May 22 – Off to Housesit in Burford, Oxfordshire

Barfrestone and Womenswold churches

Hello from 1066 – Medieval Mosaic

Today we said a big goodbye to Boris and Gillian and headed off to Burford in Oxfordshire. Last night the couple at Ripple told us that we should visit the church at Barfrestone so we went this way before getting onto the motorway.

St Nicholas Church at Barfrestone is a hidden gem of a church It is nestled amid the green lanes and wooded countryside around the hamlet of Barfrestone. St Nicholas Church was founded around 1180 by Adam de Port, the local Baron who lived in Dover Castle and stands on a route well travelled by countless medieval pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. It has the most amazing carved stonework in Caen stone both inside and outside. The south door is an exquisite masterpiece of Norman sculpture. The tympanum and arches of the south door contain what can easily be described, without fear of contradiction, as some of the finest Norman carvings in Britain. A figure of Christ stands at the centre of the tympanum, with two mermaids, a griffin and a sphinx at Christ’s feet. The door frame is composed of three bands of carving, representing all manner of religious symbols, mythical birds and beasties, signs of the zodiac and medieval scenes.  A frieze of carved human and animal heads runs around three sides of the church. The north door is also beautifully carved, with a pair of grotesque heads facing each other across the door opening.  The east end of the church has a large ‘spoke’ wheel window with still more carvings set in niches in the wall. The interior is no less interesting, with a wonderful carved Norman string course in the nave and chancel, with a Norman dogtooth designs and yet more carved figures of animals and humans.It is outstanding and more ornate than any other church we have seen.

The church in the pretty hamlet of Womenswold is dedicated to St Margaret Of Antioch. The present building is of 13th-century origin, built from flint and Kentish ragstone. In common with most local churches, it was probably built over a much older building. There is evidence of Norman period Caen stone in the moulding of the arch surrounding the south door, presumably preserved from the former church and reused in a later restoration. The structure consists of an aisleless nave and is distinctive in that the nave and chancel are enclosed by a single roof, without any change in pitch between the two. At the west end of the building is a three stage square tower which houses a single bell dated 1749. The building was given a Grade I listed building status in 1967, truly a gem of a church.

We arrived in Burford in the late afternoon, found the keys and made ourselves at home in Andy and Sandy’s house. We have no animals to look after and they have lent us their home so that we can arrange our exhibition in Burford and also visit Oxford and St Albans about possible exhibitions too. Rachael will be joining us early in the week.