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In this case there is reason for
thinking that this portion of the wall (like the porch and the tower) was left standing when Sir Richard Ashton rebuilt the church in 1524. In all the other windows of the nave and doors there is scarcely any attempt at mouldings, but this doorway shows traces and remains of elaborate and deeply cut mouldings, and is therefore likely to belong to an earlier period than the work around it. Another fact points to the same conclusion. The east wall of the Hopwood Chapel, where it joins the Ashton Chapel wall and turns to the south, is not bonded in with it. It appears as if it had been built up to a wall already standing. This seems to show that the Ashton Chapel wall must have originally continued westward, and, therefore, that the south aisle was then single as the north aisle is now, and, if so, it gives us the original width of Langley's church. It also shows that the Hopwood Chapel, at least as it is now, only dates from the time of Ashton's rebuilding (1524). There is a carved stone on the south-east angle of the parapet of this chapel, but no one has ever been able to make out its meaning. It looks like a jumble of letters, which may have been intended as initials of names, and they may have had some reference to the names of the family of Hopwood at the time, but their meaning, if they have any, seems to be an insoluble mystery.
Now inside the church, commencing with this same chapel, we see nothing in it to negative the idea of the date mentioned. It is of panelled black oak, with twisted spiral railings surmounted with a plain cornice. This part of the work is probably of the Jacobean or late Stuart period, but there are four panels near the door on the east wall which are carved with the peculiar wavy pattern that was SO common in the Tudor times,
commonly called the "linen pattern." On close examination these panels seem to have been inserted in framework of a later date, and therefore they are very likely to be pre-Reformation work, used up at a later time.
There is a piscina behind the wainscoting on the south wall and a corbel on the east wall, which is probably the bracket on which was placed the votive statue in preReformation times. Colonel Hopwood informs me that the statue of the Virgin formerly stood upon this bracket, but he could not give me the date of the charter by which the family hold the pew or chapel.
The most ancient and interesting part of the church is the arch under the tower. The stones of this arch and other remnants built into the walls and pillars and arches in various other parts of the building are evidences that show this church to be of remote antiquity. The original arch would of course have been semi-circular, and its present shape is owing to its having been rebuilt. The brokenjointed way in which the voussoirs are put together shows that the stones composing the arch are not in situ, but it is not known who rebuilt it in a manner so different from its original shape. From the description of Cardinal Langley's edifice given by Bishop Bourghill, “Tam in opere lapsideo, quam in tectura arte mirifica et perpolita," &c., it does not seem likely that it was done by him, and it must therefore be put down to a later period when men had ceased to take a pride in their work and Gothic architecture was decaying.
The ornaments on the capitals, the bases of the pillars, and the zigzag mouldings of the arch constitute the evidence on which to rely. They are of very rude and primitive character, and the cutting is very shallow. The principal ornaments are the square billet and round billet, and the chevron or zigzag, with cabled neckmoulds
and starlike ornaments on the cushions of the caps, and the cushions are fluted. Rounded billets are also to be seen built into the arch behind the pulpit, and there is the cabling on the neckmoulds of the two pillars at the entrance to the chancel, though these are at present covered with cement. With regard to these ornaments on the western arch, the fact of these billets and chevrons and other ornaments being here is a proof that the work is not of the earliest period of the Norman style. To make this clear, a short description of the origin and development of the Norman style of architecture may be given from the works of Mr. J. H. Parker and Professor Willis-and I shall not mention any building that I have not personally visited and studied by the light of standard writers.
The earliest Norman arches were generally semicircular, and not recessed at all, but consisted of one or two single square-edged orders. In later times, when the walls were of great thickness, the arches were made of three or four, or in some cases as many as seven or eight, recessions or rings, properly called orders, each of which receded from the outside face of the wall, so that they looked like a number of arches built one over another, each of them projecting a step over the one next beneath it. At first the arches were left quite plain, or at most with a plain beading cut upon them. As time went on, workmen more expert began to cut off and chamfer the square edges of the arches, and the next step forward was the cutting of mouldings, and after that ornaments of a very simple kind were introduced. Parker says: "The zigzag ornament is used, but not so abundantly as at a later period .. the billet is also used, but sparingly, and perhaps not before 1100."
All these early mouldings and ornaments were roughly ·
cut and very shallow, for the simple reason that the men had no tools enabling them to carve with accuracy, or to cut to any great depth. It seems to us a strange fact that the chisel was unknown to the early Norman builders. Such carving as they did was always done with the axe, which is even yet used for some kinds of work, and is not a bad tool in good hands. Mr. J. H. Parker says further: “The chisel was used for carving on stone in Italy and the south of France at an earlier period, but not in Normandy or the north of France, much earlier than in England. After this usage was introduced, the workmen seem to have gloried in it and revelled in it, and the profusion of rich Norman sculptured ornament in the latter half of the twelfth century is quite wonderful."
The mouldings and ornaments of this arch at Middleton are all very rude and shallow in the cutting, and we are thus enabled to form an idea of the period to which they belong. Early Norman work was destitute of either ornament or of what we now understand as mouldings. Towards the end of the eleventh century mouldings and ornaments were introduced, but all very simple, easily worked with the axe. Professor Willis in his Architectural History of Canterbury Cathedral, based upon the writings of the monk Gervase, an eyewitness of what he describes, says that the chisel was not used in the building of Conrad's choir at Canterbury between 1096 and 1130. And it is clearly laid down by Parker that there is nowhere to be found any of the deeply cut moulded work, for which the chisel was required, of any ascertained date earlier than 1120.
Now this shows that all the work done previous to about the year 1120 was executed with the axe, and as this work on the arch at Middleton Church is evidently axe work, the only question that wants settling is, to