Great Paxton Church

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Pevsner’s notes on Great Paxton Church

Rev’d Annette Reed, the Vicar of Holy Trinity Church writes:

The history of Holy Trinity Church could command many pages of descriptive text -but I have decided to defer to Pevsner and include here a copy of  his account of the magificent building. It really comes to life when you are in the church and some of his terms are rather technical, but it conveys his delight in the building.

Great Paxton Church.

There are very few Anglo-Saxon buildings one can call grandiose. Stow in Lincolnshire is one, Great Paxton is without doubt another. Yet on approaching the building, noone can form any idea what is in store. Here is a church of grey stone and brown cobbles with a Perp w tower, Perp windows and S doorway, and a Perp chancel, except for one N window with intersecting tracery, ie of the late C13.

The clerestory is Perp too, but there a hint of the interior is given. Some windows on both sides are round-arched ( in ironstone) and double-splayed. Thats is Saxon.

But the interior is not only a surprise, it is also an architectural shock of a high order. This was a cruciform church with a true crossing, and it was an aisled church. Both in pre-Conquest times are extreme rarities. The date of the church is not known, but it is not likely to be earlier than 1000 AD. As for the crossing, a true crossing means that it is as wide as the nave, as the chancel, and as the transepts. this was a matter of course in Romanesque architecture on the Continent at that date, but it does not even apply to Stow. It does, hoever, apply to Great Paxton, as it is fully displayed in the N transept arch.The responds are four demi-shafts with thin shafts inbetween. They carry lumpy, shapeless capitals and a plain abacus, and then the unmoulded arch is thrown across at a height unparalleled in early English architecture. The same arrangement applied to the other arches, even if the responds are not so well preserved and the arches are on the s and a side triple-chamfered of the late c13. Moreover, as a kind of framing to these groups of four shafts side by side, a thin pilaster strip ran up and no doubt continued all round the arch. This is a usual Late Anglo-Danish thing ( cf St Benet, Cambridge) and is visible in several instances.

The nave is just amazing. The only other Angl-Saxon aisled naves are Brixworth and Lydd, and the arcade piers of both are just untreated chunks of wall. But at Great Paxton there are proper compound piers, even if they are of a very starne kind, as if Continental piers have been misunderstood. The easternmost piers are quatrefoil in section, placed diagonally and with thin shafts between the foils so that they come out in the cardinal directions. The westernmost piers have spurs instead of the thin shafts. The arcade went on to three instead of the two present bays. One w respond was re-used in the new place. This and the two E responds are much more acceptably detailed than the capitals and abaci of the piers: capitals as bulgy as those of the crossing and one-step abaci. The arches are single-step too. The responds are built up of long and short stones rather like Late Angl-Saxon quoins. The date of the chancel is confirmed by the SEDILIA.

– SCREEN. Under the tower arch .Perp. It originally had the Virgin of the Assumption above the entrance, but only the rays which surrounded her survive.

– BENCHES. The ends of the plain buttressed type.

-SOUTH DOOR. With C13 ironwork, not of the elaborate scroll type as in Bedforshire.

-STAINED GLASS. Old fragments in one chancel window.

-PLATE. Cup of 1813-1814.

great paxton looking west

Holy Trinity looking west…


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