Saxon Architecture

Saxon Architecture.

The buildings of the Anglo-Saxons were usually of wood, rarely of stone until the 11th century, and consequently we must not expect to find any great number of remains. The only dated examples of this style are about the middle of the 11th century, as at Deerhurst, Gloucestershire; with the exception of some slight remains at the mouth of the Tyne, which are of an earlier and distinct character, and Brixworth, which is possibly Roman work restored. The style agrees in many respects with that of the 11th century on the Continent, where the work has not been ornamented with sculpture in the 12th, as has been very frequently the case. There are, however, some peculiarities about the buildings of this class which entitle them to the name of the Anglo-Saxon style, or, more correctly, perhaps, the primitive English style; for it has been observed that they are far more numerous in the Danes' land, or the eastern counties, than in other parts of England. In the neighborhood of Lincoln and Gainsborough almost all the old country churches partake of this character. It has also been observed that the earlier examples are more like the work of carpenters than of masons. Such a tower as that of Earl's Barton, for instance, has all the appearance of being copied from a wooden tower, and this may very probably have been the case. Ordericus Vitalis, who lived in the 11th century, mentions that Siward, the cousin of Edward the Confessor, built a wooden church at Shrewsbury, which was used as the parish church. This is material evidence, considering that it was built by a royal prince in a town of so much importance. This church was existing in 1082, when a stone church was commenced by the father of Ordericus Vitalis, who records these facts. It is not improbable that these primitive English churches may be among the earliest stone churches of Western Europe after the time of the Romans. The Roman art of building had become extinct in all this part of Europe, and almost extinct in Rome itself, by the 10th century, and the most ready models which the English had to copy in the 1lth century were their own wooden churches. It was just at that time that Canute ordered churches to be built of stone and lime in all the places where his father or himself had burned the wooden churches of the Anglo- Saxons.

The class of buildings referred to as being considered to belong to this style contain some rather unusual features. The execution is rude and coarse: the walls are built either of rag or rubble, sometimes partly of herringbone work, without buttresses, and in many cases, if not always, have been plastered on the outside. The quoins are usually of hewn stones placed alternately flat and on end — a kind of construction to which the name "long and short" has been given; the walls are often ornamented externally with flat vertical strips of stone projecting slightly from the surface, resembling wooden framing, generally of the same "long and short" construction as the quoins. On towers there are sometimes several tiers of these, divided from each other by plain strings or bands. Semicircular arches and triangles formed of similar strips of stone are also sometimes used as ornaments; and plain projecting blocks are frequently associated with these, either as imposts, or as bases for the vertical strips which often stand above them. The jambs of doorways and other openings are very commonly of "long and short" work; and when imposts are used, as they generally are, they are usually rude, and often extremely massive, sometimes consisting of plain blocks and sometimes molded. Round the arch there is very often a projecting course occupying the situation of a hood molding, which sometimes stops upon the imposts, but more frequently runs down the jambs to the ground, forming a kind of pilaster on each side of the opening. It is usually flat, but is sometimes rounded and occasionally notched on the edges, as at Dunham Magna, Norfolk; in some instances the impost is arranged so as to form a capital to each of these projections on the jambs, and they are sometimes provided with bases either formed of plain blocks or rudely molded. The arches are generally plain, but are occasionally worked with rude and massive moldings, as the chancel arch at Wittering Church, Northamptonshire; some arches are constructed with bricks (probably all of them taken from some Roman building, as at Brixworth) or thin stones, and these usually have a course of stones or bricks laid upon the top of the arch, as at Britford Church, Wiltshire: the arches are always semicircular, but some small openings, such as doors and windows, have pointed or triangular heads formed of two straight stones placed on end upon the imposts, and resting against each other at the top, as at Barnack. The windows are not large, and, when splayed, have often nearly or quite as much splay externally as internally. In belfries and other situations where they do not require to be glazed, they are frequently of two or more lights, divided by small shafts or pillars, which are very usually made like balusters, and encircled with bands of rude moldings. In the old portion of St. Alban's Abbey, erected in the latter half of the 11th century, specimens are seen. These generally have capitals, or imposts, formed of long stones reaching entirely through the wall; in some instances the balusters are oblong in plan, as in the tower of St. Michael's Church, Oxford, and in others two are placed together, one behind the other, in order to give better support to these long capitals.

