Friday, March 17, 2006

Bizarre appearance on the Mendips

Pronounced lie (as in lie in bed)...... by the way.

What a silly looking church outside, not that it isn't impressive, it is the fall in height from one of the very best Somerset towers over such a small distance, via a short three-bayed clerestoried nave, to a very low chancel and chapels. The tower is perhaps my personal favourite, a breathtaking example with panelled embattled parapet, carrying sixteen pinnacles with a further four angle pinnacles on top of the buttresses and detached from the parapet itself apart from the tiniest flying buttresses. The grouping looks most absurd from a distance.

However go through the door (and it is usually open like today) and inside it all works very well. There is however enough blank wall over the tower arch for a window (as at Wells St Cuthbert and further afield Cirencester etc). Most of the pews are medieval with traceried bench ends, and the nave roof too, with a ceilure over the east bay.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

CityCrawl - Gloucester

Yesterday I left Bristol in the dry and headed north to that upstart city 35miles to the north. Sure enough I caught up the band of rain and had to endure this until lunchtime wandering around. It stayed dry until the last couple of churches, and so did I.
I first stopped at

built 1897-99 in a free Perp style by Walter Planck, completed 1929-30 (W end). It was locked and no sign of where to find the key. Large, nave and aisles of five bays, crossing and transepts and full-height E sanctuary. Some subdivision has taken place, one of the entrances said "Hall only". It has some pretentions of grandeur but it doesn't quite come off outside. Buttresses through the tracery of the transept windows and these and the east window have outer blank tracery as part of the overall window design.

I parked here and then went on foot for the rest of this crawl (and I feel it now!). Another large church 1882-83 by Capel N Tripp left unfinished at the west end until completion 1930-31. Large SE tower never rose above the first stage. Inside these western two bays are subdivided at first floor level, not a bad job but making photography difficult. Nice glass in the east window by Hugh Easton, maker of so much really wimpy designs in my view! Here he is really bold and colourful. The east three bays of the nave have double (i.e. outer) aisles (2 bays only on the south because of the tower). Muscular Gothic, again not quite coming off in my opinion!

formerly Presbyterian, overlooks The Park (in a sorry state, more mud than grass, but with much work going on to restore it). Palest yellow brick (almost white), with bands and patterning in red brick 1870-2 by Medland & Son. Its spire has long been removed. In excellent repair, possibly subdivided, with a hall in the basement. Locked.

Really of little interest, c 1970 by the look of it. More infamous is the plot of ground by it, now a walkway into the centre, as this is Cromwell Street and the gap was No 25, the so-called Gloucester House of Horrors, home of Fred and Rose West. As I took the path I thought of the many poor girls, family and strangers both who were buried where I walked. I am a little surprised that the council did not rename the street.

is the first medieval city centre church I visited, in Southgate. Cruciform with central tower (which had tall angle pinnacles removed in 1920s), the nave and aisles under one single roof, the east arm more traditional with clerestory. Norman west door (recarved in 1844). The appearance otherwise is Dec and Perp. A two-storeyed range adjoins at the NW corner facing Southgate. The church was open (but if closed the Tourist Information nearby has the key). Inside the crossing has a lierne vault but is otherwise tall and narrow in the nave and chancel. It contains some notable memorials and some rich decoration (e.g. the sedilia and large image niches flanking the east window, bothcontrasting with the High Victorian reredos.) The tall four light east window has early Victorian glass of 184-5 by George Rogers of Worcester, an interesting copy of medieval figures (at Drayton Beauchamp, Bucks, apparently). **

stands at the medieval cross roads in the heart of the city, but only its C15 tower remains (its west window still with stained glass), the church proper demolished in 1955. Some strange concrete street furniture diagonally opposite.

Has a medieval tower, its very top lopped off the spire and replaced by a ball. The rest seemingly rebuilt in the C18, and now in use by the Methodists. For the first time ever on a visit to Gloucester I found it locked.

has a daring steeple, the top stage of the tower open and carrying a tall broach spire. The church was open and itself is fairly standard Victorian Gothic, sizable with a west gallery carrying the organ over the vestibule entrance. Ornate NE (ritual) Lady chapel, with good later decoration, the rest of the church rather toned down in comparison.

is a simple two-celled medieval chapel, much restored, n the grounds of Victorian Housing and sympathetically added C20 housing, an excellent composition. Locked.

