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Image of Sponne coat of arms
St Lawrence Church, Towcester

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Medieval Period
By 1200 a substantial Late Norman or ‘Transitional’ church had been erected which already formed the basis of the present plan. Much of that church has been incorporated into the existing one.

Three of the pillars of the nave re-use late 12th century ornamented capitals. The stonework of the columns that went with them is clearly identifiable by the light shade of the limestone, compared with the later brown ironstone. In one case the capital and the old column have become separated and incorporated into different later pillars.

The height of the columns in this ‘Transitional’ church can be deduced by subtracting the later brownstone at the base from the present height.
The three capitals and pillars point to a nave, four bays in length but with only one side aisle initially. The ancient stone recess behind the pulpit once formed the entrance to the 'rood loft' of the church.
Image of pillar capital
Pillar North Arcade
Image of pillar capital
Pillar North Arcade
During the early 13th century the Transitional church received additions in the ‘new’ style of Medieval Gothic known as ‘Early English’. The western chancel of the building now standing is of the 13th century.
On the south side of the chancel beside Sponne's Tomb is a 13th century pillar still in its original position.
This suggests that there was not only a south aisle in that period but that this aisle was extended eastwards slightly, to form a side chapel to the chancel.
The east end of the chapel gives the line for the east end of the Transitional chancel. This pillar appears to correspond with the fine moulded south door in the same aisle.
Pillar South Arcade
Moulded south doorway
The first sixty years of the 14th century, encompassing the reigns' of Edward I, II and III saw the church embellished and enlarged. This was the 'Decorated' phase of the Medieval Gothic.

The east end of the chancel was extended to provide additional room for the clergy, and the medieval crypt built beneath, with its 6 part type vaulted roof, reached by a door from the sanctuary. A north aisle was added to balance the south, and the north aisle chapel added soon after. This is now the vestry and also houses the organ.
Image of the crypt Image of the crypt
Crypt Crypt
The nave and south porch were refurbished in the 14th century. Porches served a variety of purposes, the most practical of which was to provide cover from the elements, weddings in the Middle Ages were often celebrated outside, and a porch would offer protection during the proceedings.
The fine octagonal font with its stem decorated with ‘nodding ogee arches’ is also of this period.
The main body of the church was left as an open space with no pews and shut off from the altar. It could then be used for all variety of public occasions.
In medieval times the walls would have been plastered and painted with brightly coloured biblical pictures and portraits of saints for the largely illiterate population. Churches were stripped of their images at the Reformation.
The only remaining evidence of this is a painting of a crowned lady visible under the north corbel of the aisle arch in the south chapel.
There is also another painting of the Pelican in Piety, in an ogee headed niche, on the south wall of the south chapel.
Image of wall painting Image of wall painting
Pelican in Piety Crowned Lady
The Lady Chapel or Chapel of St Mary's, at the east end of the south aisle, became the Chantry chapel after the death of Archdeacon William Sponne. Sponne was a former Rector of the church (1422-1448) who was a notable benefactor to the town. The Archdeacon's table tomb stands there with his clothed effigy lying on the top, and an open arcaded chest below containing his cadaver.