An introduction to Anglo-Saxon architecture and sculpture

362 35 9MB

English Pages [152]

Report DMCA / Copyright


Recommend Papers

An introduction to Anglo-Saxon architecture and sculpture

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview



BOOKS THAT MATTER Published in the United States of America in ig$g by Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., Publishers, 1$ West 47 Street, New York 36, N.Y.

© 1959 Ernest Arthur Fisher

7A 0.

? 7A.


St a 3 1223 02030 1256

Printed in Great Britain



PREFACE This book is an Introduction only. An introductory volume however should introduce a reader not only to the subject about which the book has been written, but to the literature of the subject also. This has been attempted in two ways: by the bibliography at the end of the book, and by numerous footnotes giving references to other publica¬ tions, especially to illustrations easily available elsewhere which cannot be reproduced in this book. In many cases alternative refer¬ ences are given to afford the reader a choice as it were of accessibilities. The book has been written for both the serious student and the general reader. The reader is reminded that the book, with its appara¬ tus of plans, photographs, bibliography and footnotes, is no substitute foi* actually seeing the monuments—churches, bits and pieces re¬ maining in or built into the walls of later churches, standing crosses, sculptured stones and fragments to be found in churches, in museums and sometimes, regrettably, decaying in the open air. The book pro¬ vides a background against which the monuments may be examined, possibly with an added interest, and some help perhaps in suggesting to the reader what to look for when looking at these monuments. ‘Seeing’ is not the same as ‘looking at’. It is hoped the book may help readers to ‘look at’ with discerning eyes and\iot merely to ‘see’ AngloSaxon monuments of the Christian period. The author’s thanks are due and are gladly accorded to the follow¬ ing friends for much helpful comment and criticism: Mr. Bruce Allsopp, B.Arch., F.R.I.B.A., Senior Lecturer in Architecture, King’s College, Newcastle on Tyne (University of Durham); and Dr. George Zarnecki of the Courtauld Institute of Art (University of London). E. A. Fisher

Akeley nr. Buckingham November, lgsy. 7

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The Author’s thanks are due to the following for permission to use copyright material and/or for providing photographs (details are given in the List of Plates): The National Buildings Record; The British Museum; The Guildhall Museum, London; The Derby Museum and Art Gallery Committee; The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, and Dr. George Zarnecki; The Univer¬ sity of Durham School of Architecture, King’s College, Newcastleon-Tyne, and Mr. Bruce Allsopp; The University of Edinburgh and Prof. D. Talbot Rice; The Society of Antiquaries, London; The Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Lon¬ don; The Editor of the Victoria County Histories; The Controller of H.M. Stationery Office, and the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England); The Hampshire Field Club and Archaeo¬ logical Society; The Clarendon Press, Oxford; The Royal Danish Embassy, London, and Mr. Harry Agerbak; Mrs. E. M. Booty; Mrs. P. Bricknell; Mr. W. A. Call, the County Studio, Monmouth; Dr. E. G. M. Fletcher and Mr. E. D. C. Jackson; Mr. Lawrence Stone; Mrs. L. Sumner; Mr. Sidney Toy.







page 21

Historical Background The Commerce in Artistic Thought


Early Architectural Developments


Later Architectural Developments The English Carolingian Period


Characteristics of Saxon Churches Planning

35 35

Towers Walling Wall Plinths Pilaster Strips

35 37 38 38

Quoins Megalithic Quoins Big Stone Work Long and Short Work

39 39 39 39

Arches and Doorways Jambs

40 41

Imposts Strip Work round openings Windows Belfry Openings Baluster Shafts

43 43 44 45 45



Capitals Spherical or Bulbous Capitals Cylindrical Capitals Cubic Capitals Cubiform type Cushion type

page 4^ 46

47 47

47 47

The Saxo-Norman Overlap


Classification of Saxon Architectural Periods


Types of Saxon Churches






Early, or Pre-Danish, Period


Types of Ornament Vine Scrolls Human Figures Birds and Beasts. The Anglian Beast Interlacement Other Geometrical Motifs Later, or Post-Danish, Period

Types of Ornament Scandinavian and Irish Motifs The Jellinge Beast Norse Figures of 8 and Loose Ring Motifs The Great Beast The Twin Beast Motif Types of Sculpture Standing Crosses Straight Armed Crosses The Cross Patee Wheel Headed Crosses t Mercian Type of Crosses 12

66 66 68 68 68 73 76 76 76 76 78 78 78 81 81 81 82 82 83

Contents Decoration on Crosses

page 84

Cross Shafts Cross Heads



Mixture of Pagan and Christian Motifs Sepulchral Slabs Figural and Ornamental Sculpture Architectural Sculpture Sundials Fonts Bibliography Index of Places

85 86


93 95 95 97 IOI


following page 104



Following Page 104 *• Varieties of Interlacement Ornament in Derbyshire. Victoria County Histories; drawing by J. Ramilly Allen. 2.

A., Plan of Brixworth Church. Sidney Toy; from A.

W. Clapham ‘English Romanesque Architecture before the Conquest’. B. Plan of Deerhurst Church. After Clapham, by permission of The Clarendon Press, Oxford. c. Plan of Escomb Church.

3. a. Plan of St. Pancras Church, Canterbury. The Clarendon Press, Oxfordfrom Clapham, op. cit. b. Plan of Bradwell-juxta-Mare Church. The Clarendon Press, Oxfordfrom Clapham, op. cit. c. Plan of Reculver Church. The Clarendon Press, Oxford, from Clapham, op. cit. 4. A. Plan of SS. Peter and Paul Church, Canterbury. The Clarendon Press, Oxford, from Clapham, op. cit. B. Plan of Barton-on-Humber Church. After Clapham, by per¬ mission of The Clarendon Press, Oxford. c. Plan of Bradford-on-A von Church. 5. A. Plan of Breamore Church. Victoria County Histories. B. Plan of Worth Church. Royal Archaeological Institute, from ‘The Archaeological Journal’, Vol. XIII, 1856>, and Sussex Archaeo¬ logical Collections, Vol. VIII, 1856. c. Plan of Great Paxton Church. Controller of H.M. Stationery Office, and Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. Plan of the Saxon Cathedral at North Elmham, Norfolk. Society of Antiquaries, from ‘Antiquaries Journal’, and National Buildings Record. B. Plan of Chickney Church. Controller of H.M. Stationery Office, and Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. c. Plan of Wing Church. Victoria County Histories.

6. A.


Plates 7. Brixworth Church: A. South side. National Buildings Record. b. Detail of S.W. corner. National Buildings Record. 8. Escomb Church: A. Chancel Arch. Mrs. P. Bricknell, and National Buildings Record. b. North Doorway. National Buildings Record. 9. a. Escomb Church, South side. University of Durham, School of Architecture, Kings College, Newcastle-on-Tyne, andB. Allsopp. b. Norwich, St. Mary Coslany Church. National Buildings Record. 10. a. Barnack Church Tower, S. face. W. A. Call. b. Barton-on-Humber, Tower, N. face. National Buildings Record. 11. Earls Barton Church: a. Tower from S.W. W. A. Call. b. Tower, Upper part of S. face. W. A. Call. 12. Earls Barton Church: A. Tower, Middle part of S. face. W. A. Call. b. West doorway. National Buildings Record. Clapham Church, Tower. National Buildings Record. b. Oxford, St. Michael’s Tower. National Buildings Record.

13. a.

14. Monkwearmouth Church: a. Upper part of Tower. University of Durham, School of Archi¬ tecture, and B. Allsopp. b. West Doorway. University of Durham, School of Architecture, and B. Allsopp. 15. a. St. Mildred’s Church, Canterbury; detail. Hampshire Field Cluh and Archaeological Society, and National Buildings Record. B. Brigstock Church; detail of S. face of Tower and nave quoins. Mrs. D. Dohson Hinton, and National Buildings Record. 16. A. Bradford-on-A von Church, N. side. R. Wilkinson. b. Breamore Church, South side. National Buildings Record. 17. a. Bosham Church, base of Chancel Arch Pier. National Buildings Record. b. Great Paxton Church, Columns and Capitals. National Buildings Record. 18. A. Wittering Church, Chancel Arch. National Buildings Record. b. Broughton-by-Brigg Church, Chancel Arch. National Buildings Record. 16

Plates 19.


