Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Barrington, Cambridgeshire

The first church on the site of All Saints was a wooden structure erected by the Saxons, and probably burned by the Danes after the battle of Ringmere in 1010. The present building was started in the 12th century, perhaps as an aisleless church, the only remains of which are at the base of the tower arch. The main part of the church was started in the 13th century, constructed of locally quarried clunch ashlar, and field stones. The West half of the North wall of the chancel, both nave arcades and parts of the South aisle date from this period. A century later the remainder of the building, including the tower and clerestory, were added.

After falling into disrepair the building was substantially restored during the second half of the 19th century, although fortunately many of the old features survived the worst ravages of Victorian rebuilding.

You enter the church through the 14th century porch, in a corner of which is the remains of a pre-Reformation holy water stoup. The East wall is all that remains of an early chantry chapel, perhaps destroyed in 1710, which has been replaced by the 19th century vestry. Over the ancient doors can just be made out the Victorian inscription “This is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven" (Gen.28:17).

Perhaps the most interesting part of the tower is the ground floor where you can read Edward Conybeare’s exhortations to the bell ringers. Mr Conybeare was a typical Victorian gentleman who was incumbent between 1871 and 1898. A vicar in the old style, he was responsible for most of the present fittings and ornaments in the church. The unusual seven-branched candlestick by the pulpit is due to him, as also is the interesting lattice-work gate in the Venetian style at the bottom of the rood stair, which was made by the young men of the village under his instruction in 1891.

The 14th century roof of the nave has five bays which have king posts braced to the ridge and arch posts to the wall braces. Three of the apex bosses are of human faces. The corbels are also carved with human and angel figures; often the faces of such figures would be modelled on a relative or acquaintance of the craftsman.

In a spandrel of the South arcade is part of a 15th century wall painting depicting ‘The three living and three dead’, which appears to have been painted over earlier 13th century work. Such paintings were often used to teach the then largely illiterate congregation, and this theme serves to emphasize the emptiness of earthly rank and riches.

The chancel was described in the late 18th century as "very indecent, its seating battered by the schoolboys who were taught there". The pews here were replaced in the last century. At about the same time much of the exterior of the church was covered with Roman cement to protect the soft clunch walls from the weather. The earliest stonework in the chancel is in the West half of the North wall, which has an original 13th century lancet window now set with Victorian glass.

Moving to the South aisle, the first column by the vestry door has an interesting rhyme scratched on the side. Now somewhat difficult to read, the rhyme runs:

Lo fol how the day goeth
Cast foly now to the cok
Rhyt sore tydyth the wroth
It ys almast XII of the clok.

There are several of these old graffiti in the church, including some staves of plainsong on the East splay of the last window of the North aisle.

ALL SAINTS. Quite a big church, at the N end of an unusually large village green; not over-restored The prominent W tower is Early Dec below, but has later stepped battlements EE chancel (one N lancet), remodelled early in the C14 (S window, piscina, chancel arch) and remodelled again late in the same century (E window of five lights) Nave arcade early C14 (five bays, quatrefoil piers with a thin sharp ridge between, arches with small double hollow-chamfer), S aisle windows early C14 and Perp. * Tall Perp S porch with three-light side openings N aisle and two-bay outer N aisle Perp. The outer arcade also clearly Perp. Nave roof of low pitch, big tie-beams with arched braces on stone corbels. Tracery in the spandrels. -FONT. Plain on a Dec base with rather gross traceried panels. - PULPIT. Jacobean with tester. - DOOR in S doorway. Early C14 tracery in the arch-head. - BENCHES. Straight-headed ends, tracery panels on these and backs and fronts. - CHEST, iron-bound. - PLATE. Chalice of 1569; Paten of 1603 (1683 P). - MONUMENT. Sir Richard Bendysh d. 1777, obelisk with military trophy in front; good.

* Cole's drawing at the British Museum has a chancel 13 window of two lights and S aisle windows of C18 shape. Yet the windows in the church do not look like C19 imitation.

All Saints (4)

Grafitti (3)

Three living and three dead (1)

BARRINGTON. There is a window in the church in thankfulness for a happy childhood spent here, and we do not wonder, for it is a charming place, with a stream running past and fields of buttercups. Sheltered on one side by a hill, the village-slopes on the other side to the meadows of the Cam, and has orchards and cottages on both sides of a green half a mile long, with the church at one end and the gables of Barrington Hall just topping the trees. The hall is the home of the Bendyshes, who came to Barrington in the 14th century. Even then they would come into the church by the very door we open, for it has been here 600 years, beautiful with flowing tracery and set in a doorway older than itself, with deep arch mouldings and carved capitals crowning its shafts.

The tower was added 500 years ago by the men who built the north porch, but the fine arcades of the nave, with richly moulded arches and clustered pillars, are 700 years old, with the light falling on them from 15th century clerestories, and crowned by a roof of massive beams and quaint figures. Little faces peep out from walls and arches. Between a pillar of the nave and the 13th century chancel arch is a spiral stairway which led to the old rood loft; the chancel itself is 14th century. There are medieval oak benches, rare for having book-rests so early as the 15th century, a canopied Jacobean pulpit, a font bowl probably Norman, and a wonderful chest latticed all over with sturdy iron bands, in which treasures have been kept for 700 years.

In the back of a niche are painted the names of Barrington’s heroes, among them George Coote, a stoker on the Formidable sunk by a German submarine on the first day of 1915. He was one of six hundred men who went down.


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