-bay S. arcade is composed of octagonal piers without capitals, supporting arches bearing one flat and one hollow chamfer, and not a flat chamfer and a sunk quadrant as described by Pevsner, although this is the form of the chancel arch, which may possibly be later.  (See Appendix 2 for some confirmed dates for use of the sunk quadrant moulding in East Anglia.)  A rood stair rises to a former loft from the northeast corner of the nave and there is an attractive angle piscina in the southeast corner of the S. aisle, with a column supporting it to the northwest and a trefoil-cusped arch to the north decorated with dog-tooth ornament and a flower-like motif on the gable above that is not yet quite ball flower.  Both the form of this piscina and of the aisle arcade would probably fit c. 1300, but whether the two wave mouldings around the E. side of the tower arch are equally consistent with the somewhat later Decorated style of the tower exterior, seems rather less certain, unless the work there is as late c. 1350 or the tower arch has been the subject of some later remodelling.


The church contains one large monument, commemorating Henry Bokenham (d. 1648) and Dorothy his wife (d. 1654).  It features busts of the deceased, two smaller figures (their son and daughter) in roundels below, and an achievement at the top, beneath an open pediment.  It failed to impress Pevsner, however, who described it as “poor”.