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English Church Architecture -

Suffolk.

 

WICKHAMBROOK, All Saints (TL 754 545)     (October 2001)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)

 

This is quite a large church which is Early English in its earliest details, consisting of a W. tower, an aisled nave with a N. porch, and a chancel.  The N. aisle continues part-way alongside the chancel to form a N. chapel, and it is thought to be here that a small Saxon church was once situated.  When the present building was raised, a wide, low arch from the new chancel built immediately to the south, was constructed to communicate with the remains of this structure (i.e. in the chancel N. wall), while a curious remnant of an arch that seems once to have crossed the N. aisle, could possibly mark the position of this earlier building’s west wall.

 

The church begun in the thirteenth century was to be quite a large one.  The four-bay nave arcades are typical of the date:  arches bearing two flat-chamfered orders spring from octagonal piers, although the responds at each end are semicircular.  Aisle windows are now a mixture and include in the N. aisle N. wall, one with Y-tracery and a transom at the springing level, one with intersecting tracery, another with cusped intersecting tracery that cannot be much earlier than c. 1300, and a simple, two-light Perpendicular window with supermullioned tracery, while in the E. and W. walls there are a three-light window with reticulated tracery and a Y-traceried window respectively.  The very worn S. aisle windows are now all three-light and Perpendicular (with the central lights, ogee-arched), except to east and west, where they are Y-traceried.  It all represents the patching-up of the centuries, but it does little to create an architectural impression.  The angle-buttressed W. tower is tall but not particularly distinguished;  its two-light W. window has reticulated tracery.  The N. porch outer doorway appears to be formed of a late fourteenth century arch (bearing two sunk quadrant mouldings) supported on earlier responds, but the inner doorway is thirteenth century work, displaying dogtooth ornament around an arch of complex profile, above what were once two orders of shafts, just one of which remains.

 

However, by far the most significant part of the building is the chancel, lit by one north and two south, two-light cinquefoil-cusped windows with wheels of "bifoils" in the heads (i.e. shapes like figure "8"s, formed of two lobes), and by an E. window in similar style, with three-lights and a wheel of six bifoils above.  (See the N. window, illustrated left.) These windows bear such close resemblance to others at neighbouring Lidgate that they must surely be by the same hand, and they look as if they could also be a development of the somewhat earlier (pre-ogee) windows at Stanningfield, some eight miles to the east.

 

Internally there is some woodwork to mention.  The nave roof is of hammerbeam construction but Jacobean rather than mediaeval in date, and although interesting, it looks too undernourished to be aesthetically pleasing.  The benches in the N. aisle could be approximately contemporary and the communion rails, perhaps a century or so later.

 

Finally, the chancel contains one prominent monument (shown below) set against the N. wall, commemorating Thomas Hingham (d. 1630), “soldier” and “gentleman of ancient descent”.  He is shown lying on his side, with his head raised and his sword beside him.