Saturday, 31 May 2014

Britford, Wiltshire

As Mr Pevsner says, at St Peter's at Britford there is some decoration 'that is unique in English pre-Conquest work' and he suggests it's from the 9th century. So you can imagine, I was rather eager to get here, I was very much looking forward to it. But it wasn't long that we'd stepped through the door that both of us felt a bit weird about this place. Thinking women from the 21st century like to rationalise these things - I mean was it the gloominess, was it the unnerving way you couldn't see into the transepts from the nave, was it the really awful and oppressive smell (of what? of what? of the flowers (no), of something far more revolting eww)? I don't know what made this place so horrible but it really was and we hot-footed it out of here, though not before I took a few hasty photographs of the carvings. We both felt freaked out for ages and as though the horrible smell was totally stuck in our nostrils. In the course of my weird obsession we've been in a lot of churches and none of them were like this, it was horrid. Everyone writing in the visitors' book seemed to love it, mind. It actually makes me feel a bit weird to think about it even now. But trying to forget about all that subjective malarky, the carvings are indeed rather interesting. You can read at length the debate about their age and origins on the impressively detailed Extraordinary Book of Doors website.

Anglo Saxon knotwork at Britford, Wiltshire

Anglo Saxon knotwork carving at Britford, Wiltshire

Anglo Saxon knotwork carving at Britford, Wiltshire
In these three pictures I've used colour to highlight the way the knotwork works. 

Anglo Saxon foliage and knotwork carving at Britford, Wiltshire

 Images © Rhiannon 2014

Codford St Peter, Wiltshire

This church is more famous for its amazing Anglo-Saxon carving. But I was rather taken with the similar-but-different sides of the Norman font too.

My pen and watercolour drawing of the four sides of the font.
At a glance, the sides look pretty similar. But I like the way there are seven flower stars with seven saltire crosses one side, yet six are matched with eight saltire crosses on another. The five vegetationy scrolls get two crosses each, and the six plain arches get nine altogether. The bowl's a bit wonky too.

Images © Rhiannon 2014

Teffont Magna, Wiltshire

Teffont Magna is strikingly pretty even for this part of the country. A beautifully clear chalk stream runs right past St Edward's church. Inside the building are two fragments of Anglo-Saxon knotwork built into the wall.

My pen and watercolour sketch based on the smaller knotwork.
This one is the smaller. Perhaps the long thread on the left suggests this is an edge.

My pen and watercolour sketch of the larger knotwork carving.
This one's larger but it's more damaged. There's a mysterious big hole on the left side, and beneath that the design is so worn that it gets very confusing to follow. That's my excuse for the muddle anyway. Eventually my brain refused to deal with it any more. There's another pair of knots at least below these. 

Some digital art using one of my previous sketches.

 Images © Rhiannon 2014

 Update: the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society journal   in the 1930s records that the stone illustrated at the top "was found while making the garden of Mrs. Heynes's house which adjoins the church." Not to mention that the slanting (as opposed to vertical) arrangement of the knots "is the only example of England of an interlace of this type." I wonder if that can be true. Mrs Heynes was very community spirited and "consented to give this stone to the Church for preservation."

Stapleford, Wiltshire

 Images © Rhiannon 2014

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Pen Selwood, Somerset

These carvings are in the porch of St Michael's church.

Carved Norman lintel from Pen Selwood church
The Norman lintel has a lamb of god in the centre. A canine-like creature stands on its right, and a long-clawed lion-like(?) creature sticks its tongue out on the left.

Norman carving of a king? as left door capital of Pen Selwood church
A king's(?) head forms the left hand capital of the door.

A bearded king? with wide eyes is carved on the right hand of the door.
A wide-eyed king(?) with curly beard and hair forms the right hand capital.

The Penselwood community website notes the tradition that the heads portray King Alfred and King Guthrum. They had a series of bust-ups in this region in the 9th century, because Guthrum wanted Alfred's Wessex, but  after various aggravations they finally agreed on some boundaries. The Viking Guthrum turned Christian and changed his name to Æthelstan. Perhaps this was a ploy to gain the trust of the people he ruled. And maybe the stories really did later inspire the carvers at this church. I do know that the pair look very similar to the ones at Ditteridge.

 Images © Rhiannon 2014

Frome, Somerset

My mixed media sketch of the Norman animal carving

This pointy-eared creature is billed as Anglo-Saxon, but surely its jaunty pose and classic 'tail wrapped under the leg' points to a Norman date? It's not the same colour stone as the knotwork (below), which perhaps also supports the idea they're not connected. (I've since found that the South West Corpus book says it is Saxon though, so I suppose I should defer).

My pen and watercolour sketch of the knotwork fragment

This Saxon fragment is clearest on the left side, and has at least one creature biting onto the 
knotwork. The zig zags (faint on my drawing) suggest there is definitely the snakey body of an animal (dragon?) here too - it's a motif present in the carvings at Colerne and Ramsbury.

 Images © Rhiannon 2014

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Ditteridge, Wiltshire

These carvings are from St Christopher's church in Ditteridge. 

My pen sketch of the carving
This regal (though rather noseless) head keeps watch from the left door jamb.

My pen sketch of another carved head
This king(?) with beautifully curly beard, looks in from the right.

Another pen sketch of the creature next to the king
This jaunty canine creature has the big teeth, perky ears, and scrolly tail wrapped through a leg, that I've seen elsewhere.
 Images © Rhiannon 2014

Colerne, Wiltshire

There are two fragments of Anglo-Saxon carving built into St John the Baptist's church. This one is the less worn.

The stone is actually at 90 degrees to this drawing. I only realised after I'd finished, that this way is probably how it was originally carved to be seen (perhaps). At least, on its own, it makes more sense up this way. The doggish noses and big teeth are reminiscent of the dragon heads at Elkstone. Though those must be centuries later. Pevsner says the Colerne dragons are from the 9th century.

My digitally altered pen sketch of the Anglo Saxon dragon carving
 Images © Rhiannon 2014

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Elkstone, Gloucestershire

There's so much to see at Elkstone that I ended up feeling rather overwhelmed by it all. Too much choice! and in the end I hardly drew anything.
In the gloom beneath the tower there is a large broken slab with an interlace design. The blurb in the church called it 'pagan' which seems a bit imaginative (though I'm not sure what era it would be from). It was impressively solid. In any other church it'd take pride of place. But in the competitive environment of Elkstone, it ends up relegated to a dingy corner behind some chairs.
This striking dragon head (with very scary teeth) is on the left of the chancel arch. He has a nice doggy nose and beading up his snout.

 Images © Rhiannon 2014

Stratton, Gloucestershire

 Images © Rhiannon 2014

Daglingworth, Gloucestershire

 Images © Rhiannon 2014