Saturday, 20 May 2017

Cold Aston, Gloucestershire

We don't often meet people at the churches on our travels, and when we do they're generally welcoming and either we exchange pleasantries or have a little chat about our shared interest in the building. As we stood drawing in the porch at Cold Aston, though, a long trail of tinies from the adjacent school trooped into the church and took their places in the pews. I shouldn't mind this, should I. It's an example of the church Actually Being Used. But I didn't like it. Now I can't say I know much about children, but I do know that I was once one of them. And when I was five I had a soft, receptive, gently forming brain. I seem to remember I liked filling it with dinosaurs and trips to the swings.

It's not that I don't think that children should get a education in Behaving Nicely to their Fellow Man. Of course a bit of moral guidance is the way to encourage a nice society where we all help each other and think about others. But I just thought it was very odd that they were shuffled into the church, as though talking about being helpful or kind or whatever it was, couldn't be done in an ordinary setting. As though by going in the church, God would be watching. The teacher (she was wearing a football strip, bizarrely) seemed to switch between that patronising slow sing-song voice some people use with small children, and then swooping on individuals to berate them for their fidgiting or previous misdemeanours. I thought the whole thing was rather creepy, it didn't sit well with me.

I don't know what I'm trying to say really. But it didn't seem quite right to be moulding such small children's minds using the building in that way. It wasn't the same as going there of a Sunday with one's parents to listen to the vicar.

Anyway. There were some interesting bits of carving at Cold Aston. The tympanum was an all-over repetitive pattern (I admit photoshop has helped me with the above depiction) with some rather familiar style weaving foliage underneath. This was very well preserved and rather nice.

Also there seeemed to be a bit of knotwork in the porch - one assumes Anglo Saxon. You can see the collection of bits and pieces here on Britain Express. I always like to see a bit of Saxon knotwork, and because they're quite a challenge to draw, they're always especially satisfying to have a go at. Various descriptions on the internet mention "entwined serpents" but I fear this is overly optimistic. B and I have seen quite a few serpenty examples and this one wasn't doing it for us. But we both felt that there might be little clasped hands - as we independently came to this conclusion I set some store by it.

There was also a Maperton-esque little head, which B drew.

Codford St Mary's, Wiltshire

Windrush, Gloucestershire

Windrush is an excellently romantic name for a village (and the stream that runs through it). It seemed to be another well-heeled Cotswold spot. And maybe it's a good job that it's well-heeled, because some money has been recently poured into the renovation of the church - specifically, its amazing doorway. Because the door here is surrounded by not one, but two rounds of beakheads. It's a first for us. I can't think there can be many examples of the Double Beakhead in the country. So it's excellent to see it's being looked after.

The beakheads have just been cleaned. And they've been cleaned very thoroughly. In fact almost so thoroughly that they looked quite odd. But I guess they can now carry on for another thousand years. They're on the south side of the chuch, and have a small roof over them to protect them a little from the rain, but nothing major. Perhaps their south-facing aspect has been what's saved them for so long. It would be nice if they had a porch. But they're so interestingly animated that in a silly way I quite like that they can see out.

SSH Conservation carried out the work. You can see photos of the Before and After on their website. You can see how bright and stark the doorway is now - as it would have done when it was first carved, an interesting thought. The faces are a bit different from the beakheads we've seen before. B called them menacing, as I recall. They've certainly got quite intense expressions on their beaky faces. Their almond-shaped eyes remind me a bit of insects or aliens! The characters are quite varied. They don't all have beaks to cling onto the roll of the doorway. The drawing above shows two non-beaky ones.

A silly thing happened as I admired the doorway - I took a step backward and promptly fell up the steps that lead down to it. An unusual feature, in my defence. I just sat down on my arse and lay there, it wasn't dignified but it was quite funny. I hope it at least gave the beakheads something amusing and unusual to see.

Bibury, Gloucestershire

Wroughton, Wiltshire

Bromham, Wiltshire

Bathampton, Bath and North-East Somerset