Hadstock Church, S. Transept Respond. Controller H.M. Stationery Office, and Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. b. Barnack Church, Tower arch. National Buildings Record. 20. Deerhurst Church: A. Interior W. view. W. A. Call. b. Tower, W. face, detail. National Buildings Record. 21.

Deerhurst Church, Animal Head. G. Zarnecki, and Courtauld Institute of Art. b. Breamore Church, S. wing. Mrs. D. Dobson Hinton, and National Buildings Record. Worth Church: A. Interior E. view. Mrs. L. Sumner, and National Buildings Record. b. Apse, exterior. National Buildings Record. c. Nave window openings. National Buildings Record. a. Wing Church, Apse exterior. W. A. Call. b. Corhampton Church, Sundial. National Buildings Record. a. Brigstock Church, Interior door to Stair Turret. National Buildings Record. B. Monkwearmouth Church, Baluster Shafts. B. Allsopp. a. Sompting Church, Tower. Mrs. L. Sumner, and National Buildings Record. B. Eyam Cross Shaft. National Buildings Record.


23. 24.





Bewcastle Cross Shaft, W. face. Courtauld Institute of Art. b. Bewcastle Cross Shaft, S. face. Courtauld Institute of Art. c. Acca’s Cross, Hexham. B. Allsopp.







Nunnykirk Cross Shaft. Edinburgh University, from Baldwin Brown s‘Anglo-Saxon Sculpture. b. Sheffield Cross fragment. British Museum.

Norbury Cross Shaft. National Buildings Record. b. Jedburgh Slab. Edinburgh University, from Baldwin Brown, op. cit. 29. a. Otley Cross. National Buildings Record. b. Ilkley Cross. National Buildings Record. b.


A. b.


Newent Cross Shaft. National Buildings Record. Collingham Cross Shaft. National Buildings Record. Gosforth Cross. National Buildings Record. Stapleford Cross Shaft. National Buildings Record.

Breedon-on-the-Hill Slab, Anglian Beasts. National Buildings Record. b. Levisham Grave Slab. National Buildings Record.




Plates 33.

34. 35. 36.

37. 38. 39. 40.

41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46.



Breedon-on-the-Hill Slab, Great Beast. National Buildings Record. b. Middleton Cross. Lawrence Stone. a, b, c. Cross from St. Alkmund, Derby. Derby Museum and Art Gallery Committee. Jellinge Rune Stone. Royal Danish Embassy, London, and H. Agerbak. a. Ramsbury Cross fragment. National Buildings Record. b. Colerne Cross fragment, detail. Edinburgh University, from Baldwin Brown, op. cit. c. Heysham Hogback Grave Slab. Edinburgh University, from Baldwin Brown, op. cit. a. Wirksworth, Grave Slab. National Buildings Record. b. Bexhill, Grave Slab. National Buildings Record. a. Viking Grave Slab. Guildhall Museum, London. B. Pelta Ornament. National Buildings Record. a. Bibury Grave Slab. British Museum. B. Drawing of Bibury Grave Slab. British Museum. a. Castor Tympanum. National Buildings Record. B. Langford Church Porch and Crucifixion Panels. G. Zarnecki, and Courtauld Institute. A. Romsey Abbey Rood. W. A. Call. B. Romsey Abbey Crucifixion. W. A. Call. A. Barnack Church, Christ in Majesty. National Buildings Record. b. Bristol Cathedral, Christ Panel. W. A. Call. A. Daglingworth Church, Crucifixion Panel. W. A. Call. b. Deerhurst Church, Angel in Apse. W. A. Call. a and B. Bradford-on-Avon Church, Angels. W. A. Call. Hedda’s Stone, Peterborough Cathedral. Society of Antiquaries, from ‘Archaeologia’. a. Breedon-on-the-Hill, Figural Slab. National Buildings Record. b. Peterborough Cathedral, Figural Slab. National Buildings Record. a. Fletton Church, Figural Slab. Controller H.M. Stationery Office, and Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. b. Castor Church, Figural Slab. G. Zarnecki, and Courtauld Institute of Art. A. Potterne Church, Font. W. A. Call. b. Little Billing Church, Font. W. A. Call. c. Melbury Bubb Church, Font. Mrs. E. M. Booty, and National Buildings Record. D. Deerhurst Church, Font. National Buildings Record. 18 A.


' The Saxons, capable ... of artistic work of the highest value in decorative carving and metal work, in the ornamenta¬ tion of books, and in textiles, had not been gifted with the true architectural sense, and their work is restless and uncertain. It was however in many respects vigorous work, and this very restlessness led to a multiplication of forms that... attract and even rivet attention, though they may leave us at the end puzzled and unsatisfied.’ G.

Baldwin Brown,

Anglo-Saxon Architec¬

ture, 1925, p. 379. 'Hardly ever before or since has a national culture been so easily, so rapidly or so completely submerged as was the Anglo-Saxon in the last thirty years of the eleventh cen¬ tury. .. .by the time the last entry of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was penned the last trace of Saxon art or archi¬ tecture had disappeared. The completeness of the change is evidence ... of a lack of vitality in the native art... ; the Saxon spirit was an uncreative one, which required from time to time an infusion of fresh ideas to galvanize it into activity* A. W. Clapham, English Romanesque Archi¬ tecture after the Conquest, 1934, p. !•

ARCHITECTURE: INTRODUCTORY Although Saxon churches and sculpture have been with us for / \ more than a thousand years, some indeed for longer than thir-


\.teen hundred, they are none the less a comparatively modern

discovery. Thomas Rickman,1 in the first edition of his famous book published in 1817, doubted if there were any Saxon churches. In his third edition of 1835 he gave a list of twenty; in the fifth edition,2 revised and published in 1848 after his death, the number had grown to 104. Baldwin Brown3 in 1925 gave an annotated list of 23 8. There were two main reasons for this apparent, though temporary, disappearance of one of our most cherished and characteristic national possessions. 1. Some of the smaller churches had become incor¬ porated in larger buildings, sometimes of a secular character; for example the attractive little church at Bradford-on-Avon (Wilts), and Duke Odda’s chapel at Deerhurst (Glos), formed parts of dwelling houses and their existence was unknown for centuries. 2. Many of the churches throughout the centuries had been transformed out of all recognition by additions and reconstructions such as N. and S. aisles, porches, W. towers, new and larger chancels, large mediaeval win¬ dows, new roofs often of different type from the original—so that sometimes nothing recognizably Saxon may be left except portions of walling or quoin or a carved fragment built into a wall where it obviously does not belong. A third reason which undoubtedly delayed the search for Saxon architectural remains was due to national modesty—or obtuseness: it was thought that our supposedly ‘rude’ Anglo-Saxon ancestors 1 In references to literature in the text and in footnotes names of authors only will, as a rule, be given. Details of the publications will be found in the bibliography at the end of the book. 2 Appendix on Saxon Architecture, pp. i-xl. 3 II, pp. 438-89.

