windows and North doorway.
There is little else that is Saxon. I must mention, however, the wonderful sculpture of Christ in the north aisle wall. It was found under the floor in 1931. It speaks much of our lack of certainty about church architecture that opinions on its age vary between Saxon (contemporary with the tower) and c13!
There were alterations in around 1150 and a major rebuilding in 1190. The north arcade dates from 1190. It has typical Norman decoration on both arches and capitals but the piers are extraordinarily slim and the entire arcade surprisingly tall for the period. This rebuilding was in the Transitional period between Romanesque and Gothic, but the combination of Norman decoration and tall narrow piers owes itself more to the characteristic loftiness and depth of the original Saxon nave walls than to changing architectural tastes: the new arcade had to fit into the old fabric of the church. The south arcade is about 10 years older. We might have expected Gothic pointed arches at this juncture, but this arcade also has rounded arches either in the interests of symmetry or because the masons had not yet mastered the new-fangled style. Its piers are clustered, however, and the capitals decidedly non-Romanesque - although very unusual. So in every way other than the round arches this is an Early English arcade. Thus with these two arcades we can see the emergence of the Transitional period very clearly demonstrated.
The chancel is c14. Its east window is a delight. The tracery is of unique pattern, with 5 lancets all of which incorporate their own pointed “arches”, subsidiary canopies and crocketing (nobbly decorations!). This window has the beautiful tracery associated with the Decorated style but it is delicate and restrained, thus allowing in a lot of light. It incorporates, indeed, the best features of both Decorated and Perpendicular styles. The sedilia and piscina are superbly ornate and the sedilia are surmounted by devil heads that would have been able to look over the clergy’s shoulders! One sometimes wonders what went through churchbuilders’ heads but we are nevertheless thrilled by their eccentricities!
The Lady Chapel was built in around 1500 replacing a smaller earlier chapel. It too is very fine. There are two unusual tall, crocketed niches either side of the altar. The northern one has a fine sculpture of the “Conception of Christ”. Externally, the chapel has fine decorative balustrading. The south porch is one of several Barnack structures that has you asking “is this really what it seems?”. Built in the early c13 it is quite extraordin
ary with a roof gable that reaches the roofline of the south arcade. It has blind arcading on both sides of its interior which is very typical of this period. What is not typical is its domed ceiling with rib vaulting. To quote the excellent Church Guide (one of the very best, like so much here) “ (it)...seems to have been more than its builder was able to cope with successfully”!
Barnack is an architectural delight. Everything here is exceptionally fine or unusual. Simon Jenkins says “The remainder of the interior (apart from the tower arch) seems not quite under control”. We will just have to agree to differ!