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Visitors' Guide and History of Saint Mary's Church

by the late Hugh Varah


Background History

In the year of Our Lord 669, Saint Chad, having been deposed by Archbishop Theodore from the Bishopric of York because Wilfrid had returned from a prolonged visit to Rome and reclaimed his See, was sent southward to become Missionary Bishop to Wulfhere King of the Mercians. Leaving his monastery at Lestingau whither the Venerable Bede tells us he had retired, he crossed the Humber, which in those days was the northern boundary of the Kingdom of Mercia and it was here on the south bank that the heathern Mercians heard the saintly Chad and his companions teach of the great love of Jesus Christ for all men. From that time to the present day people here have called themselves Christians and as the centuries have gone by they have left as a lasting witness of their faith this wonderful building. Each successive generation has given of their wealth to erect in stone and brick not only a house of prayer, but also a tangible emblem of perpetual Praise to the Glory of God.

We do not know where the first seventh century church stood, nor what form it took though in all probability it was built of timber, as most Saxon buildings were at that time. Previous conjecture that its foundations or those of its successor were hidden beneath the tenth century Saxon Manorial Church of Saint Peter have been proved to be incorrect by the recent very extensive archaeological investigation of that church and its immediate surroundings. We now know that Saint Peter's Church was built in the midst of a very large Christian Cemetery. It is interesting to note that the pagan Saxon cemetery discovered in May 1939 while digging air-raid shelters to the south of the town and which has recently been excavated and studied, appears to have gone out of use sometime in the late seventh century. In answer to the question so often asked; Where did that early church or its successor stand? We could very well say: it is possible that it was here where this church now stands. In 1892 Dr. Charles Moor (vicar 1889-1894) made a search for old foundations beneath the present nave prior to the laying of the new floor and I quote from his notes:

"Along both lines of pillars in the nave may be traced old foundation walls of rubble stone about five feet thick. The present pillars are built upon these but in such a way that while the centre pillars on each side stands upon the centre of the wall the easternmost pillar stands upon the southern half of the wall and the westernmost pillar stands upon the northern half of the wall, so that the present nave is not quite parallel with this earlier building but its orientation is a little more southerly. Two cross walls unite the two described. The eastern of these is to be found along the line of the chancel step and the western a few feet east of the tower arch. Therefore the earlier building was about 66 feet long by 24 feet wide."

The measurements of Dr. Moor's indicate that the building for which the foundations were laid would have been some 2440 mm. (8 ft) shorter and about 100 mm. (4 ins) narrower than the present nave. In view of the knowledge we now have of the Saxon Church of Saint Peter it is most unlikely that the older church ever went out of use. Saint Peter's was in effect the Lord of the Manor's private chapel, whatever else it later developed into, a trend that in England many of the large estate houses have followed throughout history to the present day. Saint Peter's when first built was a building of prestige where the Lord of the Manor could worship with his family and other noble people who would be there at his invitation. It had a small sanctuary, a small private baptistry and very limited accommodation in the tower nave. All of which means that the people of Barton would continue to worship in their own church as they had done for some three hundred years prior to the building of Saint Peter's.

After winning the battle of Hastings, one of the steps taken by Duke William to make his hold on Saxon England more secure was to place his closest friends and supporters in positions of importance and at the same time reward them for their services. One such person was his nephew Gilbert de Gaunt to whom he presented by the year 1069 no less than 151 Manors, which were situated in some fourteen counties. The majority, 114 in number, were in Lincolnshire and included the two very important Manors of Bardney near Lincoln with its old Monastery where the body of Saint Oswald had been translated 37 years after he had been killed in battle at Maserfield in the year 642, and the Manor of Barton upon Humber. The Barton Manor had previously been held by a man of Danish descent named Ulf Funesc who in one place in the Doomsday Survey is described as Ulf the Constable. He was one of those who went north with Harold Godwinesson to meet an invading army of Norsemen who had sailed up the Humber and the Ouse and attacked York. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, King Harold and his men caught up with the enemy at Stamford Bridge on the 25th September 1066 where both the Norse leader King Harold Hardraada and his traitorous ally Tostigg Godwinesson were slain "together with countless numbers of men both English and Norwegians." Ulf Funesc was probably killed in that battle for there is no record of his having been dispossessed of his lands and position as so many were who opposed Duke William.

