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English Church Architecture -



BAGENDON, St. Margaret (SP 012 067)   (March 2015)

(Bedrock: Middle Jurassic, Upper Inferior Oolite)

This is another of those small country churches that appear of little or no architectural significance until one takes the trouble to explore inside.  It consists of a short chancel and nave, a small W. tower rising in three diminutive stages to a helm roof, a narrow independently-gabled N. aisle, and a humble S. porch and cross-gabled Victorian N. vestry, and is fenestrated entirely by undistinguished Perpendicular windows - variously square-headed or four-centred and frequently restored or renewed.  (See the photograph above, taken from the southeast.)  The church guide describes the two lower stages of the tower as Norman although there is nothing outside to back this judgement up:  the bell-openings consist of just two little rectangles in each side and the other few openings that penetrate the structure are either similar or, in the case of the S. wall, form tiny one-light windows with just the hint of an ogee point.  The porch has a very spread outer doorway bearing a flat and a hollow chamfer, and no windows at the sides.


None of this, therefore, prepares one for the discovery of the the small but heavily built Norman arcade between the nave and N. aisle, formed of three very solid double-flat-chamfered round arches, supported on wide circular piers and semicircular responds.  It is broadly commensurate with the later twelfth century but how may one account for the change in design along its length?  The west respond and western pier have scalloped capitals of a sort, albeit the scallops are only developed below the capitals, leaving their perimeters a perfect semicircle and circle.  (See the photograph above, showing the arcade from the southwest, with the western pier in the front.)  The eastern pier is different and although it has been badly hacked about, perhaps to accommodate a former parclose screen around the east end of the aisle, the capital is deeper (i.e. from top to bottom) and displays scallops and arrow heads carved in low relief.  Above it, a primitive head label stop faces out towards the nave.


The round tower arch is Victorian and the jambs supporting it are difficult to date.  They could be Norman but the remains of a blocked lancet above the arch, which must once have looked through to the nave, suggest the wall and the tower are thirteenth century in date.  (See the photograph above left.)  The chancel arch (above right) is four-centred and clearly Perpendicular:  it carries a single wide flat chamfer which continues down the responds, only partially interrupted by the under-sized capitals that fail to extend all the way around.


The chancel is approached up three steps.  The more westerly S. window has a lowered sill to create a sedilia, and further to the east, a recess in the S. wall of the sanctuary proves, on inspection, to be an aumbrey rather than a piscina, as it has no drainage hole.  The church contains no furnishings of note, either in the chancel or elsewhere. The round font is Norman but unmoulded, both on the bowl and the stem.