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English Church Architecture -

Hertfordshire.

 

BARLEY, St. Margaret of Antioch (TL 402 384)     (August 2012)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The embattled tower and S. aisle at St. Margaret's are essentially mediaeval (see the photograph above left, taken from the southeast), but everything else is the work of William Butterfield (1814-1900), executed in 1871-2, when his greatest achievements were behind him.  (The photograph above right shows Butterfield's N. aisle and porch from the northeast.)  The tower and S. aisle, constructed of noticeably different admixtures of flint and pebble rubble, must consequently be considered before the church's nineteenth century reconstruction.

 

The true age of the tower is only revealed within, where the arch to the nave proves to be a simple Norman piece, round-arched, entirely unmoulded apart from the chamfered under-edges of the abaci, and cut through a massively thick wall.  Inside the tower, a blocked round-headed S. window with a wide splay can also be seen, about 10' (3m.) from the ground.  So there was a church here from at least c. 1150, though its plan and the tower's original height remain matters for speculation.  The tower rises in three stages today, supported by diagonal buttresses for the first two, to a late fourteenth century bell-stage with bell-openings with straightened reticulated tracery, battlements which step up at the corners, and a quite unnecessary wooden steeple by Butterfield, formed of a sloping, lead-covered lower stage, an open-traceried bell chamber, and a short shingled spire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The S. aisle was originally four bays in length - one bay beside the tower and three alongside the nave.  Thus the S. arcade was three bays long, composed of octagonal piers with prominent moulded capitals and double-flat-chamfered arches with broaches to the outer order.  The distinguishing features are the capitals and the broaches which probably indicate the early fourteenth century.  (See the photograph above left, taken from the southwest corner of the aisle.)  The S. windows are Perpendicular, however, and probably fifteenth century rather than late fourteenth. The central window (of three) is untraceried but the first and the third have supermullioned drop tracery between strong mullions and transoms resting on the cinquefoil-cusped lights, set beneath depressed four-centred arches.

 

Butterfield extended this aisle eastwards for a further bay and what a clumsy job he made of it!  The extension is narrower, giving an ugly break in the wall outside, just a few feet short of where the building narrows again to the S. organ chamber, and he compounded the discord within by a great, uncalled-for increase in height, necessitating an inconsonant meeting of two responds (shown above right, viewed from the S. aisle).  Moreover, the form of this arch and of the similar four-bay N. arcade opposite, are also unhelpful, being neither the same as the old work nor sufficiently different, for Butterfield retains the octagonal section of the piers but alters the arch mouldings by substituting a deep, ungainly hollow for the inner chamfer and inserting a second hollow between the orders.  Thus one begins to suspect this was very much a "bread and butter" job for Butterfield, which was given too little attention.

 

Butterfield faced his new building - composed of a nave with a N. aisle and porch, and a very tall chancel with a S. organ chamber - entirely in knapped flint, which is an unrewarded monument to labour whenever it is executed. The funereal effect here is mitigated to some extent by two continuous stone bands in line with the window sills and the springing level of the window arches, but this remains far from one of Butterfield's happier employments of locally available materials.  The new parts of the building are lit by two-light windows with encircled quatrefoils (or occasionally cinquefoils or sexfoils) in the heads, and in the E. wall of the chancel, by a window formed of three stepped lancets beneath three encircled cinquefoils.  Butterfield makes more of the latter inside than out:  he was never especially interested in window tracery and his windows always appear to have been designed with a view to how they might be decorated to best advantage internally rather than how they might appear outside.  The shallow N. porch has no windows and a large but simple outer doorway carrying a flat chamfer and a wave.  The inner doorway carries a complex series of mouldings above an order of circular shafts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterfield clearly gave more thought to the building's decoration.  His polychromatic arcading round the sanctuary (seen beside the reredos, above left, and where it forms the sedilia in the chancel S. wall, above right) in coloured marbles and tiles, is similar to his later work at St. Mary-in-Castro's, Dover, and his furnishings are simple and felicitous, as exemplified by the nave benches with little open quatrefoils in their backs, choir stalls with trefoiled open arches beneath, a communion rail supported by more open tracery, and a nice matching pair of painted iron candle holders on either side of the sanctuary (illustrated).  Butterfield often lavished particular attention on his fonts and the one here is a restrained but thoughtfully designed piece (below left) which derives its effect from the contrast between two essentially brown stones - the marble of the eight supporting columns and the deep cream block of the square bowl with blank tracery on the sides framed by semicircles.   The Jacobean pulpit (below right) was retained from the old building:  it is distinguished especially by its carved backboard and large tester with hanging pendants. The nave and chancel roofs have wooden vaults with thin applied ribs and additional tracery above the sanctuary.