In 1085 King William held a court at Gloucester at which he ordered for fiscal purposes a general survey of England which became known as the Doomsday Book and was in effect a valuation list of all lands, property, markets, mills and ferries which produced a taxable income. All are carefully listed and in general under the name of the owner. Canon Varah (vicar 1911-1945) who all his life was a member of the British Museum Library, made the following translation of the possessions of Gilbert de Gaunt as Lord of the Manor in the parish of Barton upon Humber: "Land of Gilbert de Gaunt. In the Manor of Barton Ulf had 13 ploughlands of land for tax. The land is 27 ploughlands there Gilbert has 7 plough lands in the lordship & there are 63 villains & 16 bordars with 9 ploughlands & 42 sokemen & 67 bordars with 10 ploughlands.” There is a Church & a priest 2 mills of 40 shillings & 1 market & a ferry of £4:· The Chapel of All Saints as this church was then called is not listed because it had no taxable lands or income of its own.

It is not clear how much interest Gilbert de Gaunt took in his various Manors, for most of his property and rights would be looked after by Agents or Bailiffs. At Bardney he was the prime benefactor in refounding and rebuilding the old Abbey. This was in thanksgiving for his narrow escape with his Iife at the battle of York in 1069 when fighting a Danish force which had attacked that city. It is reasonable to suppose that Gilbert encouraged the men of Barton in their work of rebuilding the Chapel of All Saints.


The Norman Chapel of All Saints

The first Norman Chapel would have looked very plain and rather grim to our eyes, accustomed as we are to the beauty and varied decoration of our gothic churches. They built in a rather severe and unadorned style in those first decades following the Norman take-over. After the first Norman Bishop of Lincoln, Remigius (1067-1092) had built his Cathedral Church it was described when finished by Henry of Huntingdon as being of grim massive strength like both church and fortress. Remigius would have approved of the work at Barton when he performed the Dedication. The respond or half-pier at the southwest end of the nave reflects this severity being quite plain and unadorned, it also shows very well the Norman use of chalkstone.

When Gilbert de Gaunt died about the year 1106 he was buried within the Priory Church at Bridlington and his second and surviving son Walter inherited his father's estates. In succeeding him he became the new Lord ofthe Manor. To honour his father"s memory and no doubt at the same time to comply with his wishes, he embarked on a course of action that would add impetus to the building programme at Bardney. In the year 1115 he executed a new Charter in which he granted to the Abbey the Saxon Church of Saint Peter with all its rights and the income of the Rectory of Barton upon Humber in perpetuity. In this Charter he describes the Norman Chapel as: "The Chapel of All Saints dedicated in these days."

From that time Saint Peter's became a Monastic Church ruled and governed by successive Abbots of Bardney until the dissolution of that Abbey in 1538. The people's reaction to this granting away of Church and Rectory was to continue to maintain for themselves a church of their own and to lavish upon it all the love and care that wealth could bestow, providing it with its own Chaplains and Chantry Priests totally independent of that distant Monastery. Another consequence of the Charter was that from that time the development of this church progressed entirely independently of anything that was done at Saint Peter's. Here as in many other places where similar events had taken place, there was a certain amount of resentment, which as time went by developed into quite a hostile attitude towards a distant Monastic regime, which as history tells us took much and gave little. Small wonder that there was so little sympathy for the Monastery at the time of the dissolution. Perhaps the most important and lasting benefit that resulted from the Charter was the forging of strong links between successive Bishops of Lincoln and this Church in Barton.