Architecture could not have produced anything fine in architecture or sculpture; so, any piece of really early good work in either, which could not be specifically dated, was attributed vaguely to the twelfth century. A. W. Clapham’s statement1—‘It is often assumed that Saxon architec¬ ture was a poor stunted growth, without the seeds of expansion, and that we owe to the Normans our rescue from an artistic stagnation out of which it was vain to hope for salvation’—represents fairly accu¬ rately the climate of opinion on this matter up to the early years of the nineteenth century. Clapham’s further statement1 that ‘in the minor arts the Norman Conquest was little short of a catastrophe, blotting out alike a good tradition and an accomplished execution, and setting in its place a semi-barbaric art which attempted little and did that little ill’, would have been unthinkable a hundred years ago. 1 Op. cit.,

(a) p. 77.




axon church architecture and sculpture cannot be properly understood or fully appreciated, even aesthetically, except against a background of history. Moreover the historical back¬ ground is not that of the local history of the particular area or period, but the cultural history of all those areas of the world from which artistic influences have proceeded; influences which have followed certain cultural (which have often coincided with trade) routes at various times, and have in due course reached this country and col¬ lectively have played an immense part in making Saxon architecture the cultural entity it was and to some extent, for most of it has dis¬ appeared, still is. This does not mean that it was purely eclectic, as much early Carolingian architecture certainly was, made up of those bits and pieces of ideas from other nations which appealed most to the Saxons and then, as it were, strung together to form a building. The very contrary was the case. Although most of the ideas which were to form Saxon architecture were foreign to the Saxons (the very idea of building in stone was foreign to them), yet these ideas were eventually assimilated and the art of building in stone, instead of wood, so thor¬ oughly mastered that Saxon architecture evolved into a single national style, clearly distinct from that of Merovingian Gaul or Carolingian France or Ottoman Germany or Lombard Italy, the nearest neigh¬ bours from whom ideas were borrowed. This commerce in artistic thought becomes increasingly evident the more closely one studies the buildings and the sculpture. At the same time, the buildings themselves grow in interest the more this com¬ merce of thought through the ages is studied and converted into a his23

Architecture torical background against which the development of the architec¬ tural or artistic style can be viewed. This historical background can be sketched only very slightly here.1 How vital these foreign cultural influences were is seen from the fact that the Saxons brought with them to this country their own tradi¬ tional methods of building in timber. They made little or no use of the stone buildings they found here, even those left empty by displaced local populations. They preferred to build their own timber settle¬ ments on other sites. They had indeed no word for building in stone: to build was timbran, i.e. to carpenter; one who builds a monastery or church, and normally rendered constructor in the Latin of Bede, would be timbrendin Anglo-Saxon. The earliest stone churches in this country (i.e. built after the depar¬ ture of the Romans), those founded by St. Augustine and his im¬ mediate successors in Kent a.d. 597 to c. 630 and the rather later ones of Benedict Biscop in Co. Durham and of Wilfrid at Hexham, Ripon and York c. a.d. 675 to c. 700, were built in foreign styles by imported foreign masons. Clapham2 writes \ . . there is no evidence of Saxon building in any other material than timber before the arrival of St. Augustine’s mission, and consequently any building undertaken by that mission in any other material must have been the work of imported masons from either Gaul or Italy’, and, ‘whoever built these churches, it was not the native Saxon’.3 The churches of Kent were built by masons trained in the Italo-Byzantine tradition of Italy of that period. Seventy years later more definitely Byzantine and East Mediterranean influences were brought in by Theodore of Tar¬ sus, Archbishop of Canterbury a.d. 668-90, and his companion the monk Hadrian. Hadrian established a scriptorium at Canterbury famous for centuries after for its MS. illuminations. This has import¬ ance in view of the fact that book illuminations were throughout the earlier Middle Ages, i.e. up to the beginning of the thirteenth century, a fruitful and common source of motifs for the sculptor. As to the early northern group of churches, Bede records that Bene1 For more detailed treatment see the following: Brondsted, J., especially Section III, pp. 304-32; Crawford, S. J.; Dawson, Christopher, bot Rice, D., (a) pp. 1-47; (b) Parts I and III. 2 Op. cit.,

(a), p. 25.

3 24

(a) and (b); Levison, W.; Tal¬

Ibid., p. $1.

Historical Background: The Commerce in Artistic Thought diet Biscop brought masons from Gaul, as well as glaziers, to build his churches more Romanorum, i.e. after the manner of the Romans, i.e. in stone. The same expression—more Romanorum—was used in nor¬ thern Gaul of building methods in the southern .part of the country, so the ultimate source of inspiration of Biscop’s masons was probably Roman, though of an earlier period than the Italo-Byzantine of Augustine, since Provence and the Rhone Valley had been strongly romanized from the time of Julius Caesar onwards. Moreover Bene¬ dict Biscop made at least five journeys to Rome and brought back ideas and treasures. There was also a strong Scoto-Celtic tradition in the north derived from Aidan’s mission at Lindisfarne which was reflected in some striking differences between the northern and southern groups of churches. Saxon stone architecture was therefore an art developed de novo under foreign influences. These cultural contacts with overseas were numerous and intimate and lasted throughout the entire Saxon period. And the Saxons did not only take; they gave even more than they received. For a long period centring about a.d. 700 and for an¬ other long one round about a.d. 1000 they were supreme in Western Europe in sculpture, MS. illumination, textiles, metal work. Further, they succeeded the Irish as the great evangelizers of N.W. Europe. It was Boniface of Devon, in the first half of the eighth century, who converted the Germans and brought them within the pale of Euro¬ pean Christendom, probably, writes Christopher Dawson,1 the most important single influence on the history of Europe that any English¬ man has ever exercised. ‘On the material side Anglo-Saxon civiliza¬ tion was a failure; its chief industry seems to have been the manufac¬ ture and export of saints.’1 These cultural contacts were of varied types. There were diplo¬ matic and marriage relationships between Courts. The German King Otto I, the Great, a.d. 936-73 married a grand-daughter of Alfred the Great. After her death in 946 he married in 951 Adelaide of Bur¬ gundy, the widowed Queen of Italy, and became King of Italy the same year. He was crowned Emperor, the first of the mediaeval line of Holy Roman Emperors, by the Pope in 962 and so began the long connection between Germany and northern Italy throughout the


Op. cit., (tf),pp. 210-11.


Architecture centuries of the Holy Roman Empire. Cultural influences in archi¬ tecture and sculpture spread north from Lombard Italy, particularly after the beginning of the eleventh century, and many Lombard motifs are to be found in western Germany after this time, such as Lombard bands,1 blind arcading and perhaps the cushion capital. Otto’s son, Otto II (a.d. 973-83), married in 959 Theophano, a Byzantine princess from Constantinople. She imported into Germany masons and craftsmen and artists and treasures from Constantinople and, with Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim, established the beginning of that Ottoman school of art and architecture which in turn in¬ fluenced so strikingly Saxon art of the later period (a.d. 870-1100). Then there were religious contacts; not only the missionary activi¬ ties but, more important for the development of Art, contacts between monasteries, including interchange of monks on quite a considerable scale. In this connection it should be noted that the monasteries were pre-eminently the places—indeed, in this period, the only places where books were written and copied and illuminated. Saxon paint¬ ing was predominantly an art of book illumination, an essentially monastic art, and it had great influence on book illumination in western Europe.2 Trade relations were also extensive; and from where the trader went culture returned with him because his trade was very largely (though by no means entirely) in articles of luxury and of art. Thus in the Ottoman era Saxon England had trade relations across the North Sea 1 Lombard band ornamentation consisted of vertical pilaster strips of slight projec¬ tion which divided a wall into bays. The strips would extend nearly the whole height of the wall and at the top, joining the strips, would be a row of shallow round headed arches forming a kind of cornice, or sometimes a series of recesses deep enough to cast shadows. On high walls there might be several arcades at different levels dividing the wall into stages. The earliest decoration of this type in Italy was at the church of Agliate of c. a.d. 875 (Clapham, op. cit. (c), pi. 7a); a particularly elaborate and beautiful example is on the apse of the late eleventh century church of S. Pietro at Toscanella (ibid., pi. 7b, and T. G. Jackson, Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture, 1920, pi. LVI); see also below, Wing (Bucks.), pi. 23, A, and Barton-on-Humber, pi. 10, B. 2 The interiors of Saxon churches may have been painted as was the custom in later, Romanesque, times but none of this decoration survives. It seems unlikely that it was comparable aesthetically with the beautiful illuminations of the Lindisfarne Gospels and other books. 26

