Our Church during the Middle Ages


No 12: The Nave (cont’d); The Tower

The nave interior was revealed when the peeling distemper was removed by steam cleaning in 1951. Three fine consecration crosses were found on the south and west walls, notable for their unusual elaboration and for the fact that they were all different. Dr Clive Rouse dated them confidently to the 13th century by the pigment used and by the method of scribing. There would typically have been 12 crosses on the inside walls with a further 12 outside, now lost to erosion. These crosses indicate a reconsecration by the Bishop of Lincoln after a major change to the church, apparently by leaving the north wall standing and pushing out the south wall. The north wall is about 30 inches wide, noticeably thicker than the south.

The oldest surviving window in the nave is the wide lancet, close to and east of the north porch, partly covered by a later buttress, which was revealed in 1951 and is supposed to be early 14th century.

An 18th century print (LG.Jenkins, History of Penn, opposite p.138) shows this window close to a double lancet of similar appearance, (parts of which can still be seen), but since blocked in and replaced (probably in the Victorian restoration of 1863) to match the lower, c.1500, double window on the other side of the porch.

The Tower.- According to the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments (R.CH.M., 1912), the tower was built early in the 14th century. This judgement was based on the style of the lancet-pointed arch between the tower and the nave and the badly deteriorated lancet window immediately above the external west door. Penn roof tiles (not Roman tiles as so often supposed), were used to divide the courses of flint, at the same time achieving an attractive decorative effect. The suggested date for the tower also ties in with Chalcombe Priory’s confirmation as proprietor by royal licence (1326) and charter (1328).

Major repairs were carried out in 1903 when the tower was cracked from top to bottom on two sides. The parapet was rebuilt and new windows put in (except for the lancet).

© Miles Green, December 1997.

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