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WAYSIDE ART IN EAST ANGLIA

LINES

POINTED ARCHES

In the past in simple or primitive stone buildings, window openings often had a solid stone lintel to bear the weight of the wall above, or else other simple structures such as two elongated stones placed diagonally and meeting at the top to form an arrow shape.  Arrow-shaped openings (usually referred to as triangular-headed) are not commonly found in East Anglia, but they do appear on some of our round towers on churches and date from about the time of the Norman Conquest.

Above: Two examples of double triangular-headed openings on round church towers.  The left one is at Haddiscoe Church in Norfolk and dates from around 1100 AD, and the right one, built about the same time, is at Herringfleet Church in Suffolk.

I don’t know whether triangular-headed openings were built for practical or structural reasons, or whether they had some decorative or symbolic significance.  They are not peculiar to East Anglia: the famous Anglo-Saxon towers of Earls Barton Church in Northamptonshire, and Barton-on-Humber in Humberside, as well as a number of round towers in Ireland, dating from the fifth to the thirteenth centuries, have triangular-shaped openings.  But these buildings also have openings with round arches and, in the case of Ireland, with flat lintels as well.

Left: Triangular-headed doorway at Great Dunham Church in Norfolk.

Interestingly, the round arches on such towers seem frequently to appear on the ground level of the buildings while the triangular-headed openings are found higher up.  This is likely to be because rounded arches are stronger and can carry more weight than pointed ones.  Openings at the top of a building obviously have less weight to carry.  

 

If the triangular-headed openings have a symbolic significance, it is likely to be connected with Christianity as all the buildings that have them seem to be Christian churches.

This modern, Anglo-Saxon style window is at Hoxne Village Hall in Suffolk.  Hoxne is associated with the death of the Anglo-Saxon king, Edmund, in 870 AD at the hands of the Danish Vikings.  He was apparently shot with a hail of arrows.

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Above: A Saxon triangular-headed doorway, dating from about AD1000, incorporates re-cycled Roman tiles.  It’s on the tower of Holy Trinity Church in Colchester, Essex, which ceased to be used as a place of worship in 1952.