( back to home page)

English Church Architecture -

Suffolk.

 

TOSTOCK, St. Andrew (TL 960 637)     (August 2004)

(Bedrock:  Neogene to Quaternary, Crag Group)

 

Constructed of knapped flints and septaria with limestone dressings, this church consists of a chancel that can hardly postdate c. 1315, a W. tower and S. porch that seem to derive from later Decorated times, and a nave that is largely Perpendicular.  The date of the chancel is given by the simple priest's doorway in the S. wall, with a single flat-chamfered order, and by the E. window, which is entirely without ogees and has three quatrefoils in circles above the lights.  Perhaps the embattled, diagonally-buttressed tower followed this two or three decades later, for the bell-openings and W. window are two-light and reticulated even though the W. doorway is now set in a square surround with shields in quatrefoils and mouchettes carved in the spandrels, a form typical of the Perpendicular style but perhaps Victorian here.  The S. porch has partially blocked side windows of odd design, formed of elongated quatrefoils drawn into extended ogees at top and bottom, with mouchettes filling the spaces in the corners.  This porch is described in the church guide as Perpendicular, by Pevsner as Decorated, and by Mortlock (The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches, Volume 1, The Lutterworth Press, 1988) - nicely hedging his bets - as fourteenth century.  The nave windows (restored to the north but mostly old to the south) have a form of Perpendicular tracery that Dr. John Harvey (The Perpendicular Style, Batsford, 1978) traces back to Great Shelford in Cambridgeshire, where the work is dated to the years between 1396 and 1411:  essentially supermullioned, they feature two tiers of reticulation units above the central lights and inverted daggers over lights 1 & 3. The chancel side windows are two-light, square-headed Perpendicular insertions, with conventional supermullioned tracery, but inside the building the chancel arch returns us to the early fourteenth century, being composed of one flat and one hollow-chamfered order springing from semi-quatrefoil responds with additional, very narrow shafts between the foils.  Perhaps the ogee-headed piscina in the chancel S. wall is ten or twenty years later.  Inside the nave, the window arches continue down below the lights as blank arcading, across the front of which run benches set transversely, leading Pevsner erroneously to describe the church as aisled, which in an architectural sense it is not, even though it does have side aisles in the form of gangways between the seating.

 

 

In fact it is the latter that provides the church's best feature, for the back eight benches (of twelve) on each side, are mediaeval and excellent, and clearly by the same firm as those at Norton, Stowlangtoft, Woolpit and elsewhere, with poppy-heads featuring the usual designs but with arm rests exhibiting a wonderful display of figures and animals, both mythical and real  (see the examples above, depicting, from left to right, a dog, a unicorn, another dog and an eagle), and carved backs with brattishing and encircled trefoils and quatrefoils.  Other significant woodwork - albeit not of the same quality - includes the mid-seventeenth century altar rails with turned balusters and "acorn" tops, and the damaged nave roof with alternate double hammerbeam and braced collar beam trusses.  The octagonal font in a pale freestone, has foliage patterning round the bowl, enfolding "green men" on two sides, and a fluted stem.

 

This leaves the church's recent history to describe briefly.  It underwent two major  Victorian restorations, one of the nave in 1848-51, by Thomas Farrow of Bury St. Edmunds, and one of the chancel in 1889, by John Dando Sedding (1839-91), an architect of real ability although he has left nothing important here.  However, the nasty vestry, in gault brick, was built as recently as 1989 by John Pamment,  and for this there can be no excuse.