Wednesday, April 27, 2011

St Michael, Tidenham Chase, Gloucestershire

I had stopped here on my way back from Brockweir to Tidenham in the hope of digitalising the interior but found it locked. I had been inside some thirty years ago but now found myself returning again with the keyholder. It is a simple two-celled church by Sidney Gambier Parry, 1888, and largely unaltered inside. The east window's central light has a rather miserable-looking St Michael, almost cartoonlike.
I headed home, having achieved my one objective for the day, and managing to get inside all of the churches I saw, although two needed a return visit.

St Mary, Tidenham, Gloucestershire

And so it came to pass that I returned to the objective for the day out. I parked in the same place I had earlier, and like I had done earlier rang the only contact number on display in the church porch, only this time I had her mobile number as she had suggested she would be home after 4pm. She had also given me the number of the vicar in the hope that I would be more successful via him. All I got earlier was an answerphone si I took up her offer for after 4pm. She was at home but had meantime arranged a home grocery delivery and had to stay in. Now OK I got it, she was really not someone with responsibility for the church, but was the campanolgists' captain, and I suspect she will be removing her notice in the porch appealing for prospective new members to get touch as this notice was the only one with any contact details to be seen. However she did give me two more numbers to ring - the churchwardens. The first was no reply, the second found a lady who's husband had handed back his keys to another chap as he was no longer CW. She did give me this chap's other number and I rang it.
Now I hadn't told you that I had also stopped at nearby Tidenham Chase church and found it locked, but the name I was given by the neighbour matched this one. He agreed to come out to St Mary and open up. He was what we English describe as a character, Blunt by name and nature. Unlike many churchwardens / vergers he was not loquacious, and wasted few words. I was not suire at first how to take him, but in the end I warmed to him and his sense of humour and take on life in general. He was also 86 (or was it 87?) and responsible for all three churches of the parish as verger and churchwarden.
St Mary's is situated on the hillside with fine views over the Severn Estuary. John Norton was the Victorian restorer, and much of the detailing of the church was redone by him or built anew (e.g. the fine porch). So I finally managed to see the fine Norman lead font which is still in use, one of six in Glos made from the same cast. I also spotted an odd and quite small fragment of carving set into the north aisle wall, and often painted over. Two heads of dogs(?) face each other.
Preparing to leave I mentioned Tidenham Chase, and it transpired that Mr Blunt also had the keys with him for that church. So instead of heading home straight away I found myself following this elderly chap who told me it was on his way home anyway and that I might as well see it.
That was however not the end of my contact with Tidenham church as when I got home the other CW who had not been home rang my mobile, concerned that she had missed an important call she had been expecting. We had a very pleasant chat, and I explained about my afternoon and suggested that they needed to consider a keyholder notice and provide access to visitors. It seemed to fall on receptive ears - time will tell although it won't be me that returns.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Moravian Church, Brockweir, Gloucestershire

From St Briavels I dropped down into the Wye Valley and the tiny picturesque settlement of Brockweir. Visible clearly from the welsh side and accessed from there by an iron bridge of 1905, the chapel was built 1832-3 by the Bristol Moravian Congregation. It has a detached Victorian brick schoolroom at the rear. Simplicity itself, yet peaceful and open. Organ on west gallery over the entrance. Here a flask of iced water and a selection of squashes invited the visitor to partake of refreshments. I did, and made a freewill donation to the church.

St Mary, St Briavels, Gloucestershire

Hard by the castle, or what seems to be referred to as a Hunting Lodge by English Heritage. Some Hunting Lodge then with a massive fortified gatehouse.
The church is nowhere as interesting as I remembered it to be, the exterior dominated by a massive south porch tower of 1830-31. A central tower was removed in 1829. Inside the porch a rather unconvincing Norman south doorway. Long nave with a Norman south arcade and an EE north arcade. In the south west corner is a monument with worn effigies and kneeling children, not in its original state having been removed from the chancel (rebuilt in 1867). The font is rather plain but given distinction by a ruff of sixteen projections.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Congregational Chapel, St Briavels, Gloucestershire

A rare sight indeed - a Congregational chapel with its doors open, this one on the main street dropping down through the village towards the church and castle. It dates from 1862, and was built by Terretts of Coleford at a cost of GBP 300. Now carpeted and with comfy chairs and an enclosure around the west door, otherwise nothing much has changed. Small room off to the right.

St Mary Magalene, Hewelsfield, Gloucestershire

From Chepstow I made my first visit of the day to my target church for the day but it was locked (no surprise there then - full story later).
So I made my way to one of my favourite Forest of Dean churches at Hewelsfield, a church I tried out a video camera at before I started to take digital photographs with disasterous results. John Lewis took the camera back and gave me a refund. The church was overdue a digital visit, but although it is a charming church it does not contain a great deal of contents to photograph. Annoyingly for some reason a good third of the photos were out of focus, the reason being twofold I guess - operator error and age of the camera with my reluctance to replace it with something that has so many more buttons and functions that will over-complicate things!
All at Hewelsfield was restored by Butterfield but the arcade, central tower and much of the walls of nave and chancel are Norman Transitional to EE work. The north transept is notably long but contains nothing of interest, its northern end with a stone screen hiding sink and the items needed for flower arranging, together with the vestry.

