Berrick Church Architecture

St Helen Church North Facade

Berrick Salome Church. 11th, 13th, 14th & Remodelled 17thC, restored 1890 by A M Mowbray. Rendered Rubble with Limestone & Brick Dressings, some Timber-framing & Tile Hanging; old plain-Tile Roofs. Nave, Chancel, South Transept, West Tower & South Porch. 14thC Chancel has 3-light East Window, with intersecting Tracery, and single-light Ogee-headed side Windows. 13thC Transept has Lancet to East, and a 3-light South Window with 17thC chamfered-Brick Arched Heads. South wall of Nave has a 17thC Timber-framed Porch (restored 19thC) sheltering a simple early-Romanesque Doorway; to right is a tiny 11thC Window and, to left, a 17thC Window of 2 lights with chamfered-Brick Dressings. Above is a 19thC Dormer with Gable on Carved Brackets. North Wall of Nave is largely obscured by a large Vestry of 1890, but has a 3-light Brick-Mullioned Window, with Brick Label, plus a 3-light Dormer. Timber-framed Tower is Clad in 19thC ornamental Tile Hanging & Shingles, with Arched Framing at Ground-Floor plus arched Wooden Belfry openings below a Pyramid Roof.
Interior: Chancel has a 14thC Ogee-headed Piscina, with Shelf, and a 7-Canted Roof with 19thC Panelling. Nave has a 4-Bay Roof, dated 1615, with Upper & Lower Windbraces, 2 rows of Ogee-moulded Butt Purlins and elaborate double-Collar Trusses with Queen Struts, from which spring Arched Braces to a Central Pendant, plus Curved Upper Struts. End Trusses have Tie-beams carrying rectangular Framing with elaborate Curved Bracing. 2 Intermediate Trusses have inserted 19thC Tie Beams with added Queen Struts & Bracing. 2-Bay Transept Roof has Arched Wind-braces and an Arch-braced Collar Truss, with added 19thC Tie Beam, and is probably 15thC. Fittings include Western Gallery, with heavy turned Balusters, dated 1676 & 17thC Oak Panelled Pews. Romanesque Font has pattern of linked circles. Small area of Medieval Floor Tiles. Interior of Tower not inspected but probably 14th-15thC Framing.

Berrick’s small Medieval Chapel, substantially altered in the 17thC and again in 1890, is notable for its Timber-framed West Tower of c.1429, a feature unique within Oxon, and uncommon Nationally  The rest of the Building – Nave & Chancel (with no Chancel Arch), South Porch & South Transept Chapel, and added North Vestry – is predominantly rubble-built & rendered, with some 17thC Brick Mullions, and restored Timber-framing in the Porch. Decorative Barge-boarding was added in 1890, when the Tower was Clad in striking Red & Grey Bands of Fish-scale Tiles & Wooden Shingles.

11th-12thC Font

The earliest Dateable feature is the plain round-headed South Doorway, probably late 11th or early 12thC. A small Norman-style Window to its East was constructed in 1890 from Fragments found in the North & South Door Jambs during Restoration.  The 11th or 12thC Font, with its Interlaced Beaded Circles, is of high Status and may have been imported from elsewhere (possibly Chalgrove), although it was certainly in the Church by 1822.  13thC remodelling is reflected in the Early English North Doorway and in a Lancet Window (possibly reset) in the Transept’s East Wall: the Transept itself was probably added around the same time, presumably as a side or Chantry Chapel, and retains a Timber Roof of probably 15thC date. The Chancel was rebuilt in the 14thC, equipped with Piscina & Aumbry and lit by trefoiled Lancets and a Tall East Window with intersecting Tracery.  The structurally independent Tower has been tree-ring dated to 1428/9, probably replacing a Bellcote, and in 1553 Housed 2-Bells; possibly a Timber-framed Structure was all the Community could afford. Inlaid Medieval Floor Tiles, a fragment of stained Glass, and ‘bright-coloured’ Scroll-Pattern wall Paintings were discovered in 1890, when the Glass & Tiles were reset.

Berrick Salome Chapel from the South-west, showing the Tower’s distinctive Cladding added in 1890.

The Chapel was substantially remodelled during the 17thC, beginning with construction of a fine Oak Roof to the Nave in 1615 and associated rebuilding of the Upper Walls. Brick-Mullioned Windows in the Nave & Transept may be of similar date. Box Pews were provided in 1636, a Parish Chest in 1638, and a Timber West Gallery in 1676, lit by surviving Dormers, while further 17thC refurbishments included wooden Altar Rails and a new Communion Table.  The Bells were expanded to a Ring of 5, 2 of them (by Henry Knight) dated 1621, and 3 others 1692.  Thereafter only running repairs were recorded, the Fabric becoming increasingly dilapidated during the 18th & 19thCs. Problems in 1759 included cracks in the Chancel Walls and wear to Roofs, Buttressing, and Paving, while Churchwardens’ neglect of the Churchyard Mounds prompted a threat of Excommunication in 1792.  Pews & Flooring were repaired in 1840,  and a 6th Bell (funded by subscription) was added in 1836.

By the 1880s the Walls were Unstable, Tiling dilapidated, and the Interior disfigured by mildew. Restoration by Alfred Mardon Mowbray of Oxford followed in 1890 through the efforts of the Vicar George Blamire Brown, the £699 cost met chiefly from external subscriptions, a Mortgage on the Chapel Estate, and a Loan from Queen Anne’s Bounty Walls, Windows & Roofs were repaired, the Nave’s Jacobean Roof having been re-discovered behind Arched Plaster Ceilings.

South Porch

The Gallery was moved a few feet Westwards and placed on Carved Stone Corbels with Biblical Inscriptions; a new Vestry was added on the North, entered through the Nave’s reopened North Door; and the East Window was replaced by a near-copy of its predecessor. Externally the Tower was transformed by its Tile & Shingle Cladding (replacing dilapidated Weather-boarding), while decorated Barge-boards were added to the Dormers and reconstructed Timber-framed Porch.

1676 West Gallery Inscription Church Wardens – John Barre & William Mooare

Internally a new Oak Altar, Choir Stalls, Lectern & Pulpit were installed (the Chancel & Altar being both slightly raised), the Box Pews were Lowered and rearranged, and the Font reset.  Mowbray’s external application of ‘the trappings of fashionable late 19thC Domestic Architecture’ has attracted harsh modern criticism, but contemporary reactions were more favourable, and much of the Building’s Historic Fabric was preserved.  A new wrought-iron Bell Frame was installed in 1908 and Electric Lighting in 1938, most later work being purely restorative. The Pulpit (suffering from dry rot) and Choir Stalls were removed in 1982, and the Harmonium replaced by an Electric Organ in 2003.

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