The third site for this parish church, this one being built 1912-5 by Walter B Wood. Here is yet another large suburban church, which tries hard but doesn't quite come off either. Wide nave, rather low, with large busy traceried windows, and the awkward base of a SW tower which hardly rose above aisle height. The east two bays of the aisles have transverse bays with large windows, more like double transepts. No chancel arch, two-bayed chancel, but an arch to the sanctuary. The interior tested the camera, but was lighter than it seems. the pews are gone, oddly the church chose upholstered chairs to replace them, but not in a single colour, hence green turquoise and Royal Blue chairs are randomly distributed. The font came from the second St Catherine's, built 1867 and demolished in 1927 as it was at the wrong end of its parish.

The C12 chancel survives of this Leper Hospital Chapel in Hillview Gardens, in situ (unlike the two structures to the west, a medieval conduit and a preaching cross, both originally in the centre of the city.) Restored in 1995 with a grant from English Heritage, this little structure is now boarded up and much vandalised, to the city's shame. The chancel arch was blocked when the nave was pulled down in 1867; inside there are two more Norman doorways re-erected from the nave N & S walls and a recumbent effigy of a Lady. (Board with history and sketches is not vandalised!)

is a pretty early Victorian church 1845-7 by Francis Niblett. This church is much more of a human scale, with a SW tower and spire. It was locked sadly.**

My walk now took me through the grounds of the cathedral and King's School. Every time I have been here before you could enter the cloisters and cathedral from here, close by the infirmary ruins. Not any more, this is gated and locked. I had intended walking through the cathedral to the next church but this was not possible.

Stands in a 1960s square beyond the cathedral precinct and reached via two gatehouses on my route. Norman crossing tower and C13 chancel, the nave and aisles late Georgian. The west end (under the gallery now serves as a hall, and this was in use by the self-styled University of the Third Age (German class for Older Adults). To get inside fulfilled something I have tried to achieve since the age of 10! I went away and returned 20 minutes later, assured of getting in. I liked the church. The low dark vaulted tower and chancel leading off the light airy nave is a real contrast. Among its fittings is a C15 pulpit and the C18 organ case in the south aisle was formerly in St Nicholas church. Under the floor at the west end in front of the gallery is a trap door which when opens reveals part of a Roman Mosaic pavement ten feet down, and under-water too. This remnant on view is only part of what was discovered during excavations in the 1970s. The water level is a good indicator of the water table in predicting drought. The custodian says he has seen it completely dry. **

is a CCT church and one that is only open April - Septmeber two days a week (Thurs, Fri). I was in here last time I was in the city but without camera. So I could only admire the tower and truncated spire (with its little parapet and pinnacles - like a coronet), the warped looking nave roof (see from the north) and the odd tracery in the SW angle of the aisle. I glimpsed too the Norman tympanum in the porch. This was where I went for the 20 minutes waiting priod at de Lode!

was my final church. Also locked, an odd classical early C19 church, rendered horribly, especially in its ugly E apse. The west front is therefore a surprise., like a little bit of Pyrenees Romanesque in brick and terracotta. **

A mixed day, as has to be expected in urban settings.

**Gleanings from the day
- 1. The custodian at St Mary de Lode told me that two more churches are to close in November, namely St Mark and St Mary de Crypt. There are plans to keep opening Crypt church, but St Mark is in real danger. The churchwarden/keyholder here lives in the last house north of the church on the main road just before the Microwave Shop. We have therefore till November.........
- 2. The cathedral want £2.50 per visitor, but this is a donation and if you have the nerve to run the gauntlet you don't have to pay.
- 3. Gloucester assumes tourism is Apr - Sept., Blackfriars a major English Heritage site was also closed like the CCT's St Nicholas. Annoying too as I had remembered my membership card!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Hampshire Friday - part 2