The Norman reorganization of the English Church placed it in closer touch with the church on the continent which led to a greater beauty in forms of worship. This in turn nurtured a desire to improve the plainness of those early Norman buildings and make them more beautiful as well. In this Diocese the trend was set by the third holder of the episcopal see Bishop Alexander (1123-1148) who with great inspiration set about transforming Remigius' Cathedral with fine carving and decorative stonework. The men of Barton with equal diligence set about the work of beautifying their Chapel with the same style of finely carved stonework. We do not know whether there was a tower in Norman times and the opportunity to trace the east end was lost when the present chancel floor was laid in 1883 by George Hogarth (vicar 1858-1889).


The Gothic Rebuilding

The greatly improved Norman Chapel was not to have a very long life, for according to Benedict, Abbot of Peterborough, on the 15th of April 1185 a great earthquake was felt throughout the whole of England: "The like of which was never experienced before, rocks were split, stone buildings fell in ruin and the Metropolitan Church of Lincoln was rent asunder from top to bottom." How great the devastation was here at Barton can only be a matter of conjecture. In the western wall of the Saxon Tower of Saint Peter's can still be seen the great crack that rent the building and destroyed the topmost window. Whatever the severity and extent of the damage here, the immediate programme was to be one of rebuilding. The beginning of the episcopate of Hugh of Avalon (1186-1200) better known as Saint Hugh of Lincoln, gave a clear direction to the work of craftsmen over a wide area. His supervision of the rebuilding of his Cathedral at Lincoln and his artistic skills exercised a dominating influence over the shape of things to come. It was under this influence and direction that the builders at Barton produced the beautiful south arcade you see here, each end anchored on to the remaining portions of the Norman wall that survived. It has a lightness which foretold the architectual delights that were to develop in the churches and cathedrals of England in later years. The three slender pillars each having eight decorative free standing shafts are the same only on a smaller scale as those in Saint Hugh's Cathedral at Lincoln. Unfortunately those in the choir are hidden behind the choir stalls and are not seen to such good effect as here. The shafts at Lincoln are of Purbeck marble brought by sea from the quarries in Dorset. These here are like the bulk of the worked limestone used in this church quarried from the same Magnesian limestone quarries that supplied the stone for the building of Beverley Minster. The next task was to collect the best of the carved Norman masonry and this they inserted into an existing limestone rubble wall forming the fine arcade you now see. They changed the shape of the original semicircular arches by slightly pointing them after the trend of the new gothic design, building four new piers to carry them, the western pier has been rebuilt. If you look carefully at the individual stones of these arches you will notice that many of them do not fit properly, and the westernmost arch has the stones from at least two other arches built into it. The red on the pillars is all that is left of the mediaeval colouring with which the church was redecorated in the fourteenth century. The large easternmost arch of this arcade was built at the same time as the building of the tower using the same stone and building techniques. It replaces the easternmost Norman arch.


The North Aisle

When the present north Aisle was built it had nine lancet windows, two at each end and five in the north wall. Four are missing; two having been displaced by the fourteenth century west window beneath which is the former High Altar from the now demolished Mission Church of Saint Chad which was down the Waterside, two have been displaced each by a large fifteenth century picture window which as the name implies was built to contain stained glass in picture form. At the east end is the Chantry Altar of Saint Thomas of Canterbury founded and endowed by Richard A. Dinot in 1268. His mutilated tombstone of Tournai marble lies alongside the altar within the sanctuary. It is one of several heads-and-hands stones to be found on the floor of this church, more having survived here than anywhere else except Saint Botolph's at Boston. They are called heads-and-hands stones because only the head and the hands folded in prayer were executed in brass apart from the inscription round the tomb slab which took the form of a brass strip border. Dinot's tomb in addition to recording the death of himself and his wife, somewhat uniquely recorded with small brass effigies his six children who died in infancy. The stone altar was restored by Canon Varah in 1925. Cut into the east wall above his tomb is the Reliquary for holding some personal item which belonged to the saint, probably a bishop's mitre. It is now used as an aumbry and the little light burning above tells us that the Blessed Sacrament is there. Thomas à Becket was murdered on the steps of Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 during the reign of Henry II (1154-1189). The link shows a stained glass window in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford showing Becket's muder. Tucked into the corner is a window that is similar to the other lancets but is not one, it has no shoulder stones from which the arch springs, the glass is wider and its right hand jamb could not be splayed as there was not sufficient room so to do. It was cut into the wall to throw light onto the altar thus enabling the chantry priest to read his daily office in the days when the main windows of the church were filled with stained glass making the interior dark. They are known as low-side windows and this one is rather unique in shape and size.

