Saturday, 26 December 2015

Pipe Aston, Herefordshire

B and I have been to see the carvings at Pipe Aston before. But that was in the days before the Dawn of her Enthusiasm for the Romanesque. So it was interesting to see the look on her face when she realised what she's seen then, but not Seen. The carvings here are pretty bloody impressive, some of the best.

She immediately started making comparisons between the style and designs here and the marvellous font we saw at Stottesdon. These are top notch Herefordshire school carvings. And yet this is apparently a tiny church in a hamlet in sight of the back end of beyond.

Here's a large bird apparently pecking a smaller bird while a doggish creature spews what I take to be foliage at them. It's part of the carving on the tympanum. There was so much to draw... but it was frustratingly cold and windy so this was the only element I attempted outside. 

Here's the tympanum as captured by John Salmon.
There's our favourite, the Lamb of God, in the centre, with his little leg bent round cutely to support his pole with the cross. The cutely bent horizontal leg seems to be a diagnostic Romanesque feature.  He's also got some kind of radiating nimbus thing going on, but without any circular halo. Flanking him is the winged ox and leggy eagle of (I imagine) the evangelists. Not to mention more animals with tucked-under tails, plenty of patterns, a bit of planty swirlyness. The stones supporting the tympanum are serpenty and planty. Even the chevrons over the top are obviously excellent - they're single stones smoothed into a 3-d shape in a most satisfying fashion. The tympanum is in three parts but they seem different colours, almost as though it's not been broken accidentally but were always separate. Though that would seem a bit odd, given the strange angle. But who knows.

Inside, there's more Norman goodness. It's even said that the planty paintings on the walls are original, which seems quite crazy but perhaps it's true. What took my eye though was the sculptural goodness of the curious tapering small font. It's carved with two animals - one is a wormy tailed wyvern with two little front legs and wings. He's biting the tucked-under tail of the animal in front of him. I originally assumed that one would be a dragon but he's apparently four legs and a tail, and perhaps more of a lion. He's spewing out foliage and does not look best pleased at his tail being nipped. The circular scene fitted nicely in my new long sketchbook:


From the NLS's amazing map website

This is the 6 inch 1884 map of the village. Sometimes I wonder if a little bit more prior research could be a good idea... we had no idea this Motte was here, so close to the church. It must surely explain something - maybe this spot wasn't so remote as it might appear. It's called 'Aston Tump' and the Scheduled Monument Record  says it was constructed in the 1130s - a timber castle. There's a stream which flows down the hill here, forms a little moat round the motte and then pops out by the church - we stood and watched the water so doubtless we'd have noticed the 6m high motte if only we'd been expecting it! Never mind. The CRSBI page for the church suggests the carvings are also from the 1130s. So that's rather interesting. I am treating myself to a copy of Thurlby's book on the Herefordshire school which they cite.