Wednesday, 26 June 2013

St John, Bury

Bury is a picture-postcard village, its main street running down past the church to the River Arun and the old ferry. St John's has stood on its hillock since Norman times.
Outside, the dominant feature is the tower. Its lack of buttresses indicate a Norman date, though the upper storeys with their round-headed windows were added in the 12th century. Above is a wooden spire added later, probably in 1603 when the nave roof was replaced. The spire is called a 'broach' from the way its octagonal shape is blended in to the square shape of the tower.
The south aisle was added in about 1200. Three arches were inserted into the south wall on sturdy round columns. On the east and west walls the arches are supported by masonry 'responds' carved with flowing leaves.
But the most unusual survival is the 15th century rood screen. Rood screens had two functions in medieval churches, to separate the anointed clergy from the laity and to support the rood or crucifix.
Most rood screens were torn down in the Reformation, but at Bury they only removed the crucifix - the current one is modern and much smaller than the original would have been.
The screen is a simple affair of tall, slender columns with cusped tracery heads, very plain compared with the riot of carving one sees in East Anglia or the West Country which were mightily prosperous at that time on the proceeds of the wool trade.
This economical attitude seems to have persisted. The oblong wooden pulpit is dated 1628 but was apparently constructed later from panels of that date, an admirable piece of recycling.