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Listed Building
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Ordnance survey map of PARISH CHURCH OF ST MARY
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Huntingdonshire (District Authority)
St. Neots
National Grid Reference:
TL 17040 58869



II* C14-15. The church was restored in the C19, and a N organ chamber was added in 1886-9 to designs by J A Cory and C J Ferguson. A parish rooms complex was added on the N in the late C20.

MATERIALS: Walls of rubble, flint and pebble, limestone dressings, lead roofs.

PLAN: Chancel with NE vestry (formerly organ chamber), nave with N and S aisles, S porch, W tower and N parish rooms complex.

EXTERIOR: The church is almost wholly C15 in appearance, with low pitched roofs, embattled parapets and windows with vertical tracery, but much of what is visible is post-fire C20 restoration along the original lines. The W window of the nave has C14 Reticulated style tracery, apparently a pre-fire arrangement, and the S door is also C14 in style. The 1930s porch (there was no porch previously) is also in a C15 style and has an outer opening and windows with hood moulds. The W tower, which survived the fire largely intact, is of four stages and has a moulded W door with a 3 light Perpendicular window over it. Above the window are three trefoil-headed niches and an unusual lozenge-shaped window with trefoil tracery. The third stage has a clock face on the W, and the bell stage has pairs of tall, two light openings in each face. There is no spire. The C20 parish rooms are accessed via the nave N door.

INTERIOR: Like the outside, the generously proportioned interior is wholly Perpendicular in appearance, but is almost entirely the work of Richardson after the fire, again replicating many original details. It is painted and plastered, including the stonework, and has exposed timber roofs. The five bay N and S arcades have octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases. The chancel arch, tower arch and arch into the vestry are similar. Before the fire the E bays of the nave arcades were said to be C14 in origin.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: A few older fittings survived the fire, most notably the fine mid C12 Purbeck marble font, now painted white. It has a square bowl with intersecting round arched arcading, and stands on a modern central shaft and four corner shafts. The square base may also be C12. There is a C15 piscina and sedilia in the chancel. The sedilia has three seats indicated by blind arcades in the dropped sill of the SE chancel window. C17 communion rails with turned balusters, now in the S chapel. A few late C12 or early C13 fragments of uncertain provenance are preserved in a cupboard in the N aisle.

Otherwise the fittings date to Richardson's restoration. His roofs and screens are especially notable. The chancel screen is three bays in a Perpendicular style and has elegant openwork tracery that includes carved figures of angels and the Virgin Mary. It has a coved cornice supporting a rood loft with openwork panelling on the front and large rood figures. The stair for the loft is in the NE chapel. There is a similar, but less elaborate screen closing the tower arch, and plainer screens enclosing the S chapel.

Perpendicular style open nave roof with king posts, the curved tie beam braces on corbels with angels. The chancel roof is nearly flat, with rafters and purlins dividing it into panels, boarded behind, with bosses at the intersections. It is painted and gilded. The tie beams have curved braces on carved stone corbels. The aisle roofs are lean-to and have principal rafters with arched braces, the spandrels filled with openwork tracery in imitation of the pre-fire roofs. On the outer walls the posts stand on carved stone corbels, many with highly characterful portrait heads of people associated with the 1930s rebuilding: the horned figure beside Pan may be the architect. The 1930s chancel reredos is also interesting, and shows a crucifixion with kneeling angels and adoring figures in classical dress. The C16 tapestry of the martyrdom of St Alban and another framed textile were found for the church by Richardson.

HISTORY: Eaton Socon, which was once the largest parish in Bedfordshire before the county boundaries were changed, is mentioned in the Domesday book, but the church is not recorded at that date. The C12 font is the earliest evidence of a church on the site. It was given to the Knights Hospitallers in the late C12 or early C13. Except for the S aisle and W tower, the whole church was gutted by fire in 1930 and was restored in a traditional style by Sir Albert Richardson. Before the fire, the church was mainly of a single C15 campaign, although the E bays of the nave arcades, the S door and the W window of the S aisle were C14. A fraternity dedicated to Corpus Christi was founded in the church in the mid C14, and provided a chaplain to celebrate daily in the church, probably in addition to the services provided by the vicar. It was dissolved at the Reformation. The church was almost wholly rebuilt in the C15, and before the fire had some very good C15 woodwork. The church was re-consecrated in 1932.

SOURCES Pevsner, N., Buildings of England: Bedfordshire and the County of Huntingdon and Peterborough (1968), 236 Victoria County History: Bedfordshire (1912), 189-202 Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture, q.v. Eaton Socon. Lambeth Palace Library, Incorporated Church Building Society, file 06779

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION The Church of St Mary, Eaton Socon, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Large parish church with C15 fabric, in particular the fine tower. Although gutted by fire in 1930, it was sympathetically rebuilt by Sir Albert Richardson. * Fine C15 W tower survived the fire. * Excellent interwar fittings, notably screens and roofs, by Richardson, complement earlier items of note such as the C12 font and C17 communion rails.


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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 12 Jul 2000
Reference: IOE01/01698/31
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Norman D Chappell. Source Historic England Archive
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