English Church Architecture -
TROSTON, St. Mary (TL 900 723) (September 2005)
(Bedrock: Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)
Except for the Perpendicular porch, this is a church (shown above, from the southeast) entirely constructed in the Early English and Decorated styles, of which the first predominates. It is best considered in date order, beginning with the chancel.
This very much retains a thirteenth century appearance. It is lit by three lancets to the south and two to the north, and by a stepped group of three to the east, all with wide internal splays. However, the angle-buttressed W. tower cannot be much later. A rather narrow affair rising in three stages to battlements, it has a W. window and bell-openings with Y-tracery. The lancet-pointed tower arch carries a series of mouldings to the east, dying into two flat chamfers down the jambs. This looks re-tooled, but the W. side, at least, seems to preserve its original form.
The nave is probably late Decorated and has three windows on each side (see the example, left) featuring cinquefoil-cusped, ogee-pointed lights and cruciform lobing set vertically, like those at Badwell Ash, Cowlinge, Nedging, Stansfield and Stoke-by-Nayland among other places. This feature is discussed in some detail under the entry for Stansfield, and there is nothing that can be usefully added here.
The S. porch (illustrated right) is a grand conceit faced with flint flushwork to the south and knapped flints to the east and west. However, the sides also have a flushwork parapet and basal frieze, featuring geometrical shapes in squares, which change on the S. front to battlements displaying monograms beneath the embrasures and arches with crocketed ogee points beneath the merlons, and to a basal frieze displaying quatrefoils and other motifs in circles. The rest of the S. façade is covered by three tiers of trefoil-cusped arches with crocketed ogee points, with the upper tier alternating with canopied niches with lierne vaults, and there are more flushwork arches on the inner faces of the buttresses. The outer doorway is set beneath a label and traceried spandrels, and has an order of shafts supporting a hollow-chamfered moulding and, outside this, a casement with carvings set at intervals, which include an owl at the bottom right. The inner doorway carries wave mouldings that die into flat chamfers down the jambs, without intervening capitals.
Inside the church, the S. wall of the sanctuary houses a double piscina with an octagonal shaft in the centre, supporting two trefoil-cusped arches and a quatrefoil above: this is probably a Decorated insertion. The rather worn rood screen consists of five double-cusped, one-light divisions with openwork tracery and a dado made up of traceried panels. The nave roof looks mostly renewed but is of a type traced back by Hewett to c. 1220 (at St. Nicholas’s chapel, Coggeshall, in Essex), formed of collars with scissor braces above. The font looks as if it could be a composite piece, with its octagonal, cambered bowl standing on a circular stem and huge circular base, and the great two-decker pulpit, though impressive, is certainly made up of at least two disparate pieces, namely the pulpit itself, which is probably Jacobean, and a capacious eighteenth century reading desk, thought by Pevsner to be of Italian origin. Finally, the N. wall of the nave displays fragments of wall paintings including St. George slaying the dragon, St. Christopher carrying the Infant Christ across the water, and the martyrdom of St. Edmund. These are probably of thirteenth and fourteenth century date but, as with most English mediaeval wall paintings in their generally poor state of preservation, they are only really likely to interest the specialist.