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St Nicholas, Earl's Croome, Worcestershire

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Feature Sets (3)

Description

Built of grey coursed rubble, the church consists of a 12thc. nave and chancel, both without aisles, and a 19thc. tower inserted into the W end of the nave. Romanesque sculpture is found in the S and N nave doorways, the latter now blocked, in a window and string course on the E chancel wall, and in the chancel arch; there are also some carved fragments inset into the interior chancel wall. A 19thc. sketch records the appearance of the Romanesque W front, which was moved to the vicarage grounds when the W tower was built.

History

In 1086, Earl's Croome belonged to the manor of Ripple; one hide was then held by Ordric, a tenant of the Bishop of Worcester. The bishop held the estate in demesne in the early 12thc., and a hide at Croome was given to Adam de Croome by Bishop Samson (1096-1112); Adam's son Simon held the landc.1182. The advowson of the rectory followed the same descent as the manor. The church was a chapel of Ripple.

Features

Exterior Features

Doorways

N doorway, nave (blocked)

Round-headed, two orders, with plain monolithic tympanum.

Dimensions
L capital:
h. inc. necking 0.18 m
h. without necking 0.145 m
max. w., N face 0.17 m
max. w., W face 0.19 m
First order

Plain square jambs.

Second order

Detached nook shafts with zigzag reeding on plain round bases; plain neckings, block capitals, the L one carved (see below) and the R with a fillet at the angle; plain chamfered imposts. The R capital and impost may be replacements.

L capital: a plain stem rises up the centre of each face; it has irregularly shaped branches with furled leaf terminals extending to L and R, intertwining at the angle. A tendril from the stem on the S face extends on to the surface of the adjacent wall. The carving is in shallow relief, but on the S face the surface appears to have been ground down and flattened. In the arch, a thick nook roll outlined by a groove on the face, as on the S doorway. The label bears three rows of chevrons (roll, hollow, roll) lateral to the face, centrifugally carved and with a cogwheel edge. May be a copy.

As on the S side of the church, the ground level is now higher than at the time of building.

S doorway, nave (?reset)

Round-headed, two orders, with plain monolithic tympanum.

Dimensions
L capital:
h. incl. necking 0.195 m
h. without necking 0.155 m
max. w., E face 0.2 m
max. w., S face 0.19 m
First order

Plain square jambs.

Second order

Detached nook shafts with zigzag reeding on plain bases; the decoration of the R shaft is more regular and deeply cut than that of the L shaft, the zigzags of which meet at a more obtuse angle. Plain neckings, triple scallop capitals with sheathed cones and angle tucks, hollow-chamfered imposts with two grooves on the face. The L capital and shaft at least may be replacements. In the arch, a thick nook roll outlined by a groove on the face. The label bears three rows of chevrons (roll, hollow, roll), frontal to the face. The ground is now 0.87 m above its original level; the original door survives with its ironwork.

Windows

E chancel wall

In the gable of the E chancel wall is a narrow round-headed light, surrounded by carved stones. The monolithic arcuated lintel bears saltires within rectangles with a pellet between the arms of each cross. The jambs, each composed of two stones of different widths, bear rows of zigzag, with rosettes or pellets in the inner triangular fields and outside the chevrons of the top R stone. The inner zigzags continue into the sill stone, where they flank two superimposed pellets. Inside, the window has a plain splayed reveal.

W wall

See para. 3b below.

Exterior Decoration

String courses

E chancel wall

Eight courses of rubble below the window in the E chancel wall is a string course consisting of eight carved stones, with a beaded cable moulding at the lower angle. On the face are saltires with pellets between the arms of each cross, similar to those of the window arch, with a groove below. The roof was subsequently heightened, and the string course terminates at the junctions with the new work.

W wall

See para. 3 b below.

