Monday, July 23, 2012

St Peter, Barton upon Humber

click photo to enlarge
When I was studying the history of architecture the church shown above was invariably the second most cited example of an English Anglo-Saxon (Romanesque) parish church, after Earl's Barton, Northamptonshire. Other churches of this period were sometimes illustrated and discussed, particularly the examples at Brixworth (Northamptonshire), Sompting (Sussex), Stow (Lincolnshire), Escomb and Monkwearmouth (Durham) and Greensted (Essex), but the two "Bartons" were the most frequently chosen exemplars. These two buildings perhaps best illustrate the widest range of characteristics of Anglo-Saxon architecture: simple, rounded arched windows often with baluster shafts; triangular headed windows; small, splayed, circular windows; mid-wall shafts with arched and zig-zag bands; corner lesenes (long and short work); very narrow chancel and tower arches, and crudely formed arched- or pointed-headed doorways with large lumps of stone in place of classical elements. Barton upon Humber also shows the simple, three-cell plan with axial tower derived from Byzantine precedents.

The current arrangement of St Peter's, Barton upon Humber, is two thirds of  the original Anglo-Saxon church with a large medieval addition that dwarfs the early work. To see it as it was when first built in the late 900s we have to visually remove the top stage of the tower (late eleventh century). We must also remove the mass of building to the east of the tower (mid fourteenth and fifteenth century) and in its place imagine a chancel no bigger than the baptistery/porticus we see on the west of the tower (the left of the photograph). This small building, the base of the tower serving as the nave, lasted unchanged for probably less than a hundred years. A larger eastward extension with an apsidal-ended chancel was built in the late eleventh century. This was swept away for a bigger nave and chancel in the twelfth century. However, this too lasted a mere hundred or so years before the present structure was built.

St Peter no longer functions as a parish church and is in the care of English Heritage, a body who through their excavations and renovations have discovered much about the life of this venerable building. However, the parochial needs of the small town are not neglected because a few hundred feet away from St Peter's stands St Mary's, Barton upon Humber's second medieval church. It is reasonably common to find more than one ancient church in an English town, but it is most unusual in a settlement as small as Barton upon Humber.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/640 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.00 EV
Image Stabilisation: On