The wonderful old iron-bound chest is carved out of a solid oak tree, which must have been of enormous size. It is a thirteenth century chest although its exact age is unknown, but it had seen considerable usage by 1671, for the Churchwardens' Accounts of that date record payment to one John Winter for repairs to the hinges and locks. It was made for the safe keeping of the church treasures and has stood in many positions in the church. After the dissolution of Bardney Abbey when Saint Peter's ceased to be monastic and became a secular church, it had been taken over there but when a more modern chest was obtained the old one was relegated to the fuel store, from whence it was rescued by Canon Varah who returned it here.

Midway down the aisle is a tomb slab of dark yellow Iimestone which records in Latin: HIC JACET DOMINUS JACOBUS WYMARKE CAPELLANUS JOHANNO DE LYNDEWODE MARCATORI QUI OBIITXXII DIE MENSIS MAli ANNO DOMINI MCCCC ...... The ending is worn away. The translation reads: Here lies Sir James Wymarke chaplain to John de Lyndewode merchant who died on the 22nd day of the month of May in the year of the Lord 14**.


The South Aisle

The South Aisle as well as being originally longer than the north aisle is unusually wide at 6.5 metres (21ft. 4ins.) It has been rebuilt at least twice and when it was last completed it had a steep-pitched gable roof. Its windows have the early form of geometric tracery. Unfortunately when the stained glass was inserted in the middle window in 1867 it was thought that the circles would look more decorative by inserting points of stone which are called cusps as later tracery designs have. It is a great pity that this was done for it not only spoils the symmetry of the four aisle windows but has misled some people into supposing that the south wall was built at a later date than is actually the case. At the east end of this aisle is the Holy Trinity Chantry Altar. This Chantry was founded and endowed by the Will of John de Ouresby in 1397 and his widow Matilda· presented William Posyll as the first Chaplain. It was restored by the Author in 1959. The altar was originally made for Saint James's Chapel in 1909. The cross and candlesticks were made in 1910 by the Hopper Cycle Works, the cross having bicycle parts in its make-up. The head of the cross when first made was a complete circle representing a cycle chain wheel. It was altered at the works within four months of being made at the request of the Vicar, Herbert North Cox (1894-1910) who said its shape was not as an altar cross should be. The beautiful little low-side window here has its tracery cut from a single piece of stone. It was blocked up when the Chantry was disolved but was opened out by Dr. Moor in 1891. Laid on the sill of this window is a Saxon cross taken by the Author from the rubble of the east wall of the porch when it was rebuilt in 1938. The dissolution of both Chantries took place in the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547) and their endowments were sequestrated by the Crown in 1546.

