Medieval parish churches

Nave ceiling, St Mary, Woolpit

Woolpit - photo church roof_530x559

Nave ceiling, St Mary, Woolpit
Photograph: unknown photographer (c. 1950)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection

Despite its location in a region of fine churches, St Mary’s Woolpit still stands out. It may have suffered the addition of a Victorian spire and considerable restoration, but it retains some outstanding Medieval work. Visitors are first impressed by the elaborate two-storied church porch, one of the country’s finest; inside, the pews stir curiosity with their varied carvings.

However, it is the ceiling that grabs the most attention, the subject of this fine photo. Begun around 1450, this double hammerbeam roof is alive with a heavenly host. Angels can be found on corbels, supporting the timbers, on the beams themselves and on the wallplates, creating a ‘gloriously feathery, spiky pattern,’ according to Pevsner.  

Looking closely, other saintly figures can be spotted. Over the centuries, the people of Woolpit must have been reassured by their presence. In a village named after nearby wolf-pits, angels and other holy figures, in such great numbers, were clearly a comfort.


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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