Ingram : St Michael’s Church Discussion
The structural history of the church is reconstructed in considerable detail in the Northumberland County History. The suggested building sequence outlined there is as follows, with some additional comments:
West wall of nave, mid to late 11th century. The main dating evidence seems to be a recorded ‘restoration’ during the earldom of either Siward or Tosti; but the wall has no particular diagnostic feature, It is suggested that this first church was of cruciform plan, with transeptal chapels, but again this seems pure conjecture.
Lower part of west tower, later 11th century. This is puzzling; the account refers to the tower as having been dated to the 12th century through an erroneous description of a ‘double-chamfered base course’. The NCH does not mention the chamfered plinth on the tower at all; a single-step chamfered plinth is currently exposed (although a two-stepped plinth is clearly shown on the NCH plan). A mid-12th century date in fact seems far more likely.
13th century, chancel and transept arches
Later 13th century, nave aisles and arcades. Differences in quality of work are seen as dividing phases (3) and (4); they should perhaps be regarded as a single phase.
End of 13th century; upper stage of tower added.
At unspecified dates various changes including the blocking of the tower arch, the wall including a rebated doorway.
Later 17th century; possible restoration after the church was described as ‘ruinous and destitute’ in 1663. The puzzling changes to nave arcades may date to this phase. Their rather clumsy western responds and elongate eastern ‘piers’, both with heavy impost mouldings hollow-chamfered on the underside, probable fit most easily with this period, although they are really rather strange, and stylistically could be seen as much earlier (even 11th or early 12th century) work If this were the case, then the moulded 13th Century bases to the western responds would have to be interpreted as the first phase of a piecemeal replacement that was never completed; an awkward hypothesis, although little stranger than the western responds of the transept arches, which on this reading must be read as a 17th century encasing of the lower part of a 13th century respond. The 19th century restorer may however have had a hand here.
1736. Strengthening of tower including added buttresses
1792. Instructions were given for the stone-flagged vaults over the ‘aisles’ (which NCH interpret as meaning transeptal chapels) to be replaced by slates - the chapels were in fact demolished.
1804. Spire and south aisle demolished, new south porch built
Between 1825 and 1870 the north aisle and north chapel (which was walled off from the aisle) were demolished, and the chancel rebuilt on a much smaller scale.
1877-1879. A major restoration, with the aisles being rebuilt (considerably narrower than in their original form), a new south porch built and the chancel extended. The tower arch was re-opened
c.1899. The tower was underpinned and ‘rebuilt’; as already noted this does not seem to have entailed total demolition, but reconstruction (or simply re-facing?) section by section, from the base to the top.