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English Church Architecture -



WESTHORPE, St. Margaret (TM 043 693)        (July 2006)

(Bedrock:  Neogene to Quaternary, Crag Group)


This church (shown left, from the southeast) is partly Decorated, partly Perpendicular in style and consists of a W. tower, a short aisled nave with a S. porch, and a chancel with a cross-gabled N. chapel adjoining to the west.  The diagonally-buttressed tower derives from the earlier period except for the two-light W. window, and rises in five short stages to reticulated bell-openings and a parapet decorated with flint chequerwork, with a semi-octagonal stair turret protruding at the southeast angle, reaching about halfway up.  Also Decorated are the reticulated windows in the W. ends of the aisles, but of considerably more interest are first, the S. aisle E. window (shown below right), which is three-light with a quirky form of flowing tracery, made up, however, of the usual quatrefoils, mouchettes and daggers, and second, the two two-light windows in the S. wall of the chancel, which have reticulated drop tracery surely indicating that this is conservative work in Decorated style that was nevertheless executed in Perpendicular times.   Any attempt to date these more precisely would be speculative, but at least the E. and W. aisle windows and the main fabric of the tower, including the bell-openings, must be early fourteenth century.  The true Perpendicular windows consist of the tower W. window, already alluded to, and three segmentally-arched supermullioned windows in each aisle.  The embattled porch, as high as the aisle, has a blocked supermullioned W. window with ogee lights.


On entering the building, the porch roof seems especially high compared with the inner doorway, although the outer doorway is much taller, while after passing through into the nave, it is the width of the church that is striking, an effect created, paradoxically, partly by its shortness.  The nave arcades are built in four bays of double-flat-chamfered arches springing from octagonal piers, the tower arch is formed of two flat- and one slightly hollow-chamfered order above semi-octagonal responds, albeit that almost everything here appears renewed, and the wide chancel arch bears a flat chamfer and a wave moulding, also above semi-octagonal responds.  This is all consistent with an early fourteenth century origin, with the possible exception of the wave moulding which might possibly represent later re-tooling, and the four pairs of Perpendicular clerestory windows situated above the arch apices.  The chancel now looks through an unglazed N. window like those to the south, into a seventeenth century brick chapel containing a large, ugly monument to Maurice Barrow (d. 1666).  This was not mentioned by Gunnis (Dictionary of British Sculptors: 1660-1851, The Abbey Library, 1951), but an inscription on the tomb-chest declares it to have been designed and begun by one, Maurice Sheldon, who was then “suddenly snatched out of this world” leaving his composition to be “finished at the charge of Henry Sheldon, his brother”.  It features a man dressed in a night-shirt, lying on a cushion, his hand on his chest, while above, two putti hold back curtains and two more support an achievement.  The chapel roof has a large Jacobean-like pendant hanging from the centre.  The nave roof is supported by tie beams alternating with false hammerbeams (that is, with the braces springing from the back), from which all the figures have been sawn off.  The S. aisle has a nice parclose screen around the easternmost bay, to the west and the north, with turned mullions and open wheel-like motifs in the tracery, over double-cusped arches.  This must be Decorated also (and categorically not eleventh century as stated in the guide book).