History of St Peterís & St Paulís Church in Barnby Dun
Barnby Dun Church, is dedicated to St Peter and St Paul. It is a uniform building with a tower at the west end; a porch on the south side, which is usual; north and south aisles; a nave and a chancel. It is chiefly 14th Century, the tower is a hundred years younger and extensive rebuilding was carried out during the 19th Century.
The earliest definite information of a church in Barnby Dun is to be found in the Domesday Book: in it we read that "in Barnby Dun a priest is there and a church."
The church would have built first of timber then and later, when conditions improved, of stone found locally. Since there is no stone around Barnby Dun, the Church was probably built of rubble and pebbles (cobbles) dug up during ploughing. The building would probably been a simple two celled rectangular structure of aisleless nave and square ended chancel erected on the same site as the previous timber building, it being consecrated ground. The roof was no doubt thatched and the floor was just the bare earth covered with reeds or rushes collected from the river or the marshes nearby. These would be periodically changed to prevent too much dirt being spread around. It is thought that this early church building was incorporated in the later structure in that the rubble, etc., was used in the lower sections of the inner walls economise on stone which had to be brought up river by boat.
Since Domesday Book was a hurriedly compiled record of the "possessions" of William the Conqueror so that he could assess the value of the 'yield' or land tax, we learn very little about the parishioners, the priest or the advowson. We find that the settlement of Barnby Dun was split into three holdings or manors, each comparatively small in size, making the whole about average for a typical manor of about five hundred acres of arable land. Though we find that twenty one workers are recorded, we are not told how many people in total lived in the settlement. We could make a guess and estimate that the population of Barnby Dun in 1086 was between eighty and one hundred.
The priest, whoever he was, would very likely be little better in social standing than his flock, working like them in the fields to provide food for himself and his family if he had one; for priests had married in Saxon Times in spite of the disapproval of the Pope, and William the Conqueror had not entirely succeeded in stamping out the custom in effect. In matters of religion however the priest was supreme; he baptised his parishioners, married them, buried them, heard their confessions and decided the penance, and gave them absolution from their sins. Above all he gave them hope of salvation through his preaching. Although in theory the priest was entitled to the produce of the glebe, a quarter of the tithes, fees for burials, etc., the patron not infrequently held the right to dispose of them as he thought fit. As to the advowson, we can be on safer ground since the patron of the church was usually the lord of the manor.
This, in the case of the manor in which the church was built, was an individual called Malger; although the patron could have been his Tenant in Chief,William de Perci. Hunter asserts that this was not so because he states that "the church did not go with this portion," presumably Malger's holding, "for we find it in the hands of the Newmarch Family" who held, from Roger de Busli, one of the other manors in Barnby Dun.
From the early days of the Christian Church much of its financial basis was the system of tithes - the offering to the Church of a tenth part of the produce of the land farmed by the parishioners. Hence the need for the Tithe Barns of the Middle Ages. Originally a quarter of the tithe was allocated to the Bishop; a quarter to the priest; a quarter to the poor of the village and the rest devoted to the upkeep of the church fabric.
When the acquisition of churches by the monastic and collegiate establishments became common, either through Crusader gift, penitents' penance or religious zeal, it was usual for the rector or administrator of the tithe to maintain only the chancel from these funds: the maintenance of the nave, often a heavy burden, became the responsibility of the parishioners who used the nave for a number of purposes. The custom of posting public notices in church porches is a reminder to us that the porch, when built, was the usual meeting place of the village for all kinds of civil business as well as religious until that business was increased. No doubt the nave of the early church in Barnby Dun was used to conduct many village affairs.
As the Middle Ages progressed the population of the country as a whole increased, particularly before the visitation of the plague called the Black Death 1348-52. Doubtless the population of Barnby Dun grew as well so that the church would become too small to satisfy the needs of the villagers, many of whom would be far wealthier than their forefathers because of the improved economic conditions.
The structure over the years would require constant repair so that it would become obvious to the parishioners that a new and larger church was necessary. So probably during the closing years of the thirteenth century steps were taken to build an improved, enlarged church with nave, aisles and porch. To allow life to continue as far as normally possible the church was consequently rebuilt piecemeal as is evident from an examination of the building, particularly of the inside, as much of what was built in the late 13th and early 14th Century is still in existence but a great deal of the exterior stonework has been weathered over the years.
