An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Huntingdonshire. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1926.
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62. PAXTON, GREAT (C.e.).
(O.S. 6 in. XXV. N.E.)
Great Paxton is a parish and village 3 m. N.E. of St. Neots. The Church is the principal monument and is the only important pre-Conquest building in the county.
(1). Parish Church of the Holy Trinity (Plates 108 to 110) stands at the N. end of the village. The walls are mainly of pebble-rubble with some ironstone and freestone; the dressings are of Barnack and other freestone and the roofs are covered with tiles and lead. The church retains the crossing and parts of the N. and S. arcades of an aisled nave of mid 11th-century date. It is probable that at this period the crossing supported a central tower, as there is evidence of the removal of the former W. arch; judging from the position of the later S. doorway, the early nave was of four bays, of which only two and a half bays now survive; the former transepts and the early chancel have been entirely removed, but probing on the N. side of the N. aisle seems to indicate that the former transept extended about 10 ft. beyond the existing aisle. The Chancel was re-built about the end of the 13th century. About the middle of the 14th century the South Porch was added, and towards the end of the same century the West Tower was built, encroaching on the area of the early nave, and the former crossing was thrown into the nave by the removal of the former W. arch, to compensate for this loss of space; the chancel-arch and S. crossing-arch were partly reconstructed at the same time. The North and South Aisles were subsequently reconstructed and the transepts abolished, the N. aisle probably dating from early in the 15th century and the S. aisle from rather later. The church was restored in 1880 and the North-West Vestry is modern.
The church contains remarkable examples of mid 11th-century construction and detail, the distinguising features of which are largely of pre-Conquest character.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (29 ft. by 17¼ ft.) has a 15th-century E. window of four cinque-foiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head with moulded external reveals; the mullions, tracery and splays are modern. In the N. wall are two windows, the eastern probably of early 16th-century date and of three cinque-foiled lights with plain tracery in a four-centred head with a moulded label; the internal reveals are moulded; the western window is of the end of the 13th century and of three plain lights with intersecting tracery in a two-centred head with moulded jambs and label with scrolled stops. In the S. wall are two windows similar to the eastern window in the N. wall but with cusped tracery and moulded external instead of internal reveals; between them is a late 13th-century doorway with chamfered jambs and segmental-pointed head. The late 14th or early 15th-century chancel-arch is two-centred and of three chamfered orders; the responds are of mid 11th-century date and of segmental or convex plan; they have each a series of six flat attached shafts divided by fillets, all with moulded bases and common square sub-bases with chamfered plinths; both responds have re-used abaci, probably of the 12th century and carved with billet-ornament; the stones of both responds are generally, but not entirely, set in 'long and short' fashion and course through the respond from E. to W. Above the chancel-arch, externally, on the E. face of the wall, is the line of the low-pitched gable of the 15th-century nave-roof.
The Crossing (Plate 109) (18½ ft. originally by 18 ft.) has a mid 11th-century N. transeptal arch of considerable height; the arch itself is semi-circular and of one plain order, rendered in cement; the responds are square on plan and have each four attached shafts, divided by small rolls and having simple bulbous capitals under a common square abacus; each respond has a common square and chamfered base and stands on a square sub-base; the return faces of the responds have each a pilaster-strip finished with a capital like the shafts; on the N. side of the E. respond this pilaster has been mostly cut away. The S. transeptal-arch is two-centred and similar in date and detail to the chancel-arch; the mid 11th-century responds are generally similar to those of the N. arch, but have been cut down and the capitals re-set at a lower level. The W. responds of both arches have the stones set in a well-defined 'long and short' fashion, but in the E. responds this is not so apparent. The former W. arch has been completely removed, but its existence is indicated not only by the stopping of the string-course of the nave to the W. of it, but also by a slight difference in plane in the wall-surfaces to the E. and W. of its former position. The eastern half of the flooring of the crossing forms a platform, raised two steps above the nave; this appears to have been an original arrangement as it is allowed for in the levels of the respond-bases.
The Nave (including crossing, 50 ft. by 18 ft.) has mid 11th-century N. and S. arcades (Plate 108) now of two and a half bays but formerly of at least four bays; the half-bay on the N. is blocked with modern walling; the semi-circular arches are of two plain orders, now rendered in cement; the piers have each four round shafts divided by rolls or fillets and having capitals (Plate 111) similar to those of the transeptal arches but with two square members to the abacus; the shafts have individual moulded bases, separated by blocks at the feet of the rolls or fillets; on the S.W. pier the mouldings are continued round the fillets and finished in two places with a lion's head and a flower respectively; the E. responds are square and of ashlar set in 'long and short' fashion and have moulded imposts; the S.W. respond is of similar plan but of the date of the tower; it has the original impost, re-set. Above the arcades are heavy chamfered string-courses stopping near the line of the former W. crossing-arch. The clearstorey is unusually high and has some 'large-stone' quoins at the N.E. angle; the masonry of the walls above the springing of the window-heads is mainly iron-stone as are the heads of the windows themselves. On each side there are two complete windows and the half of a third, against the tower and now blocked; they are all of one large round-headed light with a small external splay and are part of the mid 11th-century work. At a level, about half way up the window-jambs on the S. side, is a plain string-course which is carried across the blocking of the third window and was no doubt inserted as the weathering for the later aisle-roof. The heavy chamfered string-course, at the original external sill-level, remains on the S. wall, stopping at the point where the former transept adjoined the nave. The half window, at the W. end of the N. wall, has been much defaced but below it is a length of the original chamfered string-course; it has been cut back above the aisle but is continued along the wall to the same point as on the S. wall.
