The use of stone with flint or brick has been used throughout East Anglia to produce
a very decorative effect, often incorporating long rectangular columns in the resulting
design. This is most often seen on the towers of Medieval churches. Long rectangles
can also be seen in the tracery of many church windows.
Highly decorative work in knapped flint is known as flushwork. The picture above
of St. Mary’s Church, Redenhall, shows a very good example. It is hard to disagree
with Blomefield, who described this tower as ‘the finest of any country parish church
in the county’. Considering the skill and labour required to produce the elaborate
flushwork in knapped flint and freestone, it is hardly surprising that it took from
1460 to 1520 to build it. The tower has been struck by lightning no fewer than four
times. On the second occasion it was split apart and in 1616 it had to be braced
to hold it together.
What you see here is the base of the west tower of St. Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich.
Begun in 1430, it is built in flint and stone flushwork and has a frieze of shields
at the base.
It seems to have been in East Anglia that flushwork was introduced. It can be seen
on many medieval churches. It consists of intricate shapes and patterns made attractive
by the contrast in texture and colour between the flint and the stone or brick. It
is labour intensive and requires much skill in execution.
Above: An example of highly decorative knapped flintwork, known as flushwork, on
the base of a wall at Thrandeston Church in Suffolk, showing the spaces in the stonework
where knapped flints were inserted, but which have since fallen out.
Flint is formed in chalk rock and is found in chalk-based soils and on riverbeds
and beaches. It occurs in many shapes and varies in colour. It is very hard but
also brittle, which makes it easy to break if given a sharp blow. It is not found
commonly all over Britain, but it is plentiful in Norfolk and Suffolk, and has been
used as a building material here for many centuries.
The corners, doorways and window openings of a flint building re usually finished
with stone or brick in order to give a firm, straight edge and also for added strength.
Sometimes ‘lacing’ courses of stone, brick or tile are also inserted into flint
The simplest kind of flintwork, ‘roughwork’, uses flint in its natural unsplit form,
but because of its roundness this necessitates the use of a great deal of mortar.
Much less mortar is needed for work with knapped flint.
The pulpit in Southwold Church in Suffolk dates from the time of the Reformation
and was restored in 1928. The long rectangular-shaped traceried panels are of similar
pattern to that found on church windows.
Above: Window-like tracery on wood furniture in the church at Kersey in Suffolk.
The long rectangular apertures have ogee-shaped tops and in the panels at the base
there are quatrefoil motifs.
Left: The church porch at Eye in Suffolk has stone with brick in-fill after the fashion
of flint flush-work.