We sped south to a lunchdate at the Bucks Head at Meonstoke. As we ordered our food, the only other customers in the pub returned one of their dinners, the fish being cold in the middle. Things did not auger well, and although Tom's jacket potato was OK (microwaved rather than truly baked) my plaice was not exactly hot, my chips were not quite cooked and both of these items tasted strongly of the oil they were cooked in which suggests it needs changing as well as being a bit hotter. As we left floods of people came in, nine women in one party up to mischief no doubt and three business men. I hope they enjoyed their meal.

is picture postcard pretty but a rather ordinary building. That is not to say that I didn't like it -far from it. The tower looks like it needs to be in Herefordshire or Monmouthshire, but Tom tells me there is a little collection of similar towers in Hampshire. The nave and aisles are under a single roof, and hence the earlier clerestory of quatrefoils is now inside the church. The church is largely EE and C14 Dec, restored. The font is a Purbeck marble square on the usual five columns. I liked the pulpit, unusual with an outer arched extension with twisted columns. Pevsner doesn't mention it but Green (Churches of Hampshire) says it is late C17 with modern panels. The style dictated the rather cruder dumpier C19 choir stalls.

The next church was reached by crossing the river and a very short walk.

suffers from its main road situation but is for the large part a Saxon structure. No tower, and very difficult to photograph because of the large number of trees and steep fall of the site on three sides. Nave and chancel seperated by a big Saxon arch. There is a west gallery with a little organ under which is a tiny Norman font. The chancel has wall paintings which include on the south wall scenes from the life of St Swithin. Funny how the digital camera sees these better than your own eyes in natural or even electronic light.

Now it is typical of weather in England to be quirky but it now felt a little personal as the only time we had walked to a church (the car was five minutes away at Meonstoke pub carpark) the heavens opened! We spent longer at Corhampton until the storm passed.

Another unplanned stop, as this was a church Tom had never visited. He is not keen to come back either! It is largely C13 heavily restored. The bell turret could be brand new but the likeliest date is C19. A few pretty moniments, one brought in from the churchyard. However it is the glass in the east window which is remarkable, Arts and Crafts yellows oranges and greens, d1891, unsigned. Another window is signed by E Stanley Watkins of Ealing, a new name to me, 1909, but entirely traditional (Jesus light of the world).

is a very early work by George Gilbert Scott, and a spacious interior, although rather spartan, is achieved here. The church stands on a new site just above the old churchyard where the medieval church stood (not a trace remains). Quite handsome and quite urban exterior. The interior has less of his fussiness of later years (foliage etc). From the old church the stone Royal Arms of 1712, now on top of awful partition white walls within the west end of the church where several rooms have been provided thus.

Probably one of the more famous churches of my day out, with its Norman crossing tower and beautiful setting against the South Downs in a picture postcard village. I cannot find the tower lovable, nor the church itself inside possibly thanks to the low crossing. However I was impressed by it all and saw one of the most precious fonts in the country. The church is cruciform with south aisle and south chapel, both with robust C13 arcades. The crossing alas is not open into the church as was the plan at Petersfield. The lasting memory is of the east window with glass by Sir Ninian Comper, figures of saints with much use of surrounding clear glass, 1921 and Tom's dislike of it, as well as the Black Tournai Marble font. This font has two sides of blank arcading (one with upper frieze of animals, the other with a frieze of dragons), and two sides telling the story of Adam & Eve. The giant fig leaves are rather hilarious. Royal Arms of 1613, very early.

looks externally all rebuilt/restored and rather without interest. Inside it is a different story with long Norman arcades, that on the north with stepped arches and on the south double chamfered arches. The east window has very fine glass (= I liked it) by Powell & Sons. The westernmost window of the south aisle has glass of 2001 by Paul Quail, a millenium window which reminded us both of our last tour together in Sussex when I had panned the efforts of Up Waltham's Millenium Window. So is this one better? Was it worth the approach to the top 8 designers in the country, the invitation to the top four to come and speak to the villagers about their plans? Frankly no, not in my opinion. Wimpy colours, sentimental depictions of Jesus and Mary his mother with a long-winded flowery "concepts and symbology" plaque nearby - as a villager I would be very underwhelmed. Tom reserved public judgement - he has to continue to live locally!

