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.