English Church Architecture -
WITHERSFIELD, St. Mary (TL 651 478) (October 2001)
(Bedrock: Upper Cretaceous, Middle Chalk)
This church consists of a W. tower with a higher southeast stair turret, an aisled nave with a S. porch, and a chancel. The chancel, S. aisle and S. porch display only the work of the nineteenth century reconstruction (of 1867, the year in which the neighbouring church of St. Mary's, Haverhill was so thoroughly restored), but the original windows in the N. aisle, which are each composed of three large, simple Perpendicular lights without tracery, show that those in the S. aisle were based upon them, and it is the same story inside the church, where the N. arcade is mediaeval and the S. arcade, a Victorian copy. The arches bear two hollow chamfers and spring from piers composed of four semicircular shafts. It looks quite early, but a brass plaque in the N. aisle (shown above) records the name of the mason, a certain Robert Wyburgh, whose work has been ascribed to c. 1480, although, unfortunately, there is nothing here that is special enough for this to be of use as a dating guide to other churches in the region.
In fact, it is only really woodwork that is notable inside the building, of which the chief piece is the rood screen (shown below left), which may or may not be contemporary with Wyburgh's work. This consists of five wide bays, each composed of two double-trefoil-cusped ogee arches without a dividing mullion, with open tracery above of the West Country "alternate" kind, and a dado beneath, decorated with two-centred, cinquefoil-cusped blank arches with secondary trefoil cusping. The sturdy and attractive lean-to N. aisle roof (shown below right) is essentially mediaeval and displays some nicely moulded original timbers, although it has been partially reconstructed as recently as 1974. Finally, the benches display a small set of mediaeval poppy-heads with carved figures, which are lively and interesting, although the quality does not match those of the Stowlangtoft/ Tostock school.