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Kirkdale (Yorkshire) - revised

Wootton Wawen (Warwickshire)

Beckford (Worcestershire)

Wareham (Dorset)

Melbury Bubb (Dorset)

Morcott (Rutland) - revised

Bere Regis (Dorset)

Winterborne Tomson (Dorset)

Swaffham Prior (Cambridgeshire)

Little Snoring (Norfolk)

Billesley (Warwickshire)

Old Shoreham (Sussex)

Morcott

Dedication : St Mary the Virgin    Simon Jenkins: Excluded                                   Principal Features : Norman arcades and capitals. “Pancake” window.

At times it becomes too much like hard work to recount the many glories and oft-recounted historical significance of the really famous English churches. So here is one that proves that treasures lie everywhere for those that seek. In this case I am indebted to a nice little “Rutland Churches” leaflet picked up on our travels. This is a delightfully-situated church in a beautiful village.

Morcott’s Norman core dates variously from around 1066 until 1138. There was a lot of restoration and alteration in 1320 and again in 1874.

The two lower stages of the tower are Norman and contain a delightful and rare “pancake” window on the west side. The narrower window on this face is also Norman. The lovely Norman tower arch dates from 1130.

The arcade to the north aisle is Norman and dates from 1150. The capitals are impressively carved with various grotesque images. the south aisle is later - about 1190 - with an Early English arcade. It is interesting to note the changes in architectural fashion over the 40 year gap between the two arcades.

The chancel was extended in 1320 and has an early English arch. The priest’s door dates from around 1066 and is one of the oldest elements of the church. There is an EE lancet window in the chancel. Interestingly, the lower portion is a lynchnoscope or “leper window” which allowed the afflicted to see the altar without entering the church.

Left: The west end of the tower. The doorway is Norman but seems to have been merged with a 1320 window above it. Presumably this led to the rather crude reconfiguration of the top of the doorway. Similarly a small quatrefoil-headed  window has somehow been “bodged” in with the Norman pancake window. Ugh! But at least the pancake window is still there! Centre: The simple unadorned Norman south door. the porch dates from 1320. Right: Badly eroded but still discernible decoration on one of the pillars of the west door.

Left: The pancake window would have allowed light into the belfry. Right: The Norman north arcade.

Left: Norman window in the tower. Note the massive stone blocks. Right: Looking towards the west end. The arcades are only two bays wide. Although the south aisle (left) is somewhat older than the right, it is not very obvious and the overall effect is of an intact Romanesque core to the church. The pillars of the south aisle are, however, just slightly narrower and the capitals have stylised rather than grotesque capitals. The arches are also very slightly pointed. The Church Guide has this as Early English but for my money the style is more Transitional than EE.

Left: Looking towards the chancel. It was extended in about 1320. The chancel arch itself is Early English from about 1250. Note the tiny square window space now filled in just above the right hand side of the arch. Right: Norman chancel arch and north aisle. The chancel arch capitals are very simple and almost unadorned. This contrast with the exuberant grotesque capitals of the north arcade reflects the gradual  move to more elegant simplicity and the eclipse of quasi-pagan imagery over a period of less than 100 years. The imagery would return with a vengeance on the exteriors of many Rutland and Leicestershire churches during the C15 - see Ryhall and Oakham..

Left: Elaborate decoration on a the easternmost column of the north arcade. Right: Grotesque head, north arcade.

Left: These two serpents are happily eating each others’ tails. A popular mediaeval image perhaps signifying that evil will destroy itself. Right: Capital on the tower arch with an elaborate scheme of zig-zag and fleuron adornments.

Left and Right: More Carved capitals. Although there is quite a variety on display in Morcott Church, there is also a consistency in the style of the decorations that speaks of these being the work of a single craftsman,

Left: The carver had a penchant for tightly-curled foliage at the corners of his capitals. Sadly, and Morcott Church is not alone in committing this “sin”, some Philistine has run a electrical cable down this one. “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do...” Right: Eroded capital on the west door. The style is reminiscent of that of the north arcade capitals.

Left: The simple capitals of the later south arcade. Despite this interval, compare the tightly curled foliage design of the north aisle capitals in the picture above it. Similar, aren’t they? Perhaps the mason was simply emulating the work on the north side. Or is it possible that the same mason was used albeit in building phases supposedly forty years apart? We will never know. Right and Centre: There are corbels supporting the nave roof beams and here are two examples. The left hand one is obviously a representation of the king of the time. The clerestory is reckoned to have been added in the 1320 rebuilding and that generally coincided with the raising of the roofline so these corbels also probably date from then. This corbel might then represent the ill-fated Edward II who was famously murdered with a red hot poker plunged into hus fundament...ouch!

Left: The west door is a most interesting composition. There is no doubt that this dates from the Norman period when the church was originally constructed. Note particularly the faded but still lovely carved designs along the lengths of both of the innermost pillars. The doorway is clearly much altered, however and now has a rather untidy pointed arch, installed presumably to reduce its height when the wretched Gothic west window was inserted between the pancake window and the doorway (see above). Right: The priests door on the south side of the chancel is Norman or Transitional and would have been part of the original length of the chancel before its extension in 1320.

Footnote

And finally, a bit of a mystery. This window is in a cottage opposite the church. Nobody would have inserted such a massive window into a cottage wall after it was built so we presume it’s been there from the start. Equally, it is hard to believe that this was not executed by a church architect. One could argue that it is finer than anything in the church itself! So when was it put here and why?