Have you ever wondered why there is often a big hole in the wall just inside a medieval church doorway? This book is primarily a study of the bar locks they were made to hold. Some were huge – like the still-functioning ones that go more than 3m deep into the walls at the west end of Exeter Cathedral to secure its doors. Potter argues that such bar locks were in widespread use across Britain and Ireland. There is some evidence for them from the Anglo-Saxon period, and they seem to have been most commonly installed during the 13th century. Although the book focuses on evidence for such locks in medieval churches in Britain and Ireland, it also considers other security measures, including restricted access to upper levels within the buildings. There are important implications, notably that some churches were permanently occupied because the bars could only be secured from the inside.
This posthumously published book serves as an advert, too, for the author’s previous studies of the geology and constructional methods of early medieval churches in Britain and Ireland, which deserve more attention than they have yet received.
Review by Helen Gittos.
Bar Locks and Early Church Security in the British Isles, John F Potter, Archaeopress, £40, ISBN 978-1789693997