So ended our tour together, with tea and cake from Pat his wife back at his. However as I was driving home I quickly realised that my phone was in the boot, so it was a good excuse to pull off the road to get it outside of

The light was fading and I expected to find a locked door but no - it was open. No tower, nave and chancel with very deep southern transeptal extension making the church possibly wider than it is long. Not a huge amount to see here, but the chancel arch is late Norman.

All in all a very satisfactory tour, almost all done in the unexpected dry weather and even sunshine.

A Hampshire Friday - part 1

For a day that was supposed to be mainly rain, Friday 10th March started in Bristol with blue skies and sunshine. I was up earlier than expected thanks to police chase around the local streets, with sirens and squealing tyres at 0640 and left earlier than I had planned to meet up with Tom in his home town of Petersfield for a Hampshire ChurchCrawl. By the time I got here there were many more clouds in the sky but still no rain, nor an end to intermittant sunshine.

I got here first, to find a lady vacuuming the porch. Pevsner calls it one of the most interesting Norman churches in Hampshire, but Sir Arthur Blomfield (bless him!) took things a little further by making some dull victorian neo-Norman "improvements" (clerestory, stepped groups of windows) as well as restoring what was there before. There is a peaceful churchyard to the south, and to the north the church presents itself towards a market square which has particularly attractive thanks to thoughtful recent improvements. Unusually the Norman west tower is embraced by the aisles; it has a pretty Perp. top and battlements. The interior of the church was thoroughly restored and reordered in 2000, including repaving and removal of pews. The tower and west bays of the aisles were screened off. I have to say it is among the best reorderings I have seen, and does not spoil your enjoyment of the interior, although there is one strange sight, the top of the former ornate Victorian pulpit on the floor of the sanctuary. Tom says the chancel is virtually disused but the church now serves a variety of functions, including concerts, the accoustics for which the paved floor has vastly improved. All former monuments are gathered in the western bays of the aisles and tower, but were so pre-2000, so Blomfield probably moved it all. There are some very good memorials of the C18, difficult to appreciate for some as they stand in a corridor outside a kitchen leading to the loos. However I witter on, when I haven't mentioned the chief feature, the east arch and internal face of an exceedingly ornate central tower. Traces of work on the north and south sides too, but why so soon was the west tower built and this one seemingly abandoned? Was it ever completed? Norman too the arcade piers, but the rest above looks C19.

There was one place in the little car park which meant we could stop here and visit, as well as the church that is opposite. The church dates from 1903, of brick and flint with stone dressings in a Perp style. Big "SW" tower and spire, Petersfield's principle feature, to the right of a seven-light window. To the east a recent extension with community rooms etc. linking the church to its hall (the predecessor chapel?). This was open and from here a door into the church was also unlocked, as people elsewhere were keeping fit by the sounds of things! The interior is disappointing after the outside, a wide rectangular space with an apologetic east apsidal recess, but with a good timbered roof with pendants. The interior here has also been reordered - I bet there were pews here, now there is a sea of liliac upholstered ash chairs, which were all placed on this day facing the "south" wall rather than the apse.

Stands opposite, and is an Italianite church in miniature. 1890-1, by an architect called Kelly (so he was here apparently!). Nothing is known of him and yet he has produced a gem of a building, cruciform with an octagonal central tower and dome. In photos it looks much bigger. Inside nine people were sat quietly at their devotions, and I was so concerned at disturbing them that my flash interior pic is a little out of focus. If you were expecting a riot of colour and fittings, then you would be surprised at the calm tastefully decorated and equipped building. It stays long in the memory yet there is not much else to say about it. (Tom with St Laurence, right)

Leaving urban Petersfield behind we headed north on the old main road to Alton.

We stopped briefly at this church (no dedication known) which Tom knew would be locked - he has never found it open and wonders why it is kept locked and without keyholder information. This was to be our only locked church of the day. The north porch shelters a Norman dorway, the floor covered in guano (I am polite aren't I?) and all with an air of impending redundancy or disuse (pic.left). Not so - there is apparently a weekly service here, obviously just for the locals as there is not a single notice to be seen. So we were not able to see the interesting monuments inside which Pevsner records.