Historical Background: The Commerce in Artistic Thought with the Baltic and Russia, which was a link with Armenia and central Asia.1 A second stream of communication was^.via the Medi¬ terranean Sea to Italy and Constantinople. Many Armenian motifs are to be found in Anglo-Saxon and Western Romanesque art. Whether these came mainly along the northern or southern route, or perhaps by both, is not known. Clapham writes that in Italy at this period ‘it need not surprise us if we find Eastern influences at work to almost any degree’, nevertheless ‘it is difficult to trace any element of more distant origin than Constantinople’. On the other hand a more recent writer G. H. Crichton2 attaches great importance to actual Armenian settlers in Italy. A third trade route was to Italy via the Low Countries and the Rhine. These trade relations were not only of the mercantile type. There was a large interchange of craftsmen and artists: many came to this and other western countries as a result of the Iconoclastic troubles in the Byzantine area in the eighth and early ninth centuries. English craftsmen, too, went abroad to work. These contacts were made more real, intimate and prolonged through the influence of an almost continuous series of great men, a series covering almost the entire history of Anglo-Saxon England: the most obscure passages in that history are in fact those when no out¬ standing personality arose to serve or to dominate his country. It is perhaps true to say that no other region of western Christendom owed so much to so many outstanding men. Saxon England was particu¬ larly fortunate in her Royal houses: few of her kings were worthless, and those few didn’t last long. Her best were very good, and some great. Offa of Mercia (a.d. 757-96), under whom Mercia succeeded Northumbria as head of the Heptarchy, had many European con¬ tacts and corresponded with Charlemagne on terms of equality. It was the national stability resulting from his firm rule that led to the development of the East Mercian school of sculpture exemplified by the beautiful work at Breedon-on-the-Hill (Leics), Peterborough, Fletton and Castor (Northants)3. Egbert (a.d. 802-39), the first king to unify at least a part of the country, had spent many years in exile at the Court of Charlemagne. His son, Ethelwulf, and his grandson, 1 See below, p. 87.

2 Op. cit.


3 See below, p. 91.

Architecture Alfred, visited Rome several times. Alfred

(a.d. 871-99),

as great in

peace as in war, after his treaty with the Danes in 886 imported builders and craftsmen to assist in the restoration of his devastated country. The result was a new beginning in Saxon church architec¬ ture, based on Carolingian motifs, though by no means a copy of a foreign style but a truly national English development which con¬ tinued to develop until the Norman Conquest. At the same time, from the beginning of the Danish invasions culminating in the cap¬ ture of York in 866 and the establishment of the independent Dane¬ law by Alfred’s treaty with Guthrum in 886, Irish-Norse-Danish art motifs were introduced and became prominant especially in the N. and N.E. parts of the country. Alfred’s son, Edward the Elder (a.d. 899-924), who reunified the country, and his grandson, Athelstan (a.d. 924-39), a great diplo¬ matist and treaty maker who had contacts with most of the Courts of Europe, were both, like Alfred, patrons of the arts. After the second Danish invasion, Canute (a.d. 1016-35) became Christian, had contacts with Germany and Rome, visiting Rome at least once, and made England the centre of his Anglo-Scandinavian Empire. He, too, was a great patron of the arts. Much church build¬ ing occurred in his reign, and there was close interchange of artistic motifs between this country and Norway and Denmark. It is perhaps difficult to hazard even a guess, taking the period c. 870 to c. 1040 as a whole, as to the direction of greater artistic influence: England on Scandinavia (including Denmark), or Scandinavia on England. It might be truer to say there was one Anglo-Irish-Scandinavian artistic empire in the separate parts of which there was both co-operation and conflict between the different art streams. With Edward the Confessor (a.d. 1042-66) came the beginning of normanization, but it is doubtful whether his influence on archi¬ tecture extended far from London. In addition to the kings, many great ecclesiastics had dominating influence on many aspects of the nation’s life, influences strongly coloured by their contacts with monasteries abroad. The influence of Theodore of Tarsus and of Benedict Biscop in the early period has already been referred to. In the later period only three names need be mentioned here to illustrate the point and because they were contem28

Historical Background: The Commerce in Artistic Thought poraries. As a trio they for a long period dominated the artistic and cultural life of the country; one of them indeed, St. Dunstan, was for a time the virtual ruler of England. St. Dunstan was an artist and craftsman himself and was influential for nearly fifty years—as Abbot of Glastonbury c. a.d. 940, Bishop of Worcester and of London 959, and Archbishop of Canterbury 960-88. St. Ethelwold, Abbot of Abingdon c. 940 and Bishop of Winchester 963—84, was even more influential artistically than Dunstan. Under him the great Winchester School of Art (book illumination) became famous and its influence spread throughout the south and midlands. The famous and very beautifully illustrated Benedictional of St. Ethelwold, formerly at Chatsworth, is a product of this school dated to c. 975-80. St. Ethel¬ wold also re-introduced monasticism into eastern England after a century of stagnation in that area following the destructions of the first Danish invasions of 870 on, and as part of this activity rebuilt Peterborough, Thorney and Ely Abbeys. The third of this trio was St. Oswald, Bishop of Worcester 960 and Archbishop of York as well 972-92. He was the restorer of Ramsey Abbey in Hunts. Both Oswald and Ethelwold had close ties with the Abbey of Fleury, near Orleans, an Abbey known to have exercised important influences on monastic reform and development in Saxon England of this period.



EARLY ARCHITECTURAL DEVELOPMENTS hese foreign influences are strikingly exemplified by the earliest architectural developments in England which took place, independently and in very different styles, at the ex¬

treme ends of the country, in Kent and Northumbria. In Kent the churches built by St. Augustine were, as already stated, by foreign masons in a foreign and very uniform style based probably on Italo-Byzantine models. Strictly speaking, they should not be re¬ garded as examples of Saxon architecture at all, except in the purely geographical sense that they were erected on Saxon soil. But they are important, not only in themselves but as the immediate source of ideas and technical experience for subsequent architectural developments in the country. A later development of this school, covering the period c. 670 to

c. 700, more ambitious in scale and in ornament, rendered possible by the quieter times and the better organized Church under Theodore, and influenced by the Canterbury School of Art under Hadrian, spread northwards as far as Northamptonshire. Its most striking example is the magnificent basilican church at Brixworth. But the style was still essentially a foreign one. In the north the earliest churches, from the date of Aidan’s mission (from Iona) to Lindisfarne in 634 to the triumph of the Roman Church in England in its struggles with the Celtic at the Synod of Whitby in 663, were humble buildings of timber and thatched roofs. None lasted long, but some Celtic ideas of building influenced the stone architecture of the next period, though Celtic influences were nothing like so important on architecture as they were on art and sculpture.

, * Marginal numerals refer to Plates.

Early Architectural Developments In the next period in the north from c.


to c.


the stone

churches erected by Benedict Biscop at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth in Co. Durham and by Wilfrid at Hexham, Ripon and York, were also built in a foreign style by foreign masons. Thpy differed in many marked respects from the Kentish group, partly through the Celtic elements in their proportions and design. The two most striking and significant differences between the two groups were: 1. The Kentish churches had a rectangular nave with apsidal 3 chancel, almost as wide as the nave and prefaced by an arch, or triple arcade, almost as wide as the apse itself. The typical Northumbrian church, on the other hand, had a rectangular chancel narrower than the nave and entered by a narrow arch, so narrow in some cases as to be hardly more than a doorway.


2. The northern naves were relatively longer and of greater height than those of Kent. The ratio of nave length to breadth was i^-if to 1 in Kent; in the north it was not less than 3 to 1. This northern style spread southwards, and influences from both Northumbria and Kent affected church building in East Mercia. Thus nave length in this area is commonly intermediate between those of N. and S., the usual ratio of length to breadth being 2 (or slightly more) to 1. Some, such as Green’s Norton and Brigstock (Northants), show the northern influence of great height; others, such as Wittering in the same county, had square-ended chancels. Kentish influence, however, due doubtless to the energetic Theodore, reached the area much earlier than the northern. Thus, Brixworth, apsidal and almost purely Kentish, was late seventh century, whereas other churches with square-ended chancels and other northern character¬ istics are largely mid-tenth century or later. Many of the latter, how¬ ever, replaced earlier ones burnt during the Danish invasions. Others of the pre-Danish period have disappeared, leaving only bits and pieces left in or built into later churches. This composite Midlands or Mercian style may be regarded as a third architectural period or style, less foreign perhaps especially in its details than the earlier ones. It lasted fromc. A.D.700 to c. 855-85,i.e. up to the first Danish invasions.



