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The evidences of this are:
The “ long and short work” externally. B. The stone“ beams” and filling in between, which, in their likeness to Saxon wooden buildings, have been aptly described as “petrified carpentry.”
y. The openings narrowing upwards. Triangular-headed openings filled with light slabs.
8. The cornices, like those in Repton (Derbyshire) €. Square openings in walls, with doors opening against inside.
1. Divisions of external walls into compartments, plastered between.
K. Floor sunk below ground, with steps down.
The village of Barnack has many objects of interest. The remains of its ancient and at one time extensive quarries, now known as the 'the Hills and Holes,' the playground of the village and the delight of picnic parties; its ancient Manor-house on the north side of the church ; several points of interest at the beautiful Rectory; and, chief of all, its church.
Barnack Church provides an admirable object lesson for the student of English Gothic architecture. It starts with Early Saxon work, and ends with the Late Perpendicular (as shown by the Diagrams—see fig. 6— specially prepared by Mr. J. T. Irvine, and presented by him to the Rector to illustrate the present lecture), illustrating with emphasis the intervening styles, and supplying also, by the transitional character of much of the work, that caution which the young student ever needs to bear in mind, that there is no absolute line of demarcation between one style and its successor, but that each dies off and blends into the next.
We notice, first, the Saxon internal arch between the tower and the nave (fig. 3). The imposts of this arch, with attempts or "feelings after” an abacus, are very remarkable, as indeed is the whole structure. To realise its appearance when built in Saxon times, we must, in imagination, remove the staircase to the belfry, and the four inside supporting arches to the groined vaulting, all Early English work. The tower arch was, until 1855, blocked up with stone work, in which was an Early English doorway connecting tower and nave, and now
the entrance to the Rectory garden. This was removed by Dr. Argles. What he did and discovered is best told in his own words :
“ The builders of the Early English additions, fearing for the strength of the original structure, not only supported their work by four arches built against the Saxon walls and a vaulting above, but endeavoured to make it more solid by blocking up with masonry of great thickness the noble arch into the church (whose keystone is 21 ft. from the floor), and nearly all the windows. The age of blocking is made clear by an Early English doorway, originally opened in that part which filled the tower arch. Taking the opinion of a skilled man, we found that this masonry was not required for support. It was therefore taken down from the top. We found the seat-stone of the niche or sedile in the west wall, just below the existing floor, and in seeking to find this we found we were digging into the débris of a conflagration. When the builders of the Early English inner staircase commenced their work they accepted the then level, although it was made only of débris. They did not take the trouble to remove the rubbish, and into this they dug for their foundations, and laid them rough and unhewn as we found them. In removing the débris, we came to the original Saxon floor of the tower, which is of plaster, with a deep passage worn in it east and west, and at the door a stone worn almost into a hole by the feet of those who had come in and out in the olden days. In the debris was found a good deal of molten lead, ashes of oak, and stone risers of other seats. Below the principal seat, the plaster of the riser was found perfect on the wall. On both sides of this seat, in the centre and all round the three walls, were other seats in ruins, capable of accommodating perhaps forty persons. These had no canopies, and only consisted of rude stone risers with slabs of oak to sit upon, the ashes of which with the fastening of lead (molten) was found in the débris behind the risers.”
Dr. Argles considers that this was the débris from the burning of the church by Sweyn, as recorded by Ingulphus, in 1013.
The questions remaining to be solved, and towards which I should greatly value any contributions, are : (1) the date of the tower and its builder, and (2) the object and use of the sedilia in the tower.
1. Dr. Argles, following the opinion of the late Rev. D. M. Haigh, believed the tower to be (Arch) Bishop Wilfrith's work, and if so, “the oldest structure of Saxon times.” Mr. Parker said, “ not without reason thought to be the oldest church in England;" the date about 650 A.D.
The reasons for assuming it to be Wilfrith's work are his connection with Alefrith, prince of Northumbria, who was related to Penda, Peada and Wulfere, founders of
Peterborough Abbey, and their sister Cyneburgha, the traces of whose shrine at Castor Church, where she was venerated, are still to be seen there.
Alcfrith's patron saints were St. John the Divine and St. John the Baptist, represented by two of the three emblematic birds on the outside of the tower; the third making a threefold dedication, as was Wilfrith's custom, being St. Peter, Wilfrith's usual dedication of his churches. There is also the sun-dial, linking this with Wilfrith's well-known church at Warnford in Hampshire, and another at Corhampton, in the same county. The Barnack style of architecture resembles Wilfrith's Northumbrian churches.
Mr. Irvine thinks that Barnack owes its origin to the same founder as Earls Barton tower in this county, viz. : Waltheof, Siward's son, who was married to Judith, the Conqueror’s neice, and who held lands in Barnack. The arguments for this opinion are too lengthy to reproduce here. Professor G. F. Browne, now Bishop of Bristol, visited and carefully studied the church some few years ago; and as a result, wrote me as follows: “It is a most natural explanation that Alcfrith's influence made Wilfrith a landowner in Mercia. On the whole, I should feel surprised if Barnack was not a part of Wilfrith's possessions, and some of its earliest stones a part of Wilfrith's work. I should think the nucleus of the tower is likely to date before the Danish invasions."
As to the second point, open for discussion :
Dr. Argles considered that the sedile in the tower was used as the seat of a local judge, who held a court and administered justice here.
The Rev. Mackenzie Walcot endorsed this opinion, quoting the known ancient use of a portion of Canterbury Cathedral for such a purpose.
Dr. Argles placed in the west window of the tower some good stained glass representing the scene, as he supposed, enacted below. Looking to the existence of the two rough aumbries in the tower, and other considerations, I incline to think that the seat had an ecclesiastical use, and should like to replace the crown of the principal figure in the window above by a mitre. A and B, fig. 6, indicate the work of the Saxon builders.