The chamber above the porch commonly called a Parvise was used by the Holy Trinity Chantry priest, who had access to it by means of a ladder or timber stair which led to the upper doorway at the west end of the aisle. After the dissolution of the chantry, the room was used for secular purposes including regular meetings of the Town Jury. It was at this time that the ladder was removed, the doorway blocked up with stone and a new doorway inserted at ground level. A section of the porch wall was cut away and a flight of spiral stone stairs was constructed using twenty two risers from at least two former staircases from some unrecorded building. The porch fell into a dilapidated condition In the late seventeen hundreds and by 1816 the Parvise was without both roof and floor and remained so until its present roof was put on in 1820. When the Parvise was restored in 1938 the upper doorway was unblocked to give light and ventilation to the top of the stairs and both the new floor and the side windows were set some 400 mm. (16 ins.) lower than their original position, the main reason being to give adequate headroom without the added expense of raising the roof. Stones which had formed a side window were taken from the rubble of the east wall and inserted into the west wall, the new window being built into the new wall. The front of the porch which leaned 800 mm. (31.5 ins,) out of the perpendicular was jacked back into position and stabilised without taking it down.

The next Bishop of Lincoln who can be described as a Builder because he considerably enlarged the Cathedral was Robert Grosseteste (1235-1253). He encouraged the men at Barton to carry out such alterations as would make their building more fitting for their changing needs. By the early twelve hundreds it had developed into a collection of Chapels and so to improve matters the nave altar of All Saints was removed and other work carried out to enable the Lady Chapel to be converted into a Chancel. Then in 1248 the Bishop rededicated the whole building in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and from that date to the present time it has been known as Saint Mary's Church.


The Chancel

The Chancel arch was inserted at the time of the completion of the Clerestory in the fifteenth century to support the end wall of the nave. The stone corbels at either side of the arch carried a large timber beam supporting the Rood the figures of which were described as life-size, The iron hook high above the point of the arch can still be seen to which the top of the great heavy Crucifix was chained. The Rood was dismantled in the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) at which time Saint Peter's also lost the top of its Chancel Screen. The Churchwardens' Account book for Ulceby Church records: "we did take down the rood and the screen and did make chesses and doors thereof." There was a great deal of anti-papal feeling at the time and many beautiful things were destroyed in English churches without replacing them with anything better. The present Crucifix is a further item brought from the closed Mission Church. The Crucifix in this position is to remind us (should we need reminding) that we are privileged to meet Our Lord at the altar through the faith we hold of Christ Crucified.

The Chancel was the Lady Chapel of the Early English building and the original floor was some 150 mm. (10 ins.) lower than it is now. Just behind the chancel arch about 3 metres (10ft.) up on the left is a small stone head with a flat top. This head together with the badly repaired finial head opposite once carried the top beam of a screen. The windows in the north wall of the chancel are a good example of the first steps in the development of tracery, they replace earlier lancet windows the sills of which were somewhat higher. In the floor at the end of the choir stalls on the north side is a fine tomb brass set into a Purbeck marble slab of Simon Seman, a Barton wine merchant who became an Alderman of London, it is inscribed: IN GRACIA ET MISERICORDIA DEI HIC JACET SIMON SEMAN QUONDAM CIVIS ET VINITARIUS AC ALDERMANUS LONDON QUI OBIIT XI DIE MENSIS AUGUSTI ANNO DOMINI MCCCCXXXIII CUJUS ANIMA ET OMNIUM FIDELIUM DEFUNCTORUM PROPITIEURE DEUS AMEN AMEN. The translation reads: In the grace and mercy of God here lies Simon Seman sometime citizen and vintner and Alderman of London who died on the 11 th day of the month of August in the year of the Lord 1433 on whose soul and of all the faithful departed may God have mercy Amen Amen. The scroll round his head is a quotation from the Latin version of the Burial of the Dead being taken from the Book of Job chapter 19, verse 25: CREDO QUOD REDEPLOR MENUS VIVIT ET IN NOVISSIMO DIE DE TERRA SURRECTURUS SUM ET IN CARNE MEA VIDEBO DEUM SALVATOREM, which translated reads: I believe that my Redeemer liveth and in the last day He shall stand upon the earth and in my flesh I shall see God my Saviour. In the four corners are the Creatures of the Apocalypse described in the Book of the Revelation chapter 4, verse 7: "The first creature was like a lion, the second was like a calf, the third had the face of a man and the fourth was like a flying eagle." The two Vintners Merchant's symbol shields are there, but the two Aldermanic or Sheriffs shields are missing. It is possible that they were taken by the despoilers to substantiate their claim for not stripping the tomb of its brass he being a civic dignitary of some standing. The Puritan soldiers took all the other brasses, as the many disfigured tomb slabs in the floor of the church testify. It is interesting to note that in Simon Seman's day the wine-producing regions of France were under English domination. A little over a hundred years later the Seman family left Barton. On the otherside at the end of the choir stalls is a limestone tomb slab inscribed: HIC JACET HARWOOD QUONDAM CAPELLANUS PAROCHIALIS ISTIUS LOCI QUI OBIITX DIE MENSIS APRILIS ANNO DOMINI MCCCCLXXI. The translation reads: Here lies Richard Harwood sometime parochial chaplain of this place who died on the 10th day of the month of April in the year of the Lord 1471. Unfortunately identifiable tomb stones of other chaplains buried here have not survived.
The unusual monument near the vestry door was originally fixed between the first two windows of the chancel but was moved to its present position to make way for the choir stalls. Prior to the puritan desecration it had been surmounted by an angel. It records the death of Rachel the daughter of a wealthy Barton merchant who married the Rector of Saxby all Saints and died at the early age of 22 on the 19th May 1 626. The text in Latin at the base of the monument is a quotation from the Book of Genesis chapter 35, verse 19: SIC MORTUA EST RAHEL ET SEPULTA. "Rachel died and was buried." If we read the next verse it tells us why this particular form and shape was chosen for her memorial: "And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave."

