Saturday, 20 December 2014

St Mary, Barnham

Barnham church bears the marks of every alteration in its thousand year history in a particularly obvious way, so it is possible to trace its evolution over the centuries.
The simple single room containing both nave and aisle was built in about 1100, as shown by the two small round-headed Norman windows in the south wall.
In about 1180, an aisle was added on the north but instead of demolishing the north wall and building a line of columns and arches, three arched holes were punched through the wall and infilled with stone to create an arcade with bits of wall between.
In the 13th century the chancel was rebuilt, as shown by the three tall lancet windows at the east end and the broader pointed windows in the north and south walls. At this time, the roof was replaced and the boundary between the nave and the chancel marked by a tympanum, a filled-in triangular panel across the church, supported by massive timber braces.
The last medieval alteration was to rebuild the west wall, done in about 1400. The square drip-moulds round the door and the window above show the late date.
At the Reformation, the chapel at the eastern end of the north aisle was abolished and the aisle itself seems to have become redundant, although it may have suffered from the same structural problems that forced the parish to prop up the south wall with a series of buttresses. Whatever the cause, the aisle was demolished and the arches filled in, though the stones can still be seen both inside the church and out.
It is rather rare to find a church that shows every change so clearly. Also rare are the graffiti carved into the wall of the arch over the organ. They are mainly pilgrims stars, but a Latin inscription says "Pray for the soul of my father who died at Agincourt."