Welcome to St John the Baptist, Burford. North side.
South side from left to right in the next 3 photos.
Top of steeple
Down the tower-Romanesque arches. The zig zag arch is a Norman feature, but the double arched window is a late Anglo Saxon style. In early Norman buildings the work was often designed by a Norman architect but carried out by Anglo Saxon masons who would often do things in their normal way within the overall design. This led to some interesting hybrids. When this was built, it was the top of the tower.
Clock on the West side of the tower.
West doorway built c1175 A.D. The door and hinges are thought to be original according to a guide book. There was an older church for around 500 years before the traces of the current one. It’s such a weird thought that my ancestors knew and maybe touched these very stones. Here and there are the traces that the stones of the older church were reused to make the larger new one.
After the Norman’s invaded, (Battle of Hastings 1066 etc.) William the Conquerer gave parcels of land to his favourites regardless of who they had previously belonged to.
Burford was given a charter by Robert Fitzhamon around 1100 (Norman name. I think the Fitz prefix meant illegitimate son of. A lot of William the Conquer’s army had Fitz….s in it as they couldn’t hope to inherit land in Normandy so had to make their own fortunes). allowing it to have a Merchant Guild. His symbol was a lion which is still used on the Burford School badge, as the school was founded by merchants in the Middle Ages 100s of years later.
Around 1150 it was allowed to hold it’s own court for minor matters. Thus Burford went from being a farming village to a prosperous market town. The Cotswolds became prosperous due to the quality of it’s wool grown on the lack of the sheep in the surrounding hills. A lot of wealth was given to the church in the next few hundred years as the church was a source of local pride. There were times though when such pride came before a fall.
Much eroded statue above the west doorway into the C15th Lady Chapel.
What we see today is the result of 100s of years of additions to the C12th building. These “bale tombs” are found only in the Windrush Valley. It is thought that the people were acknowleding that their wealth came from sheep wool which was tied into bales like the top of these tombs
This dates from the C15th above the South (main) doorway.
I loved these doorways.
North East corner
This mill channel was deliberately dug just to the North of the church possibly in the C16th or earlier. Unfortunately it led to the flooding of the church so the floor had to be raised several inches.
Here is a zoom shot of the willow trees in the background of the above photo. The old trunks have split, but the new life is shooting from the sides. It almost looks like wolf cubs playing.
View North of the churchyard.
Forget me not flower.
I did a quick video. There is a piano recital rehearsal going on. The chairs have all been moved ready for the performance.
Traces of old plaster remain, no thanks to one vicar WA Cass (1871-1906). William Morris confronted him during “restoration” work in the C19th as all the wall paintings were being scraped off the walls with the plaster to expose the stonework. His reply was “The church sir is mine and if I choose to I shall stand on my head in it.” What utter arrogance! It was criminal how the Victorians stripped so many churches of their history just because of the clash of high and low church practices of that time. Morris’ outrage led to the establishment of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
Victorian window in the C13th chancel.
Main altar facing east. The roof is a Victorian replacement again something William Morris objected to.
Hughly decorated pulpit.
Above this painting in the nave you can see the apex of where the original Norman roof was. It is now much higher and flatter and luckily didn’t suffer the same fate as the chancel’s roof.
You can see clearly the hotchpotch of stonework here which was originally covered in plaster. Some of this stonework “mess” may have something to do with the C15th builders who were making a new taller grander spire to show the local pride and importance of Burford. The weight is about 700 tons and proved too much for the existing structure. (Think William Golding’s The Spire) Archways were rapidly filled in and as you can see in the above picture, this wall was rapidly erected across the North Trancept to act as a butress to the tower on the left. This makes Burford church feel like a set of interlocking rooms many with altars rather than one big space suitable for modern worship practices.
Click the above to read about the Tanfield Tomb 1625 A.D.
Lady Tanfield took over St Katherine’s Chapel without any sort of permission from the church and had this tomb erected for her husband started days after his funeral. It takes up nearly all the available space.
Reading between the lines she was very unpopular in the town. The book mentions a legend of the Tanfields riding through the town in a chariot of fire. What is certain is that using his position as a lawyer and as Lord Chief Baron , so well in with the King James I, he defrauded the church of it’s living (taking the money made from the glebe lands) and local people both here and in Great Tew where they also had an estate, felt that lands were stolen from them.
This figure is a statue of the grandson who inherited (their daughter became a Catholic so they disapproved of her) Lucius Cary. He died during the Civil War in the Battle of Newbury.
There is a skeleton carved in marble beneath the main figure- very Medieval idea.
This was the best shot I could get of the Tanfield effigies.
Statue of their daughter Elizabeth -she married Henry Cary and had 11 children.
These are the old bells which were taken down in the 1949 and replaced due to damage. They were cast by Henry Neale of Burford in 1635.
Just imagine the events these rung out.
This weird device is a turret clock mechanism. The current turret clock runs on electricity.
Now on to the font- pic of each side. The font is probably C12th with C14th carvings including the crucifixion with Mary and St. John, and St John the Baptist holding a lamb, and St Andrew, St Catherine with her wheel of martyrdom, and Elisha and a raven.
Click to read
To the left of the green sticker you can read the graffiti carved into the lead of the font top- “Andrew Sedley 1649 prisner”. On 13th May 1649 around 340 mutinous parliamentarian troops left Salisbury heading to Banbury to join up with other troops who felt that Cromwell had betrayed the very ideals they had fought for. They were taken prisoner is Burford (only good river crossing for miles either side) and held in the church. Many escaped. In the end only 4 were tried and 3 executed on the 15th May. 360 years ago today exactly.
First Cornet Thompson
Cornet Denne was due to be shot too, but a last minute pardon came from Cromwell. It seems odd as he was one of the leaders of the mutiny. There is a detailed account of their executions. They died still believing in their cause and that Cromwell was merely replacing the King and his injustices with his own. They were courageous to the last and have unmarked graves somewhere in the churchyard.
This is St Peter’s Chapel. A headless statue of St Peter was found in this place during restoration work. It is surrounded by wooden carved screens dating from before the Reformation.
I was very taken with the wool needlework- flat cushions to help with the inevitable numb bum from overlong sermons sat on oak pews. But don’t they look far better than the plastic modern chairs. I’m happy to suffer to preserve the atmosphere and history of a church.
These are to kneel on, but are heaped up because of the recital. The floral one is beautiful.
Lastly below a scale model of the church shown from the South.
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