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 English Church Architecture.


HOGNASTON, St. Bartholomew  (SK 236 506),


(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Dinantian Subsystem, Craven Group.)


A church largely rebuilt by F.J. Robinson of Derby in 1879-81,

which retains an extraordinary Norman S. doorway.

Save only for the squat but very broad W. tower, this church was almost entirely rebuilt in the late nineteenth century, but the one feature that was allowed to remain was certainly a significant one – the twelfth (or, perhaps, late eleventh) century S. doorway inside the porch, with chevron round the arch, a sparse adaptation of beakhead decorating the single order of shafts, and a carved tympanum (illustrated below) displaying one of those extraordinarily incompetently arranged scenes of which only the Normans were capable.  Portrayed in shallow relief, the subject is probably intended to represent the Agnus Dei (Nikolaus Pevsner & Elizabeth Williamson, The Buildings of England: Derbyshire, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2002, p. 245), but the figure is exceptionally naïve, and the animals that float around it, are equally badly drawn and appear to include a cow and a pig to the left, and a horse and a couple of birds to the left (but the writer of the notes in the church thought he saw a wild boar, fox, wolf and lamb).  Presumably, such crude iconography appeared satisfactory to the artist and many of his fellow villagers.  The wooden door beneath is probably contemporary, formed of four vertical boards outside and nine horizontal boards within.



The tower rises in three short stages and is Early English (thirteenth century) in the lower two, both of which are lit by lancets to the north and south, and Perpendicular (probably fifteenth century) in the third, with little two-light rectangular bell-openings on every side and surmounting battlements and pinnacles.  Its best feature is the tower arch to the nave (below left), composed of three unmoulded orders, interrupted at the springing level by abaci with chamfered under-edges: the date seems unlikely to be later than c. 1250.


The rest of the building is attributed to F.J. Robinson of Derby (1833-92), who was also responsible for the N. aisle at Brassington, about three miles to the north.  He fulfilled his contract with tolerable success there, notwithstanding the gross mistreatment the church had received (or would later receive) from other, less competent hands.  Here, however, the work is consistently inventive and well designed, but is it actually Robinson’s work, for Pevsner recorded that before Robinson undertook the job in 1879-81, George Edmund Street had provided a design that was subsequently rejected and Robinson’s pulpit (above right) and reredos, in particular, decorated with protruding hemispheres of polished marble, are astonishingly reminiscent of Street’s designs at Denstone, Staffordshire, ten miles to the southwest.  Whether an element of plagiarism has crept in, therefore, must be an open question, but there are certainly some interesting touches.  The N. aisle (there is no S. aisle) is independently-gabled and continues alongside the chancel as a chapel, and the eastern section of that chapel, which serves its sanctuary, is divided from the rest by a little two-bay, transverse arcade (seen below left, looking north-northeast from the chancel) – a rare conceit in a building of this size.  The pier at the S. end actually forms part of a double pier as it is 'fused' to the easternmost pier of the west/east arcade Finally, Robinson’s treatment of the rere-arches to the windows is also nicely varied, and his tiling patterns on the chancel floor are excellent.  (See the photograph below right, showing the central aisle through the chancel, looking west.)