The North Aisle (9½ ft. wide) has rough projecting foundations to the N. wall; the foundations under the two eastern buttresses are probably portions of the E. and W. walls of the former transept; they stand at a higher level than, and run across, the footings of the later aisle. In the E. and N. walls are the three 15th-century windows each of three cinque-foiled lights with simple tracery in a four-centred head with moulded internal reveals and external label. W. of the windows in the N. wall is a blocked doorway of uncertain date and indicated only by a roughly elliptical relieving-arch on the external face of the wall. In the S. wall of the aisle, E. of the transeptal-arch, is the stone stairway to the rood-loft; the lowest step is about 8½ ft. above the aisle-floor; the lower doorway has a segmental-pointed head.
The South Aisle (9¼ ft. wide) has in the E. wall a 15th-century window of three cinque-foiled lights with tracery in a four-centred head with moulded reveals and label. In the S. wall are two late 15th-century windows each of three cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with moulded reveals and label like the E. window; the 15th-century S. doorway has moulded jambs and two-centred arch in a square head with traceried spandrels and a moulded label. In the W. wall is a modern window with some old stones in the splays.
The West Tower (12 ft. square) is of late 14th-century date and of three stages with a moulded plinth and an embattled parapet with three large gargoyles. The two-centred tower-arch is of three chamfered orders; the responds have each three attached shafts, one octagonal and the other round and both with moulded capitals and bases. The late 15th-century W. window is of three cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with moulded external reveals and label and beast-head stops; the mullions and heads to the lights are modern. The re-set early 14th-century W. doorway has jambs and two-centred arch of two chamfered orders, with a moulded label. The second stage has in the S. wall a small quatre-foiled opening and in the W. wall a window of one square-headed light. The bell-chamber has in each wall a window of two cinque-foiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label with head or beast-stops.
The South Porch has a 14th-century outer archway with moulded jambs, two-centred arch and label with perished head-stops. The side walls have each a window all modern except for some stones.
The Roof of the crossing and nave is probably of the 17th century and is of four low-pitched bays with cambered and chamfered tie-beams, wall-posts and curved braces; the cornices are carved with dentils and a design of discs and foliage; on the easternmost tie-beam is the date 1637 and, on the S. cornice, the initials C.C. and I.S.
Fittings—Bells: five; 4th probably by William Dawe, c. 1400 and inscribed "Sancta Caterina Ora Pro Nobis."Brackets: In nave—in N.E. respond, semi-octagonal moulded bracket, with concave faces, a carved patera on each face and a foliated pendant below, 15th-century; on S.E. respond, semi-octagonal chamfered bracket, 15th-century. In N. aisle—in N.E. angle, semi-octagonal moulded bracket with a carved patera on each face and a carved double rose on the soffit, c. 1500. Chest: In N. aisle—of oak, plain rectangular hutch-shaped chest, two iron straps to each angle with foliated ends, three similar straps to front and three hinges to lid, 14th- or 15th-century. Cross: In churchyard—octagonal base (Plate 142), probably 15th-century. Door (Plate 161): In S. aisle—in S. doorway, of battens with modern framing planted on, two wrought-iron hinges with foliations and ornamental ironwork of similar character, with bird-head terminations, 13th-century. Font: octagonal bowl with moulded under-edge, plain stem and moulded base, 15th-century. Glass: In chancel— in N.W. window, many diapered quarries and fragments of borders, double rose, sun, etc., 15thand early 16th-century. Piscinae: In chancel— recess with hollow-chamfered jambs and two-centred head, semi-octagonal projecting sill and octofoiled drain, late 13th-century. In S. aisle—in S. wall, recess with trefoiled head and round drain, 13th-century, re-set. Screen (Plate 41): Under tower-arch—former rood-screen of oak and of three main bays including central doorway, side bays with open upper panels with double trefoiled heads and tracery in a two-centred main head, close lower panels each of two bays with trefoiled and sub-cusped heads, carved spandrels and band of 'Tudor flower' above; doorway with four-centred head and double doors with lower panels as side bays, plain open upper panels; above door-head, two bays of open tracery and the setting for an irradiated figure, probably the Virgin; moulded posts and enriched rail to screen and provision for attachment of former loft, 15th-century. Seating: In nave and aisles, twenty-seven pews and four fronts with buttressed bench-ends and enclosures, moulded rails and tops of bench-ends, 15th-century, partly restored. Sedilia: In chancel—in two bays with hollow-chamfered jambs and cinque-foiled heads of clunch, moulded labels with damaged head-stops, modern central shaft with late 13th-century moulded capital, sedilia, late 14th-century. Miscellanea: In W. wall of vestry—defaced stone carved with man's head, probably 15th-century.
Condition—Good, a few cracks in W. part of nave.
The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled or thatched. Some of the buildings have original chimney-stacks and exposed ceiling-beams.
Condition—Good or fairly good, unless noted.
(2). Cottage, on the W. side of the main street, 500 yards S.S.W. of the church.
(3). Cottage, two tenements, 80 yards N.N.E. of (2) has a moulded capping to the base of the central chimney-stack.
(4). House, on the E. side of the main street, opposite (2). Inside the building, on the first floor, is an original window of four lights with moulded mullions; it is now blocked.
(5). Cottage, at the N. corner of Adam's Lane, 220 yards S. of the church.
(6). Cottage, on the S. side of Adam's Lane, 60 yards S.E. of (5). Inside the building are remains of a modelled plaster decoration above a fireplace; the middle portion has been destroyed, but on one side are figures of two children and on the other a woman running. In the E. wall of the first floor is a blocked window with an original moulded frame. The staircase from the first floor to the attic has an original octagonal newel.
(7). Cottage, on the N. side of London Lane, 110 yards E. of (4), was built late in the 17th or early in the 18th century.