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above mentioned, upon which I hope to treat in a future paper.
Many alterations and additions in the building are undated and unrecorded, and the present paper is an attempt to assign to them approximate dates, and to arrive at reasonable conclusions with respect to structural puzzles that the church contains.
In the absence of documentary evidence as to the origin of the church we shall have to be guided entirely by the style and character of the architectural remains, and such evidence as we have of its extreme antiquity consists in the ancient remnants built up in the western arch and in other places, some of which are evidently the work of some part of the Norman period, while others have been. supposed to belong to the Saxons.
The first historical evidence of a church at Middleton occurs in the early part of the reign of Henry III. In a document of that period, a quit-claim of land made by Roger de Middleton and Alan, his son, the names of "Peter, parson of Middleton," and "Thomas, clerk of Middleton," are found as attesting witnesses. The quitclaim was a grant of land to the abbey of Stanlaw, on the banks of the Mersey, in Cheshire, which abbey was afterwards transferred to Whalley. The next reference is to the fact that in the "Valor Beneficiorum" of Pope Nicholas, in the year 1292, the value of the living is given as £13. 6s. 8d., which in 1534, when the Liber Regis, or King's Book, was drawn up, had risen to £36. 3s. 11d. In these references there is no mention of the building, but in the beginning of the fifteenth century it is recorded that the church was pulled down and rebuilt by a native of the parish, who had risen to be lord high chancellor of England under Henry IV. This was Thomas de Langley, who, in addition to his
secular office, was Cardinal and Prince Bishop of Durham. He consecrated the new church by licence of the Bishop of Lichfield on the 22nd August, 1412.
But the nave is evidently of much later date, being in the latest Perpendicular or Tudor style, and it is recorded that shortly before the Reformation the body of the church was again pulled down and rebuilt by Sir Richard Ashton, the lord of the manor, who in the history of Lancashire is always referred to as "the hero of Flodden." This is shown by an inscription on the parapet of the south aisle, which, when in its perfect condition, ran as follows, "Ric Assheton et uxr. ej. Anno dni mdxxiv."
These are the only records we have of the ancient history of the edifice, and we are, therefore, compelled to rely on architectural evidence for any further conclusions that we may draw. There are many points of construction in various parts of the building that are very perplexing. The late rector, Mr. Brewster, once said to me that “They are hard nuts to crack. I can only suppose that the later builders were put to shifts in the using up of old materials."
That is not a satisfactory answer to an archæologist, and this paper is an attempt to solve some of these puzzles.
I tried to show, on a former occasion,* that the tower and porch must be regarded as remnants of the church built and consecrated by Cardinal Langley in 1412.
It will be my object in the present paper to deal with the rest of the structure, in order to determine how much was re-erected by Sir Richard Ashton in 1524, and to what periods other parts of the church may be assigned.
* Transactions, vol. xi., p. 57.
The most convenient starting place will be the west end. Taking a general view of the west front no one can fail to be struck with its picturesque but rather lobsided appearance. It is not symmetrical. The tower is not in the centre. The north clearstory wall goes about five feet northwards before turning to the east, whereas the south clearstory runs eastwards flush with the south face of the tower buttress.
There is another point quite as interesting, and that is the difference in the pitch between the roof of the north aisle and that of the south aisle. The roof of the north is much flatter than that of the south aisle. This should be borne in mind, because, as we shall see, that fact has an important bearing on an interesting question which was only touched upon in my former paper. Namely, how was it that the well-built church of Cardinal Langley had to be pulled down in little over a century after its consecration?
Inside, we shall be able to find an answer. But first, we must examine the outside of the building, and commence with the west end of the north aisle. First notice that the style is Debased Perpendicular, or what is commonly called Tudor, and agrees with the period during which Ashton lived, the first half of the sixteenth century. In taking a general view of this north side, we may notice the poor quality of the masonry, and the evidence that it affords of the indifferent manner in which the men of a former time carried out their repairs and restorations. The late Mr. Samuel Grundy, a master mason and builder, whose long practical experience and general knowledge of the subject enabled him to render me most valuable assistance in the study of this building, used to say that the manner in which the stonework was put together in some places that he had repaired made him
think that it was not all the work of skilled masons. The stones inside had been thrown together in a random manner, the facings had been put in so clumsily, and the mortar used was so bad that it looked as if the masons had left some of the work to be done by labourers and quarrymen.
When we look at the window heads of this north aisle and clearstory, we see that they are all of the debased style of the sixteenth century. The clearstory windows, twelve in number, are all three-light windows, and the lights have three centred heads covered with flat lintels. The battlements of the clearstory parapet are rude and clumsy, and very irregular in their elevation, scarcely any two together being of the same height.
The first four windows of the north aisle from the west end have four centred heads of three lights each, every light having trefoiled heads, but the two windows of the rector's chapel, one looking north and the other looking east, are of the three-centre or half elliptic shape of arch, the north window having four lights and the east window five lights, all of them plain, without featherings or foliations. It is well known that the four-centred arch received the name of Tudor from the fact that it only came into general use during the latter part of the fifteenth century, and it prevailed during the period of the Tudor dynasty, while the three-centre arch was later still, and is generally characteristic of very late and debased work and inferior masonry. From this it will be seen that it is impossible for any of this north aisle to belong to Cardinal Langley's building, consecrated in 1412, and it must, therefore, either have been erected by Ashton at the same time as the south aisle or at a later period. The probability is, as we shall see, that the chapel was again rebuilt or altered in post-Reformation
times, while the north aisle containing the four Tudor windows is the work of Sir Richard Ashton.
The window on the north side of the chancel is an elliptic one, like the two chapel windows, but with only three lights, which are trefoiled at the heads, while those of the chapel are plain.
Passing round to the east end we see that all the wall above the level of the window-sill has been rebuilt at some recent time. This was done in 1847 by the then rector, Richard Durnford, afterwards bishop of Chichester. The present chancel window bears no resemblance to the one that it replaced, which was a debased window of seven lights, with a transom but no tracery.
The vestry at the south-east corner of the church is rather curious, on account of the lowness of its roof, and it is an independent erection, not bonded in with either the walls of the chancel on the one side or with the south chapel on the other. This would seem to show that the vestry must have been built later than either the chancel or the chapel, and it may have been built so low in order to avoid darkening their windows, though this necessitated excavating the ground so as to get the floor low enough to provide sufficient head room. We shall see confirmation of this inside.
We notice that on this south side of the church there is a great deal of ornamentation. There is hardly a doubt that much of it must be the remnants of Cardinal Langley's building, used up by the builders of 1524, but other portions are likely to belong to later times.
This is shown by the rude setting out of some parts of the work, and also by the fact of the mullet being used as one of the ornaments, that being the charge on the shield of the Ashtons of Middleton, who only became