LATER ARCHITECTURAL DEVELOPMENTS: THE LATE SAXON PERIOD he second great main period of Saxon architecture began under Alfred the Great after his treaty with the Danes in 886. The main influence was again foreign; this time from the

eastern provinces of the former Carolingian Empire, i.e. NE. France and the Rhineland. After Alfred’s day it developed rapidly into a really national style. It was called by Clapham the English Caro¬

lingian to emphasize the origin of its main characteristics. These were, (i) Relatively great length with transepts and sometimes apses at both ends of the church, an idea of Eastern origin. As an alternative to the W. apse a gallery, with altar, corbelled out on the wall above 20A was often used, as at Deerhurst (Glos). This became not uncommon in England where the English preference for a W. tower and a monu¬ mental W. portal, and apparent dislike of apses which were never popular in England, was incompatible with a W. apse. (2) Central and/or W. towers, originally undoubtedly of wood, built in receding stages. (3) Circular stair turrets, usually on the Continent in the re¬ entrant angles between transepts and nave or chancel; in England there was usually one only and that one a

. adjunct to a "W. tower,

7A as at Brigstock and Brixworth.

In architectural and structural details, however, English churches of the later part of this period, i.e. after Alfred’s day, when the greater number were built, show clearer resemblances to the Ottoman churches of the Rhineland, with their many Byzantine character¬ istics, than to the earlier Carolingian churches of NE. France. When Alfred began his work Charlemagne had been dead for more than seventy years. Alfred’s churches were as various in form and as eclectic as the earlier Carolingian of France; but by the mid-tenth 32

Later Architectural Developments: The Late Saxon Period century

a period of great building activity in, at last, a really English

national style

the Ottoman architectural era was already developing

out of the Carolingian as a more homogeneous style and supply¬ ing many motifs to English builders.1 In view of this, English Ottoman might be a better term to describe this period of Saxon archi¬ tecture. Better still, the simple term Late Saxon is really adequate and is less misleading without the, or any, qualifying adjective. Influences from Carolingian France and Ottoman Germany are plain to see but they were influences only, admittedly strong, which the Saxons used and expressed in their own national idiom. Carolingian architecture was not transported to England to form an English Carolingian style as the later Norman architecture was transported to continue its develop¬ ment as Anglo-Norman. Early Anglo-Norman architecture was simply Norman; the so-called English Carolingian was not Carolin¬ gian; it was English, i.e. Late Saxon, showing influences from nor¬ thern Italy, the Byzantine area and elsewhere, as well as from north¬ western Europe. The term Late Saxon will be used throughout this book.2 Broadly speaking the Ottoman churches were, like the earlier Carolingian, of a cruciform basilican type derived from Italy. They were not unusually long and had eastern and western apses as well as transepts, the transepts often having eastern apsidal chapels and stair turrets at their northern and southern ends. The nave arcades were of alternate square piers and slender circular columns, as at Gernrode of c. a.d. 960; or with massive square piers, suggesting a division of the nave area into squares, with two slender columns between each two piers, as at St. Michael’s, Hildesheim,3 begun soon after 1000. The east and west crossings of the two transepts were clearly marked off by north and south, as well as by east and west, arches. It was out of this system of planning by means of clearly indicated squares and rect¬ angles that the subsequent Romanesque development arose of clear articulation of the nave into bays, emphasized by buttresses and the transverse and diagonal ribs of the stone vaulting. Ottoman churches 1 Cf. the close similarities between Earls Barton tower and the church at Gernrode in Germany of about the same date; see below, p. 3 8. 2 See also below, p. c

94, n.2.

3 For plan, see Simpson, op. cit., p. 197.


Architecture had timber roofs, with vaulting only over apses and crypts. The arches were of one order with plain flat soffits; the columns or square piers had capitals, usually of the cushion type.




he main characteristics of Saxon churches, especially of the Later Saxon period, may be summarized as follows: Planning

Bad laying out on plan was a common defect of Saxon building. The S. sides of Brixworth nave and Earls Barton tower are each one foot shorter than the N. sides. The W. adjunct at Barton-on-Humber 4B is not at right angles to the tower, while at Chickney (Essex) there is 6b not even an approximate right angle anywhere in the Saxon part of the church. Towers

The earliest European towers were in Italy where they were at first separate from the church, and frequently circular, but never at the W. end. When towers spread N. of the Alps twin W. towers became usual. In Germany single and twin W. towers were equally common. This influence spread to England, where, however, single W. towers became universal when they were used at all. Single towers in other positions, e.g. central or axial or turriform,1 sometimes occurred either in addition to or instead of W. towers.2 Towers are of three types: 1. Circular towers, mainly in the eastern counties where flints are 9B abundant but no stone available for quoins. Stair turrets are also usually circular even in stone areas.3 2. Carolingian towers, sometimes highly decorated with pilaster 1 See below, p. 57.

2 See below, pp. 57-60.


3 See below, p. 59.

Architecture ioa

strips and with long and short work at the quoins, as at Barnack and

ii, iob

Earls Barton (Northants), Barton-on-Humber (Lines) and St. Benet’s, Cambridge. They are built in stages (up to four) of slightly diminishing dimensions. 3. The typical Saxon W. tower is narrow, generally narrower than the nave; though central and axial towers are of nave width and those of turriform churches wider than the nave. The quoins are of big stone work and the walls, of rubble, are plain with no pilaster strip decoration. They rise practically straight up from the ground, i.e. with little or no batter, and often have a single string course high up with a slightly narrower short upper stage. The window openings are narrow and usually double splayed. There may be double belfry openings high up, the double arch head being supported by a through stone above a mid-wall bulging baluster shaft. Examples are at Stowe-

13B Nine-Churches (Northants) and St. Michael’s, Oxford. In many cases where there were already Saxon W. porches of one or two storeys, the porch would be converted into a tower by adding more storeys, as at Brixworth (Northants) of mid- or late-tenth cen¬ tury. Porch towers were built sometimes in slightly receding stages. 14 At Monkwearmouth (Co. Durham) there are five stages. A late variant of this type is a post-Conquest development of the Saxo-Norman overlap period.1 In this overlap, too, the heights of many existing towers were increased by addition of belfry stages. These towers and belfry stages differ from the earlier normal Saxon type in having smaller stone work at the quoins; window openings below the belfry stage are single-splayed or sometimes, when small, cut straight through the wall (characteristic of Norman work); and in belfry openings straight columns with capitals, though not always bases, sometimes carved, were used instead of the characteristically 13A

Saxon bulging baluster shafts. The top stage of Clapham (Beds) is a typical example; the lower part is tenth century. At Barton-on-


Humber (Lines) the lower stages have baluster shafts in the openings, while the top stage, added later, has straight shafts. Little is known about the capping of Saxon towers. The simple ‘saddle back’ may have been used. Another type was certainly used in some areas, though to what extent is not known: the so-called 1 See below, p. 50.


Characteristics of Saxon Churches Rhenish helm, as seen at Sompting. This is the only Saxon church 25A which still retains its original form of tower roof. The type developed in the Rhineland in Ottoman times and passed to England. Sompting is dated to the first half of the eleventh century.


