A Road Back in Time

First off I would like to make a shout out from here in England to my Dad to wish him a Happy Birthday! This one is for you.


Today was the day where we started off at the chronological beginning of English Gothic architecture. We took the bus and headed to All Saints Brixworth. This church is one of the, if not the earliest surviving Anglo-Saxson buildings in England. When trying to date any old building it can be hard, and All Saints is no exception. According to the signs it is from 680AD, but modern scholars place the church as being made in the late 800’s.


There are many reasons why this is. The main reason are the different features that are contemporary of buildings in France in the late 9th C. that are in different parts of the original buildings. But with a building this old that has witnessed so much history, it was bound to have changed. The reason why it is incredible that this is one of the few Anglo-Saxson buildings to exist is becasue of what happened in the year of 1066. After a little skirmish in Hastings (yes, that is sarcasm) the Normans now controled England. With everything that goes with conquering a nation, destroying all previous buildings of importance is a part of it. Why has this (and the next building I will show) has survived is unclear. It could be becasue it was able to be changed into the new form, or they just thought it was pretty, no one knows exactly. This building is a very good example of different time periods making changes to the building that are still visible today.

Here are some examples:


This was a doorway into a ring crypt that was no longer needed so it got filled in.


Here is the inside wall that shows the original arcade that would open into portices.


And here is the outside that shows how the openings were closed in to make windows in the Alnglo-Norman era.


In the original Saxson building this was a doorway for the clergy to enter directly into the choir area from the vestry, but is now closed off.


And here is the outside of that doorway that still shows the arching bricks after it was walled in.


And here is a clear example of how the three windows were added later, by the base of the windows cutting into the brick arch. The windows are Norman because of the baluster shafts used. 

In these images you can see that brick was used to make the arches and stone for the rest of the building. This is a very intersting and helpful point of interest. The Saxsons were not famous for their stone carving skills, so in order to easily make an arch they used bricks to quickly make the arches. The reason this is helpful is because the Anglo-Normans could cut stone to use as arches in a pretty manner, and allows people to use the brick to distinguish between the two eras. The reason it is interesting is becasue the Saxons did not make this brick. This is original Roman brick. This makes the classicist in me very happy. With the Romans not using their bricks anymore, the Saxsons used this material to hep with the building of the arches known as spolia. The taking of building materials from one building and using it for another.

After this prime example of Saxson architecture we moved onto an even more spectacular structure.IMG_0280

This is the tower of Earls Barton.The attached church is part Norman and part Decorated Gothic, but the original Saxson building and the part worth talking about is the tower. In short, no one knows why this exists or what it is about. The proportions of the tower are not the same or relate to each other in any way, all the stone work tracing do not line up with anything and do not follow a specific pattern, and why build a tower as a church. Attached to the tower would have been a small chapel, but that is all. The best theory is that the local Earl wanted a promotion. To acheive this he needed a certain set of credentials. Those included a fortification of some sort, which is a motte  located behind the tower, and a church with a tower and chapel. So he built the tower, put a chapel on it, and called it a church. And that is best theory as to why this is. But put that aside, it is an incredible thing to behold.


There is one more thing that should be said as to what can be theorized about the tower. The stone tracery could be representative of wood carving. In a manuscript that was found that dates back to this period a chair is depicted with carvings along the sides that look similar to this. But that is all we have to go on.

Our next stop was to St. Peter’s Church. This church is a very complete, 98% so, Anglo-Norman building. This is where the first picture of myself in the pulpit is from.


The main difference from the Saxson buildings to the Norman buildings are the decorations and the discipline.The Normans decorated the building more, inside and out, and the way in which it was done was very ordered. DSC01305DSC01307DSC01312DSC01316IMG_0289IMG_0290

Much of the same architectural principles are present in both Saxson and Norman buildings, but the way in which they are executed are different. It is as much speculation as to why and how this is. It could be advancement in technology, the shift in the different cultures, the new influances, the new skill set, a new mind set, or something no one has thought of. But whatever it is, it is incredible to see these buildings. What they do is show the start of what leads to grand cathedrals and buildings. These buildings give context to what follows them.

Did I mention it was actually sunny today?

2 thoughts on “A Road Back in Time

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, wishes and the picture…well all the pictures really. I am already envious and that was just day three of your adventure. I think I will make the picture of Rev. Derek my desktop. We cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings. Love Dad.


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