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English Church Architecture.

 

BERWICK-UPON-TWEED, Holy Trinity (SU 000 532),

NORTHUMBERLAND.

(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Dinantian Subsystem, Alston Formation.)

 

The northernmost parish church in England and one of the very few to have been built during the Commonwealth.

 

This church was erected in its entirety during the early 1650s to the designs of the builder, who, surprisingly enough, was a certain John Young of Blackfriars, London.  The building consists of a five-bay nave with narrow aisles and a short chancel, with the addition of an outer N. aisle and vestry and little octagonal southwest and northwest turrets topped by ogee-pointed connical roofs (as seen in the photograph above).   It is lit by tall, comparatively narrow Palladian windows, with keystones above the round-headed central lights, with the only variation on this theme now to be found in the clerestory where there are no keystones and where alternate windows have square-headed central lights stepped up above the outer pair.*   However, diminutive keystones can be found again in the apices of the one-light bell-openings in the turrets (as shown below left) and there is a predictably more elaborate one above the principal (west) doorway, although this seems to hang from the lintel and be an integral part of that rather than fulfil its proper structural rôle in the arch (as illustrated below right).  The deeply-projecting lintel supports a blank pediment and is supported in turn by a pair of tapering Tuscan columns.

Inside the building, the sparse, clean-cut appearance of the arcades derives partly from the width of the round-headed arches and the slightness of their mouldings, comprising a small hollow and a narrow wave running up to understated keystones, and partly  from the Tuscan piers decorated only with shallow albeit deeply-protruding abaci and very narrow astragals about two inches (5 cm.) below.  All this was was probably much in keeping with the Puritan spirit of the times.  Yet the large pulpit with tester (visible in the interior view of the church below, looking east) is indistinguishable from the hundreds of examples constructed up and down the country during the reigns of James I and Charles I and the obvious conclusion to draw is that the period of the Cromwellian Commonwealth was too short to enable a distinctive style of carpentry to emerge.   Other 'Jacobean' woodwork can be seen in the W. gallery.  Apparently there were also galleries on the north and south sides of the nave when the church was first built. 

* Note howeever that the Northumberland volume of The Buildings of England (Nicholas Pevsner et al, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 1992, p. 171) says that an extant engraving of 1799 shows all the windows in the building were originally of this second type, with square-headed central lights.