“Often rising to seventy feet or more, there is generally real dignity in their rough-hewn austerity, in which collectively may be recognised one of the earliest monuments of English art” or at least that is what Cox and Ford have to say about Saxon towers, like this one at Barton-Upon-Humber, in their book “Parishes Churches of England“. The “pilaster-strip” (or the pilaster strips in this case) are a “characteristic feature” of such towers and are purely ornamental (perhaps they were meant as a reference to the timber framed building techniques uses on their domestic buildings).
To quote from “The Observer’s Book of Architecture” by Penoyre and Ryan, “The exteriors of the churches were sometimes decorated with a criss-cross pattern, formed of long, thin stones let into the face of the rubble wall, that seems to have little meaning or purpose“.
Whatever the architect’s intentions, I’ve grown to love this tower over the years. The Church is now maintained by English Heritage, so you can find out for about on their website, if you’re interested. If you’re driving the the area it might be worth taking a detour into Barton-Upon-Humber, because the Church is right in the middle of Town and you will be able to see the tower, in all its glory, from the road.