Wednesday, 27 January 2016

St John, Patching

To a casual glance, Patching church looks fairly normal. It was built in the early 13th century, with a nave and chancel plus a tower attached to the north wall.
Look carefully, however, and you notice the nave is not in line with the chancel but shifted to the south, so the chancel arch is not in the middle of the east wall but to one side.
The tower is peculiar too. Inside, it has an arch leading to the nave, which is normal enough, but it also has arches to the east and west which lead into small Victorian rooms.
Nobody seems to know exactly why the church is the way it is. Was the tower originally a crossing tower, between an original nave and chancel now demolished? This seems unlikely as the east and west arches are too small and not aligned.
Was the nave widened at some point? This too seems unlikely as the roof is original and would obviously have had to be replaced when the widening was done.
The best explanation is that the original church builders intended to have an aisled nave with the north aisle ending in the tower. The east tower arch would have been the entrance to a chapel.
However, plans changed and the aisles were abandoned - but because the south wall had already been built it was used anyway, the roof being redesigned to span the whole aisle width.
Another little mystery of Patching church is the position of the south door, which is right at the west end rather than halfway along the south wall. This is probably explained by the nave being shortened at some point, presumably to save money
We will probably never know the full story of how Patching church came to have such an unusual floorplan, as most of the evidence was swept away in a heavy restoration of 1888. The height of the tower was increased and the attractive broach spire was added at that time.