Saturday, 23 April 2016

Fifield Bavant, Wiltshire

Fifield Bavant is a little place with a little church. You read in various places how it's one of the smallest churches, but it's not absurdly small. In fact it looks smaller on the outside as you approach it (or at least that's how it is in my mind). It's just one room: more of a chapel I suppose if you're being argumentative. It's got this superb south Wiltshire checkered knapped flint thing going on with the outside walls. And it's raised up on bit of a bump. You have to walk through a farmyard to get to it, which makes it feel a decidedly ancient trek. The farm looks very old too, with huge old barns.

My 1968 Shell Guide to Wiltshire says indignantly, "Recent electric lighting has caused an unpleasant outbreak of meters and switches at the back of the nave, and four white lampshades are nearly as big as the church itself." But the meters and switches didn't register with me, and I can only remember the rickety dresser holding religious pamphlets and locally found bits of ancient pottery. Thankfully the lampshades seem to be long gone. Our attention was firmly grabbed by the lovely scallopy Norman font.

The scallops are beautifully wavy and were a joy to draw. And they're not evenly carved (of course), which was really noticeable once you started looking properly. And under the waviness were trumpets, though these were largely hidden unless you crouched down to look - they weren't an obvious part of the design. I rather liked that.

The lid of the font wasn't too foul though it was very chunky and dark. At least it sort of fitted the font's proportions. I could always do without the lids, but so many places seem to have them, there must have been a general feeling that they were necessary.

We had to negotiate horses, horse blankets and dogs to get across the yard. But the local human inhabitants were obviously happy for us to be there and you should not feel put off.

Broad Chalke, Wiltshire

I won't pretend I know what's going on with these carvings as only the first was particularly decipherable. That's some classic over-and-under knotwork which seems to fit the size of the stone. Then another side is vaguely planty with circles. And the other side is literally loopy. These don't seem to be so symmetrical or give the impression of fitting neatly in their space though, as though the first might be a thin edge, and one of the other two linking to a pattern that was wider. But who can say. It's always special to find such a thing though, from before 1066. That's quite a thought.

Great Wishford, Wiltshire

The Church Person who was busying themselves in the building while we were there was my kind of welcoming, in that he showed polite and non-bemused interest, and then let us get on with our drawings as though it was the most reasonable thing in the world. Considering the decided magnificence of the font at Great Wishford, it's no wonder people might like to come and draw it. It's got miniature column motifs (every one slightly different, how marvellous) and much zigzaggy lozengey loveliness in between. I did get the proportions slightly wrong (a repeated problem) but maybe that's not so important as the experience. We sat on chairs in the open doorway and proper drawing concentration commenced. I'm starting to realise that I'm at an age where taking some sort of folding chair is going to be necessary for relaxed concentration. The crouching in the cold at Stockton just wasn't condusive to Art. Oh well.

Steeple Langford (return), Wiltshire

Stockton, Wiltshire

For those that like Norman capitals to their columns (and who doesn't - I mean, who wouldn't, surely) - Stockton turned out to have a huge range. More than you'd expect to find anywhere really. But it was cold in here and hard to draw, and I took photos.

Many degrees of trumpety scallopy 3d-ishness, from the merely incised to the super trumpety. And with a smattering of chevrons and beading also thrown in. Aren't they super. How I love the improvisation on a theme; they're all different but obviously all part of a set.

There was also a Norman font which was sitting in something like a modern wet-room bathroom - elaborately tiled with mosaic by Italian craftsmen, quite strange really. But perhaps apt for a water-related thing like a font. The fish below has an excellently long-suffering expression.

Stockton's font is very scallopy. It was difficult to draw it in the cold, crouching on the tiles. Deeply three dimensional trumpetyness is difficult to convey at the best of times.

Outside we bumped into a local who pointed out what was said to be the original base of the font; this was nestling in the vegetation in a garden near the gate. My photos came out black. But it's worth a quick look if you're there.