A Celtic wheel?

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A Celtic wheel?

On the left side of the south window of the aisle is a fragment of primitive carving , perhaps from the time of St Kentigern. If this simple engraving resembles a ‘solar cross’, its six spokes also suggest the Celtic wheel associated with Taranis, or Thor. But it could also be a crude attempt at depicting the fall of man. In the Irish ‘scripture stone’ from Carndonagh, in County Donegal, the seven spokes represent branches of the tree from which Eve plucked the fatal fruit, and the trunk ends in roots. By analogy, the circles in the Barton stone may signify fruit, and the lines at the bottom right may represent the heads of Adam and Eve, huddled by the trunk of the tree.

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Below the window is a superb late sixteenth-century panel, perhaps originally part of a sarcophagus, carved with a rosette, fleur de lys, birds, rose-bushes, trees and scrolls. Roses, jackdaws and scrolls also appear in the ceiling of Barton Kirke (dated 1585) and on the Dawes coat of ams with its familial ‘daws’ or jackdaws.

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Left of the east window, the capital at the east end of the arch has a shield of the arms of Lancaster (argent, two bars gules, with a mullet representing the rowel of a spur). These arms were adapted by George Washington’s forebear, William de Wessyngton, whose shield featured three mullets ‘in chief’, i.e placed above the second bar, as in the arms of Washington D.C. and what are improperly called the ‘stars and stripes’ (in heraldry they are dubbed ‘mullets and bars’).

Next to the shield are two heads, defaced. They have the appearance of tonsured monks,
possibly a reference to the Augustinian order whose masons remodelled the chancel and the tower. Always blamed on Cromwell by Royalist historians such defacement is as likely to have occurred when church images and liturgy were purged when Henry VIII broke with Rome.

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Other memorials in the South Chapel commemorate John Wordsworth, the poet’s cousin, born in Yorkshire in 1754, and his wives Anne Gale and Elizabeth Littledale, both from Whitehaven. John was a captain in the East India Company (as was the poet’s brother). He died of yellow fever on board The Atlantic out of Whitehaven and is buried beside Anne.

Anne was ‘a sweet woman’ in Dorothy Wordsworth’s judgement, and her memorial clearly agrees:

A disposition eminently benevolent, lively affections regulated by a sound judgment & tempered with the gentlest manners endeared her to numerous friends & procured for her general love and esteem.

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The impressive stone inscribed WD 1674,beneath the south window, commemorates William Davyes of Winder Hall and a trusteeof the Grammar School. Davyes married Barbara Lancaster, the third daughter of the last Christopher Lancaster of Sockbridge Hall.

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In the South Chapel, between the south and east windows is a piscine (shown here). Its drain is cut in a late 12th century capital, with water-leaf foliage, once used as a whetstone for sharpening blades. Its head is tracery, also recycled, from a 14th Century window.

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Immediately to the left of the south door, c. 1300, is a 16th century holy water stoup (damaged), used by those entering by this door for purposes of ritual purification.

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The south wall is pierced by an arch, c. 1330, through to the chapel, first built as a monks’ chantry, and subsequently used for burials and then as a vestry. East of the arch is the upper arch of a doorway and the remains of a window, both 13th century. At the re-opening of the church after restoration in 1903 the Bishop of Carlisle suggested that the opening may have belonged to an Easter Sepulchre, housing a sculpture of the risen Christ. Supporting the west end of the arch is a shield of Lancaster, gripped by monks’ or masons’ hands.

 

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