Walls were thin, two to three feet thick (Norman walls were never

less than three feet). An exception is Brixworth where the walls are about 3 ft. 8 ins. thick. Only very rarely was ashlar used for walling; the best of very few examples is at Bradford-on-Avon, others are at Escomb and Wareham. They were built of rubble throughout, not (like Norman walls) of ashlar filled with rubble or, as with some earlier Norman buildings, rubbish. The mortar or cement used was excellent, in marked contrast to the often singularly poor quality of Norman mortar. The same excellent cement was used for flooring, some of which exists to this day, e.g. at Peterborough and Barnack. The rubble was sometimes roughly coursed, sometimes not. Saxon 15A walling has a rough unfinished, unworkmanlike appearance, alto¬ gether belying its sturdy character. On the Continent, in much Merovingian, Carolingian and Otto¬ man walling the stones were arranged for decorative purposes in zig¬ zags, hexagons, and other geometrical patterns such as herring-boning. In this last, oblong stones, or carefully selected long thin slabs, or bricks, or even flints were arranged in courses with marked slopes to right and left. Horizontal courses were sometimes put between the 7B rows.1 The only one of these decorative forms adopted in Saxon Eng¬ land was herring-boning, and that only rarely. When it was used it was structural and went right through the wall (as at Monkwearmouth tower, Co. Durham). The Normans copied this form as sur¬ face decoration only, which affords a criterion by which to distin¬ guish Norman from Saxon herring-boning.2 1 Cf. the arch heads at Brixworth for similar courses. 2 J. F. Curwen, op. cit., argues the case, though not entirely convincingly, that her¬ ring-boning was employed not for decorative but for strengthening purposes. He also states that ‘there is no evidence that it was ever employed by the Saxons in England ; in this he differs from Baldwin Brown and Clapham.


Architecture Wall plinths

were only employed from c. 970 onwards and

were by no means universal then. Their sections were either square or of plain chamfer. Pilaster


These were almost the only external wall

decoration used by the Saxons. They do not occur before the mid¬ tenth century, nor after 1066. Baldwin Brown1 showed convincingly that this decoration was derived directly from similar work in Ger¬ many called lisenen. The complex work on the tower of Earls Barton 11 church (Northants) shows close resemblances (even in such details as the hollow chamfers at the slightly expanding heads of the strips— like primitive capitals) to that of the Abbey church of Gernrode, Germany, of about the same date.2 They consist of stone strips, often of long and short work, i.e. long strips alternating with short ones, from 4 to 12 inches wide and slight projection of 4 to 6 inches. They may be supported by the plinth, where there is one, or by stone corbels, or may have no basic support at all. They are generally much closer together than the later buttresses,3 and unlike buttresses do not bear any relation to the interior structure of the building, such as division of the church into bays, since such divisions were not usual in these churches which were usually plain rectangular structures. 10a, iob Other examples are on the towers of Barnack (Northants), Barton23 a

on-Humber (Lines), in blind arcading on the apse at Wing (Bucks)


and as a simple decorative motif on the apse at Worth (Sussex). Their sole purpose appears to have been decorative. E. D. C. Jackson and E. G. M. Fletcher4 in a detailed study of long and short work and pilaster strips give reasons for thinking that such strips sometimes have a strengthening effect in holding together the rough work of the thin walling. They quote Barnack church tower as an instance. But roughness does not necessarily imply poor or weak work and, in view 1 Op. cit., II, pp. 2 3 9-432 Baldwin Brown, ibid., p. 242, fig. 95. It should be pointed out that this church was drastically restored in the twelfth century and again in the nineteenth. It is not certain how much of the original church remains. Lisenen work was, however, common in Ottoman Germany. 3 Real buttresses were not used in genuine Anglo-Saxon buildings. A few examples however occur in some of the early seventh-century Kentish churches and their later, pre-Conquest, additions. Plates 3; 4 Op. cit.


< 38

Characteristics of Saxon Churches of the hard quality of Saxon mortar, it is difficult to believe that these slender strips could in general have any strengthening effect.1 •



Quoins. In stoneless areas such as East Anglia quoins were unusual; the corners were made of the same rubble as the Vails, with no stone strengthening. Often the towers were circular in these areas. Quoin¬ less churches are to be found also in other areas; e.g. Deerhurst tower 20B (except the upper part) and nave. Elsewhere three types of strengthen¬ ing at quoins or corners were employed: megalithic, big stone work and the so-called ‘long and short’ work. The first, probably of Celtic, i.e. Irish, origin, occurs commonly in the early periods from the seventh century until the first Danish invasions of the late ninth cen¬ tury. Big stone work and long and short work are found as alterna¬ tives in the late Saxon period. (a) Megalithic Quoins. These are made of large stones up to 4 feet high by, say,

and i| feet in other dimensions. One is placed on end,

one or several others laid fiat on top of this; then another on end, and so on. Examples are at St. Mildred, Canterbury, St. Mary in Castro,


Dover, and the south porch at Bishopston, Sussex. (b) Big Stone Work. This is obviously derivative from the megalithic type. Large stones are used, but they are well squared on two faces. They are laid flat with their long faces on alternate sides: thus in a tower quoin one long face would lie N. and S., the one above E. and W., and so on. Examples are at Escomb, Stow (Lines) and Brigstock. The south-west quoins of the south wing at Breamore are 21B transitional between megalithic and big stone work. Very similar quoining was used in early Norman work, but in this the stones were smaller than in Saxon work. (c) Long and Short Work. This, especially in the highly decorated Carolingian towers, may consist of rectangular sectioned stone strips, 2 to 4 feet long and often 6 to 8 inches thick. One ‘long’ would be bedded on edge with a projection from the wall similar to the in¬ tended depth of plaster; then a similar slab would be laid flat above it. Usually, though by no means always, as in the upper part of Barnack tower, the edges of the flats would be cut back to the surface of the wall, except the bit between the two longs. These cut-back portions


See below, p. 40.



Architecture would be hidden by the plaster and the quoining would appear as long and short work. If the shorts were not cut back, the edges would be visible through the plaster and the work would appear to be, what ii in fact it is, ‘upright and Hat’. Good examples are at Earls Barton ioa

and the lower part of Barnack tower (both in Northants). Another and more frequently occurring type of long and short work at quoins is similar to the pilaster strip wall decoration referred to above; it is genuine ‘long and short’ as distinct from ‘upright and flat’. In this there are no flats, only alternate long and short strips of similar width. Often both longs and shorts would be cut back to uniform width, as in the nave walls at Breamore (Hants) where they form the NW. and SW. quoins of the central tower. Long and short work at quoins are structural, not purely deco¬ rative. Fletcher and Jackson1 make out a strong case for the streng¬ thening effect of such work. At Barnack tower, owing to subsidence at an early date, the walling at the S. corner of the W. face has sunk, the rubble work being disarranged as far as the first pilaster strip. Appar¬ ently this was strong enough to prevent the damage spreading. Quoins need strengthening; tower walls on account of the heavier masses they have to support are in greater need of strengthening than the lower walls of naves and apses. Strip work in the latter may well be purely decorative, made from shallow strips merely toothed into the wall. At quoins and perhaps tower walls where strength is important deeper strips might well have been used, deeply bedded on edge into the wall. The decorative strip work was probably derived from the German lisenen as Baldwin Brown claimed; but Fletcher and Jackson are of opinion that true structural strip work was a native Saxon invention, a genuine Saxon contribution to building constructional methods. Long and short work is also found in jambs and this type is almost certainly developed from the Escomb jamb style,2 which in turn itself was developed from Roman forms common in Roman Britain.

Arches and Doorways

Saxon nave doorways were generally placed in the N. and S. walls, near the W. end and exactly opposite each other. Most N. doorways, 1 Op. cit., pp. 15-16 and PL IX a.

2 See below, p. 41. 40

Characteristics of Saxon Churches where they occur, are now blocked. They were usually narrow and, in both early and late periods, flat lintels and semi-circular heads were equally common. With small doorways triangular or gabled heads were sometimes used, though these were more often used with win¬ dows. The round heads were often roughly, even crudely, built. The Saxons never really mastered the theory of voussoirs. This is clearly evident from the crudeness of the arch heads at Brixworth church


(Northants). When stones or rough voussoirs were used they were generally ‘through’ stones, i.e. each stone was equal in length to the thickness of the wall.

