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 English Church Architecture.


MIDDLEHAM, St. Mary & St. Alkelda  (SE 127 878),


(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Dinantian Subsystem, Liddesdale Group.)


The parish church of one of the Yorkshire Dales' finest large villages.



St. Alkelda is a legendary Saxon princess, allegedly murdered by the Vikings c. 800.  In truth, however, she probably never existed for it seems likely that her name is merely a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon for 'healing spring' (see Wikipedia).  This is one of two churches dedicated to her, the other being at Giggleswick.  


Middleham church consists of a chancel, aisled nave, S. porch and W. tower;  the S. aisle continues part-way alongside the chancel to form a S. chapel and a Victorian extension of the N. aisle provides an organ chamber and vestry.  This apart, the building is otherwise partly Decorated and partly Perpendicular, with one of the earliest features, the S. chapel E. window (seen in the photograph of the church above, viewed from the southeast), with its trefoil-cusped lights and trefoils in rounded triangles above.  As Pevsner has pointed out, there are no ogees here, suggesting the work is earlier than c. 1320 (The Buildings of England: Yorkshire North Riding, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1966, p. 245).  The S. window, in contrast, must surely come later, as shown by its two ogee-pointed lights and elongated quatrefoil above.  The porch inner doorway may go with the E. window, with its narrow mouldings at the sides and its flat-chamfered arch, as must then also the damaged panel depicting the Crucifixion, above the apex.  (See the photograph below.)  



Inside the building, the four-bay aisle arcades carry one wide and one narrower flat chamfer, supported on wide octagonal piers with rather slight capitals.  There are no responds at either end, where the arcades die into the walls.  (See the N. arcade, below left, viewed from the west.)  The chancel arch is similar except that here, the inner order does continue down the jambs, and there is a similar arch between the chancel and  S. chapel.  The most important Perpendicular contribution to the building is obviously the W. tower, which rises to battlements, supported by diagonal buttresses and undivided by string courses.  The bell-openings are two-light and there is a three-light supermullioned window in the W. wall.  That the stair is housed in the southwest angle, is betrayed by the little rectangular openings which light it through the S. wall.  Features contemporary with the tower most probably include the windowless S. porch and the square-headed aisle windows, nave clerestory windows, and window in the S. wall of the sanctuary (i.e. beyond the chapel).  


The church contains few furnishings of note but the one exception is the very fine Perpendicular font canopy (above right), about three metres tall (10' or 3 m.), rising in three stages of elaborately carved and painted openwork, with crocketed gables to the second and third stages and ogee-pointed cinquefoil-cusped openings to the lower stage.   The octagonal font beneath, in contrast, is a poor plain thing, supported on an equally plain octagonal stem.