Arcading

W wall

In the church is a copy of a 19thc. pencil sketch in the Prattinton collection, which shows the old W wall of the church, then standing in the vicarage grounds. Above the W doorway, which is clearly of later medieval date, are two superimposed blind arcades, the lower of seven bays with a window in the central bay, the upper of four bays. The lower arcade, round-headed and of one order, is carried on eight shafts, all except the responds on moulded bases. The capital of the N respond is plain, the others are apparently carved with symmetrical scrolls on the face or with angle volutes. The sill of the window is lower than the flanking string course; the latter includes stones with a carved lower edge, and some of the stones bear saltires on the face. In the centre of each of the blind bays, at a level corresponding to the mid-height of the shafts, is a carved panel, square or rectangular in shape except for the outermost bay on the R, where it is circular, possibly decorated with beading. The upper arcade, round-headed and of a single continuous order, has a row of centrifugal lateral chevron or zigzag on the label. There is some indistinct decoration on the string course below; there may also be a carved cornice above.

Interior Features

Arches

Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch

Round-headed, one order on the E face, two on the W.

First order, shared

Plain, with carved imposts, continuous with Second order (see below). Plain arch.

L base

Double scallop with angle tuck, eroded at the bottom. The curved edges of the shields are outlined by a fillet; the cones each bear two further fillets forming a V-shape.

L capital

The W face is damaged, but the S face is carved in shallow relief with a grooved looped stem with long irregular leaves, one of which entwines back behind the stem to cross a tendril emerging from the W face of the capital.

R base

Similar to L base, but with recessed shields and the V-shaped fillets on the cones emerging from the necking rather than the shields. The surface of the stone to the N of the L capital bears a plain ring-knot in low relief; that of the stone in a corresponding position to the S of the R capital is carved with a triquetra. The imposts, each with a lower angle roll separated from the carved face by a groove, are returned along the soffit of the arch. The face of the L impost bears an undulating stem with furled trefoil leaf terminals and bound by triple clasps. The undulating stem on the face of the R impost has irregular leaf terminals; the W face of the corner stone bears a lion rampant, its head turned back and mouth open with protruding tongue. The relief is shallow, with flattened surface. Fat nook roll in the arch. The label bears three rows of chevrons, lateral to the face and centrifugally carved, with a cogwheel edge.

R capital

Carved in shallow relief with irregular interlaced stems.

Second order, W side

Detached nook shafts with zigzag reeding, as on the N and S doorways, with plain neckings and carved block capitals (see below). The bases appear to be inverted capitals, complete with neckings (see below).

Interior Decoration

Miscellaneous

Corbel, N wall

In the N wall of the chancel is a corbel similar to (i) above.

Corbel, S wall

A small chamfered corbel with a notched upper edge is inset into the S wall of the chancel.

Half-shaft

Placed on top of (i), but cemented into the wall, is a short section of a half-shaft, decorated with spiral or zigzag reeding.

Comments/Opinions

The same workshop seems to have been responsible for both the doorway and the chancel arch. Pevsner 1968 (138, fn.) notes that carved panels flanking capitals are also found on the N doorway at Ribbesford, on the chancel arch at Rock and in work of the Herefordshire School, while similar interlace occurs at Beckford and Halesowen. Stratford in Pevsner 1968 points out (p.46) that the foliage of the capitals of the chancel arch and N doorway is of a type unique in Worcestershire, and dates the work toc.1155-60. Local enquiries revealed that stones from the old W front (see para. III.3.b above) were once in a barn by the vicarage (now a private house) but that they have now 'probably been used as hard core'. It is possible that the corbels in the chancel could be survivals from the W front; the short section of shaft, which could come from blind arcading, may also have originated there. An architect's sketch of 1812 shows a W front that includes the timbered top stage of a tower but no trace of arcades, so its destruction must predate the Prattinton drawing.

Bibliography

  • The Victoria History of the Counties of England. Worcestershire, vol.III. London 1913, 316-19.
  • B. Burt, B. Northend and B. Willcox, Church Guide.
  • C. J. Bond, 'Church and Parish in Norman Worcestershire' in J. Blair (ed.) Minsters and Parish Churches: The Local Church in Transition 950-1200. Oxford University Committee for Archaeology Monograph 17. Oxford 1988, 119-58, 150.
  • N.Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Worcestershire, Harmondsworth 1968, 46, 138.
Exterior, general view, from S

Location

Site Location
Earl's Croome
National Grid Reference
SO 870 420 
Boundaries
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Worcestershire
now: Worcestershire
Diocese
medieval: Worcester
now: Worcester
Dedication
now: St Nicholas
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
G. L. Pearson