In areas like stone-less East Anglia, churches are often decorated with patterns in stone and knapped flint, flint which has been broken open to expose the dark core.

Thus on the tower at Elmswell in Suffolk, built in the 1470s, we see a Catherine wheel, whilst motifs of a blacksmith – horseshoes, hammer and pincers – appear on the contemporary porch at nearby Badwell Ash.

Much earlier flushwork can be found in central France, the best example being in the chevet of the church at Issoire (Puy-de-Dôme), which bears various early 12th c. designs in a combination of volcanic basalt and limestone.

But possibly the highlight in flushwork is found in the church of the little Normandy village of Saint-Grégoire-du-Vièvre, at the western end of the Eure département, not far from Lisieux. Here the S wall of the church features a large chequerwork pattern, with small early 16th c. cartoon scenes, including dogs fighting, as well as a knight chasing after his horse. Perhaps a forerunner of the bande dessinée?

Issoire Elmswell
Further reading:

John Blatchly and Peter Northeast, Decoding Flint Flushwork on Suffolk and Norfolk Churches (2005), ISBN: 0952139049.

Stephen Hart, Flint Flushwork: A Medieval Masonry Art (2008), ISBN: 1843833697.