Brixworth Anglo-Saxon Church
Meeting up with ‘time-rich’ retired roadies offers opportunities other than drinking coffee and eating cakes, although these are key features not to be dismissed! Last Tuesday’s cycle ride took me over to Brixworth, close to Pitsford Reservoir, famous the world over for its Anglo-Saxon Church. Most churches in this land of ours date from the time of the Normans – people who knew a thing or three about the construction of buildings. The Saxons, on the other hand, were not heavily into the use of stone and brickwork, so most of their churches were constructed in a combination of wood, wattle and daub. The historical outcome of this, of course, has been the inability of Saxon buildings to resist the ravages of time, with many of the churches being replaced with Norman-built stone constructions that still stand to this day.
All Saints’ Church at Brixworth, however, contradicts all of the above. This fine, amply proportioned building has
not only survived to this day, but it proves to be an excellent example of the finest Anglo-Saxon architecture of the 7th century. Its external visual appearance will tell, even the least informed, that this is not a Norman church, and its internal proportions are startling by their sheer height and breadth, more akin to a Romanesque church than anything here in the UK.
Amongst many things, what fascinated me about the history of this church was its connection with the ancient practice of “trials by ordeal”, whereby the innocence or guilt of a defendant was subject to the cruel administration of a life-threatening action (poison, fire etc..), and the verdict was left in the hands of God (ie. if they survived, they were innocent). These were the subject of spectator ‘sport’ in the Middle Ages, just like public hangings, and people flocked from all over to witness these trials. Click here to find out more.