Jambs, nearly always of through stones, were of three types:

1. Monolithic, each composed of one large stone, a motif probably derived from Roman remains in England. There are examples at Wansford (on windows), at Brigstock, and at Earls Barton all in 15B, ha, Northants. I2B 2. Each jamb consisting of two or more through stones. Occasion¬ ally these jambs may be slightly inclined from the vertical, the opening being narrower at the top than at the bottom, as at Brigstock and


slightly at Escomb north doorway. This is a Celtic feature. 3. Escomb type, so called as the earliest example is at Escomb in Co. Durham. This particular chancel arch is considered by most writers 8a to be an actual Roman arch transported from elsewhere and re-used. If this is so, the type may be regarded as derived from Byzantine originals via Rome, as the style is not uncommon in the Byzantine area. In this type the jamb is composed of large slabs of through stones, one upright on end, above which is a similar one laid flat and bonded into the wall; then another upright, and so on. Normally, in tower and chancel arches, there would be three uprights and two flats in each jamb. In smaller openings, as at Escomb N. door- 8b way, there would be two longs with an intermediate short or flat. There are two varieties of the Escomb type: in (a), usual in door and window openings, the vertical and horizontal slabs are of similar size, the flats being bonded far into the wall for strengthening pur¬ poses; in (b) the flats are shorter, being merely toothed into the wall, the purpose here being not to strengthen the wall, but to provide a smooth face or soffit in tower, chancel or transept arch. A good 4i

Architecture 24A example of (a) is the interior west turret doorway at Brigstock, while 19B type ([b) is used in Barnack tower arch (both in Northants). The top closures of unsplayed openings are also of various types, differing for constructional reasons. They may be (Fig. 1,

a to d): (a)

29A triangular headed, a simple and obvious method of supporting the

Fig. I After Jackson and Fletcher.

wall above by means of through stones; (b) a flat lintel only slightly if at all wider than the distances between the outer edges of the two jambs: the two ends are rebated, the strip of stone projecting down¬ wards between the rebates fits between the two jambs keeping them 42

Characteristics of Saxon Churches upright, i.e. preventing them from being pushed inwards by the lateral wall pressure (this is the original Escomb method); (c) the flat 8b lintel may have wide lateral overhang with no rebated in this type the downward pressure of the heavy lintel and the wall mass above is sufficient to keep the jambs vertical; (d) the lintel may have little lateral overhang, but an additional pair of flats is inserted at the tops of the jambs on which the lintel rests: the effect is the same as in (c); similar treatment is sometimes used with triangular heads. In types

(0 and (c/) arches may be cut out of the lintel. Most Saxon arches


cut from one or two stones only are of this type; they are lintels exerting a vertical downward pressure, not arches which exert lateral pressure.1 Imposts. The springing of the arch head is sometimes, though by

no means always, set back a few inches behind the inner face of the jamb. Jambs and arch head, especially in the earlier period, are nor¬ mally separated by plain, flat imposts. These consist of one or more superimposed slabs with their edges arranged in receding steps (per¬ haps the commonest examples of the characteristic Saxon step pat¬ tern, which occurs in Saxon work of all periods, including the Pagan), as at Brixworth and Barnack, or with sloping faces, as at Wittering, 19B, or with plain or hollow chamfer. Strip work, similar to the exterior pilaster strips, is found frequently

round openings, especially doorways and tower arches, and some¬ times, though not usually, on both faces. On exterior doorways the strips were functional; like the later Gothic labels, they afforded some protection to the stonework against erosion. On interior tower and chancel arches they were probably merely decorative, being usually on one face only where they could be seen from the nave, i.e. on the western face of a chancel arch and on the eastern face of a tower arch. These strips run vertically parallel to the jambs and then pass round the arch head, sometimes passing outside the impost blocks, some- 12B times sharing the main imposts, and sometimes having independent


imposts of their own. Strip work round openings may be a Saxon in-


vention: according to Baldwin Brown it is not found abroad.2 1 For a detailed and illuminating study of Saxon constructional methods of building walls and wall openings see op. cit. (b) by E. D. C. Jackson and E. G. M. Fletcher.

2 It does occur, for example in Sardinia; it is however rare in Europe.


Architecture In early Saxon work the inner face of the doorway was rebated to take a wooden door. In the later period the door normally shut flat against the inner wall face, i.e., without rebating.


Window openings were in general similar to doorways but with certain special characteristics of their own. Thus, in the early churches of Rome and Ravenna the window openings were large, roundheaded and cut either straight through the wall or with a slight internal splay; the clerestory windows of Brixworth (seventh century) are of this slightly splayed type. Later, when walls became thicker and windows smaller, the openings were widely splayed internally to increase the light admitted. This became the normal practice in the larger Carolingian and in the, later, Norman churches. In Ottoman churches from the early tenth century a double splay (also derived

Fig. 2 from Italy) became common, and this passed to England where it became the normal practice in the late Saxon churches. The narrowest dimension was not always in the centre of the wall, but was frequently nearer the outer face (Fig. 2). In the later churches the aperture, at the 44

Characteristics of Saxon Churches narrowest diameter, was frequently closed by a so-called ‘light slab’ of wood or stone in which openings were cut to admit light (incident¬ ally, to some extent removing the advantage of the splaying). These openings were either plain rectangular or crosses as at Earls Barton, or


other geometrical patterns, or sometimes in elaborate designs as at Barnack.

Circular windows,

usually single-splayed, a popular


feature of Carolingian churches on the Continent, also occur in some of the later Saxon churches. Examples are at Bibury, Bosham, and at St. Benet’s, Cambridge. A primitive type of window opening without jambs is fairly com¬ mon. It is merely an aperture cut through the wall; its sides and often head and sill are not of stone but are simply the edges of the rubble wall through which the opening has been cut.

Belfry Openings

These were of a special type. They were normally double, though there is a triple one at Brixworth1 and a five-fold one at Earls Barton. rr In a double opening the central jamb would be replaced by a, usually mid-wall, baluster shaft: a short bulging column. Such shafts might have capitals and sometimes bases, as at Brixworth, though often neither capital nor base, as at Worth (Sussex), but would support a separate flat stone slab, or through stone, which would hold up the hanging portion of the double arch head. The idea of such support by a corbelled out capital is suggested by the Byzantine dosseret or impost block and may be derived from it; it reached England via Ottoman Germany. The baluster shaft itself was a Saxon invention. This type of support is not found in England before about the mid-tenth cen¬ tury. The type just described was not developed until the late ninth or early tenth century. It is characteristic of the Late Saxon period, and also occurs, though columns are usual, in tower openings of the Saxo-Norman overlap. They were roughly made by pick or chisel. They were not always of circular sections,2 and were encircled with

1 Not leading into a belfry but into a lower apartment of the tower. 2 Those at Earls Barton are oval in cross-sections and the banding

is on the outer

sides only where it could be seen. In this church they support nothing, being merely decorative; they are not mid-wall shafts, but are supported on corbels in the outer face of the wall.



Architecture iib decorative bands, as at Brixworth and Earls Barton; plain undec-

22c orated shafts are in nave windows at Worth (Sussex), but this is exceptional. An earlier differently designed and more highly finished type of baluster shaft was developed in the seventh century. These showed no bulging, had many encircling bands and were made probably by being turned in a lathe. Examples are at Monkwearmouth (Co. 24B Durham). They were not of course used in belfry openings as at this early date in England there were neither belfries nor towers. In early Anglo-Norman belfry openings is sometimes found a single wide arch at the back with a double arch in front with a supporting column with ordinary capital and impost block of square shape. Later, the typically Norman arches were recessed, i.e. built up of‘orders’. In short, long and short quoins, strip work round openings, and baluster shafts are native Saxon developments; pilaster strips, double splayed window openings, and through stones supported by mid-wall shafts in belfries and similar openings are importations from Ottoman Germany.