A complete reconstruction was no doubt envisaged so that the whole process ofplanning, demolishing, rebuilding and enlarging in sections or stages would take some considerable time. It is obvious that Barnby Dun in those days was not wealthy and much of the ordinary building had to be done by the villagers themselves to keep down costs but at the same time they had to continue their mundane task of producing food. The difficult construction and intricate carvings and decorations in the windows, gargoyles, etc., would be carried out by expert masons throughout.
It would appear that a start was made by erecting the south arcade and then the north since the later 13th Century is the period attributed to both. One may argue logically that the arcades were built at the same time to obtain symmetry but a glance is sufficient to tell us that this was not the case for the arcades are different. Possibly the chancel was curtained off and used solely for religious services whilst the nave was rebuilt and enlarged. The south wall of the original nave would first be taken down and the rubble carefully stored to conserve building material. Then the rood stair seems to have been erected together with the stair pier to enable the builders to set up the first arch of the arcade by establishing a respond in the stone pier.
The foundation of the old south wall formed a solid base for the south arcade made upof four columns with the intervening pointed Gothic arches. One wonders whether after the erection of the first two columns the parishioners engaged another mason for the abaci on these columns are octagonal in shape and the others have four lobed ones: possibly the same mason was improving in technique and ideas. The columns are simple, undecorated four lobed piers whilst the arches have broad chamfers with narrow reveals and are made up of smoothed stone blocks three or four to either sideof each arch.
Whilst the masons were erecting the arcade the parishioners would be building the wall of the south aisle. First the foundation had to be constructed and here the rough stone of the original nave wall was obviously re-used and what was left used to line the lower part of the inner wall of the aisle. It did not matter whether this surface was rough or not since it was the custom to plaster over the inside walls of the church and paint on them pictures of Bible stories, saints, etc. Since the Bible and the services were in Latin, the mysteries of the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments were explained to the ignorant villagers by the zeal of the priest who interpreted the mysteries to his parishioners in their own tongue when he preached to them, with the aid of the murals, as they stood or shuffled about on the reed carpet gazing in awed reverence at their rood or its screen. The outside surface of the aisle wall was built of random rubble in courses and finished off with stone blocks up to roof height, a task well within the building ability of the villagers.
The windows in the south aisle, and those in the north aisle when built, were all square headed and not with the pointed Gothic arch as one would expect to find in a building of the 14th Century and which appears on all the other windows of the edifice. They are simply decorated with reticulated tracery: three lights at the east and west ends and two lights on those opposite the arches, the lights being created by simple mullions: the third arch is opposite the south door. Over the years it would appear that the glass has been replaced. There is a small square headed doorway in the north east comer of the south aisle in the stone pier giving access to the rood stair.
The aisle contained the Chapel of St John the Baptist with its altar under the east window, now no longer in use, but between the window and the rood stair is a stone bracket consisting of a woman's head dressed in a wimple; no doubt it held the statue of the saint. The aisle, in fact the whole church, is generally quite simple architecturally speaking - there is very little in the way of decorative carving inside and outside, most of it is found in the figure heads of the drip mould, the gargoyles and the buttresses. Once the south aisle wall had been finished it was roofed to the upper south nave wall at the string course level of the existing north nave wall; hence it would appear that the old building governed the length and height of the new arcades and aisles.
On completion of the south aisle, the work would have been transferred to the north side and one assumes it would have been duplicated as far as possible to obtain symmetry. It is possible that some time elapsed before this work was continued for when we inspect the columns of the north arcade we find that they are much lighter and more delicate in appearance than those of the south arcade. We can assume that the master mason of the south had disappeared from the scene and a new one, obviously more able in technique, employed. The decorations of the windows in the north wall are more finely executed too. The north aisle on the whole appears to be a copy in reverse of the south except that the first window from the east end along the aisle wall has three lights and not two.
To the superstitious villagers of the Middle Ages, the cold north was the domain of the Devil and so they were reluctant to enter their church from that side and many churches have no portal in the north wall, the porch protecting the south doorway is a later addition of the 14th Century: it is not bonded into the fabric but is butted up against the wall to act as a buttress. Buttresses became an absolute necessity as walls were increased in height. Once the arcades and aisle had been completed then the clerestories, with conventional Gothic arched windows to allow more light into the nave, were constructed above the arcades. Then the roof was erected: it is reported that this roof was sloping and tiled and the fact that the chancel roof was high pitched and tiled should substantiate this.
