St. Peters Church Addingham

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Norman Stonework at St.Peter’s Addingham

In early October, 2013, the pulpit and pews in the south-east corner of the nave at St Peter’s were moved to allow joists and floor boards to be replaced and an attack of dry rot to be dealt with. This briefly exposed an area of earth floor and a small part of the footings of the south wall.

It is known from documentary records that the south wall was rebuilt in 1756-7, and a survey of the church made by the stone mason Robert Carr before rebuilding began shows that the original south wall was considerably thicker than what replaced it. The footings exposed in 2013 suggest that the wall was rebuilt directly on the old foundations with the inner face of the wall set forward about 25-30 cm from the inner face of the foundation.

This left a wide ledge supporting an additional course of roughly squared stones with gaps between them into which joists were fitted. The existing pews stand on the floor supported by these joists, but there is also evidence of earlier box pews. At the ends of the pews next to the central aisle, which is paved with flags below the carpet, there are stone supports for the other ends of the joists. The lower end of an oak post which was part of the box pews is leaded into the stonework, and there are iron straps linking some stones.

The south wall is 69 cm thick above the exterior plinth and about 85 cm below it. Given that the foundations are 25-30 cm wider than this, they must be at least 110 cm wide in total.

Comparison can be made with the west wall of the nave where the tower built in 1757 butts against it. This wall was examined when the floor inside the tower was taken up in the 1980s. The west wall was not rebuilt when the tower was erected, but it shows signs of some alteration during earlier works when the north aisle was added to the church in the 1520s. The chamfered top course of the plinth seems similar to that of the aisle.

In other respects, though, the west wall is still substantially the wall of the first stone building on the site, probably dating from c.1155.

During the 1980s repairs, the thickness of the west wall was found to be 90 cm above the plinth and 102 cm thick below it, with footings about 113 cm wide. Tooling could be seen on some of the dressed stone, and this was typical of Norman axe-dressed masonry.

The rather small part of the footings of the south wall exposed in October, 2013, appeared roughly built, without much dressed stone, and no tooling was seen. But the overall width of the footings of the south wall (over 110 cm) seems to be about the same as the footings of the west wall (c.113 cm). This tends to support the view that the eighteenth-century south wall of the church was built directly on top of the original, Norman foundations of c.1155.

The walls of Norman churches were often unusually thick by comparison with both earlier and later buildings. This was not for reasons of strength but because thick walls with wide reveals at doorways and window openings were felt to look impressive. The famous Norman church at Adel near Leeds was built about the same time as the original stone building at Addingham and has walls a little thicker than the west wall at Addingham.

These recent observations of the south wall suggest that all the walls of the Norman building at Addingham were of this thickness.

Diagrams of a cross-section of the south wall, and a section through the west wall can be seen by clicking on the blue text.