The lecture at last Tuesday evening's meeting of the Oxford University Heraldry Society was given by John Titterton FSA and was about the heraldic glass and the building of the chancel at Norbury church in south west Derbyshire. In recent years the glass has been cleaned and conserved at a cost of £250,000.
St Mary and St Barlok Norbury is one of those medieval churches I have long wanted to visit but not manages to do so far. There are online articles about the church here and here, and two more about St Barlok's cross, an Anglo-Saxon piece preserved in the church and the relatively little known saint himself here and here.
Photos: Copyright Alan Walker
The chancel of St Mary & St Barlok at Norbury, Derbyshire.
Photo: Aidan Macrae Thompson
The 'box-like' structure and design of the chancel bears striking resemblances to those of Chartham church in Kent, Checkley church in Staffordshire and to the choir of Merton College Chapel in Oxford, all of which are attributed to the 1290s, as well as the episcopal chapels of St Etheldreda in Holborn (1290) and that at Wells (1292). The presence of ogee arches in the tracery would seem to place it after they frst appear in England on the Queen Eleanor crosses of c.1295.
The design of the window tracery bears strong resemblences in its use of a boss within the tracery to the windows at Chartham, Checkley and Merton.
The original scheme of glazing survives in the north and south set of windows, although the tracery lights have lost their original glass. The east window contains later glass of about a century later. Each light of the windows has grisaille glass according to four different patterns, with an heraldic shield at the top. Some of the lights appear to have been transposed over the centuries, but the scheme is essentially complete. Details of the glass are virtually indistinguishable from other work at Chartham and Merton, both in the grisaille leaf patterns and inserted coloured motifs and in the heraldry, especially the arms of the Clare family.
John Titterton has produced a handsome booklet on the windows in aid of the continuing restoration of the fabric.
This was a remarkable insight into the world of artistic patronage and social networks at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and I am all the more keen to go and see Norbury church for myself.