The whole of these peculiarities are not to be met with in any one building; and in some churches in which several of them are to be found they are associated with other features, evidently original, which so clearly belong to the Norman style as to prove that these buildings are not of Saxon date, as at the churches of Daglingworth, Gloucestershire, and Syston, Lincolnshire. In other instances the lower parts of buildings consist exclusively of this peculiar kind of construction, and are surmounted by pure Norman work which has been raised upon it subsequently to the first erection, as at the tower of Clapham Church, Bedfordshire, and Woodstone, near Peterborough. This last class of buildings appears to preponderate in favor of the Saxon theory; for, although the Norman additions have been observed not to be remarkably early in that style, it is not very probable that so material a change would have been made in the architecture unless a considerable interval had elapsed between the erection of the different parts. Some of the churches in which the peculiarities under consideration are found are clearly Norman (and not early in the style), but it may reasonably be supposed that in many parts of the country the Saxon style would have lingered for a considerable time after the Norman invasion, and would have continued to be employed (with an increasing admixture of Norman features) in buildings erected by native workmen.

The following is a tolerably complete list of examples of the Saxon style:

Bedfordshire — Knotting; Clapham, tower.

Berkshire — Wickham, tower: Cholsey, tower.

Buckinghamshire — Caversfield, tower; Iver; Lavendon, tower, nave, and chancel.

Cambridgeshire — St. Benet's and St. Giles', Cambridge.

Cornwall — Tintagel.

Derbyshire — Repton, east end, and crypt.

Durham — Monks' Wearmouth, tower; Jarrow, walls of church and chancel, and ruins near it.

Essex — Boreham, church; Colchester, Trinity Church, part of the tower, etc.; Felstead, church; Great Maplestead, north door.

Gloucestershire — Daglingworth Church, except the tower; Deerhnrst, tower; Miserden, church; Stretton, north doorway; Upleaden, chancel- arch.

Hampshire — Boarhunt; Corhampton; Headbourne Worthy; Hinton Ampner; Little Sombourn; Kilmeston; Tichborne.

Hertfordshire — St. Michael's, at St. Alban's.

Kent — Dover, part of the ruined church in the Castle; Swanscombe, tower; Knotting.

Leicestershire—Barrow on Soar; Barrow on Tugby.

Lincolnshire — Aukloroneh; Barton on the Humber, St. Peter's, tower; Branston; Caburn; Clee, tower; Holton-le-Clay, tower and chancel-arch; Heapham; Lincoln, St. Peter's at Gowt's; St. Mary-le-Wigford; Nettleton; Ropsley, part of the west end; Rothwell; Scartho; Skellingthorpe; Skillington, part of the church; Springthorpe; Stow, transepts; Swallow; Syston, tower; Waith, tower and chancel-arch: Winterton.

Middlesex — Kingsbury, part of chleurch (now hidden by plastering).

Norfolk — Norwich, St. Julien's; Beeston St. Lawrence; Dunham Magna, church; Elmham, ruins of bishop's palace; Howe; Newton, tower.

Northamptonshire — Barnack, tower; Brigstock, church; Brixworth, church: Earl's Barton, tower; Green's Norton, west end: Pattishall; Stow- nine-churches; Witterington, chancel.

Northumberland — Bolam, tower: Bywell, St. Andrew; Bywell; Corbridge; Hexham, crypt; Ovingham; Whittingham.

Oxfordshire — St. Michael's, Oxford, tower; Northleigh, tower.

Shropshire — Barrow, chancel-arch; Church Stretton; Clee; Stanton Lacey, nave and transept; Stottesdon.

Somersetshire — Cranmore, door-head; Milbourne Port.

Suffolk — Barhaim, part of church; Debenham; Claydon, part of church; Flixton; Gosbeck, part of church; Hemingstone; Ilketshall; Leiston.

Surrey — Albury; Stoke d'Abernon, some portions.

Sussex — Bishopstone, church; Bosham, tower; St. Botolph, chancel-arch; Burwash; Sompting, tower; Worth; Yapton.

Warwickshire — Wooten Wawen, substructure of tower.

Wiltshire — North Burcombe, east end; Brytford, north and south doors; Bremhill, west end; Somerford Keynes.

Worcestershire — Wyre Piddle, chancel-arch.

Yorkshire — Bardsey; Kirkdale, west end and chancel-arch; Kirk Homerton Laughton-en-le-Morthen, north doorway; Maltby; Ripon minster, crypt, called Wilfred's Needle; York Cathedral, portion of crypt (Bloxham); York, church of St. Mary, Bishop-hill Junior.

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