A major restoration of 1873 retained many interesting ancient features.
The visitor to St Bartholomew, Chipping, has a splendid approach up a three sided flight of steps, through a high and curving wall, into a well-maintained churchyard. The church itself reinforces that well-kept feel, largely due to the major restoration of 1873 which is evident across most of the fabric. However, both within and without the building holds many original and unexpected pleasures.
The church was established at some time before 1230. The oldest feature may be what has been variously described as a cross-base, a plague stone, or more likely, a Saxon font. This hollow stone, found at the time of the major Victorian restoration, tapers to the base, is crudely worked, and has horizontal bands around it. More definitive early evidence, of the C13, is found in the chancel piscina with its pointed trefoil and nailhead.
The church has a Perpendicular west tower of a type found throughout northwest England. It differs only in lacking a projection to hold the stairs. The twin bell louvres are typically small with minimal decoration in the form cusped heads. The nave and chancel are all in one, the only projections being the south porch and by the north vestry. The windows of the building were extensively restored in 1873, but close inspection reveals that several, particularly on the east and west walls, retain original surrounds and tracery. These are three-light windows with cusped heads, and probably date from c.1500. The west tower window, which has the most elaborate tracery in the church, also has re-used pieces. It seems the restorers wanted to keep the original designs.
Inside the building are two differing offset five-bay arcades. The capitals of the south arcade are plain, octagonal, of a type frequently seen, whilst those of the north arcade are particularly interesting. Some have crudely carved heads (see photo), whilst others have equally rustic carving including a serpent, petals, and abstract geometrical patterns. These appear to be the whim of individuals and follow no nationally recognised style of the period.
The font of 1520 is equally rustic in its ornamentation. Its base is almost certainly an upturned capital of the type found on the north arcade, whilst the octagonal column and top appear to be original. It is said to be the gift of Bradley of Bradley Hall, and the family initials are on the shields. Other shields have designs that are unreadable now, but elsewhere the instruments of the Passion can be seen – the scourge, nails, hammer and pincers. Despite the crudity of the carving the font has an endearing provincial quality. Nonetheless it has the overall feel of the late Perpendicular period.
The church was rebuilt in 1506, and chantries created to the north and south of the altar in 1519 and in 1530. Further alterations were carried out in 1706. It is known that Wesley preached at the church in 1752, but he was prevented from doing so again in 1753. In 1754 a west gallery was installed for a choir and orchestra, but it was removed in 1873.
The most noteworthy stained glass in the church is the Berry Window (below) at the east end of the south aisle (the Sherbourne Chantry). It is a striking, semi-abstract swirling pattern in reds (fire) and blues (water). The donor’s family were chair makers, a Chipping industry since the C19.
In the south aisle is a large chest of Belgian origin brought from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. In the churchyard is the stepped base of a cross. The cross itself disappeared after 1618, and was replaced by the present sundial in 1708.