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SHIPLEY, St. Mary  (TQ 146 218),


(Bedrock:  Lower Cretaceous, Weald Clay Formation.)


An early twelfth century axial church with an impressive central tower.

This is a fine Norman axial church  (i.e. a church with a central tower but no transepts), built of roughly coursed stone and roofed with Horsham slates from the Weald Clay division of the Lower Cretaceous Series.  The chancel is short, the tower rises in two stages with the bell-stage recessed, and the present N. aisle and cross-gabled vestry are additions of 1893 to the designs of John Loughborough Pearson (1817-97).  The early twelfth century building parts of the building are distinguished by their double-splayed windows (i.e. splayed inside and out), the way in which the S. walls of the nave and tower have been built as a continuous stretch of masonry, and - most especially, perhaps - by the massive arches between the nave and tower, and the tower and chancel.  (The tower is now fitted out internally as the western half of a single, longer chancel, but this is unlikely to have been the original arrangement.)  The double-splayed window is usually associated with Saxon work or work from the so-called 'Anglo-Norman overlap', and the twelfth century is a late date to encounter this form.  That is by no means the only odd feature here, however, for the tower arch mouldings are almost entirely non-standard, suggesting the mason responsible was a local man, unaware of developments in other parts of the country.  These arches must now be described in some detail, beginning with the W. arch leading from the nave to the tower (illustrated below left).


This is approximately eight feet (2.4 m.) deep and composed of two orders, of which the inner order is formed of a much narrower section beneath the soffit, supported on figure corbels.  It carries a roll divided into sections by intervening squares, with each section bent into a zigzag in the middle (as shown in the detailed photograph above right). The outer order is unmoulded except for a repeating ornament on the hood-mould, which resembles a row of rivets.  The arch reveals are cut by doorways left and right, the former providing access to the large square stair turret to the north and the latter, opening externally.       


The E. arch leading from the tower to the chancel is also quite peculiar.  (See the photograph, above right, showing the N. end of the arch and the jamb below.)  This is formed of three orders, of which the outermost is plain and the middle order carries a roll around the arch and down the jambs, gripped (as it were) between triangles, like unfinished beakhead.  The inner order of the arch bears a wave moulding that must surely be the result of later (fourteenth century?) remodelling. The nave W. doorway (illustrated above right) has also been altered for the tympanum is new and the arch is now pointed. However, even the original Norman work is later than the aisle in which it is set, for the side-shafts have capitals decorated with leaf volutes on the left and water leaf on the right, neither of which are encountered in work much before 1190.  The arch itself is decorated with chevron.


The original doorway into the church was presumably from the south, and this can still be seen, inside the half-timbered (fifteenth century?) porch with a cambered tie-beam roof.  Composed of two orders, this is both narrow and plain (as shown below), with only the hollowed under-edges of the imposts to distinguish it. 


The building contains a number of monuments but the only one that requires mention is the large alabaster tomb-chest on the S. side of the chancel, commemorating Sir Thomas Caryll (d. 1616) and his wife, and featuring life-size recumbent effigies of the couple, lying on top, with the three daughters and baby they left behind, depicted in relief along the front.  Above and behind, there is the usual accompanying architectural wall monument, with Corinthian columns of black marble at the sides, supporting two round arches containing the inscriptions.


Pearson was seventy-six when his plans for the restoration of the church were executed, so in view of that and the relatively small scale of what he was called upon to do, it is probably not surprising that he showed little of the inspiration here of which he was eminently capable.   His work was clearly an improvement on what had gone before, however, for his N. aisle and arcade was not a new addition to the building but a replacement of one erected as recently as 1830 and which, presumably, was already presenting problems.  The new arcade has piers of alternately circular and octagonal section, and the aisle is lit by plain lancets to the north and a two-light window with plate tracery to the west.  At the same time, Pearson designed a new N. vestry, new doors throughout, new seating and a new pulpit (Anthony Quinn, John Loughborough Pearson, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 1979, p. 272).  Perhaps it was a pity that Pearson did not consider adopting the round arch for this work but the lancet style of the thirteenth century was always his favourite and neither form would have lit the building adequately once Charles Kempe (1838 - 1907) and others had been allowed to fill the windows with their oppressive glass.  That in no way detracts from the importance of the early Norman work here, of course, but it is not an aid to photography.