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

No comments:

Post a Comment