Saturday, 24 March 2012

Barton, Cambridgeshire

St Peter plays host to a collection of rather dilapidated wallpaintings which, although very faded, still hold a wealth of interest. As well as the paintings there's a fine rood screen, a nice brass dating to 1593 and much else of interest, On top of that it's a lovely building in a fantastic location.

Pevsner is rather less enamoured: ST PETER. Of brown rubble, aisleless. The W tower E.E., the rest too much restored to be of particular interest. The window tracery, renewed correctly (see the Cole and Relhan drawings), points to the late c I3 and early c 14. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with blank arcading of the stem and plain bowl. - ROOD SCREEN. Traces of colour on the dado. One light openings with thickly cusped and crocketed ogee arches and little tracery above. - PULPIT. Dated 1635. The tester (with pendants) preserved. The decoration of the bowl characteristic of the date, i.e. no longer Jacobean, and not yet classical. - WALL PAINTINGS. Too defaced to be a pleasure to the eye. N wall of nave above the doorway Weighing of the Souls. Also St Christopher, St Anthony and the Pig, St John and the Lamb. On the S wall Last Supper below another representation. Above the S door Annunciation. - BRASS John Martin d. 1593 and wife, 8 in. figures (Chancel floor).

John Martin 1593 (1)

Wallpainting  north wall

Wallpainting St George (2)

BARTON. It has in its 14th century church a very interesting collection of wall-paintings, long hidden under whitewash before they were uncovered a generation ago. They are simple pictures in red, some clear and others hard to make out, telling the stories of the Bible and the saints in the way medieval folk could understand. Adorning the south doorway is the Annunciation, and two scenes on the south wall show the Last Supper and what is thought to be the Baptism in Jordan, with bare legs showing in the water. Over the north door we see St Michael weighing a soul, with the kindly Virgin laying her rosary in the scale to help the poor sinner, while a demon sitting on the other scale is being attacked by a knight with a lance. Beside the doorway is Bishop Cantelupe who died in 1282 and was canonised as St Thomas of Hereford, and farther west is the Madonna crowned, with the Holy Child. John the Baptist is here with the Lamb in his upraised hand, and near him a horseman with birds and a dog; and there is a scene of St Anthony with his hog, reminding us that he was the patron saint of the Hospitallers, who, when others had to keep their pigs confined, had the privilege of letting theirs run loose with bells round their necks.

The oldest possessions of the church are a Norman piscina and a Norman font, the font framed by a beautiful tower arch. There is a fine canopied pulpit of 1635, a good Jacobean chair, and a 15th century screen rich with tracery, heraldry, and foliage. Two tiny brass portraits on the chancel floor show John Martin and his wife in Elizabethan costume.

Fragments of pottery found hereabouts take the story of Barton back to the New Stone Age. The Romans brought their Akeman Street this way, and where the Bourn Brook ripples by it about a mile away is a stretch of greensward where men who were to be archers at Crecy and Poitiers bent their bows in practice. It is a hundred yards wide and a third of a mile long, and in those days many villages had such a range as this.

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