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Church of St Mary the Virgin

A Grade I Listed Building in Saffron Walden, Essex

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Latitude: 52.0248 / 52°1'29"N

Longitude: 0.2393 / 0°14'21"E

OS Eastings: 553736

OS Northings: 238626

OS Grid: TL537386

Mapcode National: GBR MC3.1B0

Mapcode Global: VHHL4.3CCN

Entry Name: Church of St Mary the Virgin

Listing Date: 28 November 1951

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1196237

English Heritage Legacy ID: 370719

Location: Saffron Walden, Uttlesford, Essex, CB10

County: Essex

District: Uttlesford

Civil Parish: Saffron Walden

Built-Up Area: Saffron Walden

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

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Saffron Walden

Listing Text


669-1/1/401 Church of St Mary the Virgin


Parish church. Aligned NE-SW. Chancel and crypt late C13,
rebuilding of nave and tower 1485-early C16 by Simon Clerk and
John Wastell. Upper stage of tower rebuilt and spire added in
1831 by Rickman and Hutchinson. Restoration and new E window
by Butterfield in 1876. Major repairs in the mid 1970's.
Walling variable, of ashlar, flint, field stones and ashlar
offcuts, lead roofs. PLAN: 7 bay nave; 8 bay N and S aisles
with 2 bay E chapels, N and S porches, 3 bay chancel and W
W end elevation: central tower with low pitched gabled ends of
aisles each side. Plinth with upper moulded string across
elevation and continued round all sides of church. Tower 4
stages with set back buttresses. Stage 1 and 2, ashlar, W
doorway, 2-centred arched head in moulded rectangular
surround, spandrels have quatrefoiled roundels with central
lozenge leaf motif and trefoiled daggers (this motif is
repeated for doors and windows with slight variations
throughout the building as a standard building style) C19
boarded door and ironwork. Above, 3-light, 2-centred arched
foiled window with upper panelled tracery, head stopped label.
Stage 3 has field stone walling, 2-light 2-centred arched
window, head stopped label, clock above. Stage 4, 3-light,
2-centred arched louvred belfry aperture with upper panelled
tracery, rectangular framing and head stopped label. Parapet,
embattled, gridded with quatrefoiled roundels below crenels,
corner buttresses surmounted by crocketed ogee topped turrets
from which paired fliers support the stone octagonal spire.
Spire has crocketed arris ribs and gabled louvred lucarnes
alternating at 2 levels. Apex weather cock. Aisles - W ends -
walls of flint and field stones, N aisle has plinth of
panelled flint flushwork, angle buttresses with crocketed
finials, embattled low pitch gabled parapets, each with a
2-centred arched 5-light window, upper panelled and foiled
tracery, splayed sills.
S side elevation: W to E, tower, similar to W elevation but
putlog holes seen on lower 3 stages. Ground floor walling
blank, of split flints. Stages 2 and 3 of field stones and
off-cuts, stage 2 also blank. Clerestory and side aisle
walling of field stones, both embattled, buttresses with
crocketed finials at bay intervals. Windows all similar, in
aisle, rectangular framed, 2-centred arched heads, 4 foiled
lights with upper transom and panelled tracery with Y bars
intersecting. Clerestory windows framed in pairs as one,
depressed arched heads. Each of 3 lights, lower transom,
foiled upper panelled tracery. 2-storeyed porch 2 bays deep,
flat embattled parapet angle-buttresses, surmounted by
octagonal embattled turrets. Outer and inner doorways in
standard style, stone fan vault with 2 large foliate bosses,
outer door inserted to create a vestry, inner door early Cl6,
vertical boards with upper moulded rail, wicket door in W
leaf, some original ironwork including half of the internal
locking bar, now converted for padlock, also stud nails and
internal lozenge shaped roves clamping horizontal boards.
Muniment room in upper part of porch, S window of 4 lights,
panelled tracery with 7 bars. Porch sides, ground floor, 2
2-light lancet windows, above, similar in square framing.
Plinth, E side has fragment of Anglo-Saxon cross. Aisle bays
to E split flint walling below windows and in buttresses. Nave
clerestory E end, early C16 turret, octagonal, ogee crocketed,
scale ornamented top. Below, at nave-chapel buttress, cusped,
nodding, ogee headed niche with image of bishop within. S
chapel, 3-centred arch headed door with rectangular label, C19
boarded door. Windows similar to aisles but less deep,
flushwork spandrels in standard style. To E, C19/C20 ground
floor extension in internal angle with chancel of flint
walling, plain parapet with cornice ogee moulded, doorway with
4-centred arched head and label. Chancel set back with
diagonal buttress, 2 clerestory windows and side window of 3
lights, upper panelled tracery.
N side elevation W to E, similar to S side but nave aisle
windows have gridded spandrels and 3 western bays of nave
aisle are of chequered knapped flint, buttresses similar. N
porch, single storeyed, single bay deep, diagonal buttresses
with crocketed finials, doorway with 4-centred arched head in
embattled rectangular frame, jamb-shafts with capitals and
bases. 2-light window to each side, tierceron stone vault with
central boss of angel with shield. Inner doorway in the
standard style with early C16 door, similar to S porch door.
Also outer C20 door to make a vestry as with S. porch. Vault
arch cuts across corners of inner doorway spandrels suggesting
