Day 9 – Re-interpreting Canon Jenkins’ discoveries

17 Jul Junction of chancel and nave

The picture above shows what appears to be the end of the chancel and the beginning of the nave of the Anglo-Saxon church.   You can see that the wall turns, causing the width of the nave (at the top of the picture) to be greater than the width of the chancel (at the bottom of the picture.  This makes sense.  This narrowing of the chancel is found in other early churches, and in fact is exactly the same in our parish church right next to it.

So far, not so surprising.  What is rather odd is that this is not how Canon Jenkins recorded it, as you can see from the plan below.  He shows the nave wall continuing on the same line as that of the chancel wall.  One suspects that the stepped arrangement would not have suited his grand projection of a three-aisled basilica quite so well.  There has always been a big question mark over this projected reconstruction, as there are absolutely no other parallels for such an elaborate structure anywhere else in England.  It has long been thought that this might be a complete flight of fancy, and the archaeology is beginning to support this view.

Canon Jenkins Plan of the church 1875

On the other side of the nave, to the east of the porch where the gutter used to be, we have revealed a stub of Anglo-Saxon wall which is part of the chancel, and visible on Canon Jenkins’ plan.

17 Jul nave wall east of porch

This wall continues under the porch, so it is not possible to see at the moment if it steps out to create a wider nave on this side, in the same way as it does on the south side.

A wall does project out from the west side of the porch, so we have evidence for the nave here.

17 Jul nave wall under porch

There is still quite a bit of cleaning up to do.  There were various fragments of grave headstone and kerb dumped and buried under the grassed bank that has now been stripped.  This debris will be removed tomorrow.

17 Jul nave wall west of porch

A bit further to the west, under the path between the tower and the Memorial Garden, a stub of transverse wall has been found.  This is marked on Canon Jenkins’ plan, dividing what he called the basilical church from an atrium.

17 Jul transverse wall by the tower

We know from an examination of the remains in the Memorial Garden in 1991 that there was no atrium.  At least, it was not part of a single large building in the way that Canon Jenkins imagined.  The structure in the Memorial Garden was on a different alignment and most likely both free-standing and later in date than the church we are now excavating.  In fact, the excavator who looked at the site in 1991 thought it was of the same kind of date as this piece of pottery found close by today.

17 Jul late saxon pot from by tower


2 thoughts on “Day 9 – Re-interpreting Canon Jenkins’ discoveries

  1. Wow! This is all very exciting. Thanks for all the news. Is the chancel butt jointed on to the nave? The chancel being narrower than the nave is like St Pancras but not Bradwell et al. so maybe this means it was a church of the 620s/630s. The article on this by Eric Cambridge in the St Augustine volume is key. Such an early build would fit very well with the early high status nature of the site…


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