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may refer to the north aisle, but the restrictive phrase is hardly the language of a man who had raised the whole building. Probably he found the arcades already erected by some unrecorded builder of the early part of the sixteenth century, and, by the addition of the sacrarium and "revestre," only completed a church which had at least a south aisle in the year 1528. The appearance of the interior of the church must in his day have been more imposing than at present, inasmuch as it was loftier, and probably unobstructed.
The soil of the south chapel was shewn, by an excavation made in 1893, in connection with the erection of the organ, to be made ground, loose and sandy, in which the bases of the pillars were buried to a depth of two feet. In connection with the question of earlier and later floor levels, it must again be noticed that a sandstone paving lies beneath the stalls on either side of the chancel, at a depth of two feet six inches below the present level of the chancel pavement, and one foot beneath the base of the columns of its arcade. No trace of the pavement on which the columns stood remains, unless it is in the present floor uplifted from an earlier level. The cavity below the stalls forms a narrow passage-way. The one on the north is walled on either side with dressed ashlar blocks, loosely set in courses; and the stone step in the chancel at the division of the stalls is supported from below by blocks of stone, placed in a manner which bears the appearance of a hasty and rough temporary expedient, and is by no means suggestive of the hand of a skilled workman. The pavement was, until very recently, concealed by soil some inches in depth, which has now been cleared away.
Ashlar walls are found only on the south and west sides of the corresponding passage on the
south side of the chancel. Of these nearly every stone bears a sharply cut arrow head as a mason's mark; but upon the lowest course, which is apparently older work, either an X or a right angle -marks found on the walls of the south aisleOccur. The base of one of the chancel columns is to be seen at the eastern end of the passage, far below the level of the present floor. From its northern side, and resting upon the pavement, springs a large brick arch, which runs east and west and covers a large vault, its crown lying immediately beneath the flags of the chancel floor. A layer of bricks upon the passage floor, between it and the ashlar wall to the south, is evidently intended to receive and transmit its thrust. Three dates are here indicated: the date of the pavement, of the ashlar that was subsequently raised upon it, and of the arch abutting upon the wall. The pierced quatrefoils beneath the stalls have been set upon the curve of the arch, and are wedged up by a rough stone walling.
It is difficult to imagine what the condition of the chancel could have been when the bases of these columns were visible. It is only evident that the floor of the sixteenth century church lay at a considerably lower level than the present one, and this again above an earlier floor but no information has been handed down as to who it was who raised the containing walls, or brought in the mass of soil now between them, or utilized it for interments. The present level of the piscina in relation to the floor of the north chapel, and the stunted appearance of the arch over the recumbent figure in the north aisle, both supply additional evidence of the raising of the floor, at some unknown date, above its earlier level. The three steps up to the sanctuary must either have been raised to their present position simultaneously with the raising of the chancel floor, or
their continuations downward have been either removed or buried in the soil; but the comparatively recent formation of vaults below the sacrarium causes its original level and condition to be now a matter of the merest conjecture.
In the south wall of the sacrarium four niches are placed beneath a linear moulding, which is higher than the cill of the window. The labels of the arches above the niches terminate in carved heads, which bear a strong appearance of being portrait sculpture. A block of stone having slight mouldings is placed in the easternmost niche, and forms a credence. Near, and above it, a small hole or recess is to be found in the wall, the character and purpose of which is uncertain. On the removal of the whitewash, in 1891, the back of each niche was found to be thickly coated with a black and hard cement, while the sandstone wall had been roughly hacked with a pick, in order that the cement might hold. It is inexplicable why it was applied at all, but the damage done was so glaring and unsightly, that the back of each niche had to be refaced; the solitary instance in the removal of the whitewash in which a new surface was put upon the walls. It will be observed that the moulding at the back of each niche stops short at the spring of the arch.
The sedilia are now placed at so high a level above the sanctuary floor, that as seats they are practically useless. If only three steps originally led to the sanctuary from the early level of the chancel floor, they would have been more useless still. That the existing three steps are only the remains of a longer flight, continued both upwards and downwards, appears improbable; and the inference remains that the sedilia are not now in the position which they originally occupied. Some curious grooving upon a stone near, and to the
west of the sedilia, is said to have resulted from the sharpening by archers of their arrow-heads. In some other churches there is a strong presumption that stones on the exterior have been so employed. The stone in question may have been on the outside of the earlier church, and have been built-in in its present position. Other stones in the church seem to have been transferred from the exterior, as traces of ivy-roots are to be found within their hollows. A square aumbry has been formed in the thickness of the wall on the north side of the chancel. Externally, some mouldings of an unusual character form a kind of canopy, of which the finial has been destroyed. These mouldings, however, bear masons' marks which occur on the inner west wall of the porch. Another instance of the transference of a stone to another position, is afforded by a stone now placed high up in the clerestory wall, above the westernmost column. It bears a rudely frescoed face, which probably formed a portion of some large design. Traces remain which have been conjectured to represent part of a coif of mail.
The existing nave stands rather more to the south than, and its axis somewhat diverges from that of, the Decorated church, and an examination of its apparently temporary juncture on the south side with the tower, against which its arcade merely abuts, will lead to the conclusion that the removal of the tower was contemplated, had not the work of rebuilding come to a sudden standstill. The lines of the string-courses shew a slight convergence of the arcades towards the west.
A small room or parvise, possibly intended to be used as a chamber by a chantry priest, is situated in the upper storey of the porch. Access would appear to have been gained by means of a wooden staircase in the south-west angle of the aisle,
ending at a platform before the door. The sockets of the joists which carried this landing still remain. The bases of the pillars of the nave arcade are concealed, as in the chancel, by the raising of the floor level. The ceiling of the porch, which forms the floor of the parvise, is formed of massive beams of oak, enclosing panelled spaces. It probably is a type of what was, or was intended to be, the ceiling of the nave, aisles, and chancel, but a whitewashed boarding conceals the nature of their construction. An examination of the wall of the arcade in the south aisle has disclosed holes to receive the ends of beams, but now filled up with brick an evidence of a change in the formation of the roof.
Whatever other portion of the church may have been built or completed by Anthony Molyneux, he distinctly claims the vestry as his own work. The only access to it from within the church is by a doorway on the south side of the east wall of the sacrarium, which does not appear to be in its original condition. The present outer door is toward the south, and has taken the place of a window, similar to the one in the porch, while the old doorway, strangely placed to the north, has been partially blocked up, and a window inserted in its stead. The window in the east wall of the vestry is both modern and unsightly.
The original mullions and transoms of the east window of the chancel were removed in 1870, and replaced by modern tracery, in which stained glass has been inserted, as a memorial to a former rector, the Rev. R. R. Rothwell. The old cill and the lower portion of the old mullions still remain, but are concealed behind the modern classic panelling. The lofty windows to the north and south of the sacrarium, although of late workmanship, are not devoid of a measure of sober dignity. The