Monday, October 6, 2014

Thorpe Mandeville, Northamptonshire

Brief encounter

On my way to an important meeting over lunch in a pub, my eye was caught by this small church, dating mostly to the early-14th century. The thing that particularly attracted me was the tower. This has a small pitched roof, a design known in archi-speak as a saddleback tower. But while the saddlebacks that I’m used to (on the Cotswolds, like this example) have a roof that overhangs the walls like any other pitched roof, this one is tucked behind a parapet. The masons who built it also added a small collection of rather large pinnacles, richly ornamented with crockets, in typical 14th-century style. 14th-century style, but some of the details may be Victorian, as the tower was restored in 1898.

These pinnacles, together with corner gargoyles and a tiny carved figure on the tower’s east wall, just above the nave roof, set this tower apart and help what is otherwise a simple-looking little church stand out. My appreciation is only from the outside, however. The church was locked on the day I passed by and I didn’t have time to contact the keyholder. One day I must return and try to get inside. Returning to old buildings, after all, is usually a good idea. You nearly always see something that you missed the first time round.


Peter Ashley said...

My favourite saddleback is Fingest in Buckinghamshire. Oh, and then there's Wadenhoe, also rare amongst its fellows in Northamptonshire.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Oh yes, Fingest. A double saddleback. Marvellous.

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

I would also have another look at that curious nave with only one window visible in the south wall, and that low down. Could the corner consist of Anglo-Saxon-type quoins? If the wall was raised in height, who did it and when? A good place-name for explaining the history of English place-names, with a good old silent -e on "Thorpe" for good measure!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes, the nave is a bit of a mystery. The masonry of the south wall seems pretty uniform – there's no change to show where it might have been raised. On the other hand the stone of the nave's east wall is similar to that of the tower and unlike that of the south wall. The masonry of the nave window looks much more recent than the chancel windows. Also, the top of the nave roof does not align with the centre of the tower (there's a north aisle, with more windows, by the way).