Tuesday, 16 August 2016

St Mary, Dennington

Sometimes entering a church still takes my breath away. Usually, it's the combination of architecture and fittings that provides the tingle of hairs down my neck. St Mary's did that.

The plan is typically Suffolk: a Perpendicular Gothic nave, clerestory and aisles, leading to a handsome decorated chancel. The architectural details are of high quality: elegant arcades of 14th century rather than 15th century design, but it is the spacious chancel that takes the prize: matching 3-light windows on the north and south walls lead to a large 5-light east window, all with reticulated tracery, hood moulds with carved stops. They bathe the chancel in light. The Piscina and Sedilia have a unique decorative treatment of straight-sided arches. At the end of the south aisle, the Bardolph chapel also has fine decorative stonework, particularly around the south window which has an unusual cusped arch, stone shafts carrying candle platforms, and panelling above.

The fittings and furnishings more than maintain the interest: both north and south aisle chapels have exceptionally well-preserved and painted 15th century Parclose Screens, complete with lofts; there is a three-decker pulpit of 1625-8; a wonderful mix of 15th century benches with carved poppy-heads and animals, next to severe box pews of 1630, 1765 and 1805; and decorated doors to rood loft stairs in both aisles. The chancel windows retain the upper fragments of 14th century stained glass, as well as a very rare spire-shaped wooden pyx cover, suspended from the ceiling above the high altar.

In the Bardolph chapel there is a fine alabaster tomb chest with effigies of William Phelips, Lord Bardolph (d. 1441) and his wife, Joan (d. 1444). The effigies are coloured and exceptionally well preserved, right down to the details of jewellery and Lady Bardolph's fine and rather uncomfortable looking head-dress. Bardolph himself is encased in armour of exceptional quality with the blue Garter (of the order of the Garter) on his left leg. His feet are propped on a startlingly gilded eagle.

St Mary the Virgin, Dennington, Suffolk, IP13 8AA

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