- Anglo-Saxon architecture
Anglo-Saxon architecture was a period in the
history of architecturein England, and parts of Wales, from the mid- 5th centuryuntil the Norman Conquestof 1066.
Anglo-Saxon buildings in Britain were generally simple, constructed mainly using
timberwith thatchfor roofing. Generally preferring not to settle in the old Roman cities, the Anglo-Saxons built small towns near their centres of agriculture. In the towns, there is evidence of main halls, and other forms of building of the towns people.
There are few remains of Anglo-Saxon architecture. At least fifty churches are of Anglo-Saxon origin, with many more claiming to be, although in some cases the Anglo-Saxon part is small and much-altered. All surviving churches, except one timber church, are built of stone or brick, and in some cases show evidence of re-used Roman work.The architectural character of Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical buildings range from Coptic influenced architecture in the early period; Early Christian
basilicainfluenced architecture; and in the later Anglo-Saxon period, an architecture characterised by pilaster-strips, blank arcading, baluster shafts and triangular headed openings.
Almost no secular work remains above ground, although the Anglian Tower in York has been controversially dated to the seventh century.
The fall of
Roman Britainat the beginning of the fifth century, according to Bede, allowed an influx of invaders from northern Germany including the Anglesand Saxons. Their secular buildings were rectangular post built structures, where timber posts were driven into the ground to form the framework of the walls upon which the roofs were constructed. Though very little contemporary evidence survives, methods of construction, including examples of later buildings, can be compared with methods on the continent.The Anglesand the Saxonshad their own religion, but Christianitywas on its way. St Patrick, a Romano-British man, converted Irelandto Christianity. The architecture though was initially influenced by Coptic monasticism. Examples of this can be seen today in the form of rectangular dry-stone corbelledstructures such as at Dingle and Illauntannig, Ireland. Christianityand the Irish influence came to Englandthrough missionaries. In 635, a centre of this so called Celtic Churchwas established at Lindisfarne, Northumbria, where St Aidan founded a monastery.
597, the mission of St Augustine from Romecame to Englandto establish Christianityin the south, and founded the first cathedraland a Benedictine monasteryat Canterbury. These churches comprised of a navewith side chambers. He brought the Roman form of Christianitywhich differed from the Celtic Church. The influence of this form of Christianityspread through England.
664a synod was held at Whitby, Yorkshire, and leaders of both the Celtic and Roman Church decided to follow the Roman form of Christianity, resulting in uniting the church throughout England. Larger churches developed in the form of basilicas, for example at Brixworth.
Subsequent Danish (
Viking) invasion marked a period of destruction of many buildings, including in 793the raid on Lindisfarne. Buildings including cathedralswere rebuilt, and the threat of conflict had an inevitable influence on the architecture of the time. During and after the reign of Alfred the Great( 871- 899), Anglo-Saxon towns ( burhs) were fortified. Contemporary defensive banks and ditches can still be seen today as a result of this. Oxfordis an example of one of these fortified towns, where the eleventh century stone tower of St. Michael's church has prominent position beside the former site of the North gate. The building of church towers, replacing the basilican narthexor West porch, can be attributed to this late period of Anglo-Saxon architecture.
The earliest surviving Anglo-Saxon architecture dates from the
7th century. Church designs at the time differed between the north of England, which are narrow with square ended chancels; and the south, which are similar to St Augustine's churches with evidence of having apsidal ends separated from the naveby a triple arch opening, for example at Reculver. Exceptions to this include the Old Minster, Winchester. The most complete example of the northern type of church is at Escomb, but in the south there is no surviving complete 7th centurychurch with an apse. At Bradwell-on-Sea, only the navesurvives.
St Martin's Church, Canterbury(7th century nave with parts of possible earlier origin)
Old Minster, Winchester( 648) (only foundations remain, but are marked out)
St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex( 654)
Ripon Cathedralcrypt (circa 670)
Hexham Abbeycrypt ( 674)
Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Priory, Northumberland(c. 675)
Escomb Church, County Durham(c. 680)
Eighth, ninth and tenth centuries
Little is attributable to the 8th and 9th centuries, due to the regular
Vikingraids. Developments in design and decoration may have been influenced by the Carolingian Renaissance on the continent, where there was a conscious attempt to create a Roman revival in architecture.
All Saints' Church, Brixworth, Northamptonshire
*St Wystan's church, Repton,
Derbyshire(crypt c. 750, chancelwalls ninth century)
St Mary's Priory Church, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire(c. 930)
All Saints' Church, Earls Barton, Northamptonshire
St Laurence's Church, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire
11th centurysaw the first appearance of the High Romanesque style in Britain. Many cathedrals were constructed, including Westminster Abbey, although all these were demolished and rebuilt by the Normansafter 1066.
Greensted Church, Essex( 1013with oak palisade walls)
Lincolnshire(c. 1040with a small part surviving from 975)
St Michael at the Northgate, Oxford(c. 1040)
* [http://www.somptingparish.org.uk St Mary's Church] ,
Sompting, West Sussex(c. 1050, with a "Rhenish helm" spire)
Odda's Chapel, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire ( 1056)
History of Anglo-Saxon England
* Clapham, A. W. (1930) "English Romanesque Architecture Before the Conquest", Oxford.
* Fernie, E. (1983) "The Architecture of the Anglo-Saxons", London.
*Pevsner, N. (1963) "An Outline of European Architecture", Harmondsworth.
* Savage, A. (1983) "The
Anglo-Saxon Chronicles", London.
* Taylor, H. M. and J. (1965-1978) "Anglo-Saxon Architecture", Cambridge.
* [http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/adversaries/archaeology/index.html Anglo-Saxon architecture in Early British Kingdoms]
* [http://www.regia.org/houses.htm Anglo-Saxon Houses and Furniture on Regia Anglorum]
* [http://www.hillside.co.uk/arch/cathedral/nave.html Blockley K. and Bennett P. (1993) "Canterbury Cathedral", Canterbury Archaeological Trust Ltd.]
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