Look carefully and you will discover a host of architectural features and points of interest that date back to the 12thcentury. From Anglo-Saxon engravings and the face of Edward Longshanks to some surprising trans-Atlantic connections; stained glass maple leaves and carvings of the ‘Stars and Stripes’, Barton Church is full of surprises – spanning both the millennia and the globe.
You can read about many of these features here and use the interactive church floor plan to locate features of particular interest to you so you know just where to look for them during your visit.
As William Wordsworth once wrote in his “Lyrical Ballads and Other Poems”, those who think may find a ‘tale in everything’. And that is certainly the case with beautiful Barton Church.
In 1704 the nave of the Church was ‘put into very decent order’, Bishop Nicholson reported, ‘the Walls and Roof being made very good, the Floor levell’d and flagged’ – before then, the bare earth would have been annually strewn with rushes. During the previous century the south wall of the chancel had been rebuilt, and the south porch added. The chancel, porch and south aisle roofs must have been slated by the 17th century, because the porch and ‘isle’ roofs were ‘repaired’ in 1703, using sheep shanks as slate pins, and thirty- two cartloads of slate. In 1752, however, there was a parish levy for re-roofing of the nave, and in 1860 new flags were laid over earlier ones, unfortunately obscuring some ancient gravestones.
A major restoration in 1903, under Revd Thomas Sharp, involved removal of the plaster ceilings, stripping plaster from the walls and pillars, pointing the stonework inside and out, erecting a new pulpit, and removing the gallery. It also created the new oak barrel-vaulting running east-west, in both nave and chancel, the form echoing the north-south vault of the tower.
From beneath the tower, the courses in the stonework of the north and south walls match up clearly with the height at which the original narrow arches were cut away, probably in 1330, to be underpinned by much wider arches, spanning the whole width of the tower. The five foot deep arrow-slit window through the south wall, with steps, shows the strength of the tower. Before the construction of the south aisle this was an external window. Above the roughly-trowelled barrel-vault ceiling are two bells, presented in 1672 (one recast in 1868), inscribed ‘St Michaell for Barton’.
The chancel, enlarged in 1330, was described by Bishop Nicholson in 1704 as ‘vastly large’, though its floor was ‘very rugged’. Its fabric was in a ruinous state for much of the 18th century—in 1787 it was almost roofless and windowless, ‘nor one window with glass in it’, according to Clarke’s famous Survey of the Lakes (1787) which added that ‘only a few years ago, Mr Hasell’s hounds actually killed a hare in it’. Many of the parish council’s expenditures relate to the killing of animals – in 1701 the parish paid 3 shillings and fourpence for a dead fox, one shilling for a wild cat, one for a brock and one for an eagle. The last such entry is in 1829 when 5 shillings were paid for two fox-heads. A century later, despite reconstruction in 1860, the floor was still uneven, and it was re-laid in 1903. The line of an earlier, lower and more steeply pitched roof can be clearly seen in the east wall of the tower.
The North Aisle
In the 18th and 19th centuries there was a gallery over the north aisle, a line of box pews ran through the tower into the chancel (the pulpit stood on the right of the arch), and the plaster walls were lime- washed to deal with smoke from the suspended oil lamps.