Now Tom did not plan to come here, but like a kid in a sweet shop having read Pevsner I asked if a visit here was possible and like a good mate it was immediately included in the day. As it was we did not detour greatly but it was almost to prove our undoing a little later! The word Teulon will immediately tell other members that here was to be something a little -er- different. In fact we have a complete neo-Norman church, with a "Sompting" style tower with Rhenish helm, nave and aisles under one roof, and chancel with north chapel, all with "crazy-paving" walls. Teulon raises the centre bay of the side walls up like a transept and gives it a wheel window. Inside, and I was immediately chuckling! The cause - firstly absurd arcades with overlarge capitals and the bizarre opening into the side chapel (right) which in turn has a peculiar stone altar, but primarily the continuation of the crazy-paved walls which internally look decidedly odd. Sompting was one influence, but me-thinks Iffley in Oxfordshire was another.

We drove back through Priors Dean on our way to Colemore. Suddenly we were lost, roads divided and divided again and there were no signposts which meant anything. Ultimately we found ourselves at a T junction, no signs, so I guessed left and suddenly we were at Colemore!

is in the care of the CCT. Possibly one of the early vestments, it is a church which is nothing special, nave and chancel in one with an early Norman north transept. A twin-rotored helicopter appears in my picture dead centre! I wondered if the church would be accepted by the CCT if offered today. Still, that said, it is quite pleasant.

We headed off to find Privett, and came to a main road. It was not the one we thought it was on the map, and we found ourselves heading back to Petersfield. We turned off towards Froxfield in an attempt to find the road to Privett. As we finally found a sign pointing there we also found

which Tom has usually found locked but there seems to be a change of heart here and a small sign proclaims the church is usually open and listing keyholders should people find it locked. It was open. It seems a complete Victorian church, which it actually is, but inside the west three bays of the north arcade are Norman, re-used here after the church at Froxfield was demolished in 1862. (Oddly the church was replaced on the same site in 1887). Externally the church is rather ugly in my opinion, better inside but without much to detain you long (which it didn't).

We took the Privett road, only to find large signs proclaiming "Road ahead closed". So we took a different road, signed East Meon which seemed to be heading in the right direction. Suddenly this road split into three, again no signs anywhere! Tom said straight on without conviction, I said no- lets go right and as I was driving..... In fact all three roads would have brought us down onto the main Winchester-Petersfield road but my choice saved us a few miles! The next target -and my chief visit for coming here today loomed ahead on the hillside.

Sir Arthur Blomfield can be really exasperating as an architect, and still has no real recognition even today. His churches often have a production-line quality, and his restoration often gives rise to a dull and lifeless building. Up to now only one church has shown to me what he was capable of when funds allowed, St Mary Portsea (Kingston) in Portsmouth. Here is another, built 1876-8 on the profits of gin and sin it is said, as the benefactors were distillers! (Portsea is 10 years later.) It is also vested in the CCT, but is not often open apparently although a keyholder is listed as nearby. Tom had arranged for the church to be open, which it was, proclaimed by an open door, welcoming lights inside (to be left on please) and a sandwich board "Church Open". We had a personalised note from the keyholder as well waiting inside. The quaity of the stone and stonework is the first feature you see, you can run your hands down the smooth face of the stone, and the joins are minute. The carved ornamentation and the breathtaking urban scale of this church are amazing. From the 1960s the parishioners had retreated to the south transept and began to sell off its furnishings and fittings. The organ base in the north transept is all that survives of this instrument but the stone font and pulpit do remain. The church has taken on a new life as a concert venue, and consequently a mish-mash of pews and chairs now fill the nave, all brought in from other places.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Rewriting Pevsner in N Somerset

What a horrible day weather-wise Tuesday 8th March was, but this was the day that I had planned to meet Andy Foyle, author of the Bristol City-Pevsner and who is now tasked with revising North Somerset & Bristol volume for a new edition. He in turn had made some arrangements to have two churches opened for us.

