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WINGFIELD, St. Andrew  (TM 230 769),

SUFFOLK. 

(Bedrock:  Quaternary, Norwich Crag Formation.)

 

The most important member of a group of Suffolk churches identified

 by the late Birkin Haward as having been part-built by the same master mason,

'Hawes of Occold', fl.  1410-1440.

The question of whether or not it is pertinent to talk about 'the mediaeval mason' is a subject that has fiercely divided architectural historians in recent decades, with many taking the view that the very concept of 'authorship', defined as the consideration of a work of art as an expression of an individual's creative skill and personality, had no currency before the Tudor period.  This supposition has coincided with the passing from fashion of connoisseurship as an approach to art history more generally, whereby the identity of individual artists was previously sought by stylistic analysis, in favour of such modern obsessions as understanding art as an expression of ethnicity, colonialism, gender, 'the male gaze', or similar issues, and since some academics have built their reputations on the basis of these new studies, they naturally seek to defend them vigorously.

This shift in the focus of art history has not gone completely unchallenged however, albeit that some of the greatest champions of 'the old school' have since passed away too.  One such was Dr. John Harvey (1911-97), whose biographical dictionary English Medieval Architects (Gloucester, Alan Sutton, 1987) identified some 1,700 men of varying importance, who appear to have been responsible for buildings or part-buildings in England before 1550, and who argued that the only reason the men who designed mediaeval buildings are so little known is that no-one makes the effort to discover them.  This theme was subsequently taken up at a local level in Suffolk by the late Birkin Haward (1912-2002), who tried to group Suffolk's mediaeval churches on the basis of their aisle arcades (Suffolk Medieval Church Arcades, Hitcham, Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 1993) and who, in particular, went on to pick out on stylistic grounds, a dozen churches in mid Suffolk that appear to have been part-built by the same master mason, referred to by name in a building estimate for work at Wingfield church as 'Hawe[s], mason of Ocolte' (Master Mason Hawes of Occold, Ipswich, Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 2000).  The validity of this exercise is ultimately for the reader to decide, but the examples illustrated on this web-site will seek to promote it.  Indeed, the present writer has attempted to identify another group of Suffolk churches using Haward's methodology, centred on and around St. George's church, Stowlangtoft, and these can be examined separately. 

 

St. Andrew's, Wingfield, is one of the Suffolk's foremost mediaeval churches, notwithstanding its lack of visual unity.  Consisting of a W. tower, aisled nave with S. porch, and chancel with N. vestry and N. & S. chapels, not the least of its significance is that two of its major parts can be dated.  Pevsner's original entry for the church in The Buildings of England, however, was full of confusion, which the usually very reliable James Bettley has only partially qualified in the recent edition  of the 'Suffolk West' volume (New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2015, p. 585) due chiefly to an unwillingness to denote cruciform-lobing can as anything other than 'Decorated' (albeit Bettley proposes a date for the work, after the Black Death of c. 1362), and this misleading description is repeated in the inadequate church guide and, quite inexcusably, on the britishlistedbuildings web-site.  However, the late Dr. John Harvey pointed out more than four decades ago that the similar, albeit admittedly not identical, windows in the S. chapel (illustrated three paragraphs down, on the right), which have sometimes been regarded as deriving from a different period to the supermullioned windows also to be found there, have the same mouldings and details and are, in fact, contemporary, and these will be discussed further, three paragraphs below.

 

What is surely Decorated (i.e. early fourteenth century) here at Wingfield is the solid, diagonally-buttressed W. tower, which rises to a bell-stage with two-light reticulated openings.  The westernmost part of the two-storeyed vestry (formerly adjoining the easternmost of the chancel's two bays but now alongside the central bay of three) is probably also of this time and is likely to have served originally as the dwelling of an acolyte priest.   The present aisled nave (but not the clerestory or the present S. aisle windows) was, in fact, paid for with money bequeathed by Sir John Wingfield, chief administrator to the Edward, the Black Prince, who died of the Black Death in 1361, but  work can hardly have commenced much before c. 1375, for this is indisputably the work of the master mason responsible for St. Lawrence's, Brundish and St. Mary's, Parham, both built in the 1380s, and St. George's, Stowlangtoft, constructed in the following decade.  His stylistic signature is to be found in the three-light W. window and two N. windows to the N. aisle (of which one is illustrated, right), which have characteristic little subarcuations linking the main lights, rows of six straight-sided trefoiled sub-lights above - the inner four ogee pointed and the outer pair, two-centred, and three quatrefoils in the apex, beneath a segmental arch.  Moreover, in case it be wondered if these windows are later insertions, the five-bay arcades are also virtually identical to those at Brundish and Parham, as well as at Fressingfield, and Wortham, for all are composed of double-flat-chamfered arches springing from plain octagonal piers, with a diagnostic, narrow outer flat chamfer to the responds at each end, terminating beneath the capital in an  incised trefoiled arch.  (See the photograph of the N. arcade, left, and the close-up of the N. arcade E. respond, right, both viewed from the southwest.)  The S. porch may be roughly contemporary, albeit probably the work of a different hand.  Entry to the church today, however, is gained through the porch-less N. door, which has a segmental dripstone  above its rere-arch, very much like those at Parham and Stowlangtoft.

