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English Church Architecture.

 

HAMPTON LUCY, St. Peter  (SP 257 570),

WARWICKSHIRE. 

(Bedrock:  Triassic Mercia Mudstone Group, Keuper Marl.)

 

The best and archaeologically most advanced church by Thomas Rickman (1776-1841).

 

Built in 1822-26 to the designs of Thomas Rickman (1776 -1841) and his partner Henry Hutchinson (1800 - 1831), Pevsner described this building (seen above, through trees from the south) as the firm's 'magnum opus' (The Buildings of England: Warwickshire, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1966, p. 305).  The cost was in excess of 9,000 - a very considerable sum at the time yet modest enough for a church of such pretensions, vaulted, as it is, internally throughout.  It did not at that time include the fine polygonal apse admittedly, which was a later addition by Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-78), yet Rickman and Hutchinson's building comprised a soaring W. tower with an entrance porch beneath, a very tall aisled nave constructed in six bays, a massively built, two-storeyed N. porch with a large octagonal stair turret in the re-entrant with the aisle, and a chancel, all of which excel in one or more ways, whether through height, in the elaboration of their window traceries, or by their carved ornament or delicacy of their vaulting schemes, and all show a precocious understanding of mediaeval Gothic architecture (or, at any rate, the Decorated phase of it) following hard on the heels of the publication in 1817 of Rickman's ground-breaking study, An attempt to discriminate the styles of architecture in England (London, John Henry Parker) - an understanding, however, not always so much in evidence in some of Rickman's cheaper churches elsewhere.  True, not everything here at Hampton Lucy is always what it seems - Pevsner recorded, for example, that some of the window tracery is made of cast iron - but if it is the final effect that matters most, Rickman and Hutchinson registered here a remarkable success.

 

The following description of the church proceeds from west to east and takes the exterior and interior of the building together:

 

The W. tower rises in three stages to tall, two-light bell-openings, openwork battlements, and tall, crocketed corner pinnacles.  The first stage to the north and south is decorated with a three-light blank arcade of which the central bay on the S. side contains a window whose function it is to light the porch.  The very wide W. doorway with its traceried crocketed gable above and two orders of side-shafts separated by a series of hollows including a wide casement moulding containing carved floral motifs at intervals, is set between subsidiary buttresses rising to crocketed pinnacles and, to the left and right of these, tall, narrow niches squeezed in between them and the principal, deeply projecting buttresses at the angles.  Entering through the W. door, one notices first the tierceron vault overhead, with a central hole to allow the passage of the bell-ropes, and next, the magnificent arch between the tower and the nave, with two orders of columns at the sides, dogtooth moulding around the arch itself, and a trumeau in the centre, dividing the main arch into two and supporting a tympanum with an open, ogee-pointed cinquefoil in a circle in the centre.

 

The aisled nave (shown below) is six bays long although it can be seen inside that while the easternmost bay is positioned west of the chancel arch, as one would expect, its precise assignment is somewhat ambiguous as the aisle bays alongside it are blocked of - on the S. side, to form a vestry, and on the N. side, perhaps originally to form a chapel since stone 'parclose' screens run round it, to the south and the west.  The three-light aisle windows take one of two forms alternately, the first with a more or less conventional curvilinear tracery and the second with an arrangement of four non-standard shapes arranged in a circle in their heads, but perhaps more striking than either are the parapets above, filled with an openwork  design of trilobes, alternately the right and wrong way up, and above and behind these, the openwork nave battlements, with quatrefoils piercing the embrasures and trefoil-cusped arches, the merlons.  The bays are separated, in the case of the nave, by buttresses terminating in gablets on the cardinal sides, and in the case of the clerestory, by crocketed pinnacles.   The N. porch opens into the first and second bays of the N. aisle from the west and features an openwork parapet formed of quatrefoils, an outer doorway with three orders of side-shafts of very different widths, and a canopied niche above the doorway containing a statue of St. Peter holding the keys to heaven.  Inside the church, both the nave and aisles are covered from east to west by octopartite vaults.  The nave arcades are formed of arches of highly complex profile supported on piers composed of a series of narrow mouldings including thin shafts towards the openings and clusters of three shafts towards the north and south, rising up between the clerestory windows, ostensibly to support the vaults.  The clerestory windows are two-light and distinguished inside by blank panelling immediately beneath.

 

The short (one-bay) chancel is raised up four steps and formed of a single aisleless bay with a three-light window on either side, featuring four trilobes in a rounded square in its head and, externally, a crocketed gable filled with blank tracery above (as seen above).  The chancel arch has three orders of side-shafts with capitals with naturalistic vine leaf decoration and a very complex series of mouldings around the arch, and the bay is covered by a net lierne vault of considerable elaboration (shown in the foreground, left).  It clearly provided a striking termination to the building, and yet it was obviously not considered sufficient for High Anglican worship in the mid-nineteenth century as Sir George Gilbert Scott was called upon to lengthen it in 1856 and provide greater emphasis and sanctity in the form of the apse beyond.  This is an impressive addition, both outside and in.  Here too, in conformity with the earlier work, the tall three-light windows are set beneath crocketed gables filled with blank tracery, but this time there is also a profusion of carving, both outside and in, with leaf carving around the window arches, carved angels sitting on the gables, figure gargoyles above, and pinnacles of square section between the bays, with a niche on every side.  Inside, it is again the lierne vault, which is similar but not identical to Rickman and Hutchinson's vault over the chancel, and the blank arcading beneath the windows, that vie for attention.  The blank arcading beneath the north, northeast, southeast and south windows is formed of three trefoil-cusped arches separated by black marble columns with leaf capitals (suitably adapted on the S. wall to form a sedilia), but against the E. wall, this is further developed to form a most attractive carved reredos composed of five narrow trefoiled bays, each set beneath a crocketed carved gable filled with a projecting, beautifully carved head (as illustrated below). 

 

 

Finally, it remains briefly to describe the pulpit and the font.  The drum of the former is constructed of wood, elaborately carved, but the stem is cut from white stone, to which groups of three small brown marble shafts have been added at the corners to give support to the little vaulted arch spaces in between.  The font is entirely carved from a piece (or pieces) of brown-veined marble and is decorated round the bowl with the traditional symbols of the Evangelists (an angel for St. Matthew, a lion for St. Mark, an ox for St. Luke, and an eagle for St. John), alternating (on the cardinal sides) by four Biblical scenes, probably to be interpreted as:  to the east, St. John the Baptist baptising converts;  to the south, the Passion;  to the west, possibly Adam and Eve;  and to the north, possibly the Transfiguration.