Pre-history

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Pre-history

While the fabric of Barton Church is Norman, there are clearly mediaeval, renaissance and modern contributions.

However the site, a mound within a circular boundary wall, may be both man-made and prehistoric. It lies between the ancient British strong- hold of Dunmallet, the ceremonial avenue on Moor Divock, with its stone circle and burial chambers, and the twin bronze age ‘henges’at Eamont Bridge, known as Arthur’s Round Table and Mayburgh Henge. There are springs to the East, and a well to the west, known as Michaell Well. As the Reverend Gordon Scott suggested in 1978,

The building of the church here may have been prompted by an early mediaeval tradition of preaching and baptism among the Britons by a Celtic mission, possibly connected with St Patrick or St Kentigern“.

A dedication to the all-conquering St Michael often implies a pagan site that has been Christianised: the stained glass of the west window depicts him slaying a demonic presence. But the Archangel Michael was also commander of the heavenly host, and this church may be dedicated to him for that reason.

The tower may have been built partly to provide defence during border raids, serving as an additional Pele Tower, like Dacre Castle and Yanwath Hall. Cumbria changed hands between England and Scotland many times in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries and such towns as Penrith and Appleby were invaded and sacked even in the 13th and 14th centuries. The nature of the original tower can be glimpsed in its arrow-slit south window, which was an external window for over a century.

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The Middle Ages

In about 1330, monks from the Priory of Watre rebuilt and enlarged the Church, giving it higher windows, including the stonework of the East window, and a less steeply pitched roof. At the same time, it is believed, the original narrow arch under the tower, just seven feet wide, was widened to give better access between nave and chancel. The tower may have been reduced in height at the same me. So the unique structure of the church as you see it, with its double rounded arch supporting the mass of the tower, and with a view of the extended chancel, was fixed by 1330—except that in that time the roof was thatched and the walls almost certainly plastered and probably decorated.

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