731/7/1 CHURCH WALK
Church of St Mark
(Formerly listed as:
Church of Saint Mark)
Largely C14 and C15 church, restored and enlarged by Bodley & Garner, 1871-2. South aisle, 1962-3.
MATERIALS: Pink sandstone ashlar (reportedly from around Kenilworth), slate roofs.
PLAN: West tower with spire, three bay nave, three bay chancel. South aisle of five bays, with porch. North aisle of four bays with vestry eastwards.
EXTERIOR: The three-stage west tower is late Decorated, i.e. perhaps 1320-50; the two-light bell-openings have flowing tracery combined with a strong vertical mullion of the incipient Perp style. Diagonal buttresses terminate with canopied statuary niches. There is a small west window, no door, and simple ogee-headed lights to the ringing chamber. On the north side, a shallow stair turret supported on a corbel with a boar's head. There is an embattled parapet, then an octagonal spire, reportedly added in the C15. There were angle pinnacles on the parapet (removed after one fell in 1895). The nave and chancel have a single steep-pitched roof; both aisles have separate ridge roofs. All the gables have stepped coped verges. The south aisle south wall was built in 1962-3, reusing the medieval stonework of the south nave wall. The fourth bay has a lowside window beneath the main window, with square chamfered frame and internal shutter. In the fifth bay is a Perp priest's door. Both are reminders that this wall originally belonged to the chancel. The east wall has a datestone, 1962. The south windows have varied flowing Dec tracery, all renewed by Bodley & Garner. Gabled Gothic porch, 1962. The chancel has a broad six-light east window with Flamboyant tracery installed in 1873 (see the datestone to the left). Another reset datestone to the right records alterations in 1609. The vestry and north aisle have more Dec tracery and regular buttresses with set-offs. At its west end is a small porch perhaps c. 1880-1910, with domestic-looking half-timbering and roughcast. The north aisle west window (three lights, reticulated) was reportedly the chancel east window until 1871-2.
INTERIOR: The tower arch is triple-chamfered and without capitals. A glazed screen was set into the opening in 1984. The nave roof (1871-2) has arched trusses with tie beams. The chancel wall is of pink ashlar. Double chamfered chancel arch without capitals, the mouldings continuing to the bases. Notches mark the fixing points for the Medieval rood beam. The three-bay north arcade by Bodley & Garner has wave mouldings that die into the piers. The south aisle added in 1962-3 is remarkably discreet and harmonious; the nave arcade is like that to the north, but in Portland stone. The chancel was comprehensively reworked by Bodley & Garner. The four-bay boarded roof is richly painted and gilded, with carved shields on the principal rafters. The restored C14 vestry door (north side) has a hoodmould and head-stops. To its east, a splendid Dec Easter sepulchre, with a cusped and sub-cusped opening, leafy spandrels, crockets and big finial. It was altered in the C17 to house a tomb. In similar Dec style are the triple sedilia and piscina. The stone bench and the basin are Medieval, the rest of 1876. Geometric floor of stone and marbles, with encaustic tiles on the altar steps. The chancel floor is lower than that of the nave.
PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: Communion table of 1609 in the south aisle, with fat baluster legs. The chancel fittings are mainly of 1871-2, of the highest quality: Perp style stalls with high backs (screen-like traceried open panels) and ornamental cresting. Painted texts and sconces to the desks. Similar richly carved reredos. Above the stalls, a pair of hanging iron and brass candelabra. Late C17 communion rails with turned balusters, from Great St Mary, Cambridge. The oak organ case is sumptuously carved and decorated. It was made in 1635 by Roger Dallam for the chapel of St John's College, Cambridge. Installed here in 1870, with new organ workings, the base vaulted out from the wall and embellished with Gothic spirelets over the pipe towers. Richly pierced and gilded pipe shades (C17) including the rose and portcullis. Surrounding the organ is the remnant of Bodley's stencilled paint scheme in greens and deep reds. It covered the whole chancel but was painted out in 1976. Bulky stone font with shallow panelled sides, probably Victorian, as is the oak pulpit, which has blind tracery of Gothic arches. The pre-1870s pews were rearranged as panelling against the aisle walls, etc. Above the north door, a set of folding painted panels of angels playing musical instruments, 1872-3. Royal arms of George IV, i.e. 1820s. In the nave are two large brass chandeliers purchased in Holland in the 1870s. Stained glass. By Burlison & Grylls the east window (1874), west window, the south aisle west, and one east of the south door (1884). The Rev. Richard O. Assheton made the south aisle east (1882), and also reset numerous late Medieval fragments in the north window of the chancel, with his own additions, 1887. This includes a fine bearded head and a peasant wielding an axe.
HISTORY: There was a priest at Bilton at Domesday, and presumably a church. Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England (1831) reports that St Mark was principally Norman, "of which style it exhibits some good specimens", with a later tower and spire. Whatever Norman features existed in the nave or chancel must have been removed, perhaps at the 1870s restoration. A rebuilding was undertaken in the mid-C14, perhaps by Sir Nicholas de Charnels; the family arms appear twice on the tower. The Medieval dedication was to St George; St Mark appears first in 1656. A west gallery was erected in 1795, and a south porch added probably in 1821, when work was done to the pulpit and pews, the east window altered and the floors raised. Bodley & Garner's restoration added a north aisle and a new south porch, and renewed much window tracery. The church was reopened on June 19, 1872. The tower and spire were repaired in 1918-19 and 1947, and a general restoration occurred c. 1930-1.
Pevsner, N & Wedgwood, A, Buildings of England, Warwickshire (1966) 94
Warwickshire Record Office, Bilton faculties (DR0221) and plans (DR0830, DR0982)
Victoria County Histories, A History of the County of Warwickshire, vol. 6 (1951) 30-5
Incorporated Church Buildings Society (ICBS) archive, Lambeth Palace Library, file 07262 (www.churchplansonline.org)
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
The Church of St Mark, Church Walk, Bilton, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* A largely C14 and C15 church with a pleasing Dec tower and later spire, and a prominent Easter sepulchre
* Sensitive restoration and enlargement under Bodley & Garner (1871-2)
* A parallel campaign by the rector to acquire fine fittings resulted in stained glass by Burlisson & Grylls, and a magnificent C17 organ case
* The 1870s alterations constitute a significant expression of High Victorian piety
* The south aisle added in 1962-3 is remarkably discreet for that date