The panel of ancient glass in the east window is all that is left of the once beautiful mediaeval picture of the Crucifixion which graced the window prior to the Puritan desecration in 1651. The fragment of blue is from Mary's Cloak, the wine-coloured piece being part of the Roman Centurian and the head is from Christ seated in Majesty which surmounted the whole scene in the roundal at the top of the window. The large triangular based nich which may be part of an earlier lancet window was formed to hold a tall graceful figure of the Madonna, which if it survived the reformation would certainly have been destroyed by the Puritans. Beneath the High Altar let into the top step of the sanctury is the mediaeval altar slab of Permian Limestone. The five consecration crosses are still discernable cut into the stone. It is not known when the reredos which stood on the deep shelf at the base of the east window was destroyed.


Saint James's Chapel

To the south of the Chancel is the Chapel dedicated to Saint James the Deacon, who in those days was the Patron Saint of Pilgrims coming from the north and was built as an extension to the Lady Chapel to accommodate their ever-increasing numbers. It would not have been practical in those days to extend the Lady Chapel further east as the land fell away very rapidly to the water's edge, Dividing the two, there was constructed in the early fifteenth century the beautifully carved oak screen. A close look at the little rose-like shapes at the ends of the cusps on the screen tracery reveals many a little face looking back. Maybe the carver grew tired of carving geometrical shapes and gave freedom to his skill by carving the face of someone he knew, Unfortunately one of the best has been somewhat damaged but enough remains to make it worth hunting for. The pillar bases of this fourteenth century arcade appear at first sight to be upside down. This is not so however, they were made with flat tops which formed part of the wall-seats upon which weary pilgrims could rest. When the present Choir Stalls were placed in position the pillar base which they partly cover on the south side was chamfered so that those using the stalls should not trip. Had the floor of the stalls been fixed a little higher that defacement need not have been carried out. When the screen was restored in 1883, it was placed out of line with the centre of the pillars where it had originally been fixed and part of the wallseats which needed repair were removed, a surviving portion still remains though somewhat obscured by the organ platform. The fourteenth-century east window of the Chapel of Saint James lost its fine tracery at the time of the building of the clerestory to the nave, when the steep pitched roofs of the aisles were replaced with flat ones as at present. The two finial heads and a portion of the hood-moulding have survived, At one time the portion of this Chapel now within the altar rails was walled off to provide a schoolroom and the centre seat of the sedilia was cut right through the wall to provide a doorway into the room without having to go through the church. When the room became obsolete the wall was removed and the doorway bricked up as can be seen from outside, The original consecration cross of this Chapel can be seen carved into the bottom right hand jamb stone of the east window. The somewhat flamboyant memorial tablet in this Chapel is also worthy of note. It records the death of Will Long, a notable Barton merchant, magistrate and benefactor who founded Long's Educational Charity and was donor of part of the endowment of the Vicarage. He died on the 26th May 1729 at the ripe old age of 85 and is buried in this Chapel. He married Mary Tripp a daughter of John Tripp, who we learn was at one time Mayor of Hull. It also informs us that only three of his twelve children survived him, Elizabeth, Mary and Frances, It was they who purchased the tablet ready-made so to speak from a Hull studio before they had decided exactly what was to be engraved upon it, with the result