Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Figheldean, Wiltshire

People who have dogs tell me that their pets provide other people a conversational opener, an excuse to start talking to a stranger. And that's a nice thing for us British. I think I've found my dog substitute - a massive purple sketchbook, first outing today. At Figheldean church not one but two people spoke to us as a result, and then someone else turned up too. The building's obviously well used for its original purpose.

We heathens had come to see the carved knights lying either side in the porch, although they were slightly obscured by some very jolly boards covered in colourful magnetic letters advertising the latest goings-on. Encouraged by our enthusiasm for the knights, we were given a kind and very comprehensive tour of the church by one of its custodians. It was interesting to see some greenstone in the columns (photo here though the columns are quite incidental to the photographer's intentions :)

But Figheldean is one of those churches that's been very messed about with, and there's even some neoNormanness going on. So its main attraction for us was the knights. Our guide surprised us by explaining they'd been dug up in a nearby field - perhaps hidden there during Cromwell's time, he speculated.

None seem to be able to compare with the lovely knight at Castle Combe. But these are the second-best we've seen! The cute little dogs / lions at their feet are well carved, with excellent paws (though the right hand one has been reassembled facing the wrong way). One knight has deeply carved folds in what I assume is a cloak. The other looks very comfy on his pillow. It would have been cool to have more chance to look at the pair closely, do a bit of drawing, take some photos without the magnetic letters in the way. But never mind.

It was also instructive to overhear the correct pronounciation of the village name - Fyaldene. I'd have been calling it Figgledene for ever more.

You'd think photos and stories about these knights would be all over the internet. But they're not. I think they should be. These knights are great.

I found some mention of them in John Aubrey's Topographical Collections of Wiltshire. He says:

Near the Belfre, in the South Aisle, are two fair freestone monuments of Knights crosse-legged, with shields, and at the feet of each is a Lyon. I could not learn whose Monuments they were: they are tumbled now, 1671, one on the top of the other. 

 Underneath in that edition, written in 1862, it says: "These effigies, having received some injury in their horizontal position, were for some time placed erect in the chancel: but have lately been restored to the place in which Aubrey saw them.

Pevsner says they're 'probably late 13th century'. But he also says one of the knight's pillows is supported by angels. I can't see it myself from the photos. Perhaps we need a closer relook.

No comments:

Post a Comment