English Church Architecture -
BRASSINGTON, St. James (SK 230 544) (June 2013)
(Bedrock: Carboniferous Dinantian Subsystem, Craven Group)
This church has been the victim of several dreadful restorations, and from the outside, could hardly be less appealing. (The view from the west, left, is by far the best.) The N. aisle of 1879-81 (Pevsner) has an almost subterranean character as its addition required an excavation into the hillside to create the necessary space, but that is a minor blemish compared with the crudely reconstructed, rock-faced east end of the chancel, or the ghastly refacing of the rest of the church with large, evenly sized but poorly cut pieces of stone, with a strong resemblance to breeze blocks. One notices the vestiges of Norman features peeping through in the tower (the round arches of the bell-openings and W. window and, perhaps, their central shafts), the badly worn fourteenth century mouldings around the outer and inner doorways of the porch, and the two, two-light Perpendicular windows that comprise the nave clerestory, but one hesitates before taking the trouble to go in.
In fact, the church contains some excellent twelfth century work, including one feature that can claim to be exceptional. The short but massively constructed, three-bay S. arcade is composed of arches of two unmoulded orders rising from circular piers and semicircular responds, with square scalloped capitals to the western pier and eastern respond, and a capital reminiscent of water leaf to the eastern pier – a stylistic turn probably sufficient to indicate a date around 1180 or later. (This pier together with the eastern arch of the arcade are illustrated below left, photographed from the northwest.) It is altogether a fine, forthright example of Norman workmanship, but not as remarkable as the two-bay arcade between the chancel and S. chapel (shown below right, viewed from the northeast), this time with arches of a single order supported on an octagonal central pier with a “coarse crocket capital” (Pevsner’s description). So a chapel existed here by 1200 at the latest. The taller round-headed tower arch must be broadly contemporary and is formed of one plain order, interrupted only by slightly projecting abaci with chamfered under-edges. The neo-Norman N. arcade with black marble columns and leaf capitals is agreeable enough, the work, apparently, of F.J. Robinson of Derby (1833-92).