Friday, 7 May 2010

A mighty Norman tower

Fingest is a tiny village in the Chilterns in south Buckinghamshire. The village is dominated by the mighty Norman western tower of St Bartholomew's church. In fact the tower is so mighty, 27 foot square, that it makes the church attached (mostly of 1866 by G E Street) look faintly silly. Sir Alfred Clapham in his volume English Romanesque Architecture before the Conquest, published in 1930, argued that the tower was constructed to serve as the nave of the church. To this tower/nave was originally added just a small chancel.

Fingest, Buckinghamshire

The breadth of the tower evidently caused some roofing issues and the tower is currently made weatherproof by a pair of saddleback roofs of the 14th or 15th century. The whole structure, build of flint rubble, is covered in stucco. It's ochre limewash giving it rather a continental air.

5 comments:

Minnie said...

Child of the Chilterns, I know it well! How lovely to see Fingest church again; even better to have your commentary.
To my eye these days it looks rather similar to the church at Earl's Barton (although that's an earlier edifice).
Thank you, anyway!

tenthmedieval said...

Very strange combination! Could there originally have been a larger nave? In the first of your photos here it seems as though an earlier roof-line can be detected above and outside the existing one; but it's not visible in the close-up. Or, could it have been on the other side?

Surely the tower's footprint isn't large enough to serve as a nave by itself, anyway. Do we know enough to rule out that it might have originally been a secular tower converted into a church later on?

Daniel Graves said...

Glad to see you back. I enjoy the pictures and the commentary. Great stuff.
Fr. Dan
(p.s. - I've provided a link from my own blog, if you don't mind).

Allan Barton said...

Jonathan, this raises an interesting question. There is no evidence of a western attachment on the tower to make the tower central and I don't think the archaeology of the site has been investigated sufficiently to determine the original arrangement of the eastern arm. I would also be doubtful in Berkshire if this was a secular tower originally. In terms of tower serving as a nave there is some precedent for it. On example that comes to mind is St Peter's Barton on Humber, in Lincolnshire This is a late Angl-Saxon structure, which consisted of a western baptisty and eastern chancel of the same proportions, with a central tower/nave in between. Archaeology has determiend that the Saxon chancel was replaced with a new aisled nave and chancel.

Allan Barton said...

Oh and thanks Minnie and Fr Daniel. Minnie, Fingest has a timeless quality to it. Yes there is a similarity with Earls Barton in terms of scale, but with none of that lovely applied strip decoration.