The bare earth floor of the nave was most likely modernised by laying down stone slabs, much cleaner than the rushes of old but the surface liable to be worn down over the years. At some stage during all this rebuilding the chancel arch with its rood screen was erected to unite the arcades at the east end of the nave. It would have been rather difficult and somewhat inconvenient to construct whilst the chancel was used solely for normal church services. A new west wall probably with a three light window, completed the rebuilding of the nave.
The buttresses lent themselves to a certain amount of decoration: some of them have hollow niches no doubt to house the statue of some saint. Were enough buttresses built; or were they sufficiently robust to support the new wall; or were the foundations for the outer aisle walls not deep or strong enough to support the new structure? For some reason it appears that the arcade walls began to move apart since both arcades now lean outwards. Doubtless any cracks which appeared in the west wall were filled in but eventually during the 15th Century, to stop further movement of the nave walls it was decided to tie the inner walls together by building the tower. This was designed on what appears to be a local regional type and was bonded into the west wall of the nave and so it was attached to the building as an extension to the nave at ground level.
Probably while the tower was being built the heavily tiled nave roof was taken down and replaced with a flat leaded one which provided less outward thrust; at the same time the wall above the chancel would have had to be somehow altered. The top of the tower is parapetted and has decorated pinnacles at each comer and halfway along each side. Gargoyles at each comer dispense rainwater from the flat roof. Each side is buttressed to support the high walls. Generally speaking they are built plainly of large blocks of stone: there is a figure head on the north and south walls, part of the way up and on the south side are the arms of the See of York. The west wall contains the only window with three lights, doubtless in lieu of the one most likely incorporated in the earlier west wall of the nave. There is at the top of each side a two light slatted window presumably for the belfry.
Bells have been used in Christian churches from the early days of Christianity; and by Norman Times most parish churches possessed a bell. By the time of the Black Death, that is around the time the church was rebuilt, many improvements had been made in bell ringing. The bell had been mounted on a quarter or half wheel and hung on a spindle which served as an axle: a rope attached to the rim of the wheel gave good control over the bell. By this time most churches had at least three bells that were used for secular as well as religious purposes. Different bells were used for different services and one was always rung at curfew at each day's end. At first bells were housed in a special bell-cote but were later transferred to the belfry in the high tower when one was built. They were silenced or removed during the early days of the Reformation when the State ordered that bells should no longer be rung but Elizabeth I ordered their use later in the 16th Century. In the following fifty years or so we find that Barnby Dun Church possessed three bells and until about 1840 one was rung daily at noon but we are not given the reason why. These bells were used until 1887 when the present six bells were installed to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Entry to the bell ringing chamber is by a neweldoor and staircase situated in the tower.
One could argue that the chancel itself should be rebuilt before the nave was enlarged: to the villagers of the Middle Ages the chancel containing the altar would be more important than the nave. Unfortunately the holder of the advowson did not always agree with the parishioners as it was he who financed the building and maintenance of the chancel and there were many instances in England where the chancel was not as well built as the nave. It seems more likely that, contrary to the expected, the nave was rebuilt first as both arcades, according to the Architect's Report of 1963, are late 13th Century and the oldest stonework in the chancel as far as we can tell is 14th Century. Of course no one can say to the contrary for much of the present chancel is comparatively new, it being largely recast and rebuilt in 1862 by a Mr J. Newsome.
Some of the old stone work was doubtless re-used: certainly the two buttresses in theeast wall, the priest's door in the south wall and the sedilia with the piscina on the inside of the south wall appear to be 14th Century. Hunter asserts that in the time of Dodsworth (1620) there was a window in the south side of the chancel, bordered with the arms of the Newmarch family which must have been there before the reign of Edward III (1327-77). It seems likely that the rebuilding of the chancel commenced while the Newmarch Family still held the advowson which was until about 1345 when it passed to the Collegiate Church of St Andrew at Cotterstock in Northamptonshire.
