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History of Barfreston

Barfreston comes from the Old English ‘tūn’ meaning an ‘enclosure, a farmstead, village’ combined with a personal name; therefore, ‘Beorhtfri’s farm/homestead’. The Domesday Book records Barfreston as Berfrestone. Edward Hasted in his topographical survey of 1800 refers to it as Barson.

Barfreston parish church is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and built by the Normans between 1170 and 1185. An unknown founder cast a bell in the mid-13th century. Hasted describes the Barfreston church, which he refers to as St Mary’s, as ‘a small building of great antiquity; the outside is curiously adorned with carve-work in stone, with circular arches and windows, especially at the east end; the west end has a fine circular arch with Saxon ornaments and zig-zag border; and in the inside is another like arch between the body and chancel. This church, so well known to every lover of antiquity, of which so many engravings have been made, is a most curious specimen of Anglo Saxon architecture. It consists of a body and chancel, separated by a circular arch, supported by two elegant wreathed pillars; a row of singular uncouth heads are round the cornice; a beautiful circular window is at the east end; at the foot of the wall are two circular arches, forming recesses, probably for places of sepulture, and not improbably for the founders of the church. The grand south entrance, now partly hid by a modern porch, is most curiously sculptured with rows of figures of various kinds. Nitches for statues are all round the building. There is no steeple, a small wooden turret having been taken down a few years since. There is only one bell’. R C Hussey carried out a major restoration in 1839. Around 1900, they hung the bell in a Yew tree…. more