is usually kept locked. It is perhaps Bristol's adopted church, its tower visible from nearly all parts of the city, atop of the hill close to Bristol airport. I had chosen this as a venue because of the way the church building is dismissed in the original edition, leading me to suspect the master had described the tower from a photographed and accepted the student's word for the church proper. I have long wanted to climb the tower too. Tuesday saw Dundry lashed with wind and rain and although it was much warmer than previous days it felt colder. And that was at road level. Inside the church I listened to the wind howling through the parapet above, the lady having kindly opened the church also made the offer of a tower ascent. For the first time ever I declined such an offer, it was just too damned cold and wet, and probably not much would be visible. Normally you can see right across the Severn Estuary to the Brecon Beacons, hardly surprising therefore that the money for this proud tower was given by the Merchant Venturers of Bristol, as the church tower was used as a navigational aid by shipping. Firstly the architect is recorded erroneously, this was S B Gabriel not G B.Gabriel. He had much to do, but either restored or reused medieval and later parts of the predecessor. Much of the N arcade is old, but some of the piers are replaced. The south aisle and porch was a new build but the old windows of the nave , together with the chancel E and S window were incorporated into the new aisle. This S window also incorporates a doorway. Chancel E is C19 and the whole church has a set of good but unsigned glass of the 1860s. ALso there is a medieval statue of St Giles.

at Maiden Head crossroads, set back from the road with an attractive green and a few cottages for company. Originally of 1829, rebuilt in 1878, alterations 1970 and 2001, the latter internally which saw removal of the pulpit and stairs. To our surprise a side door was open, and the chapel interior was warmed by paraffin heaters but gave no hint any longer of any age.

Usually locked but the churchwarden had kindly arranged for this one to be open, much to the consternation of the other who had visited and found it open. We met her in the churchyard and was able to tell her why the church was unlocked. The church owes its present appearance to the restoration by John Norton, possibly after a fire. It is perfect outside with a proud tower with a "Bristol Spirelet" (one angle pinnacle much larger than the others and placed over the stair turret). We did not linger too long outside in the biting wind and driving rain. Inside wasn't much warmer but there was a heavenly host waiting to greet us. The vicar stipulated that Norton povide angels, and angels he provided, 156 of them. Four per pier, three flat against the wall below the roof with wings outstretched and more in the roof itself. However the south arcade and SE chapel are angel-less! Not a single one. And these parts are the oldest bits it seemed to us. What makes the interior so restless is that every surface is whitewashed, and the wood dark stained (roofs etc.) You feel watched, everywhere you turn are some beady-eyed angels staring back! Some truly awful fittings, a big Victorian square font and pulpit match, but are now largely whitewashed. The lectern is even stranger, a classical domestic looking marble circular plinth, a wooden eagle with wings folded guarding a large block of crystal set at his feet. Crudely hammered into his back is a block of wood to which is attached the book shelf. Bell and striking mechanism from the tower now at west end of the north aisle, a memorial to the Bilbie family who made bells and clocks in the village from the C17-C19. Two bits do not belong here, a Jacobean female figure in the porch, and a stone cross plinth in the churchyard, both from buildings now submerged under Chew Valley Lake (a reservoir).

Locked but of interest. Stell, the RCHM expert does not mention this one (like so many others) but it appears to be an early C19 chapel extended in the 1870s and 1970s. The Victorian work could be Foster & Wood, so like work of theirs in Bristol. Andy is going to do some detective work on this one.

Lunch partaken at the Pelican in Chew Magna, next to a much needed log fire. Across the road the large and at-a-quick-glance-fairly-routine church of