Columns and capitals to columns are rare in Saxon churches which were not normally aisled. Capitals however are found some¬ times on baluster shafts, as in the tower opening at Brixworth, and on columns as at Barton-on-Humber (Lines); they also occur in sculp¬ ture, especially in the homme-arcade motifs1 on figural slabs. Capitals are broadly of three types, derived respectively from the sphere, the cylinder and the cube. 1. The spherical or bulbous capital occurs sometimes as a flattened oblate spheroid, the flattening suggesting the weight sup¬ ported, no doubt a realistic Saxon touch.2 Examples are at Great 17B Paxton church (Hunts), mid-eleventh century. Bases of this type also 17A

occur, e.g. at Bosham (Sussex), early to mid-eleventh century. Another interesting example of a bulbous capital squeezed, as it

1 See below, p. 90. 2 Knob capitals in the East Mediterranean area are usually spherical, not bulging. 46

Characteristics of Saxon Churches were, between upper and lower imposts, each of three slabs arranged in the Saxon step pattern, is at Corhampton (Hants),1 Possibly de¬ rived from these are the cup-like capitals found in the arched frames of the East Mercian school of figure sculpture.2 Spherical capitals 47» occur from c. 800 to c. the mid-eleventh century; bases continue well into the Norman period. Clapham3 thinks this type may be indi¬ genous. 2. The cylindrical or conical capital Clapham and Bald¬

win Brown classify with the spherical as one type and of common derivation, though it appears to be of widely different form and pro¬ portions. Simple capitals and bases of this type occur on the halfround shafts on Wittering (Northants) chancel arch of perhaps c.


1040-60, and of rectangular section on the vertical pilaster strips of the same arch. 3. The Cubic capital is of two forms, the cubiform and the so-called

cushion types. The cubiform is formed from a cube by plain or hollow chamfering of the lower halves of the four faces. A development of this was to chamfer also the edges separating the four chamfered faces, thus pro¬ ducing an octagonal cross-section: the lower half of the cube’s faces would consist of eight triangles, four pointing upwards and four, slightly truncated, pointing downwards. Examples are at Broughton,


nr. Brigg (Lines), after c. 1040, and at Kirkdale (Yorks) of the same period. A decorated form is at Hadstock (Essex). The cushion capital is derived from the interpenetration of a lower inverted hemisphere and a cube, the diameter of the hemisphere being equal to the diagonal of the cube. The lower boundary of each vertical face of the cube thereby becomes a semi-circle. Sometimes the hemi¬ sphere may be scalloped, rather like a melon; in this case the lower boundary of the face is of two or more semicircles.4 The plain cushion 1 Baldwin Brown, II, p. 405, fig. 19m. 2 See below, pp. 91-3. 3 Op. cit., (a), p. 124.

4 If the

diameter of the hemisphere is only equal to the diameter of the cube, the

corners or ‘ears’ of the cube protrude. This type, with the ears decorated with volutes, became the characteristic Norman capital.



Architecture became common in Ottoman Germany by the second quarter of the eleventh century and reached England according to Clapham about the middle of the same century. Baldwin Brown appears to think it may not have reached this country before the Conquest. It was at least unusual in pre-Conquest England,1 but was well established in the Saxo-Norman Overlap. Later it became popular in AngloNorman work and spread to Normandy itself in the twelfth century. It was a definite English contribution to Norman architecture. The cushion capital made an equally early appearance in Ger¬ many and Lombardy, and Clapham thinks it probable that it travelled north with other Lombard motifs. It may, however, have been an independent discovery in each country, for independent in¬ ventions of such a feature would not be remarkable. This capital may have been developed in NW. Europe out of wooden Scandinavian prototypes without direct or indirect contact with the East or South. It is well known in Scandinavia, where it occurs, for example, in the highly decorated wooden church at Urnes in Norway, dated by Kendrick to c. 1060 and by Strzygowski to c. 1100. The ornate decoration of this church2 presupposes a considerable period of de¬ velopment, so the first appearance of cushion capitals in the north, on this theory, may have been long prior to 1060. Other writers think that in view of the late date of existing wooden churches their cushion capitals are more likely to be derived from the stone architec¬ ture of Germany and England. There was close interchange of artis¬ tic ideas between England, Denmark and Norway throughout the ninth, tenth and early eleventh centuries. On the other hand, as Strzygowski3 points out, both cushion and knob capitals were common, even widespread, in Persia, Armenia and other Middle Eastern areas from the sixth century. They were particularly common in Armenia during its period of greatest acti¬ vity in architecture and international relations, i.e. a.d. 950-1050. Armenian influence and Armenians themselves travelled widely from 1 The capitals and bases on the baluster shafts at Brixworth, dated to c. 975. are almost certainly not cushion capitals though some writers have described them as such. 2 See J. Strzygowski,


Pis. XLI and XLIV, and T. D. Kendrick, (b), fig. 18

and PI. LXXVII. 3 Op. cit., (a), pp. 85 and 146.


Characteristics of Saxon Churches the sixth century on and were known as far afield as Constantinople and Ravenna. Crichton indeed attaches great importance to Ar¬ menian settlements in Italy as factors in the development of Italian Romanesque art. It is therefore quite possible that this capital origi¬ nated in the Persia-Armenia area and spread, perhaps via Ravenna, to Lombardy and across the Alps to Ottoman Germany.



THE SAXO-NORMAN OVERLAP After the Conquest the Normans did not, as is or was some/\ times thought, destroy the Saxon churches. They pulled down jLat first only the larger ones of cathedral or monastic type (the head minsters), replacing them with their own magnificent structures, an expression doubtless of the pride of a conquering race of great


organizing ability. The lesser churches, which were comparable in size with their own, they respected, repaired, restored and enlarged. When enlarging they pierced the walls with arches and built N. and S. aisles. They also built some W. towers, and increased the height of others by adding belfry stages, perhaps their greatest contribution to Saxon churches. This work would be done under Norman super¬ vision, but doubtless very largely by Saxon masons. Saxon work in this period of the Saxo-Norman Overlap, which lasted from 1066 to c. 1100 or iiio, shows therefore a mixture of Norman and Saxon motifs and ideas. It is definitely a sub-period of the late Saxon Period. The main characteristic of this period is the upper belfry stage of western towers with two-headed belfry openings with mid-wall 13A straight shafts or columns. These towers are largely pure Saxon in type even in detail, though some Saxon details are absent and some Norman are present. Thus, in these towers are no long and short v/ork, no pilaster strips and no double splayed windows, even though these characters may be present in the church.1 Big stone work, with the Norman characteristic of smaller stones than the Saxons used, was employed for quoins. Architectural carving began to appear in the Overlap. The idea was Norman, but early Norman carving was of inferior quality to Saxon, its figure sculpture in particular being crude in comparison. The execution was more often Saxon. Thus, imposts were often * 1 See above, p. 36.


The Saxo'Noman Overbp carved, as in the chancel arch and the outer face of the N. doorway at Pattishall (Northants), with geometrical pattern. The quirked chan¬ nel also appears in this sub-period and occurs on imposts at Pattishall and at Barnack. The quirk is a V-shaped nick cut round the edges of the impost just above the angle where the vertical and sloping cham¬ fered edges meet. Very slight recessing of arches also occurs as in Pattishall chancel arch. Carved tympana, a characteristic Norman feature, began to appear. Saxon tympana were rare and undecorated; Norman tympana numerous and carved.1 1 See also below, pp. 93~4-



CLASSIFICATION OF SAXON ARCHITECTURAL PERIODS s discussed above there are two main periods of Saxon archi¬ tecture characterized by very different styles. They were: I. Early Saxon, or Period of the Heptarchy, a.d. 597-^


870. II. Late Saxon, c. 870-c. 1100. There was little or no building in, and only fragmentary remains from, the period of the first Danish invasions, c. 855-c. 885. These may be further sub-divided as follows: I. Early Saxon, or Period of the Heptarchy, a.d. 597-f. 870: A. First Period: 597-c 700: (