( back to home page)

English Church Architecture -

Suffolk.

 

WEST STOW, St. Mary (TL 813 700)     (October 2005)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk)

 

This is quite a large church for an aisleless building (see the photograph, left, taken from the east-southeast), though not one of great interest in spite of its Decorated chancel with four-light E. window with archetypal reticulated tracery.  All other windows are unremarkable, including the two-light reticulated windows elsewhere in the chancel, the three-light renewed windows with reticulated tracery and segmental-pointed arches in the nave S. wall, the lancet in the nave N. wall (east of the transversely-gabled vestry of 1903), and the three-light Perpendicular windows in the same wall, with supermullioned tracery, split Ys and supertransoms.  The diagonally-buttressed W. tower, while also Perpendicular, is probably somewhat earlier (although, internally, the tower arch seems later again):  it rises in four stages from a flint chequerwork basal frieze to two-light bell-openings and battlements, and has a two-light supermullioned W. window, a W. doorway bearing wave mouldings and a hollow chamfer, and a projection for the stair turret at the southeast angle.  The S. porch side windows are two-light and supermullioned, the outer doorway is double-flat-chamfered, and the inner doorway has two very slightly convex mouldings around an acutely pointed arch.

 

Inside the church, the tower arch (right) is tall and has a hollow chamfer springing from semicircular shafts on its innermost order, a casement on the next, and a roll moulding on the third.  The little window above would once have allowed the ringer of the Sanctus bell to follow the progress of the service.  The chancel arch appears new or heavily scraped, but there is an original canopied piscina cut into the splay of the easternmost S. window (illustrated left), with trefoil-cusped crocketed arches opening north and northwest, buttresses at the angles, and a credence shelf beneath.  However, the oldest feature of the church is the nave N. doorway, which is round-headed and Norman and now leads to the vestry.  Viewed from the vestry, this has a roll moulding, a plain tympanum, and an order of shafts with volute capitals, yet perhaps it has been re-set, for nothing seems contemporary with it, not even the basic masonry of the N. wall, while the furnishings and roofs of the building seem to be entirely the work of the restorers, including even the font.