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English Church Architecture -



LITTLE BARRINGTON, St. Peter (SP 209 128)     

(February 2001, revised April 2008)   (Bedrock: Lower Jurassic, Dyrham Formation)


This church (shown above, from the southeast) consists of a chancel, a nave with a N. aisle and S. porch, and a northwest tower, but the important point is that the earliest work, which is Norman-Transitional, includes the base of the tower, and this would be such an unusual place for a tower in those days that, with the additional evidence inside of the three later niches for statuettes beside the window in the aisle E. wall (shown below left), David Verey argued the aisle was probably constructed on the site of the original nave (The Buildings of England: Gloucestershire Cotswolds, edition published by Penguin, 1970).  The tower would then have been in the usual (west) position and the niches would have provided for the common practice at the time of placing a statuette of the Virgin and Child on the left hand (north) side of the E. window and another of the patron saint opposite it on the right, for since a dedication to St. Peter alone was traditionally rare, so the two niches on the right could imply an earlier dedication to St. Peter and St. Paul. This seems quite a persuasive argument, though Alan Brooks has since cast doubt on it (in The Buildings of England: Gloucestershire Cotswolds, 2nd edition, published by Yale University Press, 2002).  Pursuing David Verey's theory, the narrow width of the nave would itself have provided a perfectly sufficient reason for a new nave and chancel to be built to the south, about a hundred and fifty years later.  The S. doorway to this later nave is in the Norman style, admittedly, but it is so heavily restored, it is hard to know if any of it is genuine, never mind whether it is in situ.


The church has a couple of surviving late Norman features of interest, however, of which the first is a tympanum re-set in the aisle N. wall, depicting Christ ministered by angels (illustrated at the foot of the page): after more than eight centuries exposed to the elements, it is, not surprisingly, much worn, but sufficient detail survives to show the artist took considerable pains over the draperies around the figures and the feathers of the angels' wings.  Then, inside the church, there is the two-bay arcade, composed of very wide round arches of two orders bearing a stopped flat chamfer on each, springing from scalloped capitals on top of very short, circular piers.  Presumably if David Verey is correct about the building’s history, this once communicated with a former S. aisle, still narrower than the original nave.


Finally, the aisle E. window (right) itself deserves description.  Now Perpendicular and transomed, this has two cinquefoil-cusped ogee lights below the transom and four cinquefoil-cusped, two-centred lights above, subarcuated in pairs.  It shows a degree of urbanity that seems almost out of place in this otherwise rather rustic building.