In some ways this church was the real puzzle of the day, and we were left with a number of questions about what we had seen. It is largely Perp, but incorporates some older parts, most notably an odd Norman south doorway and a C13 S arcade which has octagonal columns not hexagonal as Pevsner states. Pevsner suggessts that the north aisle pre-dates the tower, but the building evidence is the opposite. The nave is impressively wide, and the chancel arch rests on two C13 octagonal columns - is the north one in situ? It carries Perp arches in the four directions from the single pier, and make these elegant arches appear clumsy. The chancel has side chapels and then narrows for the east bay - the wall is not in alignment with the arcade on the south side, in fact stands a good three feet to the north of this line, which in turns causes an odd recess in the south chapel's east respond. Outside the north aisle is the show side, fine parapets, carved beasts and gargoyles, yet the church seems to have always been approached from the south where the main road and little market place stand. The south aisle is excessively wide. My theory - for what it is worth - is that the original church was on the site of the south aisle and chapel and that there was a north aisle. When the church was enlarged a new nave was built to the north and the former nave and chancel were remodelled as the aisle. Where the extra C13 pillar came from for the north side of the chancel arch I cannot explain as it is a full pier and not a respond - the four C15 arches fit on it uncomfortably but this is in turn a key strutural part of the church as witnessed by the huge buttress on the north side of the aisle outside. Fittings-wise there is a restored C15 screen across the whole church, and some good monuments. However what to make of the de Hautville effigy, a cross-legged knight in wood in a strangely exaggerated pose? Pevsner in the end came down on late C16, not as per inscription "temp Henry III", and the stone recess and inscription is entirely C19 anyway. Some people favour a complete hoax, yet it went off to the V & A for an exhibition of medieval wooden effigies recently. As Andy scribbled furiously one of the churchwardens asked if I would like to go up the tower. Again I turned this down, the cold had once again permeated our bodies and the weather had not improved outside.

Visited Church House which is now the village hall. This is a medieval building with a vast roof of eleven bays to the former hall, now visible upstairs in closer quarters.

A simple building, rectangular with round headed windows, seemingly all of 1860s. Is the pretentious Gothic west doorway original or a later insertion? It jarrs with the rest.

Time was delaying us, but the cold /damp was the significant factor in our decision to call it a day and go back to Andy's for a warming mug of tea!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Wiltshire - Churches and Dogs

A glorious day dawned on Saturday, spoilt only by sub-zero temperatures, and I drove for a planned meet-up with JF at a place picked by me. I made good time so stopped for a cup of tea and a bacon buttie and to photograph the former Wesleyan chapel at ROWDE (1833 red and yellow brick) en route. My route took me via Potterne where the church visited by Neil and I a few years back) crowns this hill top village and has a surprisingly large central tower. The main road traffic has choked any atmosphere from the village where the road takes an awful dangerous turn by the church. A minor road took me away towards the target church.

stands a little back from the small green and village pond, behind the Manor House. A sign proclaims that this place won the Best Kept Medium village in Wiltshire. It certainly was very attractive, aided by the deep blue late winter sky and sunshine. At a quick glance, the church seems a sizeable but fairly typical village church, with west tower, vaulted south porch, clerestoried nave and aisles, transepts and aisleless chancel. A closer look reveals some unusual features such as why is the south transept south window off centre, and why is the chancel so sturdily built - close set windows between buttressing and above a row of quatrefoils and roof with a row of finial-like capping ridge stones. The answer to the second question (but not the first), like dd, was waiting inside. The chancel is vaulted, with a lierne vault in six bays. Two light windows in every second bay but what appears to be a C19 window at the east end. The central bosses are carved with figures, including one of a mermaid holding a mirror, the side bosses are foliage, like the capitals of the chancel arch. It is a splendid quality piece and when built it must have been awesome. Today it appears a little two low when viewed from the nave, probably thanks to the latter receiving a clerestory later. Throw in some good monuments (one with Mr Punch), a Jacobean aisle roof with pendants, and an ancient font and you have enough to keep you entertained for an hour or so.