Can we assume that the inside of the chancel was similar to those of other parish churches, many furnished in the commonly accepted pattern of the time? If the Newmarch Family cared for their church then we should expect to find an altar with its surrounds inside the sanctuary, the rood and screen and a variety of statues of the saints. Usually the High Altar from Norman Times to the Reformation was a long broad slab of stone, called a mensa, resting on massive supports at both ends. It stood about three feet high, six to eight feet in length, always in one piece and bevelled on its lower edge. The altar was always placed at the east end of the chancel and at the back of it was the reredos or retable, a series of carved niches under the east window where doubtless images of the saints were placed. Usually in the south wall there would be a sedilia, a range of recessed stone seats for the use of the clergy, that at Barnby Dun still remains. Also in the south wall would be the piscina, a shallow stone basin used to drain off the water which was poured over the priest's hands during Mass or to rinse the Chalice. High up across the chancel arch would be the rood, sometimes of stone but usually of wood, depicting the Calvary Scene. Below it would be the beautifully traceried wainscott panelling of the rood screen separating the chancel, the preserve of the priest, from the nave the domain of the parishioners.
Access to the rood was gained by the rood staircase in the pier from which the south arcade sprang. A drawing executed in 1826, the time of Hunter, tells us a little about the exterior of the chancel; the roof was sloping and tiled and the windows in the south wall and presumably those in the north wall were square-headed: we can assume that the walls were built on the original foundations.
It has been stated that the church on the whole was simple in that there is little in the way of elaborately carved decorations. This is an indication of the style in which much of the work was executed - the early decorated of the Gothic period. However there are some notable examples in the window tracery, the hood mould figure heads, the buttresses and the gargoyles of the early 14th Century to be seen on the aisle and chancel walls but they have all suffered from weather erosion. Some of the hood mould figureheads over the chancel windows are in good condition and are obviously quite new, probably executed when the chancel was rebuilt in the 19th Century.Before then little seems to have been done to maintain the structure of the church after the building of the tower
In the north aisle between the three light windows and the north east comer there is an interesting feature: an excellently designed and carved recess possibly of the late 14th Century, close by along the east wall of the aisle must have been the altar of The Chantry of Our Lady.
When the tower was erected in the 15th Century the outside appearance of the churchwas similar to what we can see today except that the roof of the nave was flat and naturally there has been much weathering of stone . The windows in the north and south walls are in the Gothic Style similar to the old clerestory ones; while the eastwindow is a fairly good curvilinear type with five lights; the crown filled in with awheel design in which are inserted five smaller trefoiled circles common throughout the building. The ancient use of hood drip moulds ending in carved figureheads was continued and we can compare the newness of these with those over the nave doorways. The roofs of both nave and chancel were now built as one, high pitched and slated, with only a slight step in it with a floriated cross, now worn, rising from a pedestal to indicate the separation between chancel and nave. The original priest's doorway in the south wall also seems to have been preserved in the new building. The stone mullions and tracery of the aisle and clerestory windows were repaired and where necessary renewed and the glass replaced at various times.
Inside the church, especially the chancel, many changes took place. Below the east window was erected a reredos of eight arches, appropriately carved, and immediately below this was placed the altar within the sanctuary which is one step higher than the rest of the chancel which itself is one step above the nave. On the south chancel wall we find the original triple sedilia and the piscina. For quite some time the north wall was completely bare, only recently were some monuments, which had been transferred to the tower during the rebuilding for safe keeping, returned. Choir stalls were installed and the floor generally laid with Victorian tiles of variegated colours and patterns. True to the Ecclesiologists' view the nave saw the establishment of the pulpit and reading lectern on appropriate sides as well as uniform pews facing the chancel screen towards the east end of the church. Since these improvements were made various repairs and movements of furniture and monuments occasioned by Quinquennial Inspections have been carried out; damage to the eternal masonry by erosion and, more particularly, atmospheric corrosion imposes a continuing demandon the resources of church and community.
In the 1990ís a major undertaking is in progress; this includes the re-laying of the floor in York stone with underfloor heating, re-wiring with modem lighting, a public address system, a special facility for the hard-of-hearing, new seating, extensive repairs to the fabric and a number of new items of furniture and fittings which together will enable this building of ancient foundations to be appropriate for the worship of our God in the modern era.