Netherton, Worcestershire

Feature Sets (4)

Description

Remains of 12thc. chapel, of rubble construction, comprising chancel and nave, standing in a garden next to a farmhouse. The gabled end walls stand to full height; half of the N nave wall has been destroyed. There is a tall plain round-headed window with a continuous roll surround in the N wall of the nave, a similar but shorter window set into a modern brick farm outhouse, and a taller plain round-headed light in the S nave wall. Romanesque sculpture is found in the S and N doorways, the former blocked, on reset fragments in the N nave wall outside, in the S nave wall inside and in a farm outbuilding, and on loose fragments stored in a fireplace in the W wall of the nave.

History

In 1086, Netherton was a chapel of Cropthorne, and it never achieved parish status. The chapel was in disrepair by the reign of Edward I but it was later restored. It was again disused by the 16thc. Hobington (1647) described the chapel as 'desolate in antiquity'. The W end was repaired during the 17thc. and converted into a dwelling. According to local tradition, it was used as a schoolhouse. In 1738 it was described as a barn, and this was still the case in the 1900s. Around 1920 the ruin was consolidated and stabilised.

Features

Exterior Features

Doorways

Nave, N doorway

Both the outside and the inside bear sculptural decoration.

Dimensions
h. of opening 2.51 m
w. of opening 1.21 m
L capital:
d. 0.145 m
h. incl. necking 0.15 m
h. without necking 0.135 m
w. 0.15 m
Exterior

Round-headed, of two orders.

First order: pseudo-colonnettes on chamfered plinths. No capitals. The arch bears one row of straddling directional chevron (alternate directions) over a rolled edge, with a row of nailhead beading down the centre of each chevron roll. Major losses to springers, to accommodate a beam. The lower three voussoirs on the R are more weathered and lighter in colour than the more blackened voussoirs to the L; this is probably due to the loss of the second order voussoirs above them, which exposed them more to the elements.

Second order: R side lost. L side has keeled nook shaft on bulbous base, the capital carved with a full-length mask, the nose at the angle, ears at the outer edges of the block and mouth forming the necking, so that the shaft appears to emerge from it. A row of beading runs across the forehead, and on each face above is a palmette-like motif, but with scalloped edge and fluted surface; possibly this represents a crown. Hollow-chamfered impost with a groove on the face. The whole shaft with its capital and impost appears to be original. The arch bears two rows of lateral hyphenated chevrons, syncopated on the face, similar on the soffit, meeting hyphen-to-hyphen. Within the lozenges thus formed on the edge are rosettes of varied design, shaped to match the field. The triangular fields outside the outer chevrons on face and soffit are decorated with plain leaves with scalloped edge, the scalloping continuing outside the hyphens. A row of nailhead beading runs between the scalloping and the rolls. Four voussoirs on R side of arch missing.

Interior

Round-headed, one order, the arch rising to a height corresponding to that of the second order outside. The arch now rests on a beam, and the lower voussoirs on the L, corresponding to the lost ones on the exterior, are missing. Voussoirs hollow-chamfered on soffit and face with a narrow angle roll and grooves along the outer edges, carved with straddling lozenges composed of narrow rolls. The voussoirs with their lozenges vary in width, being narrower towards the apex of the arch. One of the lost voussoirs is probably set into the N wall (see para.III3.d.(i) below). Label lost.

S doorway, nave (blocked and reset)

Two orders, with carved monolithic tympanum, reset in 1920. The tympanum appears to be made of a very hard, granular stone, carved with a winged creature with reptilian head, mouth wide open breathing fire, a scaly, prawn-like body with scalloping beneath the stomach, webbed foreleg and long beaded fish's tail arching back towards the head, following the curve of the upper edge of the stone. The wings have some convincing bird-like features, but the beading of the tail is formed of nailhead. The carving is in low relief. There is a drilled hole in the centre of the body.

Dimensions
h. of tympanum 0.55 m
w. of tympanum 1.13 m
First order

Jambs with plain rolled edges outlined by grooves; no capitals.

Second order

Only the bulbous bases survive. There are no archivolts, and the tympanum is set in a modern section of wall built of coursed rubble, contrasting with the uncoursed work of the rest of the building.

Exterior Decoration

Miscellaneous

Voussoir

Set into the N wall outside is a voussoir bearing a half-lozenge on the hollow-chamfered face, like those of the interior arch of the N doorway, from which it presumably came.

Interior Features

Interior Decoration

Miscellaneous

Carved fragment

Set in the interior S nave wall above a blocked doorway is a fragment bearing a roll moulding, possibly a voussoir.

Carved fragment

Slightly to the right of (i) is a fragment with curved edge bearing roll billet on its chamfered edge and a groove on the face, probably a section of label.

Loose Sculpture

Carved fragment

A fragment carved with square trellis ornament is set into the wall of a farm outbuilding. The pattern is otherwise unknown on the site.

Carved fragments

Various fragments, some Romanesque, others later, are stored in the fireplace in the W wall of the nave. They include a voussoir fragment with a half-lozenge containing an indistinct motif, probably from the first order of the N doorway, and a stone carved with a keeled nook shaft, possibly from the second order of the same doorway, from the lost R side.

Comments/Opinions

Stratford (in Pevsner 1968, 223 fn.) suggests that the tympanum dates from the second quarter of the 12thc., and refers to tympana with fantastic creatures at Egloskerry, Cornwall, and Wynford Eagle, Dorset. The nailhead beading seen on the tail and jaws is also found on the archivolts of the N doorway, however, which probably dates from the last quarter of the 12thc. Pevsner compares the decoration of the N doorway with the S doorway at Bredon, and Stratford (ibid.) suggests that the same workmen may have executed the W doorway of Eckington, but neither is as grand or accomplished as Netherton. The dimensions of the tympanum in the S nave wall do not exclude the possibility that it was once set in the N doorway. The early history of the building is obscure, and the patron and reason for its elaborate sculptural decoration are unknown.

Bibliography

  • The Victoria History of the Counties of England. Worcestershire, vol.III, London 1913, 323-24.
  • E.A. Barnard, The Ruined Norman Chapel of Netherton near Elmley Castle, Worcestershire. Stourbridge 1921.
  • C.E.Keyser, Norman Tympana and Lintels, London 1904, 39, 31.
  • C. J. Bond, 'Church and Parish in Norman Worcestershire' in J. Blair (ed.) Minsters and Parish Churches: The Local Church in Transition 950-1200. Oxford University Committee for Archaeology Monograph 17. Oxford 1988, 119-58, 133, 141.
  • F.S. Houghton, 'The Parochial and other Chapels of the County of Worcester, together with some account of the development of the Parochial System in the county', Trans. of the Birmingham Archaeological Soc., 45 (1919), 59-61.
  • T. Habington, A Survey of Worcestershire, ed J. Amphlett. Oxford, 1895-99.
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Worcestershire. Harmondsworth 1968, 46, 223.
  • Files of the County Archaeological Service (unpublished).

Location

Site Location
Netherton
National Grid Reference
SO 991 416 
Boundaries
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Worcestershire
now: Worcestershire
Diocese
medieval: Worcester
now: Worcester
Dedication
now:
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Ruined chapel of ease  
Report authors
G. L. Pearson