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English Church Architecture -



BARTLOW, St. Mary (TL 586 452)     (August 2003)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


The most interesting feature here is the round tower (shown left) which is one of only two in Cambridgeshire and only thirteen to be found anywhere in the country outside the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The other Cambridgeshire example is at Snailwell, where the work is Norman, but here, pace Pevsner, the tower is essentially a thirteenth century piece, albeit with a few fourteenth century modifications (although Stephen Hart, writing in The Round Church Towers of England, Lucas Books, 2003, attempts to address the questions posed by ascribing the whole tower to "late in the Early English period").  The bell-openings are part of the original work and consist of single lancets, but the two-light W. window is Decorated in style and probably an insertion, while the tower arch with its sunk quadrant moulding on the inner order and two small hollow chamfers on the outer, although apparently constructed with the tower in its basic structure, seems likely to represent a fourteenth century remodelling of an arch that may once have been similar to the surviving chancel arch.  This has two continuous flat chamfers round the arch and down the jambs, whereas while the tower arch also lacks capitals and has jambs similarly treated, these pass at the springing level into the mouldings described above - an unusual arrangement, not entirely convincing as the original form.


St. Mary's church as a whole is constructed of flint with limestone dressings, and apart from the tower, consists of a nave with a N. porch and a chancel with a cross-gabled S. vestry.  The nave and chancel are largely Decorated in style, albeit with some Perpendicular insertions.  Windows are mostly renewed but have two lights and curvilinear tracery except for the chancel E. window which has three lights and supermullioned tracery.  The S. doorway and inner and outer doorways to the N. porch have Perpendicular profiles and are set in square surrounds with traceried spandrels.  The vestry is Victorian.


The church contains only one significant item of carpentry, namely the communion rail, which is a nice seventeenth century piece with turned balusters.  However, on entering the church, the wall paintings are most immediately striking, even though they have become very faded and discoloured.  Above the N. doorway, the remains of a St. George and the dragon can be seen, with just the dragon now visible (see the photrograph below left), while opposite, it is possible to make out the outline of St. Michael weighing souls on the right (below right) and St. Christopher carrying the Infant Christ on the left.