that the Barton mason who was given the task of cutting the text had to squash the words in wherever he could. The shield with the lion rampant and eight cross crosslets is William Long's Coat of Arms, Until the work on the tablet was completed, his name was incised into one of the existing Tournai marble tomb slabs near to where he was buried and now covered by the pews. The winged head of a cherub immediately below does not belong to the memorial. It is made of limestone and has been limewashed in an effort to make it look like marble and is part of some unrecorded monument. The piece of marble below the head is the only portion of John Tripp's family memorial to survive. Fixed to the south wall in an oak frame are some of the mediaeval floor tiles which were found when the Chapel was restored in 1902. Under the direction of the Author the pitch-pine pews were placed in position recently, having been taken from Saint Peter's, when that building was cleared in preparation for its Archaeological investigation. The organ is a three manual instrument made by Foster & Andrews of Hull for Saint Peter's in 1898 and was transfered here in 1973.


The Bells

For details of the bells, please CLICK HERE.

The solid stonework and deep buttresses of the tower originally carried a tall spire wh ich was said to reach a further 22 metres (72 ft.) into the sky. It was taken down shortly after the collapse of the Cathedral spire in 1549. The massive framework of oak which formed the base of the spire remained within the bellchamber until 1948 when having become worm-eaten and defective in the extreme it was removed under the Author's supervision to enable the roof to be reconstructed, the bellchamber to be refloored and much internal stonework to be made good.

A word about Stone

When we look at anything that is made by man there is much to learn about the person or people who fashioned it but equally important is the material from which the object is made. What is it and where did it come from? Are but two of the questions that spring to mind, for the material itself will have dictated to a very great degree the final form, shape and size. Added to this its colour, grain and texture will have enriched the final result. With these things in mind some knowledge of stone will help our understanding and appreciation of the faith and inspiration of the people who have through the centuries handed down to us this marvellous building.

Barton is situated at the northernmost point of the Lincolnshire Wolds which are Chalkstone (6 on the map) and as with the Limestone of the Lincoln ridge there is an underlying bed of Ferreous Limestone more commonly called ironstone. The contour of the Wolds was formed by the receding ice-cap of the Ice Age. This gouging away of vast quantities of chalk laid bare in many places the Ferreous Limestone in what are commonly referred to as outcrops. It is dark brown in colour with a variable clay content and weathers rather badly. At Caistor the Romans quarried this ironstone to build the walls of their encampment and many Wold churches are built or partly built of this stone. This lack of good building stone locally encouraged the revival of brickmaking and bricks have been used as the main building material in this area since the fourteenth century.

The Romans distrusted Chalkstone as a building material, using it mainly for roadmaking. They transported both Gritstone from South Yorkshire and Limestone from the Lincoln Heights which range to the west of the Ancholme valley to construct their buildings. They also made bricks from clay which were known as wall tiles to distinquish them from roof tiles.

The Saxons were reluctant to depart from their traditional timber construction and when they did eventually use stone it was in the main secondhand, that is to say quarried from disused Roman buildings as opposed to being quarried out of the ground. In the tenth century they used Chalkstone for the foundations and floors of Saint Peter's but used Roman building stone for the walls.