 

The S. chapel appears to have been under construction in 1415, having been the gift of Michael de la Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk (2nd creation - note this, lest he be confused with William d'Ufford, 2nd Earl of the 1st creation, who paid for the construction of the church at Parham: the line of succession of the Earls of Suffolk had an unfortunate tendency to die out and to need periodic revival).   Michael de la Pole was a grandson of Sir John Wingfield, who died of dysentery at the Siege of Harfleur (also 1415).  Some fifteen years later, his second son, William, extended the chapel 'to accommodate a monument and effigies to his father and mother in a third arcade bay between the chapel and the sanctuary, and at the same time the chancel was lengthened and heightened to match' (Haward).  The particular significance of this is that an estimate for this later work, thought to date from c. 1430, survives in the Bodleian Library, drawn up by 'Hawe, mason of Ocolte', and the work subsequently carried out at a total cost of 75.7s.4d, strongly suggests that Hawes was the master mason in 1415 also.

 

It would be pointless to attempt to repeat here, all the details of Birkin Haward's research, which are set out in his monograph Master Mason Hawes of Occold, Suffolk, Ipswich, Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 1993.  In summary, however, Hawe's work appears to have included in one or other of the two constructional phases of 1415 or c. 1430, the three-bay S. chapel, the one-bay N. chapel (built between the nave N. aisle and the chancel N. vestry), the chancel eastern extension and clerestory, the S. aisle windows and S. chapel E. window with cruciform lobing (six in all), and the nave clerestory.  The attribution of the last of these to Hawes is almost indisputable for identical windows with segmental arches and stepped lights surmounted by castellated supertransoms can be seen at most of the churches with his characteristic arcades, as well as the aisleless church of St. Michael, Occold.  There is also another such window here at Wingfield in the W. wall of the tower.  (See the photograph above left.)  So far as the windows with cruciform lobing are concerned (of which an example is seen above right), Hawes's estimate of c. 1430 for extending the S. chapel specifically included the cost of moving 'ye olde Est wyndowe yt is now in ye same chapell to serve ayen in ye same chapell in ye Est ende [i.e. after it has been extended] as it doth now' (quoted by Haward).  Thus the windows with cruciform lobing and probably also the nave clerestory, seem likely to have been part of the 1415 phase of work, while the chancel arcades and clerestory were part of the later phase.  The extension of the two-storeyed N. vestry alongside the present sanctuary may have been carried out at the end of the fifteenth century, although the former E. window seems to have been re-used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This attempted constructional history of the church must be followed by a description of Hawes's rich and elaborate contribution.  The nave clerestory (a section of which is illustrated above left), already referred to, has one three-light window per bay, with strong mullions and segmental-pointed arches, while the chancel clerestory (above right) has two, or three in the case of the wider western bay, making seven altogether, with supermullioned tracery above ogee lights.  The three S. chapel S. windows can probably be said to match for they are the same shape and have the same ogee lights between strong mullions, with the addition, as befits their larger size, of castellated supertransoms above the central lights and split 'Y's supporting the subarcuation of the outer lights.  (See the entry for Dartington (Devon) for an explanation of some of these terms.) 

 

The arcade to the S. chapel is three bays long with, as already mentioned, the westernmost bay noticeably wider than the others.  The compound lozenge-shaped piers have semi-octagonal shafts to the north and south and groups of three mouldings (they hardly qualify as shafts) running up the sides towards the openings.  Both the semi-octagonal shafts and these have their own individual capitals, and they are separated by casement mouldings (very wide, shallow hollows) filled with carved shields at intervals.  The capitals are finely sculpted (in this case with angels), like the captials to the arcades attributed to Hawes at  Bildeston and Debenham, suggesting 'that Hawes was either himself a skilled carver or was continuously associated with one'  (Master Mason Hawes of Occold, Suffolk, p. 2).   The casements continue around the arches above the springing, the groups-of-three mouldings support a sunk flat chamfer containing armorial devices (of the Wingfields and de la Poles), and the semi-octagonal shafts rise up to hood-moulds decorated with fleurons.  (See the photograph of the arcade, left, taken from the west. and the close-up of one of the capitals, right.)  The arch from the chancel to the N. chapel (now the organ chamber) is identical.

 

Monuments in the church include, on the N. wall of the chancel, a tomb chest decorated with quatrefoils beneath a double-cusped crocketed arch with an effigy of Sir John de Wingfield on top, whose money paid for the present nave and aisles.  (See the photograph, below left.)  The tomb chest beneath the easternmost arch into the S. chapel (below centre), commemorates Michael de la Pole (d. 1415), and the reclining effigies represent him and his wife, Katherine:  the thirteen niches around the east, south and west sides formerly contained images of their children.  The tomb chest against the N. wall of the sanctuary (below right) commemorates John de la Pole (d. 1491) and his wife, Elizabeth, sister of Edward IV and Richard III, who lie straight-legged with their feet resting on lions.  'This has one of the most perfect representations of armour of that period.  Under the Duke's head is a helmet surmounted by a Saracen's head with an earring in the right ear;  at his feet is a lion with a forked tail' (Canon S.W.H. Aldwell, ed. Sheila Kent, Wingfield Church, History & Guide, 1999, p. 12).

                      

Other features to notice in the building include the misericords on either side of the chancel, of which two on each side are return stalls with their backs attached to the dado of the erstwhile rood screen and a third is set diagonally in the corner.  They have carved figure arm-rests (two examples of which are illustrated below left and centre) and bench fronts with carved animals at either end.  The nave and chancel roofs appear largely to have been renewed. The font (below right) has an octagonal bowl decorated with angels holding shields on the cardinal faces and lions in the ordinal directions, while the stem has lion supporters to the east-northeast, south-southeast, west-southwest and north-northwest.

[Other Suffolk churches featured on this web-site where Hawes of Occold appears to have worked are Bedingfield, Bildeston, Bramford, Debenham, Thorndon and Wickam Skeith.]