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what part of the period between the Conquest and the year 1120 does this work belong?
According to Parker, the chevron and the billet were among the earliest ornaments to be used. But there are several other ornaments here. The one on the face of the cushion of the outer shaft on the south side of the arch is very similar in pattern to one in a like position on the abacus of the south-western pier in the chapel of the Tower of London, though the one at Middleton is more rudely cut. The date of that portion of the work in the Tower of London is given as 1080; this of course does not prove the work at Middleton to be of the same age, because this same ornament was in use many years afterwards, and when we look at the number and variety of the patterns cut here, some of which did not come into use until a later period, it shows that this work must have been done at a time when the use of ornament had made
some progress, though the execution shows that they were only gropings after an ideal. It may be said that variety of the ornamentation argues distinctly in favour of a late date for the work, but this would be a mistake. It was not always the case that the simple country church was left undecorated nor the pompous abbey covered with ornament. To illustrate this point I need only point to the two cases of Iffley Church, a small church near Oxford, and Kirkstall Abbey, near Leeds. Iffley Church was built in the richest and purest Norman style, and profusely decorated, while Kirkstall Abbey, built a few years later (founded in 1152), is decorated very sparingly. We have to look at the style of the work, and this at Middleton is evidently both rude and early. We are thus led to the conclusion that it must be assigned to the time of the earliest introduction of these ornaments, and, of course, previous to the introduction
of the chisel. We are therefore confined to the period between about 1090 to 1120 or 1130 as the time when this church was in all probability erected.
It has been a disputed point whether the shafts of the pillars on each side the arch are in situ or not. It was the opinion of the late Mr. Grundy that this arch was the original western entrance to the first church, and that the pillars had been reversed and raised in the rebuilding of the edifice, so as to recede from the inside of the church, instead of from the outside to the inside, as would be the case if they were outside the building. This idea is confirmed by examination of the conditions of the stonework. We can see that both the pillars and the arch have been raised by the insertion of other stones underneath. The stone of which this church is built is very liable to crumble away on the surface wherever it is exposed to the weather, but wherever it is under cover the toolmarks are as fresh as if newly done.
Further, although the axework ornaments in the chapel of the Tower of London, and in Canterbury, are not as accurately and regularly cut as chisel-work would have been, yet the edges are quite sharp and fresh; whereas the ornaments in this arch and pillars are all more or less frayed and rounded off at the edges, and the surfaces have crumbled. In the porch, which is more exposed to the weather than the inside, the stones which have their toolmarks weathered away on the outside are quite fresh looking on the inside, and when we look at the arch behind the pulpit a similar thing is to be seen. The billets are all crumbled on their surfaces (except those that have been tampered with), while the stones set in the same arch show the toolmarks quite sharp and fresh.
These facts can only be explained by supposing that the decayed stones were originally on the outside of the
building, and, therefore, the idea must be considered reasonable that the archway was the western entrance to the Norman church, but that it has been considerably raised by inserting other stones under the bases of the pillars and under the springers of the arch.
There is one point here that has puzzled many people, the explanation of which is very simple. If we look at the tower archway from the middle of the nave we see it is not in the middle of the west wall. The fact is, at the last rebuilding, the north clearstory, and of course the north arcading which carries it, were carried about five feet northwards before turning to the east, whereas the south clearstory goes straight east from the tower. The perpendicular joint between the tower and the north clearstory is plainly to be seen, and if we measure the thickness of the north wall from that point southwards, it will throw the archway into the centre; that is, if the north wall had been built straight east from the tower, as the south wall was, the arch would have been in the middle of the west wall.
The authorities, who restored the church in 1868, seem to have entirely overlooked this, for in plastering over the rubble walling between the arch and the old roof, they actually covered a portion of the ashlar work on the north side, in order to make the ridge or crown of the roof come centrally between the present north and south walls. Time is protesting against this outrage, for the joints both of the rubble and the ashlar walling begin to show through the coating of plaster that the true place for the ridge of Cardinal Langley's building should be above the crown of the western arch.
We now turn from the most ancient to the most modern work, viz., the two chantry chapels and the chancel. In passing, notice two stones built into the
north wall, which appear to be of the same period of workmanship as the stones in the tower arch that we have just considered. One of these stones is in the eastern jamb of the first window from the west end of the wall, and the other is close up to the corbel between the second and third windows. They are both carved in a rude kind of diaper pattern, and are axework, as is all other Norman work here.
The north chantry (now filled by the organ) was founded by Cardinal Langley and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and St. Cuthbert,* but in modern times it has always been known as the Rector's Chapel.
The south chantry, dedicated to St. Chad† and St. Margaret, which is now known as the Ashton Chapel (or Sir Raphe's), was probably founded by a member of the Barton family (they being the manorial lords at the time), and it was consecrated by the cardinal at the same time that he consecrated the church and his own
chantry in 1412. When these were consecrated there would certainly be an altar and a piscina in each of them, but none remain now. There is what appears to be a remnant of a piscina built into the eastern jamb of the arch leading from the chancel into the north chapel. It is a projecting piece of stonework, about the usual shape and size of one side of a piscina, and nobody has been able to give any explanation of its probable use. The idea of there having been a rebuilding of these chapels since Ashton's time is strengthened by an examination of the construction. If we look at the first pillar on the
* The dedication to St. Cuthbert is probably connected with the fact of Cardinal Langley being prince-bishop of Durham, where the cathedral contains the tomb of St. Cuthbert,
+ St. Chad was the patron saint of Lichfield, in which diocese Middleton was at that period.