St Andrew, Westhall, Suffolk

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Feature Sets (2)


St Andrew's is a flint church with a nave, S aisle, chancel and W tower. In fact the present S aisle is the original nave, and its smart W front, consisting of a doorway with a triple arch above, remains inside the early 14thc. W tower. A scar on the E wall of the tower indicates that the nave was originally taller and more steeply roofed. The 12thc. S doorway also remains in situ. An aisle was added to the N of the original nave in the 13thc., with an arcade of five bays, and was apparently widened, making it much wider than the original nave, in the later 14thc. The N nave doorway dates from this period. At this time the original chancel was abandoned and a new one attached to the N aisle. Signs of the original chancel arch remain on the exterior E wall of the present S aisle. A datestone (JW 1884) on this wall presumably refers to a restoration. Romanesque sculpture is found on the W and S doorways and the W window.


Westhall does not appear in the Domesday Survey. By 1229 the manor was held by Hubert de Burgh, who was granted the right to hold there the market previously held at Serton.

Hundred River Benefice, i.e.: Willingham and Sotterley, Shadingfield, Ellough and Weston, Westhall, Brampton and Stoven.


Exterior Features


Nave, S doorway

Round headed, three orders of limestone. This is the doorway of the original nave, still in place.

1st order: Plain square jambs and arch with hollow chamfered imposts with an angle roll between face and chamfer.

2nd order: En-delit nook-shafts on worn bases, perhaps roll/chamfer with roll neckings as on the W doorway. The capitals are tall plain cushions with roll neckings and imposts as the first order. The arch has a heavy nook roll.

3rd order: The jambs have angle rolls and their front faces are carved with a row of cusping and outside it an incised herringbone motif running from top to bottom. The imposts are as the first order, and the arch has an angle roll and cusping on the arch face. The label is chamfered inside and out with a row of billet on each chamfer. It runs unbroken from the ground, up the jambs and around the arch.

h of opening (ignoring later step) 2.18 m
w of opening 0.99 m

Nave W doorway

Round headed five orders, of clunch. Now inside the church owing to the later building of a tower. There are signs of water damage at the apex of the arch, where the outer voussoirs have been replaced with a wooden block, and towards the S of the apex, where the label and outer voussoirs are stained with greenish black mould deposits.

h. of opening 2.13 m
w. of opening 0.99 m
Fifth order

The jambs have the form of pilasters carved on the front face with a diaper pattern of saltires in squares with a pellet in each field. The imposts have the same form as the inner orders, and the arch is carved as a chamfered label with a row of billet on the chamfer, and a row of billet and one of single-strand cable on the face.

First order

Jambs with coursed angle shafts to E and W, separated by a sharp arriss. The shafts have no surviving bases but each has a pseudo-capital carved at the top of the topmost course. These capitals are all cushions with grooves outlining the lower edge of the shield and a double-roll necking of which the lower roll is cable moulded. Imposts are hollow chamfered with an angle roll between face and chamfer, and the arch is plain and unmoulded.

Fourth order

Nook shafts as the 2nd order with bases badly worn or lost. Cushion capitals with angle tucks and grooves outlining the lower edge of the shield. Plain roll neckings and imposts as the inner orders. On the face of each jamb can be seen two vertical rows of sawtooth with a low slender roll between them. This is best preserved on the capital blocks. The arch has nine voussoirs on its left side and eleven on the right; the section between them at the apex has been removed and replaced with a piece of wood. It has an angle roll and the voussoirs are carved with chamfered, tapered bridges running from this to the extrados of the order, similar to beaker-clasp but not overlapping the angle roll, all except for nos. 8-9 (on the left) and 10-13 (on the right) where there are carved heads as follows:

8. Human and male with oval eyes, a ridge defining eyebrows and nose and a straight mouth with a moustache turned up at the ends.

9. Bird head with small bulging half-round eyes, ridged semicircular brows and a long thin beak.

10. Grotesque beast head with small pellets for ears, rounded brows joined and extended downwards to form a short, thin nose, and a wide, open mouth showing two rows of pointed teeth.

11. Grotesque beast head similar to 10, but no teeth and the mouth filled with a fleshy tongue.

12. Grotesque beast head similar to 10, but the nose much longer, extending down to a wide, closed mouth with prominent lips.

13. Composite human/ beast head similar to 8, but with pointed cat ears, a straight moustache and the mouth askew below it.

These are not true beakheads, as no part of the head overlaps the angle roll.

Second order

Detached en-delit nook-shafts cut in sections to correspond with the coursing of the jambs. Bases are of roll/chamfer profile with a roll necking above. Both capitals are triple-fluted, the shields outlined by grooves. The neckings are carved as a series of beads heavy below the flutes of the bell. Imposts are as the first order. The face of the jamb is carved with a diaper pattern of rows of sawtooth, producing a grid of squares with half cut away on the diagonal. Above this, the face of the block carrying each capital is carved with rows of incised trefoil cusping. The arch has a heavy angle roll, and on the arch face outside it, a series of quatrefoil daisies, one to each voussoir.

Third order

The jambs are carved with chevron in the form of a heavy angle roll with a pellet in each vee, and a pair of slender rolls of more acute chevron on the face. Between the face rolls and the angle roll, the fields are chip carved with a fine diapering of saltires in squares. There are no capitals and bases and the imposts are as the inner orders. The arch has an angle roll and on the face a hollow and a roll.


W window

Round headed, two orders. The window forms the central element of a triple-arched composition, the arches to either side being blind. The entire ensemble is coated with a layer of whitewash. The window is of two orders.

1st order: Continuous with an angle roll and a face roll.

2nd order: Nook-shafts, apparently detached, on bulbous bases and carrying cushion capitals whose bells are decorated with a fern leaf on the angle. Neckings are plain rolls, and imposts are chamfered with a roll low on the face. The arch has a nook carved with double-cone ornament, and on the arch face outside this is a row of cusping. The label consists of an arch of projecting medallions, the outer face of each carved with a cross with four drilled beads in the quadrants. It rests on a continuation of the impost.

The two flanking arches are carried on nook-shafts with cushion capitals, bulbous bases and imposts of the same profile and, on the sides towards the centre, continuous with those of the central window. Each arch has a fat nook-roll of chevron form, and no label.

Exterior Decoration


W front

see 2.Windows (i) W window.


The two doorways and the W window belong to the same campaign, which includes relatively early motifs (chip-carving, cushion capitals), but which must be datedc.1140 on the evidence of the multi-fluted capitals and the chevron ornament. The pseudo-beakhead human and beast heads towards the apex of the fourth order of the W doorway were not carved from anything like the plain tapered bridges that make up the rest of the arch. They are much too broad for this, especially towards the intrados. This to counter the popular notion that the doorway is unfinished, and that the plain 'beaker' voussoirs are roughed out ready for carving with similar heads. The same workshop was active at Wissett, where similar pseudo-beakhead and pseudo-beaker work and triple fluted capitals are found on the S doorway. Related, slightly earlier work is found at Herringfleet.


  • H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 11, 335.
  • D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 3 East Suffolk. Cambridge 1992, xxx
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 479.
Exterior from SE.
Interior to E.
Interior to W.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TM 423 804 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Suffolk
now: Suffolk
medieval: North Elmham (c.950-1071), Thetford (1071-94), Norwich (from 1094)
now: St Edmundsbury and Ipswich
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Andrew
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter