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All Saints, Brixworth, Northamptonshire

(52°20′1″N, 0°54′18″W)
SP 747 712
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Northamptonshire
now Northamptonshire
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

All Saints, Brixworth is essentially an Anglo-Saxon church, described by Clapham as 'perhaps the most imposing architectural memorial of the seventh century surviving north of the Alps'. The date is based on the 12thc. Peterborough chronicle of Hugh Candidus, who attributed its foundation to Cuthbald, abbot from 675. Fernie (1983) preferred a date between 800 and 860 on the basis of continental parallels, particularly for the exterior ring crypt, the square choir bay preceding the apse, and the probable original form of the wall between nave and choir. The church has a long, unaisled nave of four bays, these marked by wall arches of brick now containing windows. These arches originally led into flanking spaces divided into porticus. East of the nave is the square choir bay, now entered under a broad 15thc. arch, and east of this the apse with three windows. From the exterior the apse is polygonal, but this is a 10thc. modification; it was originally semicircular. Here too can be seen the remains of the ring crypt, original to the design and formerly barrel-vaulted. On the S side of the square choir bay is a chapel of c.1300. At the west end signs of a late 10thc. remodelling are also visible. The west porch was heightened into a tower and a window into the nave added, and on the west wall of the tower a stair turret was added. The tower was heightened again and a spire added in the 14thc. The church is included here on the grounds of a late-Romanesque doorway inserted into the west arch on the S side of the nave.


Surprisingly little evidence is available for Brixworth before the Conquest. Brixworth was held by the king in 1086. A priest was recorded, implying the church that we already knew was there by that date. William I is said to have granted his land in Brixworth to Arnold the Falconer, and when Henry I confirmed the grant in 1107-16, the church (along with those of Shipton and Swinbrook) was described as formerly held by Josephus (who could therefore be the Domesday priest). Arnold set up two prebends in Old Sarum cathedral, one of which included Brixworth. It was thus in the unusual position of being annexed to a prebend in the cathedral of a diocese other than that in which it stood. The position was regularized in the 1220s, when the prebendary, then Robert de Brinton, was required to present a resident vicar of Brixworth to the bishop of Lincoln for institution.

Benefice of Brixworth with Holcot.


Exterior Features



This is not the place for comments on the Anglo-Saxon work, beside which the Romanesque doorway seems insignificant, if not disruptive. The doorway has been dated 'c.1200 or into the early 13th century' by Richard Gem and Hugh Richmond in a paper dated 13.10.1987 attached to the RCHME Report. The authors compare it with Northamptonshire doorways at Duddington and Polebrook.

RCHME Report, uncatalogued.
Victoria County History: Northamptonshire. IV (1937), 152-57.
J. Bridges, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire, Compiled from the manuscript collections of the late learned antiquary J.Bridges, Esq., by the Rev. Peter Whalley, Oxford, 1791, II, 84.
A. W. Clapham, English Romanesque Architecture before the Conquest, Oxford 1930, 33-36.
E. C. Fernie, The Architecture of the Anglo-Saxons, London 1983, 65-69.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire, Harmondsworth, 1961, rev. by B. Cherry, 1973.
H. M. and J. Taylor, Anglo-Saxon Architecture, Cambridge, 1965, I, 108-14.