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BY THE REV. CANON SYERS, M.A.
(Road at the Peterborough Congress, July 15th, 1898).
OMMENCING at the west end, Barnack
Church Tower is remarkable, both externally and internally (fig. 1). Taking the outside view first, the tower is capped by a beautiful Early English spire, an octagon sitting gracefully upon the four
square-sided ruder work. The windows of the “ tower root” have had their symmetry spoiled by the insertion of modern stone work, blocking the windows half way up. This defect has been removed from one window, revealing its very handsome and beautiful proportions. It is proposed to treat the other three in the same way, so soon as funds will allow. There are thirteen windows in the tower ; eight of these are still open, the remaining five are blocked up. There are four windows to the top stage, all having angle-shaped heads, and three filled with ornamental stone work of perforated interlacing design, strengthened by circles ; the outward faces have the double strap, characteristic of good Saxon work. The eastern of these windows has a transom, probably unique for its date. The middle stage of the tower has six windows, four on the north and south sides, roundheaded ; two on the west, triangular outside but round within. The reveals of these windows show preparations for wooden shutters on the outer, and for wooden glass frames on the inner side.
The square building is divided in the centre by a cornice. "A similar cornice divides the ruder work from the later spire. Externally, each face of the tower is divided into four compartments by long vertical stone strips, or pilasters. These, and the angles, show plainly long and short” work.
Other noticeable features on the outer surface of the tower are short columns on the south, west, and north faces, beautifully ornamented with low-relief carved work. These show three- and four-pointed foliage and bunches of grapes, springing from a double stem and tied at the outside to a roll, which forms the angles of the slab: the emblematic Vine, in fact. Above these are three birds, also emblematic: the cock, the eagle, and the dove.
On the south side is the face of a sun-dial. The window below is enriched with birds carved in sunk relief (fig. 2). As to all these, I may quote one who has devoted an immense amount of time to the survey and study of Barnack Church Tower, who knows, I think, almost every stone of it, and loves them as well as he is intimate with them—Mr. J. T. Irvine, the talented clerk of the works at Peterborough Cathedral, to whom I am indebted for so much of what I know of Barnack Church architecture. He says: “ Careful examination, undertaken with a disposition to find the opposite result, has shown that this sun-dial and the ornamented columns are original work and not later insertions.”
Just below the lower cornice of the tower, and partly visible where the present north and south aisles join on to the tower, are strong stone piers, which were built to receive the Saxon nave, and give us its height (82 ft.), and width (about 33 ft.), a little wider than the present north and south nave arcadings. The "housing slot” of the roof to that nave is clearly marked on the east face of the tower, and shows that the roof would drip clear of the sides of a nave, which rested on these piers (B, fig. 6).
The south entrance door is remarkable, and of very rude and singular construction, with special drip-blocks to the label terminals. The door goes flat upon the inside wall when opened, forming a sort of inner porch. In its construction this doorway corresponds to the splendid but rugged work of the internal arch, which leads from the tower into the nave.
This most interesting building is allowed by all the best authorities to be true Saxon work.