BRADFORD-ON-AVON, St. Laurence (ST 824 609),
(Bedrock: Middle Jurassic, Forest Marble Formation.)
An almost complete, late Saxon church, dating from the early eleventh century.
This little eleventh century building, situated immediately north of the town's parish church, is believed to have replaced a still earlier one, erected by St. Aldhelm, who died in 709. Constructed of what Sir Alfred Clapham considered to be the best example of Anglo-Saxon ashlar masonry anywhere in England (English Romanesque Architecture Before the Conquest, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1930, p. 108) (discounting the W. wall, which was rebuilt in 1875 - Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Wiltshire, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2002, p. 130), it consists today of a very small nave and chancel, both taller than they are wide, and a porticus adjoining the centre of the nave N. wall, although a gable-line in the corresponding position to the south, shows there was once a porticus here also. The accent on height in the building's external appearance is enhanced by its division into stages by wide string courses, some two-thirds of the way up in the case of the chancel and N. porticus, and about a half and three-quarters of the way up in the case of the nave. The lowest stage is everywhere blank, except for the intervention of broad lesenes which 'partake more of the nature of buttresses than in most other examples [of similar date]' (English Romanesque Architecture Before the Conquest, p. 110), but the second stage is decorated with pilaster strips supporting blank, round arches, replete with capitals and bases - a very unusual conceit. Moreover, along the E. wall of the building, the pilaster strips give way to vertical mouldings formed of three demi-rolls (see the photograph, above right, showing the southeast angle of the chancel), suggesting the mason-in-charge had rudimentary knowledge of more advanced work abroad, albeit the windows, high up in the first stage and few and far between, are rather wider in relation to their height than typical Norman windows of half a century or so later. The N. and S. doorways into the nave, in contrast (from the N. porticus (as illustrated below left) and the former S. porticus), are both very narrow, as is the external door into the N. porticus and the all-important chancel arch to the nave (shown below right), formed of two, slightly recessed, unmoulded orders, which provides the focus of visual attention within.
These are the principal features to examine, and there are few others, but notice also, high up above the chancel arch, two floating angels (illustrated below) that seem originally to have had a (wooden?) crucifix between. Sir Alfred Clapham considered the details of these carvings placed them 'clearly in the post-Danish period' - i.e. shortly after 1042 (English Romanesque Architecture Before the Conquest, pp. 137-138).