RJB would have come here for the font, a Norman tub with figures of the 12 apostles under arches, a remarkable piece of sculpture but like so many others sadly mutilated.Norman too, the ornate south doorway and the arcades. The doorway is excellent too, with an unusual outer moulding having some traditional beakheads but also hands grasping the moulding, bearded male heads and even a small little complete monkey. However the church isn't bad either, although heavily restored, to the extend that one of the piers in the Norman arcades looks completely replaced. The main roof is supposedly original Norman work too, but dd and I couldn't see it, the timbers /overall shape look much newer but several books mention this so perhaps it is true. On one pillar are inscribed four sgraffito crosses, two below with rounded ends and two above with squared ends. The guidebook says the lower pair were made by people leaving for the crusades, the upper ones show that they both returned home safely; not a piece of fact or folklore I had come across before.

is now a house, although externally you can hardly tell. The porch is now glazed but the real giveaway is the landscaped garden (and the notice saying private, visitors to tend graves only by prior appointment, on the churchyard gate). Pevsner questions whether anything medieval survived the C19 restoration, maybe the residents know if this is true or not. The most memorable part of the visit was the manic dog Millie charging up and down her garden next door, just after a bit of love and attention which we eventually gave her over the gate at one end and through the fence at the other!

has a very pretty and decorative Perp west tower, but the church is aisleless. Much is Perp and Ponting Perp (i.e. late C19) but the two major features brought RJB here (proof in the VB) a few weeks after John V. came here (on the opposite page!). These are the south doorway, rich patterned, regular but without the quirkiness of Chirton, and the very depressed equally ornate Norman chancel arch. Not much else to see apart from some good head corbels to the roof and a large Jacobean pulpit with back plate and tester. Opinions were divided about the merits of the nave north window with Piperesque glass of SS Peter & Paul by the Kettlewells with me really liking it but we agreed that their later window of 1979 in the chancel was twee, much "safer" and really rather awful.

We stopped for lunch in the village pub, the Millstream. Now let me warn any potential visitor, don't go here if you are in a hurry but DO go here for the food. Plan to have a leisurely lunch. The food is towards the gastropub variety, all home produced, and quality, my bread and butter pudding with hot butterscotch sauce and vanilla icecream was to die for! However we arrived at 1320, and left at 1500, and we could have got at least one more church if not two in in that time! the food took nearly an hour to arrive after ordering it, poor chef was on his own apparently. If the food was rubbish I would have complained but it was not.

Uh-oh I said as we aproached this one as half the church was covered by scaffolding and plastic sheeting. Fully expecting it to be locked, we were pleasantly surprised. Probably the plainest and least interesting church of the day, yet that is not to say it was not pleasant. a north chapel was demolished in 1959, and the arch blocked with a doorway reset into the masonry. I admired one of the large head corbels in the nave, which reminded me of a mutual friend which JF thought highly amusing. The chancel is EE, the tower Perp and quite ornate with a band of quatrefoils around the base and a band of fleur de lys under the parapet.

or just Charlton until fairly recently. The church looks odd from a distance, up close you can appreciate that the church was rebuilt in the C19 (by J L Pearson) apart from the north porch tower and the Perp single-bayed chapel adjoining it to the N. Inside there is a glazed window from the porch into the chapel, and a hagioscope from the chapel through its panelled arch into the chancel (now also glazed). Two over-large angel brackets in the chapel, also a pair of brasses not mentioned in Pevsner, I thought - more that I had not read the entry carefully enough! Medieval (restored) screens between chapel and nave and nave and chancel. Beautiful wall memorial by Westmacott Jun..

Away from its village in supreme isolation, its churchyard surrounded by a ha-ha. The tower is medieval as are parts of the nave (NE corner) but the overall feel is of the early C19. Earlier, the N chapel which is of the late C18. We found the church locked but my supreme good fortune a lady walking her dogs passed by as I was dialling a churchwarden (actually her number) having just locked the church before we got there! She apologised for shutting earlier than usual and waited patiently outside with her two dogs, one of which didn't mind waiting and lay down in the porch, the other was keen to get back home in the warm.

Also situated on the edge of its village, overlooking the river and a weir. Here is the most bizarre west tower, which has beams from the bellframe piercing the walls to the outside, and these wooden beams are capped by stone ?buttresses, the weight of the stone stopping the belfry dropping into the church below. Nave and chancel, south porch, all rather non-descript.

The sun was setting and by the time we got back to Urchfont it was almost dark. All in all a very successful day, all the churches that were still churches were open, or just locked and reopened especially! I had a similar crawl a little to the north (Pewsey - All Cannings) with the same result, all churches open. If only the same applied to western Wiltshire.