Barton-upon-Humber has two splendid churches, St Peter’s and St Mary’s, within a few hundred yards of each other. St Peter’s is the oldest and has a superb Anglo-saxon tower. The first records for St Mary’s date from the 12thC when it seems to have been a chapel of ease to St Peter’s Church. It is not clear when it became a church in its own right.
Barton upon Humber was a thriving town and St Mary’s Church soon grew from a simple rectangular building to a large church with side aisles and tower. St Peter’s Church was declared redundant in 1970 and is now in the care of English Heritage. As it is only open in the summer months, a visit will have to be left until later in the year. Today we headed to St Mary’s which is now the parish church.
St Mary’s is a splendid building surrounded by Georgian and Victorian buildings. The tall square tower has eight pinnacles, carved balustrade round the top and tall pointed windows with pillars. Much of the detail in the carving has been lost as a result of weathering. The nave has a clerestory roof above the later side aisles which have large perpendicular windows. There is a large south porch with a 13thC pointed archway and a room above.
Inside it is a large church with a stone font by the door. The arcade separating nave and north aisle is 12thC Norman and has massive round pillars supporting carved round arches above. The south arcade and south aisle are later, dating from about 1300. The octagonal columns with smaller pillars running up them are similar to those seen in Lincoln Cathedral. Apparently the waterleaf capitals are quite rare.
The wooden pews survive in the aisles but have been replaced in the nave by chairs.
There is a pointed arch at the base of the tower with carefully carved capitals and a carved wood screen shuts off the base of the tower.
The side aisles and chancel were stripped by the Victorians down to the stonework. The nave has been plastered and whitewashed. All have a wooden beamed roof. Apart from a Victorian stained glass window in the south aisle. The windows are plain glass making the inside of the church very light.
At the back of the north aisle is is the chapel of St Chad with a small altar. Many of the furnishings came from the demolished church dedicated to St Chad by Barton Haven, as the people living on the Waterside were a very close knit community and had their own church.
At the east end of the north aisle is another altar dedicated to St Thomas a Becket. To one side is a piscina. On the window ledge is a fragment of gravestone to Faith Lowe who died in 1706, aged 23. There is a massive treasury chest used to store processional crosses and banners. This has massive iron hinges and locks and was carved from a single oak tree trunk in the 14th or 15thC.
The altar in the south aisle is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. There is the remains of a sedilia on the south wall. The small window seen on the outside of the south aisle was inserted to give light onto the altar.
Beyond is a 19thC organ in a wood panelled casing. This came from St Peter’s Church after it closed.
The simple chancel arch has a crucifix hanging from the ceiling. Next to it a small Victorian carved wood pulpit. The choir has kept the Victorian choir stalls. There is a simple table altar beneath the massive east window with Gothic tracery. This has fragments of medieval glass. The floor is covered with patterned tiles with old grave slabs around the altar. There is a lovely full size brass of Simon Seman, a vintner who was an alderman in London. He died in 1433 and his feet rest on two barrels of wine.
Close to this on the wall is an unusual shaped memorial in the shape of a pillar dedicated to Jane Shipsea who died in childbirth aged 22 in 1626.
The Chapel of St James the Deacon is an extension of the south aisle and was built in the 14thC. It has pointed arches with lovely carved heads at the base of the arch. It is furnished with old wooden pews and has a carved altar rail and simple table altar. There is a sedilia on the south wall. During the 18thC it was a school room and the beautifully carved wooden screen separated it from the rest of the church.
This is a very nice parish church which has grown over the centuries and reflecting the wealth of medieval Barton. It is open everyday and well worth visiting.