In Norman times there was a great upsurge of building and many different types of stone were used by them including Chalkstone. One of the reasons why there is little or nothing left of Norman stonework here or of re-used Norman stone is inherent in the nature of Chalkstone itself. There is an old saying "chalk hills make soil." This refers to the fact that chalk left lying about or chalk taken from walls or buildings quickly disintegrates mixing with the soil around and all sight of it is lost. A glance round this church reveals an extensive use of Chalkstone (6 on the map) during all periods of its building.

By the year 1650 Chalkstone was used in this area for building cottages, barns and stables and many Chalkstone walls and portions of buildings still remain. Here at Barton there were two main quarries in early days. The great hole to the east of Baysgarth School being all that remains of the Rectory quarry, which over the ages provided the Chalkstone for Saint Peter's Church and other manorial and monastic uses. The remains of the people's quarry can be traced on the south side of the top of Holydyke hill and beyond. The bottom portion of Ferriby Road was at the time of the enclosure (1792) made to run through the middle of the quarry. During the early days of Norman building, in England generally speaking there were two distinctive grades of stonemasons, not counting those who actually quarried the stone. There were the skilled craftsmen who came from Normandy from here in the Church of Saint Laurence, Thornton Curtis which at that time was one of the Temple Churches. Owing to the mutilation of these tomb slabs by the Puritans who took away the brasses, we do not know the exact dates when these very expensive memorials were bought, with the exception of two; Richard Dinor’s tomb which is well documented, his chantry was founded in 1268, and that of William Lorymer who died in 1458, his name and date are incised into the stone.

Simon Seman's tomb has already been described, the slab of so-called Purbeck Marble is not a true marble but comes from limestone beds which contain fossilized shells of a water snail. The quarries were in the area known as the Isle of Purbeck on the Dorset coast. As with Tournai Marble the stone was taken to the nearest convenient place to work it, in this case Corfe Castle village. The finished work was then transported down the river Corfe and loaded aboard ship in Poole Harbour. One other Purbeck Marble tombstone survives here though its surface is rather badly weathered. It contains in brass the head and shoulders of a woman which escaped the Puritan onslaught because it originally lay about one metre further west than its present position and was covered by the tower floor that at some date had been placed at a higher level over the top of it. It was discovered in 1892 when the floor was relaid and placed in its present position. Apart from four limestone slabs the rest of the tomb slabs and paving slabs are of sandstone most of which are commonly known as hard Yorkstone, some grey Yorkstone and some brown Yorkstone, depending from where they were quarried. The chancel, tower and sanctuary steps are also of sandstone, all of which are modern that is to say they have been quarried during the last hundred years.

Three of the four wall memorials in this church are of marble imported from Italy.
Marble is a metamorphic stone, this means that it has been reformed and reconstituted under great pressure and heat which turned the calcium carbonate of the original limestone into calcite crystals. Calcite is pure white unless stained by impurities which form the veining and if present in large quantities produce various coloured marbles. Impurities in any quantity reduce the quality of the stone, that is why Greek, Roman and Renaissance artists always chose pure white flawless marble with which to work.

When the Church Hall was built there were no bricks being made locally and it was necessary for the Author (who was the Architect) to go as far as Wales to find a suitable brick that would be in keeping with the brickwork on the north side of the Church.

There is a great deal more that could be said about stone and the masons who worked it through the ages but it is hoped that these few words will encourage the reader to look a little closer and with some understanding of the story the stones have to tell.
"And Jacob took the stones of that place and set them up, and he said, How awesome is this place; this is none other than the House of God, This is the Gate of Heaven."

For a view of the layout of the Church as it was prior to the Rev. George Hogarth's refurbishing of the chancel. (Vicar, 1858-1889), please CLICK HERE.


Last updated: 10 December, 2010.