that the porch was an afterthought. Nave clerestory E end has
similar turret to one on S side. N chapel window as on S side
with flushwork spandrels. Cornice under parapet has deep
cavetto moulding with animals and human figures. Bay 9
(chapel) doorway with hollow moulded 2-centred arched head
with label, C19 boarded door. Chancel similar to S side.
E elevation: low-pitched gabled chancel. N and S chapels
similar, set back, all with embattled parapets. Chancel,
diagonal buttresses. C19 E window with 2-centred head, 5
foiled lights, lower transom and upper panaelled tracery with
quatrefoils. Plaque below recording sealing of Howard vault in
1860. Through plinth, 2 venting loops (one also on N side),
with pierced iron plates and grilles. S chapel, angle
buttresses and finial, 4-light window with upper transom,
panelled tracery below, Y tracery above. In front, C19 ground
floor addition with 2 rectangular casement windows. N chapel
similar to S chapel but with 7-light window in standard style,
2 principal mullions, lights 2,3,2, broken embattled transom
lifted in centre, panelled tracery with upper quatrefoiled
roundels, mullions continued down below window as blind
INTERIOR: tower high arch to nave with similar interior
arches. Vault springers remain at each corner. Timber floor
above. Nave, refined, tall, built of clunch. 2-centred arched
arcade. Paired clerestory windows with mullions carried down
as blind panelling to fleuron-decorated cornice. Arcades
decorated in the standard style with piers of enriched lozenge
section, attached shafts and intermediate great casement
moulding that is carried round the arches, octagonal capitals
to shafts, enriched with lozenge shaped fleurons. Inner (nave)
shafts continued through the high capitals supporting timber
roof trusses. Roof arch-braced cambered tie-beams with
longitudinal central and single side joists, common joists
span the pitches with board infill. All joists moulded and
each bay has central decorative boss and angel each side on
the cornice. Tie-beam brace spandrels have pierced roundels.
Side aisles, rear of arcades decorated in standard style as
nave. N aisle 3 western bays have 4 early C14, canopied,
foiled, ogee niches in each bay, decorated with figure
subjects. Also above, piers with spire form vaulted canopies.
Similar vaulted canopies on piers of S aisle. Aisle roofs have
braced cambered tie-beams with queen-posts to principal
rafters, braced to apex. Pierced foiled panel tracery links
tie-beams and rafters, purlins as nave roof, joists all
moulded, boarded between. Chancel arch similar to nave arcade,
spandrels enriched with all-over quatrefoiled roundels and
central lozenge leaf patterns. Rood loft stairs each side.
Choir. C13 arcade of 2 bays, 2-centred double hollow moulded
arches, round undercut capitals, roll moulded bases. Roof
similar to nave but of short single bays (clerestory window
width). Supporting wall shafts have niches with figures.
Crypt, now of 2 bays, considerably bricked in below S porch
and aisle. 2 bays of quadripartite vaulting, chamfered ribs,
semi-octagonal shafts and chamfered plinths, vault webs in
thin bricks (suggesting date in C14, rather than late C13 as
stated in RCHM). Muniment room over S porch has doorway,
adjacent to S porch door with 4-centred arched head, leaf
decorated spandrels. C16 door of triangular sectioned boards
with central arrises. Muniment room has original C16 roof of 2
bays, cambered tie-beams and 3 longitudinal joists all
decorated with rolls and hollow chamfers.
FITTINGS: C19 altar retable of 5 gabled niches with paintings
of Christ and Apostles, each side, 2 smaller arched recesses
with angels and archangels. Font c1500, octagonal, sunk cusped
panels with flowers and shields, shaft has sunk foiled panels.
Brass indents in N and S chapels. Several brasses reset into
C14 canopies recesses in N aisle. N chapel, altar tomb in
Purbeck marble with moulded edge amd brass marginal
inscription to John Leche, vicar, 1521. S chapel, E end altar
tomb of touch to Thomas, Lord Audley, 1544, Renaissance work
with panelled sides and enriched pilasters, wreathed shields,
at head a panel with achievement of Audley arms. Floor slabs
at W end of nave and aisles range fron late C17 to early Cl9
with achievements and shields of arms. Inscriptions show a
wide range of fashionable calligraphy. Most of the church
windows now have clear, diamond-paned glass. C19 stained glass
occurs in N aisle, 3 western bays, S aisle, 4 western bays, N
chapel E window, choir E window, tower lower W window. A
fragment of early C16 glass,a head, probably of a female saint
is in the S aisle W window.
HISTORICAL NOTE: the rebuilding of the church by royal master
masons is linked with the events of 1485, when work
temporarily ceased at King's College, Cambridge and the masons
were obliged to undertake lesser projects. The work was
unfinished at Wastell's death in 1515. The arcade style,
clerestory turrets, and S porch fan-vault are part of
Wastell's repertory and can be compared with his work at
King's College Chapel and Great St Mary's Church also in
(The Buildings of England: Pevsner N & Ratcliffe E: Essex:
London: 1965-: 331; Chelmsford Archaeological Trust Report:
CBA Research Report 45: Bassett SR: Saffron Walden to 1300:
London: 1982-: 20; Harvey J: English Medieval Architects:
London: 1984-: 319).

Listing NGR: TL5373638626

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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