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SPINY SQUIRREL

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 692 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SPINY SQUIRREL, a book-name for a group of African ground squirrels, characterized by the spiny nature of the fur of the more typical forms. They form the genus Xerus, which is split up into a number of subgenera; Xerus rutilus of Abyssinia and East Africa belonging to the typical group, while the striped spitze) given to the lofty roofs in stone or wood covered with lead or slate, which crown the towers of cathedrals, churches, &c. In their origin, as in the church of Thaon in Normandy, they were four-sided roofs of slight elevation, but soon began to be features of great importance, becoming lofty pyramids generally of octagonal form, and equal in height sometimes to the towers themselves. The junction, however, of an octa- gonal spire and a square tower involved a distinct architectural problem, and its solutions in English, French and German spires are of infinite variety. One of the earliest treatments is that of the south-west tower of Chartres Cathedral, where, on the four projecting angles are lofty spire lights which, with others on the four faces and the octagonal spire itself, form a fine composition; at the abbey of St Denis the spire light at each angle was carried on three columns which filled better the three- cornered space at the angles and gave greater lightness to the structure; long vertical slits in the spire lights and the spire increased this effect, leading eventually to the introduction of tracery throughout the spire; the ultimate results of this we see in the lace-work spires of Strassburg, Antwerp, St Stephen's at Vienna, Freiberg, Ulm and other examples, which in some cases must be looked upon as the tours de force of the masons employed. In England the spires were far less pre- tentious but of greater variety of form. The spire of the cathe- dral at Oxford (1220) is perhaps the earliest example; it is of comparatively low elevation, of octagonal form with marked entasis, and is decorated with spire lights on each face and pinnacled turrets at the angles. Those which are peculiar to England are the broach-spires, in which the four angles of the tower are covered with a stone roof which penetrates the central, octagonal spire. In the best examples the spire comes down on the tower with dripping eaves, and is carried on a corbel table, of which the finest solution is St Mary's at Stamford. The angles of the octagonal spire have a projecting moulding which is stopped by a head just above the corbel table, and at the top of the broach is a small niche with a figure in it; the spire lights are in three stages alternately in the front and dia- gonal faces. At St Mary, Kelton, and St Nicholas, Walcot, are similar designs. Seen, however, on the diagonal, the void space at the angles of these broach-spires is noticeable, so that an octagonal pinnacle was erected, of which the earliest example is that of the cathedral at Oxford, where the broach was of very low pitch. Of later date St Mary's, Wollaston, All Saints, Leighton Buzzard, and St Mary's, Witney, are good examples. As a rule the broach penetrates the octagonal spire about one- sixth or one-seventh up its height, but there is one instance in St Nicholas, Cotsmere, in Rutlandshire, where it rises nearly half the way up the octagonal spire. When the parapet or battle- ment (the latter being purely decorative) took the place of the dripping eaves, the broach disappeared, and octagonal turrets occupy the corners, as in St Peter's at Kettering and Gundle, Northamptonshire, and in All Saints, Stamford, Lincolnshire. The next combination perhaps followed from this; in order to connect the angle tower or pinnacle with the spire, a flying buttress was thrown across, thus filling the gap between them; of this St James's, at Louth, in Lincolnshire, may be taken as a fine type; it belongs to the Perpendicular period and is further enriched with crockets up each angle of the spire; the same is found in St Mary's, Whittlesea, Cambridgeshire. At St Michael's, Coventry, the lower part of the octagonal spire is made vertical with a battlemented cresting round it. In St Patrick's, Partington, Yorkshire, the lower part of the spire, which otherwise is plain, is enclosed with an open gallery like the cresting of a crown. Sometimes the upper storey of the tower is made octagonal, and is set back so as to allow of a passage round with parapet or battlement, as at St Mary's, Bloxham, St Peter and St Paul, Seton, and St Mary, Castlegate, York. The most important groupings are those which surmount the towers of the English cathedrals; at Lichfield square turrets of large size with richly crocketed pinnacles; at Peterborough, a peculiar but not happy arrangement where a lofty spire to a point), the architectural term (Fr. fleiche, Ital. guglia, Ger. covers over the buttress between angle turret and spire; and at North African X. getulus represents the sub-genus Atlantaxerus. The more typical species are characterized by the coarse spiny hair, the small size, or even absence of the ears, and the long, nearly straight, claws. The skull is narrower and longer than in typical squirrels, and there are distinctive features in the cheek-teeth; but the more aberrant types come much closer to squirrels. Typical spiny squirrels differ from true squirrels in being completely terrestrial in their habits, and live either in clefts or holes of rocks, or in burrows which they dig themselves. (See RODENTIA.)
End of Article: SPINY SQUIRREL
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