History material -
Every Building Tells a Story

- key stage 3


We should put some words of explaination here, e.g. "we can date different parts of a church building by looking at the style of the stonework, in particular the shape of the arches. Most churches will show different 'phases' of construction..."



some more words of explaination here... above is just one example... Blyth in Nottinghamshire...


lets go through some example features in chronological order...

Anglo-Saxon (600-1100*)


Heysham, St Patrick, (Lancs) (800 - 850)



Barton-on-Hum1 Barton-on-Hum2

Barton-on-Humber tower windows (950 - 1000)

[nicked off wikipedia:] There are many churches that contain Anglo-Saxon features, although some of these features were also used in the early Norman period.

Typical Anglo-Saxon features include:

  • long-and-short quoins
  • double triangular windows (pictured right above);
  • narrow, round-arched windows (often using Roman tile);
  • herringbone stone work
  • west porch (narthex)

It is rare for more than one of these features to be present in the same building. A number of early Anglo-Saxon churches have a cruciform plan, however cruciform plans for churches were used in other periods too. Similarly, a chancel in the form of a rounded apse is often found in early Anglo-Saxon churches, but can be found in other periods as well.



Long-and-short quoins at Wilsford, Lincolnshire:
This is a typical example of Anglo-Saxon 'quoins' or cornerstones


Rothwell towerThe tower at Rothwell, Lincolnshire

add a further sentence

Tower at Wharram-le-Street, Yorkshire Wolds

Escomb, Durham

Is this showing a typical
Anglo-Saxon chancel arch?
So is it fair to say they are
typically narrow and have
a semi-circular arch?

Wharram windows

detail of the Wharram-le-Street belfry windows

Norman (1070-1180**)


Norman architecture is characterised by rounded arches, zig-zag carving, and large proportions...

Worksop Priory towers
and west front
Winkburn south doorway
with carvings
Tickencote, Rutland, chancel arch


Southwell Minster tower windows
and decoration
Kilpeck, Herefordshire, Edingley west doorway and masonry

Kilpeck, Hertfordshire

Kilpeck_Herefordshire_capital_carving Eardisley_Herefordshire_about_1130

What shall we say here? Carvings of animals and mythical creatures may also be present in Norman churches...


Early English (c. 1180–1270)

The most significant and characteristic development of the Early English period was the pointed arch known as the lancet. Compared with the rounded arch, the pointed arch looks more elegant and, more importantly, is more efficient at distributing the weight of the stonework above it, making it possible to span higher and wider gaps using narrower columns.

Upton nave arcade

Thoroton left_arches _right_arches

Brinkburn Priory, Northumberland


Thurgarton Priory
tower and west front
Southwell Minster_
East End, about 1234
Sibthorpe tower Holy Island, Northumberland


Thurgarton Priory doorway South Leverton
nave capital carvings


Notley Abbey 1250

(Lithograph, 1860s/1902)

Early Decorated (about 1280-1300***)

Southwell Chapter House

about 1290
(Late Early-English /
early Decorated)

HowdenHowden Minster


Dorchester Abbey 1300

(Lithograph, 1860s/1902)

Decorated (c. 1270–1360)

Thoroton_image_niche_west_tower South-Leverton_N_doorway Low-Marnham_S_doorway
Fownhope_Herefordshire_ballflower_decoration Cromwell_chancel_S_window HawtonHawton East Window


Woodborough_chancel Weobley_Herefordshire_aisle_arcades_EE_chancel_arch

Perpendicular (c. 1360–1540****)

Southwell Minster
west window

Foston Foston on the Wolds
Snarford, Lincs, font East Markham
Lambley Cromwell tower
Bishops Nympton, Devon Egmanton

17th century (1600s)


"Classical revival": Berwick-on-Tweed (1650)

18th century (1700s)

18thCGeorgian: West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire 18thCGeorgian: Sunderland, Holy Trinity(1719) OssingtonOssington

19th century / Victorian

"Greek revival": Milton Mausoleum (1832) "Gothic revival": Moorhouse (1861)
"Gothicr revival": Clumber Park (1889) "Gothic revival": Hoveringham (1865)

20th century

20thC Ravenshead, St Peter (1970s)

Worksop CC

Worksop, Christ Church (1990s? bigger pic missing)





Dates are notoriously difficult to assign (and vary quite a lot, depending on which architectural historian you ask!)

*Anglo-Saxon dates are given as 600-1100 because Anglo-Saxon building carries on past the Conquest, though more properly known as Saxo-Norman.

**Norman c.1070-1180 (there was not much building in the first few years after the Conquest).

***Early Decorated sometimes refered to as late Early English.

****The Perpendicular style continues, often, well into the 17th century.