Chepstow Priory, Monmouthshire

This lovely weather has meant it is difficult to stay at home. Last Thursday (21st April) saw me hop over the Severn Bridge for a small crawl, intent on getting inside one stubborn church, the only medieval one that I have not been inside for miles around, plus two others which I had never stopped at before but Mr Neil had encouraged me to visit through his postings.
St Mary at Chepstow is none of these, a church I have been too many times before and one that is usually open. It is not a beautiful church, the rump of an originally larger priory church, interesting though and enlarged in the C19 for the growing town. However this was my first digital visit. The early Norman nave remains stately, although shorn of its aisles and triforium, the arches blocked and/or glazed, and no longer vaulted. The west doorway is an impressive Norman piece, but the tower above is rather pathetic against such a powerful base and dates from 1705-6. It was built after the central tower fell and destroyed the Norman transepts (the choir had been demolished at the Dissolution). The transepts date from 1838-41 and were in a dull routine neo-Norman design and included a chancel in the same style. Oh how this must have been hated as again in 1890 a grand design to replace the crossing and east end and open up the aisles to a restored nave was started. The chancel was done first, then the south transept remodelled and south chapel built a the start of the C20. The scheme was abandoned incomplete so the north transept survives in its 1840 state and the aisles were never rebuilt. The base of the original NW crossing pier survives, a massive piece. There are also two important coloured monuments with effigies, one with the ladies husbands kneeling behind (in south transept) with wall paintings (redone in 1984) of a skeleton and Father Time.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

St Andrew, Minterne Magna, Dorset

Heading back to Sherborne we approached this quirky looking church by the road with a car park opposite for the Minterne Gardens visitors. As soon as Marion saw the tower which dates from c1800, she remembered the church and commented that there were good monuments inside. Sadly it was now ten past six and the church was locked. One to earmark for another day.
We arrived back at the hotel where I met George (Mr Marion) and joined them both for an *evening meal / supper / dinner / tea (*delete as necessary - it was one of the many threads of conversation we had over the next two hours). All in all a good day out, with pleasant company and lovely looking weather albeit a little chilly in the wind. Add to that a listen to this years Eurovision Song Contest entries (all 42 of them) on the drive down and drive home and it was near perfect. I did offer to let Marion hear them too but she politely declined.

St Mary, Cerne Abbas. Dorset

This was long an objective for the day but with all the stops we kept doing it was gone 5pm when we got here.
The church sits proud above the small town square, at the end of Abbey Street. The abbey has largely disappeared. Mostly Perp, although the chancel has some EE features in the side lancets, but the large east window of six lights is Perp. It wouldn't have been seen from the nave originally as the stone screen, with its solid wall where one might expect a dado and pierced openings above, originally had solid wall above it too. The church has been well restored and also there is a good touristic display and guide. The interior is wide and spacious. In the sanctuary are remains of wall paintings but there are no real memorials of note, and only Jacobean rails and a pulpit with tester (which for some reason I cut off in the photo I took - duh!). Texts survive aplenty,one with date 1679 (north side of nave) and another of 1962 (south side of nave) although I suspect this refers to the restoration of them throughout the church.
Soon too we were greeting a naked old man who was well pleased to see us as we munched a late picnic of Eccles Cakes in the picnic area to the north off the little town.

All Saints, Nether Cerne, Dorset

A CCT church, sited away from the road seemingly on the front lawn of a house. I eventually plucked up courage and drove down a farm track to reach it. I wonder today if the CCT would accept this ine, as there is very little to note about it apart from its picturesque situation. West tower nave south transept and chancel with a norman tub font.

Holy Trinity, Godmanstone, Dorset

Sharp braking as we spotted a sign saying "<11th Cent. Church". We parked opposite England's smallest pub which caused me some consternation as I had been here before and had a drink but could not remember when or where I had been travelling to. I certainly had not been to the church before.
Not large and entered via a suspicious looking Norman south door, where even the two doors were "Norman"; the interior of the same doorway had a definite C19 arch. However the chancel arch is definitely original. Not a great deal else to see, some early Victorian tablets in the chancel.

St Mary, Charminster, Dorset

At a quick glance the exterior looks all Perp, with a handsome tower with sixteen pinnacles, three grouped together at each corner of the parapet. However looking closely a Norman clerestory is evident. Inside Norman arcades, fat circular columns but with pointed arches. Marion hugged a pillar - she loves Norman apparently ;-) I used the font as a brace for the camera as is evident in the photo! Two purbeck canopied tombs in the south aisle, one with the indent of a lost brass, and also a coloured kneeler monument to Grace Pole d1636. There is also a good Jacobean pulpit. The chancel is surprisingly short and bare and dates from c1838; the east window however is a reset C17 original with unusual tracery

St Mary, Puddletown, Dorset

This church was one of my planned objectives for the day, and the furthest away that we travelled from Sherborne before turning back. The church is remarkable for preserving its pre-Victorian interior in large part. There is a west gallery dated 1635, high box pews, a three decker pulpit, font cover and three-sided communion rails. The monuments that must have been originally elsewhere are all crammed into the south transept and are in a poor state of repair. One alabaster tomb chest poorly reassembled with two effigies and two of its sides now placed on the walls behind. Another older pair of effigies have been placed under another canopied tomb, and the lady's lower half cut out to fit around the support; her fella is black with damp mould. All of this must have been done a long time ago, it is not recent "vandalism" and to be fair in the chapel is a discussion document about planned conservation and restoration of these monuments. The chancel and north chapel are Edwardian 1910-11 by Ponting, but a good match. I wondered what was here before - and the date of construction must mean old photographs survive. Under the gallery hang some odd fire buckets, and the font cover also of c1635 sits on a remarkable Norman tub font.
On entering the church got the WOW I expected from Marion, but closely followed by an OH! From outide Marion had no idea that she had visited before but seeing the font and the fire buckets she realised she had. This was my first visit to every one of the churches seen on our day out. However Marion was not disappointed to come here a second time.