Medieval parish churches

Interior of St Mary the Virgin, Wymondham


Interior of St Mary the Virgin, Wymondham
Watercolour: Sir Charles Nicholson (c. 1889)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Drawings & Archives Collection

Wymondham’s beguiling exterior, shown in the photograph by Felton, is well known. However, the interior is equally odd: disputes between town and abbey continued inside. Unusually, the church has no east window: the monks sealed up the east end of the nave in 1390, blocking the view. The locals responded by rebuilding much of their church, notably adding the splendid hammerbeam ceiling in the fifteenth century. 

The young Charles Nicholson concentrated on this in his watercolour sketch (c.1889?). Nicholson was one of the last great Gothic Revivalists. Trained in the late Victorian period, he worked extensively in the first half of the twentieth century as an ecclesiastical architect, and churches like Wymondham were central to his understanding.

Clearly, Nicholson was excited by the rich colour-scheme surviving at Wymondham, animating the carvings of the angelic host. His sketch notes the colours used in the rich stencilling. The delicacy of the carving can be admired, so too its humour – the winged beast’s face is hardly threatening. Unusually well preserved, this detailed view suggests how wondrous Cawston’s and Woolpit’s ceilings must have been in their original, coloured states.


About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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