Interior of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Lavenham
Watercolour: A. Webb (1873)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Drawings & Archives Collection
Lavenham possesses one of the most celebrated late fifteenth-century churches in the country. On the exterior, its proud tower proclaims the wealth of the town: at 141 feet high, it is almost as long as the church itself. Inside, there is more splendour, as this delightful watercolour study by Aston Webb reveals.
Webb’s viewpoint is unusual. Usually we look east in a church, towards the altar. But this study looks from the altar into the nave, using the chancel arch as a frame. The explanation is that Lavenham’s nave is particularly magnificent: Lavenham’s merchants, rich from the profits of wool, ensured that this, their part of the church, out-did the lower, earlier chancel.
The overall impression is a building of great ambition. The nave’s columns appear almost too slender to support the crisply-carved frieze and the clerestory windows above. Added to this is the delicacy of the roof structure. But times have changed. Webb notes the cracked plasterwork, the repairs to the stonework, and the warped roof timbers: is a restoration campaign soon to start?