Sunday, 13 July 2014

Stottesdon, Shropshire

B and I visited Stottesdon in mid-May. I (inadvertently) took a maze of tiny roads to get to the village. But even without a daft route I think it'd have an air of being a bit remote.

We've seen some pretty weird stuff in our travels but Stottesdon's lintel is very much up there with the weirdest. Finding it is an interesting matter in itself. I'd assume that the door it's over used to be a main entrance. It's at the west end of the church, under the tower. Today you have to enter from the south, and to get to the lintel you have to squeeze in the dark through a little doorway behind the organ. It would have been more impressive to come straight into the church by striding under the lintel - it'd have been quite a entrance. But the addition of the organ has made the west entrance an extremely dingy room that feels like a forgotten cupboard. Maybe I would moan if they turned it into a fluorescently lit tourist attraction. At the moment it's like stepping back in time, its setting gives it atmosphere, albeit not the original effect. But the 2 watt bulb (I'm guessing) didn't provide quite enough light to appreciate the carvings or take decent photos. And they are pretty amazing. They are pretty weird and pretty amazing.

There's a picture on Secret Shropshire that shows the fuller picture. You can see saltire crosses in the tympanum and also an enigmatic head at the top of the arch.

It was too dark to draw and it felt like a funny space to be loitering in, but I do wish I'd made some sketches at the time as it's very difficult to know if what I've drawn from my photos is strictly accurate. The photo above gives the impression that the carvings were whitewashed at some point?

But you can certainly comment on the basic design - it has two creatures which are upside down, and one which is the right way up. And even if the lintel is now the wrong way up, that's still one animal that's upside down! And what do the creatures represent? They're all quadrupeds at least. And one's got the 'tail tucked through its leg' thing going on. The upright one is sort of catlike. I think it's been suggested it's a lion. I wonder if it's got those weird long claws going on that we saw at Stratton. Or am I just misinterpreting an artefact of the photo? The creature with the tail-tucked-under has got quite a human face. And the final creature on the left - I found its head hard to make out. But the two upside down do have chunky long necks. That rather reminded me of creatures at Ramsbury. And what are those griddy bits next to them? All is very enigmatic and strange. I love that such a thing exists.

The other truly amazing thing at Stottesdon is the font. It is also fantastically ill-lit, as though the local people don't appreciate what they've got compared to practically every other church in the country! B and I opened the doors and turned on the lights to try and get a decent view so we could draw. It was a shame that as we were leaving, a woman bearing the church flowers arrived, and seemed more interested in our heinous crime of mistakenly turning on one of the outside lights on, than enthusing about the font. Maybe we looked dodgy (Strangers in Stottesdon) or maybe she was just very conscious of global warming. I'm very glad the church was left open though, so we could come in and see these marvellous things. Next time we'll bring flashlights. This is something of the designs on the font:

Images © Rhiannon 2014

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Avening, Gloucestershire

One of the Romanesque capitals inside Holy Cross church, Avening. It rather reminded me of one of the ones at Knook.

This wraps round one of the capitals on extremely tall pillars at the entrance. The feather-like leaves reminded me of the ones on the Norman so-called 'Tree of Life' at Rodbourne. But the line down the middle of the branches is reminiscent of Anglo-Saxon carvings we've seen, and the funny little blobs also reminded me of the A-S carvings at that freaky place, Britford. So maybe that indicates it's quite an early example?

And this is the capital on the left side of the door. I don't know what's going on above or beneath the animal's head, it's very strange. Maybe I misinterpreted it and it's a tree behind? There's a photo on Churchcrawler's Flickr page which perhaps suggests so. The two-bodies-one-head is something I've seen at Lullington in Somerset, as you can see on this Flickr page. But my sister pointed out a very interesting thought - what if these are more Picasso style, and there aren't really two bodies, but two views of the same animal, which is why they're joined at the head at the corner of the pillar? It's not a thought I've had before and it's a good one.

You'll notice the old favourite of tail-tucked-under-the-leg :) The bodies are definitely animals but the head is really quite strange, more human.

There was much more of Romanesque excitement at Avening. And inside, even a very worn bit of presumably Anglo-Saxon interlace. But it was so worn that with such a wealth of other things to draw it got overlooked (for now).

These are the patterns on the other Norman capitals inside the church.

Images © Rhiannon 2014

Cherington, Gloucestershire

We ducked out of the rain into the porch at St Nicholas, Cherington. I didn't feel sure that the lions were properly old and Norman, mostly because they haven't got the 'tails under legs' theme. And they've got strange little heads. They look more like little cats than big lions. Which would be fair enough if you'd never seen a lion (it reminds me of a photo of an elephant and castle on Deborah Harvey's blog.  Maybe they're fine and genuinely Romanesque though. They were in a tympanum after all. And they're doing that affronted thing face-to-face. B was happy enough. Maybe this is an excuse to visit Many More Tympanums to compare.

There's a photo of the lions on Rex Harris's Flickr page. Wherever we go, he seems to have got there before us.

Since our visit I read on the British History website that there was another tympanum:
"A second more elaborate tympanum, said to have come from the south wall, is at Cherington Park."

Mmm more elaborate. But I can't find a picture of it on the internet (yet).  Wasn't it great when you could just stroll off with a tympanum and stick it on your own grand house. Cherington Park's just next door to the church. Perhaps I should have just gone and rang the bell. Maybe it was moved when Mr Baldwin repaired the church in 1815 and saw fit to carve his own name on the lintel below below the lions. Tch.

A slight Cherington update (8.8.14)

I noticed on British Listed Buildings that the other tympanum was still on Cherington Park in the 1980s, despite the building's 'partial demolishment' in the 1950s. So this is good news for tympanum fans. (All two of us.)

I've also found out what the tympanum depicts, thanks to my lovely InterLibraryLoan of Charles Keyser's 1927 book. He says: "On upper part a sundial with serpent above, a lion on left, and griffin on right. Below four courses of the fish scale ornament, and three rows of indented on the lintel." He also says 'Probably moved in 1816', so perhaps he had the same idea as me about it being appropriated when the church was repaired. It sounds as if it is an interesting design.

Images © Rhiannon 2014